Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Bristol, CT

  • Published 2023/02/18

Formerly known as a clock-making city in the 19th century, Bristol in Hartford County is drenched in remarkable industrial history and heritage.

It hosts some of the most famous museums in the US, including the historic American Clock & Watch Museum and New England Carousel Museum.

Bristol is well connected by road to all the nearby major cities.

The city looks especially beautiful during the fall and hosts several unique annual festivals like the Bristol Blues & Bristol Mum Festival.

Check out the best things to do in Bristol, Connecticut.

Revisit Your Childhood at New England Carousel Museum

Entrance to the New England Carousel Museum

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Established in 1990 as a non-profit educational institution, New England Carousel Museum is one of Bristol’s most attractive museums.

It’s nothing less than a paradise for children and adults. It serves as a golden opportunity for revisiting and reliving their childhood.

You’ll surely cherish exploring the carousel masterpieces of famous carvers like Denzel and Spillman.

The History of Carousel exhibition showcases historic carousel pieces and art in two fine art galleries.

Interior of the New England Carousel Museum

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This 26-year-old museum proudly owns the expensive and antique Bushnell Park carousel that Harry Goldstein & Solomon Stein built.

It comprises 48 horses, two chariots, and a Wurlitzer band Organ over a hundred years old.

Hosting several educational programs, special exhibitions, and exciting events, it not only keeps this vanishing antique carousel art of Americana alive but also lures visitors to revisit it.

The museum has a restoration department where restorers and painters restore existing pieces.

Attend one of the beautiful theme parties at the New England Carousel Museum, and you’ll have a swell time.

Carousel evolution exhibit in the New England Carousel Museum

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Take a Tour of the Bristol Historical Society

To witness an authentic picture of Bristol’s history, visit the Bristol Historical Society dating from 1791.

Dedicated to preserving and portraying antique objects, historical artifacts, and documents that reflect Bristol’s heritage, the Bristol Historical Society stands as an emblem of Bristol’s military, athletic, and industrial past.

The Memorial Military Museum showcases photo galleries, soldiers’ uniforms, wartime letters, weapons, and a special World War I section displaying Battle of Seicheprey memorabilia.

The Bristol Historical Society also comprises the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame, set up in 1997 to honor Bristol’s sports heritage by featuring photos, medals, and trophies of Bristol’s athletes and sports teams.

On your way to Bristol Historical Society, you’ll come across sixteen window frames, each consisting of two panes, one showing the original landscape of the area as it looked in the past and the other showing what it looks like now.

Take a Nature Walk around Hopper’s Birge Pond

In 1973, Hopper’s Birge Pond was purchased by the City of Bristol from the Bristol Savings Bank, but its history goes way longer than that.

Situated on Beech Street, the pond is a depression made in the plain by retreating glaciers, which is why the soil around the water body is sandy.

You can get to the pond through one of the pathways in the old Native American woods and sandy hiking trails, some of which date from colonial times.

You can go fishing or boating there.

See giant trees and laurels, hear incessant chirpings of birds and rustling of leaves in broad daylight, and breathe fresh air.

Hopper’s Birge Pond is like an oasis in the middle of a desert of concrete lanes!

Explore the American Clock and Watch Museum

Exterior of American Clock And Watch Museum

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The American Clock & Watch Museum is one of the world’s best horology museums in terms of its historical significance, location, and aesthetic appeal.

Formerly known as the Bristol clock Museum, this museum preserves the masterpieces of time-telling and tells the story of its evolution.

The museum opened to the general public in 1954, exhibiting about 300 clocks and 50 books in its library.

Today, it has 1,500 clocks and watches from all over the world.

Its biggest section displays only American clocks, like railroad watches, character watches, Hickory Dickory Dock, blinking eye clocks, etc.

Interior of American Clock And Watch Museum

Horology, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum hosts a couple of events both inside the premises and outside.

It also organizes special exhibit programs and also offers bus tours.

Clock collection in American Clock And Watch Museum

Horology, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Stroll at Harry C Barnes Memorial Nature Center

If you are a diehard nature lover looking for a nature retreat in Bristol, head to Harry C Barnes Memorial Nature Center.

Spanning 68 acres, Harry C Barne’s Memorial Nature Centre is a stark contrast to other suburb attractions, most of which are artificial structures.

It is a gateway to Northeast America’s rich wildlife and the natural world.

Built in 1972, this beautiful nature center presently consists of four gorgeous woodland trails varying in area, habitats, terrains, flora, forest covers, and winds.

They also allow hikers to bring pets along with them.

Besides these beautiful trails, the nature center harbors live animal exhibits of various species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and others, as well as eco-friendly handicraft products in its nature-themed gift shop.

The Harry C Barnes Memorial Nature Center hosts year-round educational workshops, adoption programs, and seasonal fairs.

Learn about Bristol Culture at Bristol Public Library

Situated close to Page Park, Bristol Public Library says a lot about Bristol’s cultural heritage.

The library opened its doors to the public in 1892 with approximately 4000 books and relocated to the Main and High Streets in 1896.

Since then, the library has only grown bigger thanks to the branches it owns, its infrastructure, and its book collections.

The library owns over 20,000 books, journals, magazines, documents, DVDs, and CDs.

The Bristol Public Library has many buildings comprising an auditorium and a special section for children.

It also organizes special events themed on music and art and adds to the city’s cultural life.

Explore the Federal Hill Historic District

To the northeast of downtown Bristol lies the historic Federal Hill Historic District.

It is a pretty charming residential area embodying fashionable residential architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries.

While exploring this pretty neighborhood, you’ll see many buildings and houses resembling splendid Italianate and Victorian architecture.

For that reason, the Federal Hill Historic District was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

For example, stop by to look at the magnificent Belden House built in the first decade of the 20th century by a local banker and manufacturer.

This district was where Bristol’s first church and school were built.

Before the 19th century, it was an industrial hub, but as the economic activities gradually shifted somewhere.

Still, it became a center of religious activities and festivities where the wealthy built their homes.

Check Out Rockwell Park

Building at Rockwell Park

Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rockwell Park may not be as full of nature as other regional parks, but it’s unique for demonstrating an exciting blend of natural and artificial structures.

It has all the facilities of an amusement park, including basketball, volleyball, swimming pool, and so on, yet it’s cradled in the heart of nature.

Established in 1914, it spans 100 acres, and all its gates and pavilions feature unique cobblestone architecture.

The grounds of Rockwell Park

Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The park’s most exciting attractions stem from its natural setting, like beautiful hiking trails, serene ponds surrounded by trees crowned with red and yellow flowers, and mountain biking trails.

If you want to spend some time in tranquillity, you can go for long walks or sit on the open grounds for hours, take good photos, and enjoy your time there.

However, if you plan to visit Bristol with your friends and family, don’t miss a chance to picnic here as it has picnic areas too!

Winter scene at Rockwell Park

Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stop by the Memorial Boulevard Park

Consider stopping by Memorial Boulevard Park, which honors the Bristol soldiers who lost their lives in WWI and the Korean War.

Besides the memorial, this park has fountains, trees, and a long walking ground.

Narrow pathways bifurcate the evenly lined trees with colorful leaves, finely trimmed green grasses, and a beautiful bridge in front of the lagoon.

Together, they form a picturesque view adding to its appeal.

You can walk on the soft grass, sit under a tree, get lost in a reverie, or go fishing in the pretty lagoon inside the park.

Also, if you love sports, you’ll be delighted to know that Memorial Boulevard Park has four tennis courts.

Spend a Lazy Afternoon at Page Park

What is the best way to spend a lazy afternoon in Bristol, Connecticut?

One option is a visit to Page Park.

Situated towards the city’s east, Page Park is a popular recreation spot in the Connecticut region.

Page Park has a tennis court, a golf course, sledding hills, and a swimming pool, to name a few.

It’s a huge playground where you can sit peacefully and observe the beautiful natural surroundings.

Grab a book and sit under a tree for hours.

When you get bored, start walking along the 1.8-mile-long trail.

This park is most famous for picnicking; families usually have picnics in the pavilion and open fields.

Take some excellent photos near the pavilion next to a pond surrounded by gorgeous trees, as it provides a fabulous view.

Explore Bristol’s Sports Heritage at Muzzy Field

Athletes in Muzzy Field

lbaileypics /

Head to Muzzy Field, a historic sports center in Bristol, Connecticut.

Founded in 1914, it has hosted amateur and professional baseball games involving the Bristol Owls and Bristol Red Sox.

Players like Jimmy Fox, Babe Ruth, Jacky Mitchel, Paul Waner, Max Carey, and Casey Stengel have played here for teams like Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, and other MLB teams.

Douglas S. Malan wrote a book about this baseball field, Muzzy Field: Tales from A Forgotten Ballpark, to highlight its history.

You can book tickets online for seasonal and individual games.

Likewise, you can buy tickets from the Muzzy Field ticket counter.

Bring Your Kids to Imagine Nation

Imagine Nation comprises eleven studios that feature motion displays and workshops involving sound and air experiences to enhance children’s learning and creativity.

The workshops teach children about animals, nature, multicultural studies, theatre arts, science, and phenomena, as well as the art of painting.

It caters to the learning needs of children by making the learning process fun, exciting and interactive.

If you want your kids to have a productive learning experience, bring them to Imagine Nation.

Join the Bristol Mum Festival

One of the things Bristol is famous for is the annual chrysanthemum festival known as the Bristol Mum festival.

The festival started on 7th October 1962, by holding outdoor ceremonies on Chippens Hills, and indoor events happened in three different venues, including the American Clock & Watch Museum.

Today, the Bristol Mum Festival is still celebrated every September.

Before 1986, Bristol produced more than 80,000 mum plants; thousands of people visited Bristol’s nurseries during the festival.

Sometimes the number of visitors would be as great as 10,000.

Though the number of visitors hasn’t declined, chrysanthemum production has gone down, which is why the festival has undergone some modifications.

The modern version of the festival spans over four days and features theatre shows, music, athletics, and dance events.

The most exciting events are the Mum Parade, Art & Jazz gala, food fest, Adult Beverage Garden, and a spectacular fireworks display.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Embrace the Spooky Vibes at Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum

Fascinated by cinema during his childhood, Cortlandt Hull founded the Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum.

It manifests Hull’s passion for movie-making and evidence of the evolution of special effects in cinema.

Hull’s father assisted him in building a building styled in the fashion of a Swiss chalet to harbor Hull’s classic creations, which became the Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum.

It displays classic film memorabilia, movie props, and models of famous movie characters, which Hull himself created.

If you go on weekend evenings, you can watch some special screenings.

If you go on weekdays, you might not get the chance to watch a horror film show, but the rest of the displays will be an absolute treat to the eye.

This place is in Plainville, Connecticut, ten minutes from Bristol.

Have Fun at Lake Compounce

Crocodile cove at Lake Compounce

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Lake Compounce is also one of the oldest continuously functioning parks in the US.

You can find it in Southington, Connecticut, nine minutes from Bristol.

The park started as a winding path built by Nat Gorton in 1872.

Today it is home to a wide range of amusement rides, from thrilling rollercoasters and waterslides to carousels, Ferris wheels, Sky coasters, racers, and many more.

Make sure you enjoy the most exciting and famous ridet, the Boulder Dash and Phobia Phear Coaster.

The Boulder Dash is a mountainside wooden rollercoaster named the world’s number-one rollercoaster several times.

Meanwhile, the Phobia Phear Coaster is the first triple-launch coaster in New England.

It can reach up to 65 miles per hour and do a Cobra Roll in mid-air at 150 feet.

Water ride at Lake Compounce

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Other noteworthy rides of this park are Wave Swinger, Thunder Rapids, American Flyers, Pirate Ship, Wild Cat, and Drop Zone.

Just grab your friends or family or go solo and let all these fantastic rides amuse you!

Carousel at Lake Compounce

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Final Thoughts

Bristol has much more to offer guests.

You’ll never get bored there, whether you stay for a weekend or longer.

Check out the best things to do in Bristol, Connecticut!

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