12 Attractions in Waterbury, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nestled in the hills of central Connecticut, Waterbury offers visitors a surprising number of unique attractions beyond its reputation as the brass capital of the world.

From museums and galleries that chronicle both the region’s industrial past and vibrant arts scene to historic sites and renowned theme parks, Waterbury provides something for travelers of all interests. Foodies will love the classic New England and Italian fare found throughout the city, especially its famous apizza.

Outdoors enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities as well, with nature centers showcasing the native flora and fauna and parks offering activities from hiking to fishing. And architecture buffs will enjoy touring Waterbury’s blend of Victorian, Colonial Revival, and other classic New England homes and buildings.

With this guide, you’ll discover the top 12 attractions that make Waterbury a distinctive destination worth adding to your itinerary.

Mattatuck Museum

As the cornerstone of Waterbury’s art and cultural scene, the Mattatuck Museum is the city’s premier attraction. The museum’s impressive permanent collections trace the history of Waterbury through exhibits featuring Native American tools, Colonial artifacts, industrial equipment from its manufacturing heyday, and art chronicling the city’s growth. The museum also hosts world-class visiting exhibits that have included works by Matisse and Rodin.

Beyond displays, the Mattatuck Museum also focuses on community engagement through its creative art studios and classes. Stop by for one of the museum’s Studio Days to create your own art inspired by the current exhibits or attend one of the frequent artist lectures or cultural celebrations. With dynamic galleries and programming, the Mattatuck Museum is a must-see attraction that brings Waterbury’s past and present to life.

Timexpo Museum

Given Waterbury’s history as the Watch Capital of the World, it’s only fitting that the city is home to the Timexpo Museum. Located on the same grounds that once housed a massive Timex watch factory, this fascinating museum documents both the national rise of Timex and Waterbury’s critical role in the company’s success. Visitors can view rare Timex watch collections and assemble their own timepiece at an interactive station.

But it’s the massive array of Timex advertising and memorabilia that makes the Timexpo Museum a truly unique experience. Rare commercial reels featuring celebrity spokespeople like John Cameron Swayze and Elvis Presley capture classic advertising styles throughout the decades. For pop culture buffs and history aficionados alike, the Timexpo Museum offers an entertaining look Waterbury’s place in one of manufacturing’s iconic brands.

Silas Bronson Library

Constructed in the Victorian Romanesque architectural style, the Silas Bronson Library is considered one of Waterbury’s most beautiful buildings. The elaborate pink granite and sandstone structure was designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson and built in 1886. Beyond the lovely exterior, visitors will discover the library’s soaring atrium featuring a pink marble and onyx fountain, terraced alcoves with bronze busts, and a massive mural depicting Waterbury’s history.

Bibliophiles will also appreciate the library’s circulating collection as well as its museum passes, technology services, programs, and classes. History lovers should inquire at the reference desk about tours of the library’s archives, which contain a wealth of rare documents and images capturing life in Waterbury throughout the past three centuries. Whether you’re interested in the elaborate Gilded Age architecture or the opportunity to dig into Waterbury’s past, the Silas Bronson Library is a cultural gem not to be missed.

Lake Quassapaug

Nestled in Waterbury’s Quassapaug Park, Lake Quassapaug offers visitors plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun throughout the year. During warmer months, boaters and water skiers take to the lake while families relax along its sandy shores. Two large playgrounds with spray pads allow kids to burn off energy. Fishermen can try their luck fishing for species like perch, bass, trout, and catfish from several areas along the lakefront. With picnic tables scattered along the landscape, Lake Quassapaug is also a popular spot for summer cookouts.

Come wintertime, ice skating, ice fishing, and even curling become popular activities on the frozen lake. And the Salmo Pond Natural Area located just behind Lake Quassapaug rewards hikers with scenic wetland views. With year-round recreation set against the lakeside backdrop of the Overlook Pavilion and weeping willows, Lake Quassapaug makes an inviting escape in the heart of Waterbury proper.

The Green

In addition to industrial buildings, Downtown Waterbury features beautiful green spaces that provide urban escapes for locals and sightseers. The most iconic is the Waterbury Green Historic District anchored by the Green itself. Encompassing six acres in the heart of the city, the Waterbury Green serves as a lovely arboreal landscape where towering elms shade park benches around alluring fountains.

The surrounding Italianate, Colonial Revival, and Victorian architecture offers a glimpse into the city’s past grandeur as a leading New England industrial powerhouse. Plaques and statues throughout the district honor prominent figures and events in Waterbury’s history including the founding of the Mattatuck Drum Band and Waterbury Clock Company. Today the Waterbury Green hosts summer concerts while also serving as the hub for community events and political rallies year-round, just as it has for over a century.

Fulton Park

Named for Waterbury native and famed inventor of the steamboat Robert Fulton, this 76-acre park provides residents and tourists of all ages plenty of options for enjoying the great outdoors. Children love visiting the Waterbury Railroad Museum and taking rides on the miniature train. Three different playgrounds scattered throughout the park delight kids of all ages with slides, swings, and jungle gyms. Meanwhile sports enthusiasts utilize the basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, and football field for pickup games.

Families enjoy picnicking under the pavilion while nature lovers walk the trails and visit Carter Lake to spot local waterfowl. Annual events like the Waterbury Parks Department Monster Mash Bash and fitness activities such as yoga in the park also take place at Fulton Park. Thanks to this wealth of amenities, Fulton Park has served Waterbury residents as a community green space and popular celebration spot for over a century.

Holy Land USA

An unusual and now eerie attraction, Holy Land USA demonstrates Waterbury’s cultural diversity through its ode to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Once ranked among Connecticut’s top attractions in the 1950s and 60s, Holy Land USA was the handcrafted vision of local lawyer John Greco. Located on an 18-acre hillside, Greco designed over 200 miniature replicas of Biblical sites painstakingly created from concrete and cinderblocks.

Figurines and dioramas brought iconic scenes from the Bible to life including the Last Supper and Crucifixion. Towering above was a massive 56-foot steel cross illuminated against the night sky. While Holy Land USA closed in the 1980s following Greco’s death, the decaying remains of the attractions and life-sized replicas still intrigue visitors who are interested in this strange part of Waterbury’s past.

Naugatuck State Forest

Offering nearly 800 acres of protected green space straddling Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Beacon Falls, Naugatuck State Forest is a treasured spot for hiking, fishing, hunting, and observing local wildlife. The forest features rugged wooded terrain crisscrossed by trails leading visitors to several scenic overlooks boasting panoramic vistas of surrounding hills and valleys.

As a designated trout park, the year-round Hemlock Hollow Brook attracts skilled fly fishers. Deer, squirrel, and turkey draw hunters during respective hunting seasons. Birdwatchers also frequent Naugatuck State Forest hoping to spot species like scarlet tanagers, whip-poor-wills, great horned owls, and more. With ample parking off Rubber Avenue or Route 63, Naugatuck State Forest rewards nature lovers seeking outdoor recreation without leaving Waterbury proper.

Bladens River Waterfront Park

Restored from neglected industrial brownfield, Bladens Riverfront Park has transformed Waterbury’s downtown shoreline into vibrant community space. Visitors strolling along its elevated walkway enjoy stellar views of the Naugatuck River as well as Waterbury’s bustling downtown complete with old factory smokestacks serving as reminders of the area’s manufacturing legacy. Interpretive signs describing the river’s history and surroundings dot the park.

Kayakers and boaters often launch here to enjoy paddling along the Naugatuck. Community events like the annual Dragon Boat Festival add to the excitement. The park also serves as the starting point for enjoying Waterbury’s expanding Naugatuck River Greenway trail network. Linking neighborhoods to downtown and other regional trails, these paths invite walking, jogging, and biking. With its scenic setting and recreation access, Bladens Riverfront Park is fast becoming a Waterbury showcase.

Exchange Place

The centerpiece of Waterbury’s historicalExchange Place district, this open-air plaza provides a lovely spot to admire some of the city’s outstanding architecture. Visitors will feel transported back in time while strolling past the elaborate Victorian, Beaux Arts, and Renaissance Revival buildings constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Highlights include the Webb Building with its iconic clock tower, the Cass Gilbert-designed Waterbury Club boasting an opulent interior, and the municipal City Hall and Post Office structures featuring classical stone facades and stately pillars.

The district also holds Trinity Church, whose soaring spire stands out on the skyline. Throughout Exchange Place visitors will notice plaques depicting each building’s history along with historic bank signs, trolley tracks, and lighting paying homage to the area’s past. With this blend of period ambiance, Exchange Place immerses visitors in Waterbury’s rich financial and architectural legacy.

Quassy Amusement & Waterpark

Celebrating over a century of fun, Quassy Amusement & Waterpark offers vintage charm alongside modern thrills. Historic attractions include the 1908 Carousel boasting elaborately carved horses and chariots as well as the Wooden Warrior roller coaster that speeds along a classic out and back track. But newcomers like the state’s first Suspended Looping Coaster offer extreme modern thrills with inversions at heights over 50 feet.

Families love the park’s roster of kiddie rides like helicopters, tea cups and a Convoy ride themed around military trucks. Arcade games, redemption prizes, and carnival concessions like popcorn and cotton candy enhance the nostalgic atmosphere. In summer, visitors cool down in the massive waterpark featuring towering slides, activity pools with a mining theme, and lazy river. From old fashioned fun to high-tech excitement, Quassy Amusement & Waterpark celebrates Waterbury’s history of good times for all ages.

Brass Mill Center

As a top regional shopping destination, Brass Mill Center features over 200 retail stores to satisfy any shopper’s needs. Anchored by Macy’s, JC Penney, and Target, shoppers will find an exceptional array of their favorite brands for apparel, shoes, accessories, home furnishings, and gifts. The complex also houses a slew of specialty boutiques not found elsewhere in the state along with jewelry, technology, wellness stores, and services ranging from alterations to optics.

Hungry shoppers can refuel at casual eateries like Chipotle or enjoy a sit-down meal at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. Brass Mill Center also engages the community by hosting Girl’s Night Out events with spa services, fitness demos, and fashion shows. And during the holidays the complex celebrates with elaborately trimmed trees, photos with Santa, and seasonal performances. With its exceptional shopping, dining, and entertainment, Brass Mill Center is a can’t-miss attraction for visitors and locals alike.

Conclusion

Offering world-class museums, fascinating historic sites, engaging cultural attractions, outdoor recreation, family fun, delectable dining, and fabulous shopping, Waterbury delivers dynamic options to fill any vacation itinerary. From the Mattatuck Museum and Timexpo Museum that chronicle both the region’s history and arts to beautiful parks and natural landscapes, Waterbury provides a breadth of sites and activities to appeal to diverse interests. So whether you love art, history, architecture, nature, amusement rides, or finding a good bargain, Waterbury delivers something special with its unique blend of cultural, outdoor, and retail attractions.

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