12 Things To Do With Family In Hartford, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Hartford, Connecticut’s capital, is a small city with a lot to offer visitors. Known as the insurance capital of the world, Hartford has a rich history and culture beyond insurance. The city’s manageable size makes it easy to navigate and explore during a family trip.

Hartford and the surrounding areas provide families with many exciting things to see and do. Educational museums, interactive science centers, beautiful parks, delicious restaurants, and kid-friendly shows are plentiful. History buffs will enjoy exploring Hartford’s role in the American Revolution and the underground railroad. Families can also take day trips to nearby cities like New Haven and Mystic that offer beaches, aquariums, and more.

This article will highlight 12 of the top things to do with kids of all ages in Hartford to help you plan the perfect family getaway.

Go Back in Time at the Connecticut Science Center

The Connecticut Science Center is one of the best places to take kids in Hartford. This massive, modern museum spans over 150,000 square feet and has exhibits to pique every child’s interests.

The center contains over 175 exhibits focusing on science, technology, math, and more. Permanent exhibits let visitors walk through a replica Connecticut forest or explore space within a planetary observatory. The center also features several immersive traveling exhibits each year, such as T-rex Adventure and Dogs! An IMAX Theater and a planetarium showcase educational films that complement the museum’s exhibits.

Younger kids can enjoy designated preschool areas like Kidspace, where they can play with water tables or climb giant vines. Older kids will love attractions like the Forces in Motion Ball drop ride demonstrating gravity and velocity. Families can also attend demonstrations at the science theater showing impressive explosions and liquid nitrogen experiments.

The Connecticut Science Center makes learning about science exciting for kids of all ages. Families could easily spend an entire day immersed in the museum’s interactive world of STEM education and exploration.

Climb through the Trees at The Adventure Park

Located just 10 minutes from downtown Hartford in West Hartford, The Adventure Park provides exciting outdoor challenges perfect for families. This treetop ropes course sits on over 11 acres of woodlands, containing obstacles mounted in both natural trees and steel platforms.

Visitors as young as 7 years old who meet the park’s height requirement can take on the thrills of the rope course. The park contains over 120 climbing elements and 10 zip lines spanning various difficulty levels. First-timers can stick to the beginner courses, while adventuresome families can traverse tricky bridges, cargo nets, and swinging logs on the advanced trails.

Younger kids under 7 years of age can access their own self-guided climbing area called Eagles Nest. This separate playground has kid-sized elements like rock walls, rope swings, and tunnels situated closer to the ground. Parents can let young climbers safely test their skills while older kids take on the sky-high challenges.

The Adventure Park staff equip climbers with harnesses, pulleys, and carabiners to keep everyone secured on the course. Knowledgeable guides demonstrate proper safety techniques and closely supervise climbers. Visitors can take on the course at their own pace, making it an accommodating active adventure for all ability levels.

With heart-pumping thrills atop the forest canopy, The Adventure Park instills kids with confidence while creating memorable family moments.

See a Show at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts

Since its opening in 1930, the Bushnell Center for Performing Arts has been Connecticut’s premier venue for music, theater, and dance. The center hosts critically acclaimed Broadway touring productions, renowned ballet and opera companies, famous musicians, and more.

Families visiting Hartford can introduce their kids to the performing arts by attending an exciting, professional show at The Bushnell. The center presents popular Broadway musicals like Wicked, The Lion King, Hamilton and productions from the Blue Man Group. Budding dancers and figure skaters will love seeing exhilarating performances by the American Ballet Theatre or Stars on Ice tour.

For younger theater fans, The Bushnell also presents engaging children’s shows incorporating puppets, physical comedy, and singalongs to captivate kids. Favorite family productions include Peppa Pig Live!, How to Train Your Dragon, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Before select kid-friendly shows, The Bushnell also hosts free arts and crafts workshops related to the performance.

Attending a show in the gorgeous, historic theater provides families with a memorable night out together. Kids can further cultivate their interests in the performing arts while parents introduce them to beloved, classic productions.
The Bushnell brings acclaimed performing arts shows kids love right to downtown Hartford for families to enjoy.

Browse the Stacks at Hartford Public Library

Hartford Public Library first opened in 1774, making it one of the oldest public libraries funded by United States city funds. The impressive main branch building with its striking architectural style brings knowledge and culture to downtown Hartford.

Families visiting the city should spend time exploring Hartford Public Library – especially its expansive children’s department. The library’s youth section contains over 50,000 books, magazine issues, audio recordings and more for babies through 8th grade students. Knowledgeable librarians can recommend titles perfectly suited for each child’s reading level and interests.

The children’s room also regularly hosts story times, singalongs, arts and crafts workshops and visiting performers. Kids can join weekend programs like Toddler Dance Parties or Animation Workshops that inject education with lively fun. Teens also have their own section of the library called The Studio that offers video games, film editing software and lounge space where they can socialize with peers while developing skills.

Outside the children’s department, families will discover the library’s impressive local history collection. The Hartford History Center contains over 35,000 documents, artifacts, maps, paintings and photos that trace life in Hartford from its founding through the 20th century. Special exhibits allow visitors to view rare historical treasures firsthand while learning about the city’s heritage.

A trip to the innovative, expansive Hartford Public Library lets kids freely discover new knowledge, stories and culture that educate and inspire their young minds.

Revel with Dinosaurs at Dinosaur State Park

Connecticut’s designation as one of the best states worldwide for dinosaur fossil tracks started right in Hartford County at Dinosaur State Park. Located just a half hour drive from Hartford in Rocky Hill, this park preserves one of the most extensive dinosaur track sites ever discovered.

Families visiting the park first view an exhibit explaining how scientists uncovered over 2,000 preserved tracks from 200 million years ago at the site. Kids also love exploring a giant diorama illustrating dinosaurs living in prehistoric Connecticut and examining real fossilized dinosaur footprints.

However, the park’s main highlight is its protected track site, located inside a geodesic dome. Elevated boardwalks allow visitors to closely view hundreds of theropod and ornithischian dinosaur tracks left in the park’s ancient mudflats. Kids love trying to identify different dinosaur species by their tracks and imaging the creatures roaming there thousands of centuries ago. Professional guides frequently give demonstrations explaining more about how paleontologists study and preserve dinosaur tracks as well.

Outside the fossil dome, families can take easy hiking trails through the woods surrounding the archeological site. Kids can burn off pent-up energy climbing on the playground, natural rock scrambles, or by having a picnic. The park’s hands-on Edu-Shed also has tables for creating fossil rubbings to take home.

With real dinosaur traces to explore, Dinosaur State Park brings Connecticut’s prehistory to life for curious young minds in Hartford to discover.

Catch a Yard Goats Baseball Game

Hartford Yard Goats Baseball provides affordable family fun right in the heart of downtown at the team’s stadium, Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The minor league Yard Goats have played home games in Hartford since 2017 as an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies franchise.

Yard Goats’ games offer nonstop entertainment for baseball fans of all ages. The open-air ballpark right along the Connecticut River provides stunning views of the Hartford skyline. Fans can watch future Major League players competing on an intimate scale while munching hot dogs and popcorn.

In between innings, the team’s hysterical mascots Chompers and Chew Chew rev up the crowds with silly skits and dances. Kids may even get the chance to race the mascots around the field between the 5th and 6th innings. The stadium also frequently has exciting theme nights corresponding with events like Marvel Superhero Night or Princess Night for fans dressing up.

Yard Goats’ games fit conveniently within families’ schedules too. Weeknight games typically start at 7 PM, while weekend day games begin at 1 or 6 PM. Ticket prices also remain family-friendly, ranging from $8-$20 per seat depending on location. Special discounts make the games even more affordable for kids, students, parents, seniors and military members.

Experiencing the excitement of the national pastime up close, Yard Goats games become a beloved hometown tradition for Hartford families. Catching a game or two during your family’s visit is a fun, affordable activity for sports lovers of any age.

Test Your Wit at Escapology Hartford

Escapology Hartford provides next-level family fun with its immersive escape room challenges. Escape rooms require teams to solve puzzles, crack codes and find hidden clues in order to achieve their “escape” before time runs out. At over 13,000 square feet, Escapology is Connecticut’s largest escape room arena.

Families with kids aged 10 and up can select from Escapology’s variety of themed escape room adventures based on their group’s interests and abilities. Up to six players at a time can attempt popular rooms like the curse-breaking Wizard School or Antidote, challenging players to escape from a scientist’s infected lab. For younger players, Escapology’s special Kids Rooms provide simpler puzzles tailored specifically for children under 13.

Escapology’s game masters monitor room challenges through closed-circuit cameras and offer hints over microphones when needed. Players needing a break can exit their room and re-enter when ready thanks to RFID wristbands given to each group member. Birthday parties, private events andeven overnight “Escape Sleepovers” provide ultimate team building fun for families and friends.

Solving puzzles, cracking codes and escaping in the nick of time gets the whole family’s adrenaline pumpingat Escapology. Groups leave with shared memories and a sense of accomplishment after conquering the mental challenges together.

Get Lost in the Beauty at Elizabeth Park

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Elizabeth Park first opened in Hartford in 1897. The city’s first public rose garden now encompasses 102 acres of gorgeous formal and informal gardens perfect for leisurely family strolls.

The centerpiece of Elizabeth Park remains its renowned Rose Garden first planted in 1904. Families can meander through the 1.5 acre formal garden exploding with over 15,000 bushes representing 800 varieties of roses. Blooms fill the terraced, stone-walled gardens from June through late October, surrounding sparkling fountains with their vibrant colors and divine fragrances.

Beyond the signature Rose Garden, families will discover many picturesque spots for picnics and playtimes. The Parterre fountain creates rainbows for kids to dance under while the Perennial Garden bursts forth with over 4,500 colorful blooms. Little ones enjoy climbing on the park’s giant tree sculptures and scampering through the Lilac walk tunnels. Pack snacks to savor under the Grape Arbor walkway or toss balls on the Great Lawn encompassing 25 acres.

Free community events occur frequently for additional family fun too. Kids love attending the Annual Rose Weekend to learn gardening tricks from the Rose Wranglers. Seasonal attractions like Holiday Light Fantasia and autumn chrysanthemum shows encourage revisiting Elizabeth Park’s beauty year-round.

With infinite garden beauty and family fun, Elizabeth Park creates heartwarming memories amidst Hartford’s urban surroundings.

Spot Local History at the Old State House

As Connecticut’s first state capitol building, the Old State House now stands as the oldest state house in the country. The original structure built in 1796 overlooks Hartford’s Main Street within the Downtown National Historic Landmark district. Visiting this icon illuminates the city and state’s pivotal role in shaping American independence and identity.

The Old State House first recounts political events that happened within its walls like Connecticut’s official ratification of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Families can even view one of the original copies of the historic document on display. The museum also traces significant local events like “The Hartford Convention” meetings debating states’ rights early in the nation’s formation.

Kids can envision themselves as a colonial Connecticut governor orassembly member while exploring the building’s historic chambers and exhibits. Families can browse intricate uniforms, weaponry and personal artifacts from Connecticut’s involvement in the French & Indian War through WW1. Younger children love trying on costumes representing state figures like Prudence Crandall or searching for hidden symbols in the building’s architectural details.

The Old State House occasionally hosts family programs as well, like scavenger hunts and summer LEGO building workshops. Around the historic site, families can also view Main Street’s “Trail of the American Revolution” marking key colonial buildings part of Hartford’s revolutionary legacy.

At the heart of downtown, the Old State House brings local history alive for Hartford’s young students to discover firsthand.

Immerse in Literature at the Mark Twain House

Famously known as the longtime home of iconic author Mark Twain, this National Historic Landmark honors his legacy as one of history’s most legendary writers. The Victorian mansion where Twain lived from 1874-1891 sits adjacent to Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood, once a popular writers’ enclave. Beyond the home’s opulent architecture and furnishings, the Mark Twain House museum celebrates Twain’s immense influence upon American literature.

The self-guided tour allows families to envision Twain’s daily life throughout the 25-room home where he penned his most famous works. Exhibits detail how living in Hartford influenced writing his novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn along with other major titles. Kids can see the ornate bed he slept in, his personal billiards table and even the door to his second-floor bathroom onto which his daughters once tacked calling cards while he took refuge during writing breaks.

In the museum center, families can browse interactive exhibits detailing Twain’s career. Aspiring young writers can sit at a replica of Twain’s desk or listen to readings from his books. A vibrant 120-foot mural also depicts scenes from famous Twain stories like “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. Occasional family programs further highlight Twain’s literary significance as well with activities like scavenger hunts and storytelling workshops.

The Mark Twain House reveals the rich creativity nurtured right in Hartford to inspire the nation’s literary arts.

Hike Urban Wilderness in the West Hartford Reservoir

The West Hartford Reservoir sit on over 650 acres southwest of downtown Hartford containing six bodies of water totaling nearly 525 million gallons. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, this sprawling site provided most of the Hartford region’s drinking water until its decommission in 1974. The grounds now create a surprising urban wilderness oasis perfect for family recreation just minutes from the city streets.

Over 7 miles of easy hiking trails loop around and between the reservoirs including a paved path following the water’s edge to accommodate strollers. Families can embark on leisurely nature walks spotting turtles sunbathing on logs and birds swooping across the peaceful lakes. More adventurous groups might choose to trek up Talcott Mountain on the pdf[west for gorgeous views of the reservoirs and surrounding valley.

Kids will also enjoy exploring the reservoir’s unique structures like the Pump Station with buildings containing massive 1940s water pumps. Inside the Gatehouse overlooking Reservoir #6 sits the Visitor Center featuring exhibits about the reservoirs’ history and development. Rangers also lead educational presentations and family programs on topics like birdwatching or reading animal track.

With plentiful outdoor recreation surrounded by wildlife and scenic views, West Hartford Reservoir delivers natural adventures near the heart of the city for families to discover.

Take the Stage at Playhouse on Park

Playhouse on Park first opened in 2008 as a professional resident theater in downtown West Hartford, just 5 miles from Hartford. The intimate theater offers acclaimed plays and musicals on its Main Stage and more experimental performances on its smaller Studio Stage. Attending a show at Playhouse on Park makes for a special family night out full of culture and memories.

The Playhouse’s child-friendly matinee performances allow younger audiences to experience live theater during weekend afternoons and school vacations. Recent family-focused productions include the musicals Matilda and The Lightning Thief along with stage adaptations of popular children’s books like Junie B. Jones and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Upcoming 2023 children’s shows will feature Disney’s Winnie the Pooh and Mo Willem’s beloved Elephant and Piggie characters.

Conclusion

With stunning parks, intriguing history, exciting sports and cultural performances, Hartford offers many family-friendly things to experience. Parents can introduce kids to captivating attractions from dinosaurs to theater productions that educate them about science, arts, and history. Hartford’s small size also makes navigating between its top sites quick and convenient for families short on time.

The wide variety of museums, gardens, recreation and entertainment within Hartford and the surrounding region could keep families happily occupied for weeks. By following this itinerary of the city’s can’t miss attractions, though, visitors can get the most memorable family fun out of even shorter trips. These activities promise to create special bonds and lasting memories to cherish for Hartford families now and for years to come.

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