12 Things To Do in New Britain, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

New Britain, Connecticut is a city located in Hartford County with a population of around 73,000 people. Nicknamed the “Hardware City” due to its history as a manufacturing center for hardware goods, New Britain offers visitors a mix of cultural attractions, outdoor recreation, dining options, and more.

Whether you’re interested in art galleries, hiking trails, trying ethnic cuisine, or learning about the city’s past, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in New Britain. This article will highlight 12 of the top attractions and activities that both tourists and locals enjoy in New Britain.

Explore New Britain Museum of American Art

The New Britain Museum of American Art is one of the top attractions in New Britain and the first museum dedicated solely to American art. The building was designed by renowned architect Charles A. Platt and consists of intimate galleries surrounding a glass-enclosed courtyard. The museum’s collection comprises over 10,000 objects, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, illustrations, and contemporary conceptual pieces.


Some highlights in the museum’s permanent collection include 19th century landscape paintings from the Hudson River School, American Impressionism works from John Henry Twachtman and Childe Hassam, and modern art from Georgia O’Keeffe, Joseph Stella, Andy Warhol, and Sol Lewitt.

Visitors can take a free guided highlights tour, have lunch at the Museum Café, and browse the Museum Shop. With both traditional and contemporary American art on display, the New Britain Museum of American Art has fascinating works sure to interest any visitor.

Relax in Walnut Hill Park

Walnut Hill Park is New Britain’s main public park located just northwest of downtown near Central Connecticut State University. Spread across 161 acres, this gorgeous green space contains walking trails, sports fields, a rose garden, idyllic picnic spots, and beautiful trees that dazzle with autumn colors. The most iconic feature of the park is the Stanley Quarter Park Carousel.

This historic merry-go-round formerly resided at Hartford’s Bushnell Park and contains hand-carved horses, chariots, and decorations. Riding the antique carousel as well as admiring it up close makes for a charming experience. Other park highlights include archery ranges, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and an off-leash dog park. Walnut Hill Park offers outdoor escapes for New Britanites and travelers looking to lounge, play sports, take photos, or go for relaxing walks.

Tour Historic Houses


New Britain contains two historic house museums that provide visitors the opportunity to step back in time and see how previous residents of the city lived. The Butler-McCook House operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution is an eccentric French-style Victorian home decorated with furnishings from the late 19th century.

Guests can take a guided tour to view items belonging to the former residents like vintage clothing, hats, books, games, curtains, and 19th century toys in the children’s bedrooms.

The other historic house in town is the John Lee Pratt House – an ornate 20-room mansion with lavish décor and many original Pratt family pieces from the late 1800s.

Visitors can tour the first floor guided by costumed docents to see the beautiful woodwork, fireplaces, stained glass, furnishings, and more within the home. From Victorian architecture to artifacts of eras past, touring New Britain’s historic houses brings intriguing insights about earlier times in the city.

Hike the Chamberlain Heights Conservation Area

Nature lovers visiting New Britain will want to spend time hiking through the scenic Chamberlain Heights Conservation Area managed by the local land trust. Consisting of 105 acres with an elevation span of 200 feet, this preserve features moderate hiking trails through thick forest habitats.

The red trail loop provides particularly gorgeous valley views from atop the Chamberlain Heights ridgeline. Springtime hikers may catch glimpses of beautiful woodland wildflowers like trillium, trout lily, and blue cohosh along the trails.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like great horned owls, red foxes, and white-tailed deer as well. With options for short or long hikes and breathtaking rural vistas, Chamberlain Heights makes for a rejuvenating wilderness break.

Dine and Drink on Farmington Avenue

Farmington Avenue runs right through the heart of New Britain and is lined with excellent dining and drinking establishments. For some of the city’s most mouthwatering pizza, head to Bradlees Dairy Restaurant and order their famous upside-down pizza topped with diced tomatoes after it comes out of the oven.

Other favorite pizza picks include Rich Mays Pizza Plus and Corner Pizza House. Asia Palace and Seoul Kitchen provide can’t-miss Korean fare while Staropolska Restaurant & Deli is a longstanding favorite for pierogi, borscht, stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes and other Polish/Eastern European eats.

In terms of nightlife, Tavern at the End of the Street is a hip gastropub with loads of drafts on tap along with creative apps and specialty cocktails. Or stop into New Park Brewing for award-winning ales and lagers crafted right in New Britain – their hazy pale ale packs a real hoppy punch. Whether noshing on timeless classics or contemporary cuisine with local brews, visitors can discover quintessential New Britain dining options along the bustling Farmington Avenue.

Check Out Little Poland

The Broad Street neighborhood in New Britain is nicknamed “Little Poland” as it’s the heart of the city’s Polish community. This section of town boasts Polish shops, churches, cultural sites, restaurants, bakeries and architectural details that make visitors feel like they’ve been transported to Poland itself.

Be sure to visit the Polish National Alliance Club, one of the largest Polish social clubs in the U.S. with 3 floors, event spaces, multiple bars, and traditional Polish cuisine on offer. Shoppers will love Polamer—an Empik-affiliated market filled with imported candies, cookbooks, ceramics, cosmetics and more from Poland.

And no trip to Little Poland is complete without picking up some authentically-made Polish pastries like paczki doughnuts, babka cakes, or chrusciki angel wing cookies from Tomkiewicz Pastry Shop. From discovering Polish heritage sites to stocking up on Eastern European specialties, an afternoon among the proud Polish community provides fantastic cultural insights.

See a Show at New Britain Repertory Theatre Company

For theatergoers visiting New Britain, a must-do activity is catching a show put on by the New Britain Repertory Theatre Company based at Central Connecticut State University. This nonprofit troupe stages an entertaining mix of contemporary plays and musicals as well as literature-inspired productions each season.

Recent shows include crowd pleasers like Mamma Mia!, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Peter and the Starcatcher, and many others. Professional local actors plus students and faculty from Central Connecticut State lend their talents to each professionally-run production.

Reasonably priced tickets make the shows accessible alongside the cozy, intimate setting of the theater. With funny comedies, moving dramas and family-friendly picks, the New Britain Repertory Theatre offers a night of culture and amusement.

Attend the Sanctified Hill Blues & BBQ Festival

Each summer, New Britain draws large crowds to its hugely popular Sanctified Hill Blues & BBQ Festival held at Walnut Hill Park. Since its start in 2015, this music, arts and food extravaganza has grown into one of New England’s best summertime festivals.

Nationally-touring blues musicians rock the stage throughout the weekend-long event including honored guests like Cedric Burnside and Kenny Neal. Mouthwatering barbecue is available from award-winning local pitmasters and teams at the sanctioned Kansas City Barbecue Society cook-off competition.

Festivalgoers can also check out arts and crafts from over 40 vendors, get drinks at the beer & wine garden, partake in contests, and enjoy family-friendly activities. With smoked meats, soulful blues classics under the sun, and southern hospitality vibes, the Sanctified Hill Blues & BBQ gathering makes for a warmly festive summer’s day out.

Shop Downtown New Britain

From funky thrift stores to sleek home goods boutiques, New Britain’s downtown area along Main Street offers eclectic shopping options. Some can’t miss spots include Edible Rex for exotic hot sauces, rubs, salsas and spices to liven up your cooking.

Shop antique furniture, art, vinyl records, vintage toys, collectibles and oddities at Past Times Antiques & Uniques or Hunters’ Alley Antiques Market. Both Church Street Emporium and Another Look Consignment provide excellent second-hand shopping stuffed to the brim with clothes, accessories, shoes, books, homewares and knickknacks.

And at PLUS Modern Design, shoppers can admire stunning European furnishings, lighting, gifts and cutting-edge industrial designs for the home. Visitors who love one-of-a-kind finds and exploring unique indie retailers will adore a shopping excursion downtown in New Britain.

View Public Art Displays

Art enthusiasts visiting New Britain will find engaging open-air public art installations sprinkled throughout downtown. At Veteran’s Plaza, see Metal Blessings—a bronze monument by famed Guatemalan sculptor Luis Torres.

Check out End of Winter Shadow at Central Park by the late Paul Fortunato, made from Connecticut granite and Italian marble. Downtown visitors can also view a colorful series of acrylic street paintings at six downtown intersections, painted as part of the 2022 Urban Street Art Festival.

Memorial Boulevard sports even more vibrantly-hued murals on retaining walls under I-84 overpasses, painted by local artists with culturally-diverse themes. And at the New Brite Plaza across from city hall, pause to ponder The Geodesic Dreams art project made using LED lights, acrylic mirrors and reflections to interactively engage viewers. New Britain’s intriguing array of public art makes for rewarding exploratory walks about town.

Explore the Harding Green

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Harding Green Historic District showcases a residential area abundant in Victorian architecture from the late 1800s. Developed largely for housing factory managers, the district contains stately High Victorian homes once occupied by those running New Britain’s booming hardware manufacturing firms.

Styles like Queen Anne, Italianate and Second Empire line Lexington Street, High Street, Elm Street and Harding Street within the district. Visitors can simply stroll around viewing the beautifully-preserved historic homes marked by colorful patterns, elaborate trimwork, turrets, and other fanciful façade details.

To learn more about the dwellings, pick up a free copy of “The Promenade Harding Green Historic District” self-guided walking tour pamphlet from the New Britain Public Library to enhance your architectural sightseeing.

Tour the Stanley Black & Decker Plant

New Britain is known as the “Hardware City” due to its history of tool and hardware manufacturing. Stanley Black & Decker has been headquartered in New Britain since 1843 and operates a factory where some iconic tools are still produced today.

The modern plant offers free public factory tours showcasing how Stanley staplers, tape measures, levels, hand tools, power tools and more are manufactured on-site. Knowledgeable tour guides detail the history of the company and explain manufacturing innovations used at the world-class facility. Visitors can view assembly lines and machinery up close, watch precision production processes first-hand, and browse an on-site historical exhibit and museum.

From homemade goodies in the café to commemorative t-shirts at the gift shop, guests will come away with souvenirs along with an insider’s look at iconic tool-making. For DIYers, craftsmen or anyone curious about local industry, touring the renowned Stanley Black & Decker factory makes for a uniquely “New Britain” activity.

Conclusion


From world-class art collections to live theater shows, knockout barbecue festivals to craft beer tasting, New Britain’s top attractions offer enough sights, sounds, flavors and fun to entice all visitors. Nature lovers, history buffs, culture aficionados, and family groups can all craft an itinerary packed with rewarding activities during a trip to Connecticut’s Hardware City.

Beyond the 12 highlights detailed above, even more attractions like bowling alleys, escape rooms, hiking, sports, and excellent hotels and dining await exploration as well. So whether traveling from across the country or just across the state, New Britain makes for an engaging getaway with something for travelers of all interests to enjoy.

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