Things To Do

Don't listen to the naysayers who claim Hartford is a ghost town with nothing to do -- they probably just don't know where (or can't be bothered) to look. Below is a list of some of the many sites to visit, newsletters to sign up for, and events to check out so you can live your best Hartford life. This is by no means a complete inventory, please send your submissions for consideration via email

This list is about things to do other than eat and drink, so please head to Yelp for your coffee shop, restaurant, brewery/winery/distillery, and cocktail bar recs.

Betty Draper in the AMC series Mad Men.



Be a good neighbor

If you live in our neighborhood, SoDo, we have an email newsletter, too. You can view past issues here and sign up hereThe Progressive Dinner is our favorite event and info on the 2024 event is forthcoming.

Not sure what neighborhood you are in? Check out Hartford Next

The OneHartford weekly email is a great resource for news about upcoming city programs, meetings, activities, and other useful information, including assistance programs for Hartford residents, organizations, and businesses. Included each week are updates on free COVID tests and vaccines, flu shots, job openings, rental assistance, tax info, and food and coat distribution.

Get alerts regarding parking bans, street closures, school closures, etc. Download the Resident Guide on the Office of Community Engagement website to learn what your trash day is, how to dispose of fall leaves and Christmas trees, and who to call if your street needs to be swept.

If you see a broken streetlight, discarded sofa on the sidewalk, damaged street sign, pothole, etc., report it to Hartford 311 by calling 311 or using their app. NOTE: as of January 2024 the app is offline, but you can report issues online here.

Got some household items, books, magazines, or groceries you want to share? Check out Buy Nothing, Little Free Libraries, and Little Free Pantries for drop-off spots.

This stylized map of the city is old and no longer 100% accurate in terms of attractions but gives you a good idea of the lay of the land. The skating rink (mentioned below) is in Bushnell Park right near where it says "Pulaski Circle". Riverfront Park (mentioned below) is where it says "Riverfront Plaza" on the right side of the map, on the river. The Science Center is just below it on the map.

A good way to familiarize yourself with downtown is to just walk, bike, or scooter* around. If you have a car you can also drive around, but if you won't see as much. Want someone else to do the driving? Hop on the DASH bus. It is a free circulator bus to take visitors from the hotels to the Convention Center (which is next to the Science Center) and the train/bus station. Check the CT Transit site for more info.

Looking for a way to volunteer? Hands On Hartford has a recurring volunteer opportunity list, but you can ask any non-profit and they likely will be happy for your help.

*NOTE as of December 2023, SuperPedestrian/LINK ceased all US operations, however, the city is looking for a new scooter/bikeshare partner.

OMG Where Do I Buy Groceries, etc.?

The same place as everyone else: the grocery store. If you have a car you will get in it and drive to a suburban store, just as you would if you lived in said suburbs.

But let's say you don't have a car, or want to reduce how much you use that car. Between delivery services, mail order, FastTrak, and independent stores within walking distance (Greenway Market on Asylum Street, C-Town on Wethersfield Avenue), it is totally possible to live in Hartford without a car and still have all your retail needs met:

You can get to a Super Stop & Shop or a Walmart Super Center very quickly via FastTrak (free until March 31, 2023, hopefully, free again soon).
 

Even before the pandemic, residents relied on Instacart (click here for $10 off your first order) for grocery delivery. You can pay a low annual fee for their Express membership which reduces your delivery fees. They deliver from all the chain grocery stores, Costco, Total Wine, Petco, etc. Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, and Walmart also have their own proprietary delivery services. 


You can order pet food, litter, and accessories from Chewy or Amazon, and get your prescriptions delivered for free by a small local pharmacy


While there is not (yet!) a lot of retail downtown, there are stores where you can buy bookscards, giftseyeglassescameraswine and liquorbaked goodsice creamclothescigars, get a manicurehaircut or facial, or get your bike fixed/buy a used bike

And for the freshest local produce, there is at least one Farmers Market a day somewhere in the city, almost always right on a bus line. Almost all of them take (and double) SNAP. Or, grow your own in a Community Garden with Knox Foundation. For a small fee, you receive your own garden bed, water, free seeds, and guidance from Knox's experts.


Arts & Culture

The Hartford.com site is a good place to start, it includes a calendar of things to do by date but you can also sort by topic such as music, art, things for kids, etc. Your resource for which restaurants are open, what's happening on the Pratt Street Patio (now closed to traffic!), and local events (both live stream and in-person). Subscribe to their weekly email and never wonder what to do, where to go, or what to eat again. Sign up here, thank us later.

Real Art Ways (RAW) - Contemporary art gallery + indie movie theater (see more on that lower on this page under Movies). Lots of great art shows, lectures, Game Night (board games), Creative Cocktail Hour on the 3rd Thursday of each month with art opening(s), a band or DJ, munchies, cash bar. RAW hosts The Ear Cave and Other People's Stories storytelling events. Sign up for their newsletter for more.

In addition to excellent (and very frank) coverage of Hartford-related topics, Real Hartford posts a list of free/cheap events every month, you can also sign up for a monthly email. Also, check the interactive map on each of their Calendar posts.

The Wadsworth offers free admission for Hartford residents, and they have a fantastic free Second Saturday program for families with crafts and music. Their gift shop has some really nice items in general and Made in CT in particular. It is a great museum, small but with some big works by Monet, Manet, Dali, Picasso, Caravaggio, etc. They offer guided tours, lectures, excursions to other museums, and a film festival. Two key annual events are Fine Art & Flowers in the spring and their Festival of Trees during the holidays. Both are a small additional charge but offer related lectures and entertainment. 

The Connecticut Forum lecture series features renowned experts and celebrities discussing amazing topics. As entertaining as it is educational. They are NEVER boring.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House and Mark Twain House are both beautifully restored and have great tours. A couple of times a year they both have "free for Hartford residents" days. They both also have great online and in-person author lectures (by people you've actually heard of) and other events. Don't miss the Twain House haunted tour or behind-the-scenes with the servants tour.

The Charter Oak Cultural Center offers multi-cultural art, music, theater and dance exhibits, performances, and classes for adults and kids, in a Victorian-era building that once housed Connecticut's first synagogue.

If you like to build or make stuff, MakerSpace CT is the largest makerspace in Connecticut and the 2nd largest in New England. They offer access to tools, technology, resources, and learning opportunities for prospective inventors, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, and students.

And, mark your calendar for the second Saturday of October for Night Fall (free!). Beautiful outdoor theater/art/performance/giant puppets/music in a different public park each year, founded by the amazing Anne Cubberly.

Open Studio Hartford is a city-wide, multi-venue collaboration of artists who open their studios and galleries to the public for a weekend of art displays, demonstrations, and community.  



Get Out There

Bushnell Park has a wonderful playground, lots of paths (safe for bike riding), a pond, a historic Arch you can tour on Saturdays in summer and fall and during big events in the park such as festivals, concerts, the marathon, etc. The Carousel is open on weekends mid-March through mid-January, $2 per ride and it's a great place to host a party, small wedding, etc. The park is also the home of Winterfest - free ice skating, free skate rentals, and free lessons through the first week of January. Santa visits on a few weekends as well.

Bushnell Park is also the location for lots of free summer fun. Bring your blanket, friends, family, picnic supper, chairs, bug spray, sun hat, etc:
Riverfront Recapture manages a beautiful park along the Connecticut River. Paved walking/biking paths, wooded trails, a water-front stage, picnic areas, and a craftsman-style boathouse you can rent for social and business events. They host a number of water- and non-water-related festivals and teach recreational and competitive rowing for all ages. Access by car from Weston Street or by foot from Downtown at Mortenson Plaza (near the CT Science Center).

There are nine major parks in Hartford, offering recreational fields for organized sports, scenic pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians, swimming pools, boat launches, equestrian trails, golf courses, playscapes for children, gardening, and other healthy opportunities.

Free Yoga - all summer long you can take free yoga any day of the week in one of our local parks. Follow Yoga in our City for info on schedules and locations, including virtual classes in the winter.

Ducks on the Ave - You can't say you are from New England until you have tried duckpin bowling at least once. Smaller balls and pins, and you get three throws per frame. It feels like a speakeasy because it is underneath an unassuming strip mall (and has been since 1939). They serve beer & wine and you may bring your own snacks. Great for all ages. 

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner hosts monthly street food markets in the Parkville neighborhood (easy FasTrak ride away) and launched a new holiday market called Winterfair Hartford, taking place mostly on Pratt Street but also some of the surrounding area. Some of it is outdoors but most of it is vendor stalls in formerly empty storefronts. Lots of small, locally-owned businesses. BLxD also manages the Know Good Market which is a monthly street food and vendor market, and First Night, which takes place downtown and in Bushnell Park on New Year's Eve. Crafts, art, music, food trucks, and fireworks at 6 pm and midnight. They share other offbeat, creative, and alternative events and news in their monthly newsletter, you can sign up on cafeteria.fm.

Open Studios Hartford went virtual for a few years during Covid but in-person it is a great way to see some cool art and support local artists all over the city.

Hartford Public Library is the key to so much more than books. They have a great children's section and offer free activities and classes. Also free jazz concerts on Sundays from January - April. With a library card you can also stream movies at home for free on Kanopy (it's not Netflix but they have a decent list), visit a dozen museums in the state, or attend a performance - for free - at Hartford Stage or Theaterworks.  

Movies

Apple Cinemas Front Street hosts first-run movies and occasional mini-festivals. There is a restaurant adjacent to the lobby, and you are welcome to bring food and drinks (including wine and beer) into the theater with you. The same company also owns another first-run theater on New Park Ave.

Cinestudiothe retro movie palace on the Trinity College campus, shows independent movies, cult classics and foreign films and hosts a variety of film festivals. Sign up for their weekly newsletter to see what is playing next.

Real Art Ways shows independent films, foreign films, documentaries, and all the Oscar-nominated films (including shorts).

Theater & Music

The Bushnell Performing Arts Center is best known for its Broadway series but also offers a variety of other arts, education, and community performances including dance, lectures, films, and concerts. They are also home to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the aforementioned Connecticut Forum.

Hartford Stage produces classics by Williams, O'Neill, and Shakespeare and also contemporary new works (a couple of which have then gone on to Broadway). A limited number of free tickets are available to residents via Hartford Public Library (see above). Be sure to snap a selfie with their Tony Award in the lobby.

Theaterworks Hartford produces original, contemporary theater in a very intimate setting. A limited number of free tickets are available to residents via Hartford Public Library (see above).

Sea Tea Improv offers improv and sketch comedy shows, stand-up, and classes for adults, teens, and kids. They also produce and host the Hartford Improv Festival.

HartBeat Ensemble produces original, contemporary plays that amplify the voices and experiences of marginalized people and communities.

Hartbeat Music Festival brings together dozens of Connecticut bands performing many genres of music on the CT River. Free! Hosted by Riverfront Recapture and local band POSSM.

The Webster Theater and Infinity Music Hall regularly schedule regional and national bands.

Red Door Music is just over the line in West Hartford but is another opportunity to hear smaller chamber ensembles and soloists perform classical and choral works.

Voce is a chamber choral ensemble that performs classical and contemporary works.

Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra performs traditional chamber ensemble pieces as well as new music by living composers. 

Sports

Yard Goats Baseball: Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Mascot is a goat but they are named after a train. Gorgeous new award-winning stadium. Sit in the left field grandstands to watch the game, the city skyline, and the sunset all at the same time.

Hartford Athletic Soccer: USL Championship League team. Futbol is life. Bring lots of sunscreen, this is an open stadium.

Wolfpack Hockey: AHL farm team for the NY Rangers. If you like hockey, they are fun to watch. If you still miss the Whalers, they are not them, but you can pick up a Whalers tee at Hartford Prints downtown. PS it's no accident that all three Hartford teams' colors are the same colors as the Whalers....

UConn Basketball: Yes, there are other colleges and other sports but this is Husky Nation.

Golf: We have two public courses: Goodwin Park, 27 holes, opened in 1906, and Keney Park, 18 holes, opened in 1927 and in 2017 was rated third best public course in the state by Golfweek magazine.  

Cricket: We have a very active cricket community, with cricket clubs and organized tournaments, but you will also see pickup games played in every park in the city. Fun to watch even if you don't know the rules.

More: EightSix Go is an inclusive running club, and 2-4-1 offers sports clinics for kids in various locations in and around Hartford. There are even a few Vintage Baseball teams in the area, as well as Men's and Women's Rugby, and Roller Derby


If anyone ever says to you "There is nothing to do in Hartford" please send them this list!

(updated 01/14/2024)