20 Best Things to Do in Hartford, CT

Hartford, CT
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Connecticut's capital city, Hartford is a heavenly delight for history buffs and book lovers.

It served as the hometown of not one but two famous American authors: Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

On top of that, Hartford is where you'll find some of the oldest structures in American history.

With many amazing places to explore, the spot serves as a family-friendly destination and is a perfect place to plan for your next vacation.

Want to find out what else it has in store for you?

These are the best things to do in Hartford, Connecticut:

Check Out the Mark Twain House

Exterior of Mark Twain House
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Are you a bookworm?

If so, this historic location will be especially important to you, as this one saw the birth of some of the most famous books in the world.

Anyone knows the name of Mark Twain and his very famous The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Would you like to witness the place where this all came to be?

Direction sign of Mark Twain House and Museum
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Head to The Mark Twain House and Museum.

The massive Gothic-style house has 19 rooms that display all the facts about the famous author, stories related to his books, and his unpublished writings.

It was in this house that Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and a couple of his other famous pieces.

While the house dates back to the 1800s, it still stands strong and continues to amaze people.

Exterior of Mark Twain's writing hut at Mark Twain House and Museum
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View the Art Collection at the Wadsworth Atheneum

Interior of Wadsworth Atheneum
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The Wadsworth Atheneum is an extremely important art figure in the entire history of America.

You could say that visiting this place is one of the most important things to do not only in Hartford but in the United States.

What makes it so special, you might wonder?

Exterior of Wadsworth Atheneum
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Founded in 1844, the Wadsworth Atheneum is the United States' oldest public museum and is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

It houses one of the world's finest art collections and displays over 50,000 pieces in its permanent collection.

The museum's European section boasts 7,000 pieces by famous European artists.

The Decorative Arts Section is especially beautiful, with a lot of bronze, glass, and ceramic works of art.

An art piece displayed in Wadsworth Atheneum
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Gaze at the Intricate Detailing of the Connecticut State Capitol

Front exterior of Connecticut State Capitol
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The Connecticut State Capitol, which serves as the house of Representatives and the State Senate, is one of Hartford's major tourist attractions.

It also happens to be a National Historic Landmark.

Apart from its significance in history and Connecticut's politics, the house is a visual treat.

Statue of Israel Putnam in front of Connecticut State Capitol
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Dating back to 1879, it was built in the same Gothic style as the famous Mark Twain House.

Its interiors include striking features like stained glass windows and white marble floors.

You can find a lot of tour guides who will show you the most interesting points of the Connecticut State Capitol and tell you the history behind each of them.

The genius of connecticut statue inside the Connecticut State Capitol
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Stop and Smell the Roses at Elizabeth Park

Rose arches at Elizabeth Park in Connecticut
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Elizabeth Park might look like an ordinary city park from the outside, but wait until you take a step in.

You will walk inside to find a gorgeous rose garden, which also happens to be the oldest one in Hartford.

The government maintains this garden with 15,000 rose bushes of different variants.

Elizabeth Park's gazebo surrounded by roses
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Needless to say, it's incredibly picturesque.

Apart from the many gorgeous flowers that bloom throughout the year, snow falls during the winter.

During this season, the park is used as an ice skating rink.

Pretty roses at Elizabeth Park
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Geek Out at the Connecticut Science Center

Exterior of Connecticut Science Center
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The Connecticut Science Center is located just beside the Connecticut River.

It is a massive science museum that comprises nine whole floors' worth of scientific displays.

Closeup details of Connecticut Science Center's exterior
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Kids fall in love the moment they enter this interactive space bursting with science and technology.

The most exciting displays include one focused on the beginning of Planet Earth and another that teaches you how to forecast the weather.

Visit this educational institute that teaches valuable things through its many exhibits and presentations.

Interior of Connecticut Science Center
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Pay Your Respects at Bushnell Park

Soldiers and Sailors memorial arch in Bushnell Park
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Bushnell Park is a public park that boasts both beauty and heritage.

Before Bushnell Park, there were not any public parks in America.

It's the country's very first publicly funded park.

A lily pond at Bushnell Park
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It is situated within the State Capitol property and has many interesting attractions, including statues and memorials dedicated to Civil War heroes.

There is also a gallery where you'll find pictures from the Civil War era, along with various hand-carved sculptures.

A carousel at Bushnell Park
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See the Artifacts at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum

Exterior of Connecticut Historical Society museum
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Want to know more about how Connecticut became an important part of American history?

Visit the Connecticut Historical Society Museum.

It's the best place to learn all about the historically significant events that took place in this state, along with the people who were involved in them.

Located in a beautiful Colonial Revival building, the Connecticut Historical Society Museum is one of Connecticut's major tourist attractions.

You can find everything about the city here, as it has almost 4 million items on display.

Explore the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
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Hartford is not only the home of Mark Twain.

It also served as the hometown of another famous author: Harriet Beecher Stowe.

You must have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin—but did you know its author resided here?

Her former home is now a museum that showcases everything you need to know about Stowe, her unpublished writings, and many other little-known facts.

Exterior of Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
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The house itself is quite charming.

It's a two-floor cottage with a lovely brick facade.

Want to know something more interesting about this place?

It's situated opposite the house of Mark Twain—talk about two important authors living on the same street!

Catch a Show at Hartford Stage

Exterior of Hartford Stage
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Hartford Stage is a pretty old theater in Hartford.

It has been around since 1963  and is still going strong.

There are always a lot of shows and musicals that take place here.

To catch a play in this theater is like experiencing or being a part of history.

The theater also holds drama classes for kids.

Visit the Old State House

Exterior of Old State House
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The Old State House is another National Historic Landmark you have to see.

Completed in 1796, it's the oldest state house in the entire nation.

The building saw the rise and fall of several trials, political parties, and nations.

Closeup view of Old State House's exterior
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You can hire a guide if you want to hear all about its history in detail.

The Old State House has a garden, and its interiors are decorated with old paintings and framed documents.

The Connecticut General Assembly manages this place.

Dine at Carbone’s Ristorante

What's a vacation without visiting some of your destination's best restaurants?

Carbone’s Ristorante is the perfect place to eat on any special occasion.

A lot of people come here to propose to their significant others or to impress someone.

Carbone's Ristorante has been in Hartford for over 75 years and has served countless celebrities and politicians.

Its menu boasts some of the best authentic Italian food and a fine selection of wine.

Catch a Glimpse of the Cathedral of St. Joseph

Colorful interior of the Cathedral of St. Joseph
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Among Hartford's major attractions, the Cathedral of St. Joseph is relatively new compared to the others.

Dating back to 1962, it is a replica of an old building that was destroyed in a fire.

Exterior of the Cathedral of St. Joseph
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The cathedral was entirely constructed in the Gothic architectural style, just like the original.

It's quite a gorgeous place, with high ceilings and bronze doors.

You can find biblical scenes and structures decorated around the entrance and the main corner.

The modern mural stands behind the altar of St Joseph's Cathedral
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Eat at the Polish National Home

Exterior of Polish National Home
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There is no need to be Polish to visit a Polish-American community in Hartford.

While the Polish National Home is an ethnic community support organization, it also houses a popular restaurant known to serve some of the best food in the city.

Side view exterior of Polish National Home
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The Art Deco building is also a fascinating historical site.

Constructed in 1930, the place is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tour the Polish National Home and learn about Polish culture.

Learn a Bit of History at the Museum of Connecticut History

Exterior of Museum of Connecticut History
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The Museum of Connecticut History is a historical landmark in Hartford.

It's housed in the same building as the Supreme Court and the State Library.

The museum mainly focuses on military history, along with other documents that are quite important in shaping the history of Hartford.

Interior of Museum of Connecticut History
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It also preserves the heritage of Hartford and how its people played an essential role in sculpting American history.

It mainly displays weapons, such as firearms and pistons from various wars.

Military uniforms displayed in Museum of Connecticut History
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Revisit History at the Butler-McCook House & Garden

Exterior of Butler-McCook House & Garden
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The Butler-McCook House & Garden is the oldest home in Hartford.

It was constructed in 1782 and served as a home to the same family for generations.

To be specific, four generations of Butlers and McCooks called this place their home.

It's the last-standing 18th-century house on Main Street and among the few left in Hartford.

Join a guided tour of this home and learn about the people who lived here: a family who deeply enjoyed art, music, and travel.

Exercise with a View at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza

The Phoenix Gateway Bridge in Mortensen Riverfront Plaza
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Mortensen Riverfront Plaza is the core of Hartford's Riverfront park system and a significant location in downtown Hartford.

Dedicated to William "Billy" Mortensen, the park took into completion in 1999.

His life serves as the new generation of Hartforders' inspiration.

Many free activities in Hartford may be found here, so look no further if you're searching for something interesting to do in the city.

It's easy to get some exercise on the plaza stairs, or you can simply rest and enjoy the river views as you do so.

They are also used as front-row seats for the yearly dragon boat festival.

Take a stroll along the river on one of several paths, join a boat tour, or take a trip across the Founders Bridge to East Hartford from the Plaza.

Enjoy a Bottle of Beer at City Steam Brewery

Since 1997, City Steam Brewery has churned out excellent and visually appealing brews.

Their taproom serves 12 of their signature beers on a rotating basis and special guest taps and seasonal drinks.

IPAs with pineapple and orange flavors like Blonde-on-Blonde and Export, traditional Dortmunder-style lagers, and golden Pilsners like Steam Pils and Steam Pilsner are excellent choices.

Brass Bonanza, Phase 1, Naughty Nurse, and Into the Glades are some of the other options.

A comedy show or a sit-down supper at the brewery's restaurant are options for the City Steam Brewery guests.

Tour the Isham-Terry House

Exterior of Isham-Terry House
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A refined lifestyle thrived in the city of Hartford around the start of the 20th century.

At the Isham-Terry House, the only surviving piece of a lively and busy Hartford neighborhood, you may get a sense of this way of life.

In 1896, Dr. Oliver Isham acquired this Italianate mansion, completed in 1854.

In addition to serving as the family's residence, the 15-room house served as the family's medical business location.

To understand what life was like in the 1800s, visitors may explore the place today.

Stained-glass windows, historical, artistic, and emotional artifacts, and rare antiques such as rare books and Terry clocks are all displayed in the museum.

Have Fun Touring the City by Playing Wacky Walks

Wacky Walks provides an excellent opportunity for you and your friends and family to see Hartford while having a good time with fun challenges.

This game revolves around a scavenger quest with a royal twist.

In this game, the power of the round transfers among the players, depending on who dominates the challenges.

However, you'll be strolling the roads of Hartford instead of playing on a game board.

This means that to finish the game, you'll need a smartphone.

You can win bragging rights for the rest of your life if you complete all of the tasks, no matter how outlandish.

Final Thoughts

Connecticut's capital is worth a visit, even though it is sometimes overshadowed by the likes of Boston and Providence.

Choose Hartford as your next getaway destination, with hundreds of events annually and a slew of restaurants, pubs, clubs, museums, theaters, and other attractions.

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