15 Best Things to Do in Hartford County, CT

Hartford County, CT
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Hartford County is one of the most beautiful and exciting counties in Connecticut.

Established in 1666, the county sits in the north-central part of the state, with the Connecticut River dividing it into two unequal sections.

Its most populous city, Hartford, and other cities and towns have a plethora of attractions to offer visitors and travelers.

From interesting museums and impressive artworks to heart-pumping rides and natural wonders, you won’t regret setting foot in this amazing place.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Hartford County, Connecticut, that you don’t want to miss.

Stroll through Stunning Gardens at Wickham Park

Picturesque sunset at Wickham Park
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Maintained by a non-profit, private foundation, Wickham Park in Manchester is a must-visit park boasting a 280-acre property filled with lovely attractions.

It has an arboretum with labeled shrubs and trees and nine gorgeous themed gardens, such as The Cabin Garden & Amphitheater, The Irish Garden, and The Oriental Garden.

You will find an aviary, children’s playgrounds, a nature center and museum, and a concession stand operating on weekends and holidays if you get hungry.

Pretty red flowers at Wickham Park
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Relaxing picnic areas, vast open fields, lush woodlands, and serene ponds add to your intimate and memorable time here.

If you’re into sports, the park has many sports facilities, including a disc golf course, tennis and volleyball courts, and softball diamonds.

Moreover, Wickham Park hosts special occasions and events such as weddings, birthdays, disc golf tournaments, garden tours, and more.

Frog at Wickham Park
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Try Skiing at Mount Southington Ski Area

Night view of the Mount Southington Ski Area
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Spice up your vacation by heading to Mount Southington Ski Area in the Plantsville neighborhood in the town of Southington.

Known throughout Hartford County, this top-notch resort on 51 skiable acres offers 14 trails, two terrain parks, and seven lifts.

This place also features rentals, lessons, programs, a ski shop, night skiing, snowmaking, events, and a stunning mountain backdrop.

From kids to adults, novice to expert skiers, this winter attraction is truly a thrilling and not to be missed adventure while in the county.

Check out Mount Southington Ski Area with your loved ones and enjoy skiing down the snowy slopes of Mount Southington.

Explore the Jurassic Era at Dinosaur State Park

Outside view of the Dinosaur State Park
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If you like dinosaurs, visit Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, one of North America’s largest dinosaur track sites.

The expansive park has an exhibit center with a geodesic dome enclosing 500 dinosaur tracks while the other 1,500 remain buried for preservation.

These fossil tracks were revealed during the site’s excavation for a new state building in 1966, and the park officially opened two years later.

Fossils at Dinosaur State Park
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Marvel at the 200-million-year-old fossil trackway, see life-sized dilophosaurus models in dioramas, and browse the museum store for dinosaur-related gifts and souvenirs.

Join educational and fun activities like gem and fossil mining, lectures, and other special programs at Dinosaur State Park.

Also, explore the arboretum outside, growing more than 200 cultivars of conifers crisscrossed by two miles of hiking trails.

Watch the Cascading Beauty of Mill Pond Falls

Situated in Mill Pond Park, Mill Pond Falls is a lovely waterfall and a famous destination in Newington and New England.

Named after a sawmill built on Mill Pond in 1860, the waterfall is claimed to be the smallest waterfall in the country.

In front of the falls is an observation area with a few benches to sit on and watch its endearing natural beauty.

There is also a wooden footbridge above it and a Crimson Maple tree named “Thankful Tree” planted by the Newington Waterfall Committee near the falls as gratitude.

You can also explore the beautiful park with many amenities, including athletic facilities, trails, an outdoor pool, a fishing pond, and a playground.

In September, participate in the fun-filled Newington Waterfall Festival, annually celebrated in honor of Mill Pond Falls’ fame and contribution to town history and heritage.

Try Adrenaline-Pumping Rides at Lake Compounce

Water rides at Lake Compounce
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If you’re on the hunt for an amusement park, you can never go wrong with the country’s oldest continuously operating amusement park: Lake Compounce.

Since its establishment in 1846 in Bristol, the fun has never stopped with its bevy of fantastic rides and attractions that will take your breath away.

It is home to Boulder Dash, voted the world’s #1 wooden roller coaster, and Phobia Phear Coaster, the first triple launch coaster in New England.

Kid's rides at Lake Compounce
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Other notable attractions include American Flyers, Wild Cat, Wave Swinger, Ferris Wheel, Sky Coaster, and Crocodile Cove, the waterpark in this theme park.

Peruse the gift shops for souvenirs, watch concert series, dine at one of the many restaurants, go camping at the campground, and attend seasonal events.

Dozens more rides and attractions await in Lake Compounce that you shouldn’t skip while in the county with friends, family, kids, or significant other.

Families enjoying the roller coaster at Lake Compounce
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Tour The Mark Twain House & Museum

Entrance sign at the  Mark Twain House & Museum
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If you’re a bookworm and a history geek, you will love to explore The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.

Built in a Victorian Gothic style, this charming 19th-century house has 19 rooms and was “the father of American literature” Mark Twain’s residence from 1874 to 1891.

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He wrote many of his best-known works in this mansion, including The Prince and the Pauper, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the very famous The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

This historical location is now a house museum featuring guided tours, artifacts, lectures, workshops, and other events.

Learn more about the renowned author, his family, his works, and his life by checking out The Mark Twain House & Museum.

Writing hut of Twain at  Mark Twain House & Museum
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Meet Charming Animals Up Close at Riverside Reptiles Education Center

Another noteworthy attraction that you should visit is Riverside Reptiles Education Center.

Located in Enfield, it is the only zoo dedicated to reptiles and amphibians in New England.

More than 70 species of exotic and indigenous reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures worldwide are on display.

It has over square feet of space to explore, and among the animals that you’ll view here include lizards, frogs, snakes, turtles, and alligators.

You can also drop by the small gift store, attend educational programs, and even host your party at Riverside Reptiles Education Center.

See Stunning Artworks at the New Britain Museum of American Art

Statue at New Britain Museum of American Art
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The New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain is a wonderful place for anyone seeking creativity and unique things to see in Hartford County.

Founded in 1903, this art museum sports an unparalleled collection of American art from the colonial period to the present by talented artists.

Explore the permanent collection with over 8,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and documents.

Unique glass art installation at New Britain Museum of American Art
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Some highlights include colonial and federal portraits and 19th-century still life works.

Current exhibitions include Walter Wick: Hidden Wonders!, From The Vault: Post-War To Contemporary Art, and Eva Lewitt.

Make the most of your visit by booking a docent-led museum tour, checking out the special exhibitions, joining art activities, and attending excellent programs.

Go Shopping at Westfarms

Christmas decorations at Westfarms
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For an ultimate shopping experience unlike any other, Westfarms in West Hartford is the perfect place to go.

Opened in 1974, it is the premium shopping center in central Connecticut and the third-largest mall in the state.

It is home to a spectacular mix of over 160 finest retail stores and restaurants with many luxury brands like Tiffany & Co., Apple, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, and more.

Crowd waiting outside the Macy's at Westfarms Mall
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Shop ‘til you drop at anchors JCPenney, Macy’s, and Nordstrom, and other shops and find everything you need, from apparel, shoes, and jewelry to home décor, electronics, and toys.

Afterward, rest your feet and regain energy with snacks or a hearty meal at one of the dining options like Brio Italian Grille, California Pizza Kitchen, and Taco Bell.

Westfarms has so much to offer, so bring your family or friends to enjoy shopping and dining at this terrific place.

Roll a Strike at Hall of Fame Silver Lanes

Hall of Fame Silver Lanes in East Hartford is another great destination to have quality time with the family or play with friends.

This facility has 52 state-of-the-art bowling lanes and a luxurious arcade where you can play various games like Jurassic Park Arcade, Mario Kart, and more.

After playing, hang around with your best pals at the sports bar with great drinks like craft beer, wine, or their signature cocktails while watching a sports match.

Hall of Fame Silver Lanes also hosts bowling tournaments and leagues and is ideal for parties and other group events.

Take a Guided Tour of Hill-Stead Museum

View of the Hill-Stead Museum
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Set on a sprawling estate in Farmington, Hill-Stead Museum is another ideal attraction that art lovers should tour.

This 1901 Colonial Revival-style house is now an art museum boasting a stunning collection of paintings, prints, decorative arts, photographs, sculptures, rugs, and textiles.

Bee collecting nector from vibrant flowers at Hill-Stead Museum
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Admire its French Impressionist masterpieces, Japanese woodblock prints, and other works of art besides its beautiful architecture and lush gardens.

Make sure to take a guided tour of Hill-Stead Museum to make the most of your visit, including seeing what’s inside the period rooms.

You can also peruse the museum shop for souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones and friends or to add to your collection at home.

Gazebo at Hill-Stead Museum
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Ride a Vintage Trolley at the Connecticut Trolley Museum

Trolley at the Connecticut Trolley Museum
Mike Powell from United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kids and rail buffs will love the country’s oldest museum for electric railroading: the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor.

See its historic collection of over 70 pieces of rail equipment from the 1860s, such as passenger, interurban, freight trolley, and service cars, streetcars, and locomotives.

People riding at the Connecticut Trolley Museum
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You will also find examples from Boston, Springfield, New Orleans, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and other places.

You’ll not only see exhibits and learn about Connecticut’s trolley history here but also enjoy trolley rides and attend special holiday events like Winterfest and Pumpkin Patch.

Also, stop by the gift shop or visit the Fire Track Museum on the same property exhibiting a collection of antique fire apparatus.

An old trolley kept at Connecticut Trolley Museum
Mike Powell from United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch New Releases at AMC Plainville 20

If you want to catch the latest movie, add AMC Plainville 20 in Plainville to your itinerary.

This movie theater boasts top-notch features that make your movie-going experience exceptional and memorable.

Premium offerings include luxury AMC signature recliners, IMAX, Dolby Cinema, RealD 3D, AMC Artisan Films, and reserved seating.

Likewise, they offer delicious foods and drinks, Coca-Cola Freestyle, stadium seating, open caption, mobile ticketing, and theater rentals.

Whether you bring a date or go alone or with family or friends, you’ll feel at home and enjoy the movie you’re watching at AMC Plainville 20.

Check Out Vintage Planes at the New England Air Museum

Interior view of the New England Air Museum
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If you’re interested in aviation and history, the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks would be the place for you.

This top-notch American aerospace museum comprises three large hangars displaying various types of vintage planes and helicopters.

Exhibit at the New England Air Museum
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Museum collections include engines and aircraft, ranging from vintage flying machines to supersonic jets, engines, plus other flight-related equipment.

One of the most significant aircraft housed in the museum is the oldest surviving American aircraft: Silas Brooks Balloon Basket.

Besides interesting aircraft and aviation-related exhibits, kids and adults will also love an immersive flight simulator experience here.

Display at New England Air Museum
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Enjoy the Beautiful Views at Talcott Mountain State Park

Nature trail at Talcott Mountain State Park
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If you still crave more nature escapes, travel to Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury.

This public recreation area is one of the most popular state parks in the state, protecting over 500 acres of wilderness.

It is a natural sanctuary to various plants, including some unusual species, and birds and wildlife, such as bald eagles, pileated woodpeckers, deer, rabbits, and foxes.

Lavender color flower at Talcott Mountain State Park
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Hike up to its main attraction, the historic Heublein Tower, perched atop the mountain and rewards spectacular panoramic views, especially in the fall foliage season.

You will also find a museum of local history within the 165-foot tower.

Besides taking in the beautiful vista, you can enjoy picnicking and hiking a section of the Metacomet Trail.

Top view of the Talcott Mountain State Park
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Final Thoughts

Hartford County has much more to offer visitors and tourists alike, making their vacation full of adventure, excitement, and enjoyment.

You’ll never get dull moments while staying here for a weekend or longer with friends and family.

Reference this list of the best things to do in Hartford County, Connecticut, when you’ve decided to plan a trip to this wonderful place today or sooner.

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