15 Best Things to Do in Waterbury, CT

Waterbury, CT
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Waterbury, Connecticut, is huge.

It's New Haven County’s second-largest city, the 9th largest city in New England, and the 5th largest city in Connecticut itself.

Moreover, Waterbury is proud to call itself the “Brass City,” having the motto “Quid Aere Perennius?” or “What Is More Lasting Than Brass?”

The “Brass City” was once the center of brassware manufacturing, like finishings and castings;” the city’s factories also made clocks and watches.

Before the European settlers arrived, the Algonquin bands lived in the area.

The first settlements appeared in 1674.

This area now goes by the name the “Town Plot” section.

In 1675, its residents abandoned the town to escape King Philip’s War, then returned after the war in 1677.

Today, Waterbury is home to various historical landmarks, along with plenty of natural attractions.

You can stay downtown to soak in the place’s rich history, or you can leave in search of bountiful nature.

Do you want to know more about Waterbury, CT?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Learn Local History at the Mattatuck Museum

Exterior of Mattatuck Museum
Jllm06, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mattatuck Museum began as the Mattatuck Historical Society, founded in 1877.

For centuries, this museum has showcased the Waterbury region’s dynamic history.

It opened its first display room in 1912 and has featured 12 rotating exhibitions every year since.

Framed art inside the Mattatuck Museum
Jllm06, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These collections feature the work of Connecticut artists and the regional history of the Naugatuck Valley.

Besides regional art collections, the Museum also features a button gallery containing 10,000 miniature artworks from around the world.

The Waterbury Companies donated these pieces to the museum in 1999.

Button collection exhibit in Mattatuck Museum
Jllm06, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Relax by Hop Brook Lake

Water rapids of Hop Brook Lake
Mustafa H / Shutterstock.com

In 1965, the Army Corps of Engineers built Hop Brook Lake, spanning the communities of Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Middlebury.

The lake’s purpose was to limit the risk of flood in the area.

Today, it’s a top-notch destination for recreation and relaxation by the lake.

Likewise, it’s excellent for RV travelers who wish to spend the night under the stars.

You can also swim at the lake’s designated swimming area and sandy beach.

The waters there are always calm, making it excellent for swimmers of all skill levels.

Besides swimming, the lake also lets you go fishing or boating.

You might even spot local birds on the water.

If you want to stay inland, you can enjoy a nice picnic with family, go biking, or go birdwatching.

The lake area also comprises 536 acres of land, so you can do (mostly) anything you want.

See a Performance at the Palace Theater

Gorgeous interior of the Palace Theater
Shanshan0312 / Shutterstock.com

Another historic building you can visit in Waterbury is the Palace Theater, which still stages theater productions, too.

The architect Thomas Lamb designed the theater, named after the theater impresario Sylvester Z. Poli.

Construction began in 1920 and finished in 1922.

Thomas Lamb’s design builds upon the Renaissance Revival style, sprinkling in dashes of Federal, Arabic, Greek, and Roman motifs.

If you look closely, you’ll know that it does look like an actual palace.

Exterior of Palace Theater
Koskenart, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inside, the building also has majestic lobbies and intricate dome ceilings.

Over the years, the building evolved from a vaudeville house to a thriving performance venue.

It closed down in 1987 but underwent restoration and expansion.

Eventually, the theater reopened with a full performance schedule.

Enjoy a night at the theater with comedy acts, family shows, Broadway shows, and many more.

The grand design of Palace Theater's interior
Shanshan0312 / Shutterstock.com

Sample Craft Beer at the Brass Works Brewing Company

Try the unique brews crafted here at the Brass Works Brewing Company, one of Waterbury’s top-notch breweries.

This family-owned brewery began from the dreams of two brothers, Michael and David Ieronimo, who brewed stuff in their mother’s kitchen in the late 1980s.

As their enterprise grew, the brothers recruited David’s brother-in-law Christopher Urban and Michael’s coworker Kyle Ondrush.

Today, the brewery has become a full-fledged business.

In 2021, Kyle stepped away from the brewery.

However, the three brewers continue to experiment with unique flavors and ingredients to produce top-quality craft beers.

Their selection includes IPAs, lagers, and ales.

Visit the Ruins of Holy Land USA

The cross of Holy Land USA
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

John Baptist Greco, a Waterbury attorney and devout Roman Catholic, had the idea of building a roadside theme park in the early 50s.

However, his park was unique because he wanted to devote it entirely to God.

He spent the next ten years building the park, which looked like a miniature Bethlehem. At its peak, the park saw 50,000 annual visitors.

They saw religious dioramas, a depiction of the Garden of Eden, and various tributes to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Its best feature, though, was the gigantic sign that read “Holy Land USA,” complete with a 56-foot steel cross that everyone could see for miles.

Greco closed the park in 1984 for renovation, hoping to expand the park, but he died in 1986.

Since then, the Holy Land has fallen into disrepair.

However, volunteers have begun cleaning up the park and rebuilding the destroyed items.

You can explore the grounds during the day or check their website for events you can attend.

Spend the Day at the Waterbury Green

Stay downtown and explore Waterbury Green, sitting inside the Downtown Waterbury Historic District.

This city park is the central point of the town center, where North Main Street, East Main Street, West Main Street, and Church Street converge.

You can easily travel all four streets, making the park readily accessible.

If you want to get away from the urban center without leaving the city, then Waterbury Green is the open space for you.

The park’s north end contains Welton Fountain, a gorgeous water fountain for horses, also made of bronze.

In 1915, Paul Lux designed the Waterbury clock, located on the park’s south point.

You can also find the Veterans Monument south of the flagpole.

Likewise, the south end contains the Soldiers Monument.

At the top of the granite base stands the bronze “Winged Victory” statue.

The whole thing stands an imposing 48 feet tall and certainly grabs the guests’ attention.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth with Fascia’s Chocolates

In 1964, John Fascia worked at the Bristol Company as an electronic technician, supporting his pregnant wife, Helen.

In his spare time, John roasted nuts and sold them at work to boost their income.

John and Helen found that they had to increase their income, so they ventured into another item: chocolate.

After all, “everybody loves chocolate,” as John says.

Today, Fascia’s Chocolates has become a Waterbury chocolate institution.

The company has built a factory, retail store, and public space.

You can buy delicious chocolates from the store and watch the production process at the factory.

Likewise, you can even try making your chocolate bar.

The factory also produces special daily selections, which you can taste on the factory tour.

Just reserve a spot on the website, and you’re good to go.

Explore Business History at the Bank Street Historic District

Buildings along Bank Street Historic District
Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A historical tour of Waterbury is incomplete without checking out the Bank Street Historic District.

You’ll find four commercial buildings attached along the same street, built over 20 years near the end of the 19th century.

That period was Waterbury’s heyday as an industrial hub.

The National Register of Historic Places listed the place in its roster in 1983.

The four buildings are the Pritchard Building, Whittemore Building, Griggs Building, and the Republican Building.

Standing on the street’s north end is the Pritchard Building, one of only three buildings in Waterbury in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.

The Whittemore is a four-story brick building in the Georgian Revival style.

The largest structure is the Griggs, an example of a rare commercial Queen Anne building, a style usually reserved for houses.

Finally, the Republican gets its name after one of Waterbury’s 19th-century newspapers.

You can grab a bite at Diorio restaurant, located on its ground floor.

Bring Your Friends to the Roller Magic Skating Rink

If you feel you have nothing to do in Waterbury, then your best bet is the Roller Magic Skating Rink.

After all, nothing might be quite as fun as skating around with your friends or family.

You can book the place for a private event, like a birthday party or a family gathering.

Likewise, the place has a full snack bar that provides various food and drinks options.

If you’re tired of skating, you can head to the arcade for more hours of fun and games.

You can rent skates or rollerblades if you don’t have any.

Roll a Strike at Lakewood Lanes

For over 50 years, this bowling alley has become Waterbury’s center for family entertainment.

It’s also the largest bowling center in the Waterbury area, with 42 lanes, cutting-edge synthetic lanes, plus fully automated scoring.

Likewise, the center has a well-equipped Snack Bar with a full menu.

If you’re tired of bowling, you can head to the Game Zone and enjoy more than 25 arcade games, and a prize center.

Redeem your tickets and win awesome prizes!

The Lakewood Lanes also hosts the traditional Junior League Program for young bowlers to improve their skills.

Coaches do hands-on sessions with the kids.

Likewise, the bowling alley also hosts various leagues catering to novice bowlers and the skilled ones.

Beat your friends up and down the lanes or enjoy a corporate excursion at Lakewood Lanes!

Check Out the Historic Waterbury Union Station

Rear exterior of Waterbury Union Station
Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1909, the Waterbury Union Station opened, which has become famous for its unique clock tower.

The firm New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad built the station, according to designs from McKim, Mead and White.

How did the clock tower get built?

A railroad executive who wanted a replica of the Torre del Mangia in Sienna, Italy, asked the construction firm to build the tower.

Today, the clock in the tower is New England’s largest.

There are also eight she-wolf gargoyles decorating the tower, evoking the legend of Romulus and Remus, the founders of ancient Rome.

Likewise, the Republican-American newspaper has its offices inside the former station.

Watch Baseball at the Municipal Stadium

Yet another historic building you can visit in Waterbury is the Municipal Stadium, constructed in 1930.

The stadium’s original purpose was a dog track, which explains its odd layout. It can also hold 6,000 people.

Since 1947, the stadium has mainly hosted minor league baseball. Several historic events in baseball have happened in this stadium.

For example, the women’s softball pitcher Joan Joyce struck out Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky, one after the other, in the stadium.

Today, the stadium hosts football and baseball.

If you’re in the mood to watch local high schools and youth leagues, then head to the stadium.

The stadium is also terrific if you just want to get in touch with baseball history.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore the Outdoors at the Whittemore Glen State Park

The woods of Whittemore Glen State Park
Morrowlong, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just seven minutes away from Waterbury sits the town of Naugatuck, Connecticut, where you can find the Whittemore Glen State Park.

This area is an undeveloped wilderness and public recreation site spanning 242 acres.

What can you do here?

Even if the place might be undeveloped, it still offers plenty of hiking and horseback riding trails.

Likewise, the area is a historic site, as well, becoming Connecticut’s 48thstate park in the 1945-46 edition of the Connecticut Register and Manual.

If you want to see nature in its unspoiled glory, then this state park should be part of your itinerary.

Revisit Train History at the Railroad Museum of New England

Relive the glory days of the American railroad by visiting the Railroad Museum of New England.

This museum showcases the rich history of the region’s railroads, especially the Naugatuck Railroad.

Just travel 11 minutes from Waterbury to reach the town of Thomaston, Connecticut.

During your visit, you’ll find a ton of railroad artifacts in separate collections.

These collections tell the story of New England railroads, told in exhibits of freight cars, passenger cars, cabooses, and locomotives.

After your trip to the museum, you can also board the trains yourself for a scenic ride along the Naugatuck Railroad.

They also give special train tours that lead to top-quality restaurants, such as the Litchfield Hills BBQ & Whiskey Special tour.

Learn the History of Locks at the Lock Museum of America

The history of locks is rich, and you’ll need to visit the Lock Museum of America to get a glimpse of it.

Just travel 15 minutes away from Waterbury to reach the community of Terryville, Connecticut.

Likewise, you can find the museum across the Eagle Lock Company’s original site, circa 1854.

This museum features an extensive lock collection, featuring early-time locks, British safe locks, escutcheon plates for safes, padlocks, door locks, handcuffs, and more.

Visit the Eagle Lock room to see more than a thousand locks and keys made between 1854 to 1954.

Then, go to the Bank Lock Room to see bank locks, safe locks, vault locks, and time locks.

Likewise, the Yale Room dedicates its displays to the Yale Lock company’s products, ranging from 1860 to 1950.

You can even find Linus Yale Jr.’s 1865 original patent model of the Mortise Cylinder Pin Tumbler Lock.

Final Thoughts

Waterbury is a historic city with plenty of attractions to satisfy tourists of diverse tastes.

You can also go to nearby towns and cities if you want to see more unique destinations.

Pick a holiday and book your Waterbury weekend today!