Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in New Britain, CT

  • Published 2023/02/04

Nestled in central Connecticut, New Britain is a city filled with outdoor surprises and industrial legacies.

It has the moniker “the Hardware City” because of its largest employer, the American Hardware Corporation.

At the same time, this city is home to a large Polish population that’s thriving in the neighborhood called Little Poland.

It also offers a family-friendly atmosphere, superior fine dining, and vibrant nightlife.

Settled in 1687 and incorporated in 1850, its first settlers were the Tunxis Indians.

Several years later, the city boasts a diverse community, attracting travelers and tourists to its beautiful terrain and recreational options.

New Britain in Hartford County is also an affordable travel destination.

Here are 15 free things to do in New Britain, Connecticut:

Go for a Stroll at Walnut Hill Park

A memorial at Walnut Hill Park

Jennifer Yakey-Ault /

When it comes to city-famous parks, New Britain’s Walnut Hill Park is at the top of the list.

This park, developed in the 1860s, once served as a reservoir before becoming a public recreational site.

Within the property, there are family-friendly amenities, including a playscape for the little ones and a concert shell for community events.

For those who prefer hiking and jogging, there’s a one-mile loop for walking, as well as a 10-station fitness trail.

Trail at Walnut Hill Park

Katikat43 /

But perhaps what makes Walnut Hill Park a hit among locals and tourists is its scenic rose garden landscapes.

This 90-acre park is also famous for its Art Deco installation.

For a surefire way to enjoy New Britain’s outdoors without paying anything, head to Walnut Hill Park on West Main Street.

Stone steps at Walnut Hill Park

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

Watch the Stars at Copernican Observatory & Planetarium

Transport yourself into outer space with Copernican Observatory & Planetarium‘s programs.

This astronomy center is part of the Geological Sciences Department of Central Connecticut State University, but it welcomes everyone—not only students.

It provides educational shows, including observing sessions and astronomy workshops for everyone of all ages.

Its planetarium shows include detailed indoor presentations and an outdoor telescope viewing if the skies are clear.

Learn about planets, stars, and the universe in general, all without paying a cent!

Copernican Observatory & Planetarium promises a fascinating adventure on Stanley Street.

Learn Skating Tricks at the Stanley Quarter Park

A pond at Stanley Quarter Park

Sage Ross, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

New Britain never runs out of outdoor facilities for nature explorers and sports enthusiasts.

At Stanley Quarter Park, you have everything you might need for an adventurous time outdoors.

One of the city’s picturesque parks, this place has a fishing pond and stunning water vistas along its walking trails.

Its outdoor fitness stations are ideal spots to get in shape while admiring the beauty of nature.

If you have a skateboard, have a go at the ramps and runs of Stanley Quarter Park’s skate park.

Or better yet, learn a few tricks and stunts while you’re there.

You can find this one-of-a-kind park on Blake Road.

See Geese at Martha Hart Park

Along Corbin Avenue, Martha Hart Park stands out with its green landscapes.

This park offers a serene and calm atmosphere—perfect for visitors who prefer an idle vacation.

A basketball court is available at this park for those who want to play a few rounds of ball games.

Its small trails are immersive enough for hikers of all expertise levels.

As the park sits adjacent to a fishing pond, your walks along the park vicinity can be refreshing, too!

When you come by during winter, you can enjoy the park’s ice skating rink.

Martha Hart Park is also home to occasional geese visitors, so be on the lookout for them.

Appreciate Art at the New Britain Museum of American Art every Saturday Morning

Exterior of New Britain Museum of American Art

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The New Britain Museum of American Art on Lexington Street is the first American art-dedicated museum in the country.

It dates back to 1903 when it still went by the name New Britain Institute and had windowless art rooms.

When 1937 rolled around, the renovated art museum transformed from a one-room gallery to a collection of exhibit halls and art wings.

Now, after years of expansions and renovations, the New Britain Museum of American Art offers onsite and digital collections.

Interior of New Britain Museum of American Art

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sift through art pieces by renowned and emerging artists within Hartford County and beyond.

See photographs, sculptures, and paintings depicting the American culture, from human ancestry to landscape sceneries.

Schedule your visit to the New Britain Museum of American Art on Saturday mornings to get free admission to the museum’s current exhibits!

Exhibit in New Britain Museum of American Art

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chill by the Splash Pad at Chesley Park

Don’t let the brutal summer heat prevent you from having a good time with family and loved ones in New Britain!

Head to Chesley Park on Wildwood Drive to beat the heat.

This park offers a seasonal splash pad, alongside its classic park sports courts.

There’s also a playscape for children, should they prefer not to get wet while making the most of their playtime.

Let them have their turn at the Digiriders, Oodle Swings, and the 50-foot zipline, one of the park’s famous play structures.

A handball court, two basketball courts, and three softball diamonds are also available for those visiting Chesley Park.

Pay Tribute to WWII Soldiers at National Iwo Jima Memorial

Daytime view of the National Iwo Jima Memorial

ARENA Creative /

Open year-round, the National Iwo Jima Memorial is one of the free tourist attractions you should not miss out on while in New Britain.

Spearheaded by sculptor Joseph Petrovics, this monument is a memory of WWII at Mt. Suribachi in Iowa Jima.

The monument, dedicated in 1995, depicts soldiers raising the flag of America.

With the help of the war’s survivors and combat photographer Joe Rosenthal’s help, Petrovics brought a moment of valor to life with debris and compositions from the battle itself.

Close view of the National Iwo Jima Memorial

ARENA Creative /

The concrete base of the memorial has materials from the volcanic sand of Iowa Jima.

The rocks sitting by the soldier’s feet were taken from the site of the battle.

Pay your respects to the fallen soldiers at National Iwo Jima Memorial on Iowa Jima Way by going on a meditative walk around the park.

Information marker of the National Iwo Jima Memorial

Jllm06, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch Cultural Dance Performances at Little Poland Festival

New Britain allows you to get a glimpse of Polish culture and tradition without traveling far from the city.

You can do this at the annual Little Poland Festival.

This event, happening every June, is an amalgamation of music, entertainment, and family-friendly activities.

In a way, it also aims to highlight Little Poland, one of New Britain’s thriving localities.

The first festival was in 2012.

Over the years, it has grown in size and success as more performers and vendors participated and more tourists came to see the festivities.

Watch special song and dance performances and eating competitions of Polish origin.

Meet mascots and other notable Polish people while walking down the streets.

Celebrate with the community at Little Poland Festival on all five blocks of Broad Street!

Go on an Architectural and Art Tour All over Downtown New Britain

A memorial at Downtown New Britain

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Downtown New Britain offers a blend of a historical and artistic tour through its establishments and shops lining the streets.

At Central Park, see the Sailors and Soldiers Monument, which proudly showcases the Greek Ionic design style.

The 1906 Gates Building on Main Street is another striking architectural piece derived from the Beaux Arts style.

Marvel at its ornate copper cap and rope trim detailing on the exterior.

Buildings along Downtown New Britain

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Further west is the Old Post Office.

Preserving the Ionic art style, the office shines with its sweeping staircase, intricate columns, and carved quatrefoils.

More distinct architectural styles, like those of English Tudor and Gothic Victorian, can be observed in New Britain’s downtown district.

Sample Exotic Wine at the Annual Armenian Festival

New Britain’s cultural scene is prominent with its Polish and Armenian cultural celebrations.

At the annual Armenian Festival, there is always something to toast to.

This event, hosted by the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection every August, offers free admission and ultimate fun.

Some of the activities you can look forward to include live music, children’s activities, and a whole lot of dancing!

Try Armenian delicacies with the festival’s free food tastings and wine samples.

The Armenian Festival on Stanley Street also has raffle events you don’t want to miss.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Had enough of New Britain’s art and historical scene?

You can expect more fun in nearby cities!

Browse through Coin Collections at the Museum of Connecticut History

Exterior of the Museum of Connecticut History

Wangkun Jia /

Only 14 minutes from New Britain, the Museum of Connecticut History is a historical centerpiece of the state’s journey over the years.

In detail, it retells the political and industrial history of Connecticut.

Since 1910, this museum has served the community with its themed exhibits and archived collections.

One such exhibit is the Mitchelson Coin Collection.

This collection features national and international currency from the 17th century to the present.

But the adventure doesn’t stop there!

Browse through firearms and equipment prototypes in the 1957 Colt Collection.

If you’re an art lover, you may like the display of portraits of the various governors that served the community since the Colonial Period.

The Museum of Connecticut History is on Capitol Avenue in Hartford, ready to help you embark on a unique journey to the past.

Marvel at the Art Displays at the Art Museum at the University of Saint Joseph

Craving an art excursion while near New Britain?

The Art Museum at the University of Saint Joseph may be for you.

Open and free to the public, this museum provides access to over 2,000 art collections of fine art pieces.

Their diversity in art style and theme ranges from 20th-century paintings to 18th-century European prints.

The Art Museum at the University of Saint Joseph also hosts educational programs you can sign up for without paying a fee.

Drive approximately 18 minutes northeast to reach this museum on Asylum Avenue in West Hartford.

Meet the Animals at Westmoor Park

In the town of West Hartford is Westmoor Park, a demonstration garden spanning over 160 acres.

It supports a variety of habitats, including native woodlands and wildflower meadows.

Its demonstration farm is easily one of its visited facilities because of the variety of barnyard animals staying there.

To fully explore the garden, go on a hike along its three-mile trails.

Before leaving Westmoor Park, be sure to visit its greenhouse and nature discovery center.

This park on Flagg Road is approximately 17 minutes from New Britain.

Browse through the Blossoms and Plants at Elizabeth Park

A gazebo at Elizabeth Park

Jennifer Yakey-Ault /

Enjoy a floral wonderland at Elizabeth Park on Asylum Avenue.

Situated in the town of West Hartford, this park boasts a vast expanse of green space and formal gardens.

Opened in 1987, Elizabeth Park is home to the country’s oldest rose garden.

People at Elizabeth Park

Jennifer Yakey-Ault /

There are also several greenhouses and farmstead buildings.

Relax in nature as you cross the stone and boulder bridges of the park and look down on its ponds.

At Elizabeth Park, you can explore nature at your own pace for free!

Rose arches at Elizabeth Park

Jennifer Yakey-Ault /

Take in the Natural Scenery at Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve

Do you love hiking?

Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve should be on your list!

This hiking area on West Lane in the city of Berlin spans about 589 acres and has trails extending to 8.7 miles.

Its staple “rugged” trails come with traprock bridges that are a favorite among new and regular visitors of the area.

Since it overlooks the Wassel Reservoir, this site also offers stunning vistas of sky, foliage, and river when you reach its peak.

One of the most common activities you can do here is snowshoeing and rock climbing.

But if you prefer to stay safe, you can choose to follow the hiking trails; the views are just as promising!

Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve is only seven minutes away from New Britain.

Final Thoughts

New Britain’s cultural and recreational diversity make it a fascinating place to explore.

From complex parks to unique festivals, everyone has something to look forward to in the city.

The good news is most of these attractions don’t come with a fee!

Add these free things to do in New Britain, Connecticut, to your itinerary for a budget-friendly trip!

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