12 Things To Do in Danbury, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Danbury is a historic yet vibrant city in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Nicknamed the “Hat City” due to its history in the hat-making industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Danbury has much more to offer visitors beyond its claim to fame. Whether you’re interested in exploring the outdoors, learning about history, shopping, or taking in arts and culture, Danbury has something for you.

The city provides an ideal home base for exploring the rest of western Connecticut with its proximity to destinations like the Gold Coast, Litchfield Hills, and more. This article covers the ultimate list of top things to do in and around Danbury to help you make the most out of your time in this New England town.

Explore Downtown Danbury

Downtown Danbury serves as the economic, cultural, and geographic center of the city. Once home to famous hat factories and manufacturers, today downtown houses a variety of restaurants, shops, cultural attractions, and historic architecture that captures Danbury’s legacy as a hat-making capital.

Stroll along Main Street and adjacent streets like Ives and White to take in various small businesses, shops, cafes, the public library and more. Stop into the Danbury Railway Museum to learn about the city’s history or check out concerts and events at the 1,400-seat Palace Theater. Places like the Charles Ives House and Museum celebrate Danbury as the hometown of the famous 20th century composer.

You can easily spend a full day exploring downtown Danbury’s shops and historic landmarks. Don’t miss grabbing a bite from one of the area’s great restaurants and cafes as well.

Hike or Bike the Tarrywile Park and Mansion

For green space and outdoor recreation, venture over to the 700-acre Tarrywile Park and Mansion found within the city limits. The park features 21 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails that range from easy to challenging. Visit the onsite Long Ridge Farm corn maze in the autumn. Tour the historic 1885 Victorian-style mansion found on the grounds which once belonged to early 20th century hat factory moguls.

Today the home operates as a house museum displaying furnishings authentic to the period. Warm up in the winter months inside of Tarrywile’s greenhouse. With gardens, trails, indoor and outdoor event facilities and more, Tarrywile Park offers visitors plenty of things to see and do while getting a breath of fresh air.

Go Hat Shopping on Hat City History Walking Tour

While the hat-making factories have long left Danbury, you can still celebrate the city’s history on the self-guided Hat City History Walking Tour in downtown.

As you take in over 20 hat history-related sites, don’t forget to also peruse the great hat shops keeping the tradition alive in Danbury like Haberdash and Jeanne & Reed Accessories. Find designer brands and hats for every occasion at these beloved retailers. You’ll also enjoy their historic charm being situated in some of downtown’s oldest buildings.

Tour the Military Museum of Southern New England

Beyond hats, Danbury has a rich history dating back to 1684 when it was founded. Learn about the settlement and the city’s role in every US military conflict at the volunteer-run Military Museum of Southern New England. See over 10,000 artifacts like weapons, uniforms, medals, flags and more related to the Revolutionary War through present time-period.

Check out the General David Wooster monument standing over 40 feet tall honoring the Danbury native who became the first American general killed in the Revolutionary War. History buffs of all ages appreciate the artifacts, artwork, documents, and rotating exhibits found in the museum’s collection that celebrate Danbury’s place in American history.

Hike up Bear Mountain

Just outside the Danbury city limits sits the highest peak found within Connecticut borders. Bear Mountain within Bear Mountain State Park stretches 2,316 feet high offering incredible views of neighboring New York state along with forests and lakes below. Choose from a few trail options that vary in length and difficulty to make the summit.

The main trail leads hikers straight up the mountain for 1.5 miles and an elevation gain of 1,000 feet for the most challenging yet rewarding trek. Or opt for the less intense Metacomet Trail that gently winds to the top over 5.5 miles. Whichever way you choose, the panoramic views from Bear Mountain are worth the effort.

Go Camping at Boggy Hole Campground

Combine outdoor adventure with comforts of electricity and warm showers at Boggy Hole Family Campground near Bear Mountain. The campground features tent and RV camping sites, along with cabin and yurt rentals available.

Keep cozy inside a cabin with heat or lounge in the comfort of a yurt furnished with beds, lighting and more amenities. Enjoy the onsite amenities like hot showers, dumping station, camp store stocked with supplies and firewood, along with sports facilities. The campground makes it easy to have both an adventurous yet convenient stay near top attractions like Bear Mountain and Danbury.

Shop and Dine on Main Street

Away from downtown, Main Street on the east side near Danbury Fair Mall hosts plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment as well. Stroll by the endless options of national retailers and eateries at the mall. Or explore a diverse range of small businesses and boutique shops found along Main Street nearby.

You’ll find antique stores, used book shops, gaming stores, music shops and much more. Stop for a scoop of homemade ice cream at Mistro’s or grab a slice from Enzo’s Pizzeria, both Danbury favorites. With steakhouses, gastropubs, family-friendly chain restaurants and various world cuisines, Main Street restaurants have all your dining cravings covered.

After dinner, catch a show at Richter’s Park – an anchor of entertainment in the area since the 1920s. The historic theater and park continues traditions like outdoor concerts, festivals, musicals and its Art Stroll in the warmer months. In the winter, lace up your skates and take to the ice for public skate sessions too.

Tour Ridgefield’s Museums and Attractions

Just a quick drive north of Danbury leads you to the upscale community of Ridgefield, Connecticut within the scenic Foothills. Architecture lovers admire Ridgefield for its nearly 300 historic homes dating back to the 1700s found throughout the village. Many are open for tours at various times of the year. Stop into some of Connecticut’s finest museums found right in the village as well.

At the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, admire modern visual, performance and installation artwork from budding artists. The Keeler Tavern Museum built in 1713 immerses visitors into 18th century life through its Colonial furnishings and artifacts. Just down the road lies the Ridgefield Historical Society representing life into the 20th century within eight historic buildings including a blacksmith shop, one-room schoolhouse and more. Before leaving, stretch your legs taking a peaceful stroll around the Ridgefield Golf Course ponds and gardens open to the public.

See Lions, Tigers and Bears at CT’s Beardsley Zoo

Connecticut’s only zoo, the Beardsley Zoo, lies right within Bridgeport – just a 25 minute drive south of Danbury. Meet over 300 animals like the playful sea lions, Amur tigers, Brazilian ocelots along with native New England wildlife at the state of the art facility. Enjoy special animal encounters and feeding times daily where zookeepers share info about various residents.

Little explorers love the Rainforest Adventure area to come nose-to-nose with exotic birds and reptiles like boas and poison arrow frogs. Walk through the prairie dog habitat and hand feed gentle giraffes for extra memorable moments. Ride the carousel, grab a bite at the Peacock Café and don’t miss the 4D movie experience for interactive theater fun.

Hike up Mount Griffin State Park

For another scenic hike without traveling too far, head over to Mount Griffin State Park spanning over 900 acres between Danbury and New Milford along the Housatonic River. Choose from over 8 miles of hiking trails that lead past old homestead sites, vernal pools, forests and to the summit of Mount Griffin.

There you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the distant Taconic and Berkshire Mountain Ranges along the New York border. Keep a lookout for the stone foundation remnants of long forgotten homesteads slowly being covered again by vegetation native to the area.

Peruse in Downtown New Milford

Located along scenic Route 7, it’s easy to make the 8 mile drive up to downtown New Milford near Mount Griffin State Park. Another quaint New England small town, downtown New Milford charms with its brick buildings, antique shops and cafes lining several blocks of a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare.

Enjoy plenty of restaurants, galleries, stores and strolling the historic Litchfield County village. Don’t miss visiting the longest village green in New England found on the banks of the Housatonic River– the perfect place for picnics.

Visit Lover’s Leap State Park

Hop back down to Danbury to take in Lover’s Leap State Park and Hiking Trail next. Although small in size under 250 acres, the park packs in lovely woodland scenery, the rushes of the Still River, and the tale behind the park’s romantic name. According to legend, Lover’s Leap got its name centuries ago from Native Americans who believed two forbidden lovers chose to leap to their death from of the park’s high cliffs instead of living without one another.

While the falls aren’t huge, they make a pleasant backdrop heard from trails passing over wooden footbridges crossing the rocky river. Lover’s Leap park connects to the much larger 1,900 acre Wooster Mountain State Park. So it’s easy to continue hiking for longer distances including an interpretive trail built into the mountainside Indian Cave once home to native people like the legend describes.

Conclusion


From history to nature, shopping and more, Danbury and its surrounding communities offer plenty of interesting attractions to fill your itinerary. Use the city as home base for day trips to picturesque areas like the Gold Coast, scenic rural towns like New Milford and Washington Depot or state parks found just outside city limits.

Families find plenty of amusement with activities like Public Golf Course, Carousel Museum, and Minor League Baseball with the Danbury Westerners at Rogers Park. Foodies relish the diverse dining scene filled with award-winning gastropubs, ethnic restaurants and charming cafes throughout Danbury proper.

Whether planning a day or weekend getaway, discover why Danbury makes the perfect jumping off point to uncover the best of Connecticut’s culture, nature and attractions.

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