12 Attractions in Danbury, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Danbury is a charming city located in Connecticut’s Fairfield County, about 40 miles northeast of New York City. With its small-town New England charm combined with an array of things to see and do, Danbury makes for a fun weekend getaway or day trip from NYC and surrounding areas.

From historic sites that provide a glimpse into Danbury’s past to diverse museums and engaging activities, there are attractions in this Connecticut city to appeal to all interests and ages. Outdoor enthusiasts will especially love the hiking trails that wind through wooded parks and nature preserves that border the city. Families traveling with kids will find plenty of family-friendly things to see and do as well, from mini golf courses to hands-on children’s museums.

Here are 12 of the top attractions and things to do in and around Danbury, CT that are certainly worth adding to your Connecticut travel itinerary:

Take a Stroll Down Main Street

Danbury’s Main Street Historic District transports visitors back in time with its wonderfully preserved Victorian storefronts, government buildings, and churches. This National Register Historic District comprises a three block area along Main Street that serves as Danbury’s downtown focal point.

Must-see landmarks along Main Street include the Oberlander Building with its decorative brickwork facade and the Union Station, an historic train depot now home to the Danbury Railway Museum. Other places of interest include the classical Revival style Danbury Public Library as well as the Danbury Museum & Historical Society where the history of “Hat City” comes alive through exhibits and artifacts.

Main Street also hosts plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops, making it a lovely spot to stroll as you take in the charming architecture and history of Downtown Danbury. Don’t miss getting an ice cream cone at Mothership on Main, a homemade gelato shop housed in a Victorian building that dates back to 1885.

Learn About Danbury’s Hat-Making History

It’s impossible to talk about Danbury without mentioning the hats that this city is so well-known for producing, dating back to the 18th century when local hatmakers started supplying hatters across the country with custom-made hat forms. By the early 1900s, Danbury was producing more hats than anywhere else in the world, thus earning it the nickname “Hat City.”

To learn all about Danbury’s hat claim to fame, head to the Danbury Museum & Historical Society where the Hat City exhibit tells the story of the once booming hatting industry. Here you can see hat molds, sewing machines, photographs, and other artifacts that bring Danbury’s hat-making legacy to life. The museum also showcases a replica hatter’s shop depicting what a typical 19th century hatting workspace looked like.

For a more hands-on hat experience, visit American Hatmakers on Main Street where you can see demonstrations of how hats are made, try on custom styles, and purchase your own unique chapeau direct from Danbury hat artisans.

Hike Tarrywile Park

For a healthy dose of nature and beautiful scenery, spend an afternoon exploring the 70+ acres that comprise Tarrywile Park. Here you’ll find meadows sprinkled with wildflowers, peaceful ponds, babbling brooks, and more than 20 miles of hiking trails that meander through woods and along the rocky edges of the Tarrywile Reservoir.

The trails vary from easy to more challenging so there’s a route suitable for every ability, including nice leisurely walks perfect for families with strollers. The hike to the Vista viewpoint is one of the park’s most popular as it rewards trekkers with gorgeous panoramic views over the leafy landscape below.

Other park highlights include scenic lookouts over the waterfall at Mirkil Brook, tranquil spots for picnicking or reading, and rich biodiversity ranging from beavers and foxes to migrating warblers. Free maps are available at the park entrance to help navigate the bounty of sights and terrain.

Play a Round of Mini Golf

For family-friendly fun the whole gang can enjoy, play a round or two of mini golf at one of Danbury’s charming putt-putt courses. Both Monster Mini Golf and Divots Indoor Outdoor Mini Golf feature creative and colorful 18-hole courses that twist and turn through elaborate landscapes.

Kids will get a kick out of the unique hole designs themed around pirates, dinosaurs, rainforests, and neon dreams at Monster Mini Golf. Meanwhile Divots charms visitors with its covered bridge, lighthouses, and waterfall amid idyllic miniature gardens. Finish off your putt-putt outing with snacks and arcade games in the family fun centers attached to both venues.

Ride the Carousel at Danbury Railway Museum

The vintage 1920 carousel with its beautifully hand-carved animals is the star attraction at Danbury Railway Museum – though its historic trains come in at a close second! Nestled on the grounds of the former Union Station alongside railyards and depots, the railway museum delights train lovers with its impressive collection of 40 antique locomotives and railcars.

Visitors can take a ride on the century-old carousel for just $1, tour the historic trains and cabooses, browse the gift shop stocked with train-themed toys and apparel, and explore engaging exhibits detailing the evolution of railroad history. The kids can let off some steam in the outdoor play area filled with fun climbing structures before boarding the mini train cars of the (almost) one mile Danbury Trolley Trail.

Admire the Ives Collection at Western Connecticut State University Art Gallery

Featuring works by significant American artists from the 18th to 20th century, the Ives Collection at Western Connecticut State University is an impressive and eclectic art assemblage worth spending an afternoon admiring. Displayed across three galleries in the Visual and Performing Arts Center, standouts from the 2,000+ piece collection include paintings by Norman Rockwell, Childe Hassam, and NC Wyeth.

There are also sculptures, prints, drawings, and photographs with highlights ranging from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass to Andy Warhol’s iconic screenprint of Marilyn Monroe. Interpretive labels and audio guides enrich the experience while special exhibitions further augment the core collection. Don’t miss the interactive gallery designed just for kids!

WCSU Visual and Performing Arts Center also hosts music recitals in its concert halls as well as theater and dance productions, extending the center’s cultural offerings beyond the walls of its remarkable campus art galleries.

Play Laser Tag at Lasertopia

Lasertopia brings next-generation laser tag to Danbury with its expansive 16,000 futuristic arena filled with fog, lights, and music adding to the stellar ambiance. Partake in heart-pumping games like Battle Royale and Capture the Flag as you duck, hide, and shoot beams across neon-lit obstacle courses. Private party rooms mean Lasertopia can host kid’s birthday celebrations as well as corporate team building events.

Visitors can refuel at the on-site Galaxy Cafe after working up an appetite dodging laser fire and replenish energy supplies lost amid all the adrenaline-boosting action this stellar laser tag venue serves up.

Learn About Innovators of the Past at Danbury Museum’s Chuck’s Garage

Kids can learn about historic Connecticut movers and shakers who made important contributions to topics like innovation, invention, and science when they visit Chuck’s Garage – the hands-on children’s gallery at Danbury Museum. Through interactive exhibits and immersive role playing activities, this innovative museum space brings subjects like aeronautics, genetics, and pioneering technology to life for young visitors in an engaging way.

Children can climb aboard a Wright Brothers style airplane, extract bee DNA, operate a laser, and conduct dozens of other STEM experiments that reveal principles of physics, energy, flight, genetics and more while having fun. Adults will also appreciate Chuck’s Garage for the clever way it uses Connecticut’s history of innovation to teach children innovative thinking and problem solving skills.

Test Your Creativity at Make a Difference Paint Your Own Pottery Studio

Unleash your inner artist to make your own pottery creation at one of Danbury’s popular paint-it-yourself pottery studios. Both families and friend groups will enjoy selecting ceramic pieces from bowls, mugs, figurines and plaques to banks, trays and dishware then custom decorating them anyway they choose at a pottery painting place like Make a Difference Studio.

The studio provides all the materials from premium bisque pottery items to craft paints in every color so you can channel your creativity decorating your own DIY mug, bank or bowl. The friendly staff will fire up your hand-painted piece afterward so you can give it to someone special or proudly display your homemade ceramic yourself.

Enjoy Performance Art at Danbury’s Musical Theaters

Danbury’s historic downtown theater district transports audiences back to the early 20th century through the wonderfully preserved Art Deco architecture gracing its elegant performance venues. Both the 1,500-seat Palace Danbury Theater and Richter Arts Center captivate audiences with live concerts, musical theater productions, ballet and dance recitals as well as children’s shows, magic acts and more.

The Palace Danbury dazzles visitors with its opulent Romanesque interior dripping in gold leafing, velvet curtains and antique lighting fixtures. Meanwhile Richter Arts Center, housed in a converted church, impresses visitors with its stained glass windows and barrel-vaulted ceiling that provide a dramatic backdrop for the Connecticut Ballet and other classical performances.

Tour King Street Brew House

Beer lovers, rejoice! You can tour an actual brewery and sip award-winning craft beers straight from the source when you visit downtown Danbury’s own brewpub. Housed in a 100-year old former haunt, King Street Brew House has been brewing small-batch beers and ciders onsite since 2016.

Join them for a behind-the-scenes look at their 15-barrel brew house in action or belly up to the bar any day of the week to taste test their latest concoctions spanning IPAs, stouts, sours and more. Flights mean you can sample multiple varieties in just one visit – perhaps pair them with some locally sourced bar bites or one of King Street’s specialty brick oven pizzas. With 16 rotating taps of unfiltered, unpasteurized suds, Connecticut’s craft beer scene is on full display at this must-do Danbury brewhouse.

Golf at Richter Park Golf Course

Richter Park’s scenic 18-hole municipal course sits upon rolling hills once belonging to 19th century eccentric AND hatmaker John Richter, whose former mansion still stands upon the Danbury property. Manicured bentgrass greens, challenging terrain carved out of the still unspoiled land, and panoramic views make Richter Park a popular spot with both local golfers and visitors.

Strategically placed water hazards and sand traps add complexity to the 6,000 yard course spanning three loop configurations. The public course also features a driving range plus putting and chipping practice areas so players can dial in all aspects of their game. Affordable rates, junior clinics and women’s leagues further Richter Park’s appeal as one of Fairfield County’s best golfing values for all ages and skill levels.

Conclusion


Danbury charms visitors with its laidback small city vibes coupled with a satisfying selection of cultural attractions, historic sites, recreational activities and family-fun diversions. From its nationally designated Main Street district with Victorian architecture and specialty shops to innovative museums shedding light on local history, art and science, it’s clear to see why Danbury ranks as one of Connecticut’s most popular easy day trip destinations.

Outdoor lovers will especially appreciate the hiking trails coursing through wooded parks and reservoirs surrounding the city while families can keep the kids engaged with mini golf, vintage carousels and interactive children’s museums. Still want more? Multiple live performance theaters, an award-winning brewhouse pouring Connecticut craft beer and an affordable 18-hole golf course round out Danbury’s roster of top attractions.

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