See Connecticut's Capital Without Going Broke Hartford is home to historic and cultural attractions, many of which you can see absolutely free. Whether you're planning your first visit to Connecticut's capital city or you're a resident looking for something fun and affordable to do in your own back yard, here's a quick look at 10 free things to do right in Hartford.
1. Bushnell Park
Between Elm and Jewel Streets, (860) 232-6710
America's oldest public park is home to more than 125 tree species, some more than 100 years old. Free half-hour Notable Trees and Arch Tours are available Thursdays only, noon to 1:30 p.m., May through October. Or, pick up a free Bushnell Park Tree Walks brochure at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch or at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection--the building with the red-tile roof on Elm Street adjacent to the Park. The self-guided tour described in the brochure will take you on several different walks through Bushnell Park and help you to locate more than 40 different species of trees.
2. Center Church and Ancient Burying Ground
Main and Gold Streets, (860) 249-5631
Church open Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
The Ancient Burying Ground is the final resting place for many of Hartford's founders and early settlers. Center Church, built in 1807, was modeled after St. Martin-In-The-Fields in London and features stained glass windows by Louis Tiffany.
3. Elizabeth Park
Prospect and Asylum Avenues, (860) 242-0017
Hartford is home to the first municipal rose garden in the U.S. During the summer months, more than 14,000 rose bushes representing 900 different varieties of roses are in bloom. The park is open free daily and the greenhouses are open free to visitors year-round from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
4. Governor's Residence
990 Prospect Avenue, (860) 566-4840
Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. by appointment
This 1909 Georgian Revival mansion has been home to Connecticut's governors since 1945. Free tours are available by appointment on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
5. Hartford Police Museum
101 Pearl Street, (860) 722-6152
Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
You'll find the first police museum in the Northeast in downtown Hartford. It features pictures and artifacts from the 135-year history of the Hartford Police Department. You'll get to sit behind the wheel of a patrol car, too.
6. Museum of Connecticut History
231 Capitol Avenue, (860) 566-3056
Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
See historical exhibits depicting Connecticut's history and heritage including the original 1662 Connecticut charter issued by the British crown, a collection of Colt firearms, and portraits of state governors.
7. Old State House
800 Main Street, (860) 522-6766
Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Visit the oldest state house in the nation, designed by Charles Bulfinch. Inside, you'll find the restored Senate and Council chambers, an original portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, changing exhibits, Steward's Museum of Oddities, and a museum store featuring Connecticut crafts. Historical reenactments take place each day at noon.
8. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch
Trinity Street, (860) 232-6710
This Gothic brownstone monument honors the 4,000 Hartford citizens who served in the Civil War and the 400 who died for the Union. Free half-hour Notable Trees and Arch Tours are available Thursdays only, noon to 1:30 p.m., May through October.
9. State Capitol
210 Capitol Avenue, (860) 240-0222
Monday - Friday, hourly tours starting 9:15 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.; July and August 2:15 p.m. tour as well, Saturday tours April - October only, 10:15 a.m. - 2:15 p.m.
Hartford's spectacular gold-domed State Capitol building was completed in 1878 and is a National Historic Landmark. Free one-hour tours begin in the adjacent Legislative Office Building. Advance reservations are required for groups of 10 or more.
10. Wadsworth Atheneum
600 Main Street, (860) 278-2670
Tuesday - Sunday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
While there is normally an admission charge at the Wadsworth Atheneum, America's oldest public art museum, the public is admitted free all day Thursdays and until noon on Saturdays. The Atheneum's collection of works spans 5,000 years and includes nearly 50,000 items.
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