12 Attractions in New Britain, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

New Britain is a small city located in Hartford County, Connecticut with a population of around 73,000 residents. Known as the “Hardware City” due to its history of being a manufacturing hub, New Britain offers visitors a surprising number of attractions for a city of its size.

Whether you’re interested in history, art, sports, nature, or family fun, New Britain has something for you. The city showcases its industrial roots at several museums while also looking to the future at its revitalized downtown district.

There are opportunities for outdoor adventures at parks and nature preserves as well as indoor entertainment like bowling, skating, and movies. Families will appreciate the region’s approachable attractions like mini golf and minor league baseball.

From impressive architecture and diverse dining opportunities to annual festivals and events, New Britain is an excellent getaway that often flies under the travel radar. But with 12 can’t miss attractions, it’s time to start planning your New Britain vacation. Keep reading to discover the top attractions that make New Britain a destination with small-city charm and big-city fun.

The Hardware City

As one of the major manufacturing cities in New England throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, New Britain rightfully earned its nickname “Hardware City.” The city’s factories produced a massive amount of hardware goods ranging from tools, cutlery and machinery to Popular Mechanics favorite, the Yankee Screwdriver.

While many of the factories and companies have closed over the years, New Britain still pays homage to its industrial roots. The Hardware City history remains alive through the many restored factory buildings downtown and in tributes throughout the city. Visitors interested in this unique history can explore it first-hand at these two engaging, and very different, museums.

New Britain Industrial Museum

New Britain Industrial Museum provides an in-depth look at the city’s past as a booming hub for hardware manufacturing. Located in the 1857 former home of the Stanley Works company, the museum showcases tools, steam engines, sewing machines and more items made in the city’s factories. Guests can also view exhibits detailing the technological innovations and everyday life for factory workers during the city’s 19th and 20th century industrial heyday.

With self-guided touch screen tours, video interviews of former Stanley Works employees, and special visiting exhibits, visitors of all ages get hands-on with history. The New Britain Industrial Museum brings an important era of economic growth vividly back to life in an authentic setting.

New Britain Museum of American Art

In contrast to the heavy machinery of local factories, the New Britain Museum of American Art instead features inspiring fine art. The impressive collection includes over 10,134 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs spanning three centuries of American art history. Visitors are wowed by iconic works from distinguished American artists such as John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Cole and Sol LeWitt.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum has special exhibitions, a sculpture garden and children’s programs. After seeing paintings of 19th century industrial New Britain inside, guests can wander the grounds to take in contemporary sculpture against a natural backdrop. With free admission, the New Britain Museum of American Art makes great art accessible to all.

Revitalized Downtown

After economic troubles in the later decades of the 1900s, New Britain today thrives through recent revitalization of its downtown district. Centered around Main Street, downtown invites locals and visitors alike to shop, dine and play while admiring restored historic architecture. Unique public art installations like the Lucky Taco sculpture and Broadway mural walk also encourage exploring downtown on foot. Visitors can get a taste of the new, vibrant spirit of modern New Britain at these attractions in the heart of downtown.

Walnut Hill Park

For stunning skyline views of downtown’s redevelopment, relax on the lawn at Walnut Hill Park. The park sits high over downtown, giving visitors a stunning elevated panorama of the cityscape featuring restored brick buildings and steepled churches. Visitors also come to enjoy activities at the park like picnicking, summertime concerts and visiting its popular annual Easter egg hunt. The focal point is the dramatic World War I Memorial with large bronze statues and etched granite monuments.

Families appreciate space for kids to safely play and special amenities like an old-fashioned carousel ride. With lovely landscaping and paths for strolling, Walnut Hill Park is the perfect place to take in dramatic views showcasing New Britain’s rebirth.

Little Poland

For a taste of Europe without leaving Connecticut, visit Little Poland in downtown New Britain. It’s a district centered around Broad Street’s Polish shops, bakeries and sausage makers that create an immersive cultural experience. Visitors feast on authentic dishes like pierogis, kielbasa sausage and potato pancakes while imported Polish beers, spirits and wines. Boutiques stock Baltic amber jewelry, handicrafts, books and magazines imported from Poland.

The district truly comes alive during Little Poland’s annual Polish festival called Piknik Polski. For three days, New Britain transforms into Polish party central with polka music and dancers, activities like cabbage bowling, tons of ethnic food and a fiercely competitive pierogi eating contest. Even visitors skeptical of sauerkraut leave with a newfound appreciation of Polish culture after experiencing downtown’s Little Poland.

Get Active Outdoors

Though New Britain is highly urbanized, the city still protects large pockets of open space. Visitors seeking fresh air and outdoor recreation have ample opportunities across New Britain’s hiking trails, public parks and nature centers. For recreation in natural settings flanked by beautiful ridges and waterfronts, check out these top two active attractions.

The Stanley Golf Course

Since 1938, The Stanley Golf Course provides an excellent links golf test along the Pequabuck River’s west branch. With forgiving fairways set among mature trees, it’s an enjoyable round for golfers at every skill level. Staff keep the 18-hole, par 72 public course in pristine condition. Amenities like the Aquaturf Club House dining room and lounge, a full driving range and on-site pro shop make time spent here even sweeter. After working up an appetite hiking the scenic landscape along the river, golfers refuel with a Genoa salami sandwich and cold beer at the turn.

With affordable rates, Stanley is hailed as one of the finest municipal golf courses in Connecticut. Visitors lucky enough to nail a hole-in-one on the picturesque 9th even win a free set of custom golf clubs. Beginners won’t feel intimidated starting out on the sport at the welcoming Stanley course.

Walnut Hill Park

Families and nature lovers visit the 240 acre park to enjoy cliffs, forested trails, pond ecosystems and meadows tucked into the city. The trails are suitable for walking, trail running or mountain biking while the varied terrain provides a more challenging hike. Visitors may spot white tailed deer, groundhogs and over 50 species of birds native to Walnut Hill’s habitats.

Kids love climbing on the signature Castle replica, spotting tadpoles in Arrowhead Pond and attending ranger-led programs. In warmer months, another popular draw is old-fashioned rides aboard the park’s Eagle Mini Golf miniature train. With picnic tables, playgrounds and so much natural beauty to explore, Walnut Hill Park offers a wonderful woodland escape for kids and kids at heart.

Sports and Entertainment

Though it lacks the profile of Hartford, Connecticut’s capital, visitors would be surprised by top-notch sports and entertainment found in New Britain’s relatively small footprint. With minor league baseball games, bowling alleys, an ice arena and movie theaters, New Britain delivers family fun, date nights and boys’ night out. Locals regularly enjoy these two entertainment complex attractions:

New Britain Bees Baseball

New Britain Stadium is home to the New Britain Bees baseball team who play fast-paced games as members of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. Since 1983, the stadium has hosted various minor league teams, each with zealous fan support from the people of Hardware City. Enjoy an exciting, affordable game while you sample ballpark staples like hot dogs, ice cold beer and kettle corn.

Arrive early to watch teams warm up or try catching a fly ball during batting practice. Get the Ultimate Baseball Experience with all-inclusive seating on the Party Patio with an open bar and all-you-can-eat buffet. With fun giveaways and events like Christmas in July or Princess Night, New Britain Bees games deliver all-American, family-friendly fun all season long.

Ron-A-Roll Skating Arena

For year-round fun, visit New Britain’s Ron-A-Roll Skating Arena operating since 1969. Lace up rented skates to take a spin on the large maple rink under a disco ball. Or pick up a bowling ball at the 24-lane bowling alley equipped with bumpers for little ones. Groups celebrate birthdays in the roller rink’s Party Room or test their skills in the state-of-the-art arcade.

Visitors build up an appetite whizzing around the slick wooden rink or rolling strikes. Thankfully Ron-A-Rolls’ on-site Sunset Grill dishes out fan favorites like hand-pressed burgers, loaded nachos and hand-dipped ice cream. For lively indoor recreation, Ron-A-Roll Skating Arena strikes the right balance between exciting fun and family friendly.

Cultural Festivals

New Britain positively thrives hosting special seasonal events and cultural festivals. The city’s diverse working-class immigrant roots lend to wonderful traditions of ethnic food, music, dance and crafts. Favorite communitywide festivals include Little Poland’s Piknik Festival, the Great American Boom Festival fireworks and the Puerto Rican Parade.

Among the top celebrations of cultural pride are the Irish American Home Festival and the Bulgarian Festival. Visitors who time their New Britain trip to coincide with one of these lively festivals enjoy an immersive, joyful experience showcasing treasured customs.

Connecticut Irish Festival

Hoist a pint of Guinness to toast Irish pride and heritage at the Connecticut Irish Festival. Held at the Irish American Home Society, the lively two-day event features exhilarating Irish step dancing, traditional Gaelic music and the hysterical fan favorite sheepherding demonstration with border collies. Visitors browse local artisan’s craft booths finding treasures like Claddagh rings, Irish wool sweaters and Waterford crystal.

Of course, no true Irish festival skips out on classic food and drinks like steaming corned beef platters, fish and chips, Irish soda bread and whiskey flights. The Connecticut Irish Festival fantastically honors the deep Irish American roots and ongoing contributions to New Britain’s cultural fabric.

Bulgarian Festival

New Britain has one of the highest Bulgarian American populations in the country. So each August, they throw a tremendous party celebrating food, music and dancing from the eastern European country at Saint George Orthodox Church. Visitors are immersed in authentic Bulgarian culture through spirited folk music performances, traditional instruments like the gaida bagpipe and colorful costumes.

Favorite festival foods include kavarma, a slow cooked beef and vegetables specialty, and sweet baklava pastries. Patrons load up on handcrafted items from Bulgarian artisans and watch lively cultural dance troupes like the renowned Zornitza. At the Bulgarian Festival, New Britain joyfully upholds treasured traditions honoring this vibrant community’s ancestral homeland.

Family Fun

With kid-friendly attractions like mini golf courses, hands-on museums and family entertainment centers, New Britain makes an excellent vacation choice for families. Kids won’t be asking “are we there yet?” on the car ride home after enjoying awesome experiences like dinosaur expeditions and beach adventures without leaving Connecticut. Here are top attractions for memorable family fun that parents also enjoy.

Fort Fun

Fort Fun delivers smiles with an entire complex loaded with family recreation options. Challenge the crew to rope climbing, bumper cars and a round on the go kart tracks outside. Indoors, soar down four-story slides, win stuffed animals in carnival games or rack up a high score in the massive arcade.

After burning through all that energy, families refuel at Fort Fun’s signature pizza buffet and ice cream parlor. Special perks like Unlimited Ride Wristbands, Groupon deals and birthday party packages make Fort Fun an exceptional value parents appreciate.

Dinosaur State Park

Connecticut’s designated state dinosaur park features some giants along its Dinosaur Trail boardwalk Exhibit. Kids gape at a replica Gigantosaurus three-stories high and imagine huge Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus lumbering around. In addition to life-sized models, the park’s natural history museum displays real dino footprints and fossilized bones discovered right on site where dinosaurs roamed 200 million years ago.

Visitors also enjoy hiking trails through the park’s Arboretum and summer events like the Dino Egg Hunt. With loads of hands-on learning adventures, Dinosaur State Park earns its reputation as the region’s premiere destination for young dino lovers.

Conclusion

Who would guess a small city like New Britain could deliver such an outstanding variety of attractions? The revitalized downtown district, cultural festivals and family entertainment prove that sometimes the best things come in small packages. Nature lovers hike and golf across gorgeous open spaces while history buffs dig into its manufacturing legacy. Sports fans cheer on minor league baseball and all visitors enjoy hearty Polish food between attractions.

With acclaimed art museums, fun annual events and a friendly local community, New Britain shines bright by embracing its distinctive roots while trailblazing into the future. This improbable “Hardware City” is full of heart.

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