Connecticut’s tourism industry drives $15.5 billion in revenue for the state each year. Much of this stems from people visiting the state’s capitol, Hartford. People wanting to visit there don’t have to spend a ton of money to have fun though. Here are some free things to do in Hartford, plus some really cheap activities too.
Free Things to Do in Hartford
If you are planning a trip to Hartford, there are plenty of budget-friendly activities you can add to your itinerary. Consider some of these freebies…
Ride the Hartford Dash Shuttle
You can ride the Hartford Dash Shuttle free-of-charge while you are visiting the city. It will also bring you to most of the major attractions. See where the shuttle can bring you and what the schedule is while you are in Hartford.
J. Robert Donnelly Husky Heritage Sports Museum
One great thing to see while you are visiting Hartford is the J. Robert Donnelly Husky Heritage Sports Museum. For fans of the Huskies, this is a must-see. The building is full of memorabilia and history about the University of Connecticut sports teams. Best of all, admission is free.
Cedar Hill Cemetery
Cedar Hill Cemetery is a historical graveyard. It is also the resting place of the infamous actress Katherine Hepburn. You can visit her gravesite as well as many other historic graves in the cemetery. There is no fee to enter.
Ancient Burying Ground
If you are interested in visiting old gravesites, consider adding the First Church of Christ and Ancient Burying Ground to your list of things to do as well. It is one of the oldest known congregations in the U.S. It was founded in 1636 by Reverend Thomas Hooker.
Mortenson Riverfront Plaza
The Riverfront Plaza is a perfect spot to do some shopping and soak in the Hartford riverfront horizon. There are spots to sit and people watch as well as a number of places to walk and bike to. During the summer months, it is also home to a number of events, both free and paid.
Hartford Circus Fire Memorial
One piece of Hartford history very few people know about is the Hartford Circus Fire. In July of 1944, thousands of people gathered to view the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus. One hundred and sixty-seven people died in the fire. Everyone who was able to escape had horrifying tales of what occurred. The memorial stands at the center of the big top, where the fire is said to have started. It provides information about each of the victims as well as things that happened at different points in the tragic event.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch
Located in Bushnell Park, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch is dedicated to the Battle of Antietam. It serves to honor the 400 Hartford citizens who died in the Civil War as well as the 4,000 Hartford citizens who served in the Union. Arch Guides, a volunteer organization, offers free tours of the arch every Thursday from noon until 1:30 p.m. from May until the end of October. Tours are typically between 20 and 40 minutes long and may be canceled due to weather.
Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk
Take a scenic walk along the Connecticut River to see sculptures honoring Abraham Lincoln’s life. The walk features 16 original pieces.
Hartford Public Library
As always, the local pubic library is always a good place to stop by when you are visiting some place new. Oftentimes, the libraries have displays of local artists and writers. The Hartford Public Library has a lot to offer in terms of local history and exhibits. You can also visit the Connecticut State Library and Archives in Hartford as well.
Travel a Little
It is also notable that there are numerous free activities in neighboring cities as well. Stamford and New Haven both have plenty to offer. You can check out events, activities, and historic landmarks at the nearby colleges (UConn and Yale). Both establishments typically have free art exhibits and other events taking place. Connecticut College Arboretum is also a nearby free attraction you can add to your list if you have the time.
Cheap Things to Do (Under $20)
Of course, not everything on your trip can be free, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be conscious of your budget. Here are a few things to do under $20 in the Hartford area.
This is one of the oldest publicly funded parks in the United States. Admission to Bushnell Park is free. However, you’ll want to bring a few bucks to ride the vintage carousel located in the park, which has been around since the 1850s. Rides are $1 per person though, so you won’t break the bank.
Thomas Hooker Brewery at Colt
If you are looking for some afternoon entertainment, consider adding the Thomas Hooker Brewery to your itinerary. Its newest brewery location is at the historic Colt Firearms building in Hartford. It is a great place to get a feel for the local brews and culture.
The Mark Twain House & Museum
Literature fans won’t want to miss a chance to pop in to Mark Twain’s home either. The house, which has been turned into a museum honoring Twain’s life, is a 25-room mansion. You will be given a guided tour of the museum, which gives you a look into what life was like in the home with Twain, his wife, and three daughters.
Tours begin at 10 a.m. and go until 4:30 p.m., with the last tour beginning at 3:30. For the museum only, admission is $6. Tours of the Mark Twain house are $13 for kids ages six and up, $21 for adults, and $19 for seniors. Kids under the age of six are free.