Hartford Local Highlights
Long overshadowed by bustling metropolises to the East and West, Hartford is often unfortunately overlooked as a pit stop. From family-friendly outdoor recreation to culture and history, Hartford’s got something for everybody. Drive through no more; here are our top ten reasons to stay and play!
Hartford Highlights and Local Favorites
Connecticut Science Center
250 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT 06103
Over 9 stories of science fun await you at the towering Connecticut Science Center. Children of all ages as well as adults will appreciate the hands-on exhibits featuring human anatomy, astronomy, geology, biology, and much more. The museum also features great rotating/temporary exhibits as well as 3D and live shows. Don’t miss the rooftop garden, which offers great views of downtown Hartford and the Connecticut River!
+ Ajamo - Serving delicious fresh salads and grain bowls.
+ Bloom Bakery - Delectable baked goods and beautiful bouquets.
+ Hartford Riverwalk - A paved 3.5-mile out-and-back trail along the portion of the Connecticut River that runs through downtown Hartford with playgrounds, boat launch sites, and sports fields.
355 Bloomfield Ave, West Hartford, CT 06117
As parents of young children, we consider ourselves playground connoisseurs. Take it from us, this is one of the best around. Built as the first Boundless Playground, it is fully accessible. Its multiple play areas encourage imaginative play, and its large airplane disc-swing zipline is a local favorite. Being fully fenced in and surrounded by large shade trees wins points with parents.
+ Children’s Museum of West Hartford - An interactive museum with wildlife exhibits for the younger set.
+ Blue Plate Restaurant - Serving excellent farm-to-table fare.
Fernridge Park and Pool
567 Fern St, West Hartford, CT 06107
Fernridge Park and Pool is the place to be on a hot summer afternoon. With two different playscapes, a splash pad, a pool, sports fields, and trails, there is plenty to keep the kids occupied and cool. Large trees shade much of the ample green space.
+ Luna Pizza - A fun family-owned and family-friendly local favorite for pizza.
+ Toro Mexican Street Food - Fresh tacos and homemade chips and guacamole.
Rattlesnake Mountain Metacomet Trail
Colt Hwy, Farmington, CT 06032
This 2.5-mile out-and-back trail up Rattlesnake Mountain leads to great views of downtown Hartford. The first half of the trail is relatively flat with gentle grades while the second half does involve navigating around some boulders - little legs may need help here. This is also a popular rock-climbing and bouldering locale. For a similar hike with shorter distances to great views, check out Ragged Mountain Preserve.
+ Frisbie’s Dairy Barn - A great spot for locally-made ice cream.
+ Rebel Dog Coffee Co and Tavern - Stop here for breakfast-- they serve great coffee and breakfast sandwiches!
+ Farmington Miniature Golf and Ice Cream - Offers a wide variety of ice cream treats to enjoy while playing a round of mini-golf. There is also a driving range right next door.
Mark Twain House and Museum
351 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105
The home of one of America’s most beloved authors consistently tops “Best Of” lists. Immaculately restored, it is a treat to take in the birthplace of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The house can only be viewed with a guided tour, which is great as the tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and fun. They even periodically offer tours geared just for children and other special tours. Reserve ahead online. The Harriet Beacher Stowe House is just across the yard and is also worth a visit.
+ Bushnell Park - Downtown Hartford’s green space is replete with fountains, a pond, and a seasonal carousel.
+ Connecticut Old State House - The oldest state house in the nation. Great informational tours and history!
+ Tisane Euro-Asian Cafe - Serving great coffee, tea, and food options.
Heublein Tower Hike
Simsbury, CT 06070
The whole family will love this hike to the Heublein Tower sitting atop Talcott Mountain. Built in 1914 as a summer escape by a local businessman, the tower has been renovated to the period and is open for viewing. There are great informative displays throughout and lovely views of the Farmington Valley from the top. The hike is 1.2 miles one way.
+ Talcott Mountain Collective - Serves up great local brews, views, and tunes from the base of Talcott Mountain. Watch the kids and pets run around on their expansive lawn while you take in views of the tower you just climbed.
+ Rosedale Farm and Vineyards - Pick up some local produce for a picnic or enjoy the bucolic scenery and live music.
KidCity Children’s Museum
119 Washington St, Middletown, CT 06457
One of the best children’s museums around, KidCity has three floors of incredibly imaginative playspaces geared towards the 1 to 7-year-old set. One floor is dedicated to toddlers (2 and under), while the other two floors have differently-themed rooms set up for all kinds of imaginative play.
+ Downtown Middletown - Downtown abounds with food options. Check out Steamed for the most delectable dumplings, or Sicily Coal Fired Pizza for that perfect crunchy/crispy/chewy crust.
+ Butternut Hollow Park - A large playscape, plenty of benches, and picnic tables by the pond and in the shade.
+ Wadsworth Falls State Park - Kid-friendly trails to two sets of falls and a swimming hole.
Dinosaur State Park
400 West St, Rocky Hill, CT 06067
In 1966, over 2,000 dinosaur tracks were discovered during excavation for a state building. Five hundred of these tracks are now on display under a geodesic dome at Dinosaur State Park. Plan on spending an hour or two here checking out the informational displays, videos, and the Discovery Room, which houses live reptiles, fossils, and educational activities. There are some great short nature trails outside, a fossil dig area, and even an area to make your own cast of a track (bring your own plaster)!
+ Quarry Park - This park offers short trails in a former quarry and a great view of downtown Hartford.
+ Dividend Pond and Ruins - Head here to see a small waterfall, and check out some easy, flat trails.
+ Wood-n-Tap - A great family-friendly spot to eat with a large outdoor patio.
Stanley Quarter Park
451 Blake Rd, New Britain, CT 06053
Combine a fantastic modern playscape with a beautiful pond and trails, and you’ve got the setting for a perfect afternoon. With fun features such as a long disc-swing zipline and spinning discs, we always have a hard time getting our kids to leave the playground. There is a paved 0.8-mile trail that goes around the pond dotted with fitness stations - pull-up bars, stretching stations, etc. The pond is a great spot for watching waterfowl, looking for fish, and catching frogs.
+ Beirut Bites - Serves delicious, affordable Mediterranean cuisine.
+ Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve - Here you'll find trails of varying lengths to great views.
+ Bradley Mountain Farm - Drop in to visit the goats, or book a goat cuddle, yoga, or walk session!
7 Shingle Mill Rd, West Simsbury, CT 06092
Home to an excellent petting zoo, a friendly flock of chickens, delicious eggs, and a farm stay, Flamig Farm is a local favorite. Animal feed is available for purchase, and the kids always delight in dishing it out. Come in the spring and you may be lucky enough to cuddle some baby farm animals. There is a playscape and ample seating at shaded picnic tables to watch your children from.
+ Tulmeadow Farm Store - Here you'll find delectable locally-made ice cream and a farm store with local produce and grass-fed beef. If it’s a nice day, skip the drive! A mile-long trail through woods and meadow links Flamig Farm to Tulmeadow Farm.
+ Simsbury Farms Recreation Complex - Recreational opportunities for everyone abound! With a playscape, tennis courts, basketball hoops, golf course, trails, and a pool and ice rink open seasonally, the whole family can be kept busy here.
+ Roaring Brook Nature Center - Check out their live animal exhibits and beautiful nature trails.
Have you been to Hartford? Does your family live in this Northeast city? Let us know what your favorite local spots are in the comments below! Or tag us in your photos on Instagram @gethappyly for a chance to be featured!
Interested in other amazing cities around the U.S.? We've got a whole bunch of local-recommended spots in major (and not major!) cities across the country. Check out our blog for great advice on cities like Chicago, Denver, Maui, Chattanooga, and more! Or, if you are interested in getting information about taking the family to the national parks, we've got some great tips on Saguaro National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Haleakala National Park, and Mt. Rainier National Park!
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