What To Do and Where To Find It
in the State of Connecticut
Listings are cross-referenced by tourism district so that additional information can be found easily in the Connecticut Vacation Guide, available free from 1-888-CT-VISIT (288-4748).
Connecticut, one of the 13 original colonies, is a lace work of preserved Early American and Colonial structures and sites. The state, strategically situated between Boston and New York City, came to prominence during the 19th century, creating a legacy of Victorian architecture, military firearms, Industrial Revolution manufacturing, literature and theater, and American Impressionist art. Today, world-class theater, music and art museums contribute to its well-stocked treasure-trove for seekers of cultural pursuits.
- RESOURCE: The Connecticut Impressionist Art Trail encompasses 11 sites throughout the state that comprise a legacy to the state’s important role in American Impressionist art. In addition to the sites listed below, the Trail includes the Bruce Museum, Greenwich; Yale Art Museum, New Haven; Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co.; Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London; William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs; and Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington. For a brochure, write Connecticut Impressionist Art Trail, P.O. Box 793, Old Lyme CT 06371.
- Bush-Holley House, Greenwich (Coastal Fairfield): Home to America’s first Impressionist art colony.
- Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme (Mystic & More): Famed home of the Lyme Art Colony; works by Metcalf, Wiggins, Ebert, Chadwick.
- New Britain Museum of Art (Central): Works by Hassam, Chase, Metcalf, Weir, Twachtman, Cassatt, Wiggins, Benson, more.
- Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (Greater Hartford): Works by Robinson, Hassam, Twachtman, Metcalf, Cassatt and Weir.
- Weir Farm National Historic Site, Wilton (Coastal Fairfield): J. Alden Weir Farm was subject matter for his and many others’ works; self-guided Painting Sites Trail compares landscape with paintings.
- LANDMARK: Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (Greater Hartford): The nations’s oldest art museum has 50,000 works spanning 5,000 years including ancient bronzes, Renaissance and baroque paintings, decorative arts, Hudson River School and impressionist masters, African American art and contemporary art.
- Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London (Mystic & More): Colonial, Federal and American Impressionist collections.
- New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain (Central): Paintings, 1740 to present including many American Impressionist masterpieces.
- Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (Greater New Haven): Elizabethan period to present. Re-opens Jan. 1999.
- Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield (Housatonic Valley)
- New England Center for Contemporary Art, Brooklyn (Northeast)
- Whitney Museum of American Art, Stamford (Coastal Fairfield)
- Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington (Greater Hartford): Decorative arts and small but superb collection of Monet, Manet, Degas.
- Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport (Coastal Fairfield): 19th and 20th c. American and European art; African, Asia, Latin American collections; Connecticut artists.
- Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (Greater New Haven): 10,000 objects from ancient Egypt to present; French impressionist collection includes Manet, Monet, van Gogh; Picasso; and one of the world’s finest collections of American painting and decorative art.
- Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich (Mystic & More): Greek, Roman, Renaissance casts; American collection, 17th c. to present; native America, Africa, Asian European collections.
- William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs (Northeast): American and European, 16th c. to present.
- TOUR: Hartford Victorian Trail, Hartford (Greater Hartford): Twenty-six historic sites from Hartford’s Victorian heyday are featured in a brochure, Hartford Dreamers and Doers: Legacies of a Victorian City. For a copy, contact the Greater Hartford Tourism District at 234 Murphy Rd., Hartford, CT 06114/860-244-8181 or 800-793-4480.
- EVENT: American Magic Lantern Theatre, Ivoryton Playhouse-Ivoryton and Cheney Hall-Manchester. Holiday-themed recreations of traditional Victorian magic-lantern shows, with music, costumes, special effects; call for dates and locations, 860-345-2574.
- LANDMARK: Mark Twain House and Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Hartford (Greater Hartford): Two adjacent literary landmarks: Elaborate Victorian mansion of Sam Clemens, with rare interiors by Louis Comfort Tiffany and 19 splendid rooms; and Victorian cottage home of author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- Hotchkiss-Fyler House, Torrington (Litchfield Hills): Victorian mansion with decorative arts, family furnishing, elaborate woodwork.
- Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, Norwalk (Coastal Fairfield): America’s first chateau; 50-room Victorian palace with rotunda.
- Mattaqtuck Museum, Waterbury (Waterbury Region): Period settings, decorative arts chronicle city’s social, architectural and cultural past.
- Roseland Cottage, Woodstock (Northeast): Gothic Revival summer home of industrialist Henry Bowen; hosted four U.S. presidents; original furnishings, oldest surviving indoor bowling alley.
- State Capitol & Legislative Office Building, Hartford (Greater Hartford): Tours are offered of spectacular gold-domed building; historic displays.
- Windham Textile and History Museum, Willimantic (Northeast): Preserves legacy of southern New England textile industry at height of Industrial Revolution. Exhibits include owner’s mansion, thread factory floor, workers’ row house rooms.
This trail of numerous sites, 82 at present, across the state is associated with the heritage and movement towards freedom of Connecticut’s African American citizens. Included on the trail are sites associated with the Amistad case of 1839-1842 (subject of a steven Spielberg/Dream Works feature film); buildings reportedly part of the Underground Railroad; and gravesites, monuments, homes and other structures that represent the concept of freedom.
Sites on the Trail include the Amistad Memorial, New Haven; Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford; Joshua Hempsted House, New London; Mystic Seaport, where the freedom schooner Amistad is under construction through 1999; and Prudence Crandell House, Canterbury, New England’s first school for African-American women.
Another site, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford houses the Amistad Foundation’s African American Collection of over 6,000 art objects, posters, broadsides, photos, books and memorabilia that evidence the many contributions of African-Americans to American culture. The Fleet Gallery of African-American Art further illuminates the role of African-American artists in American art and culture.
Free brochures with Freedom Trail routes and history are available from the Connecticut Historical Commission/860-566-3005. Auto Tour Tapes, a set of four cassettes, are available from the Amistad Committee, P.O. Box 2936, New Haven CT 06515/203-387-0370; $19.95 plus $4.50 shipping, six percent tax.
There are so many historic homes throughout the state, this is merely a sampling, ranging form 17th to early 20th century architecture and furnishings. More are listed in the Connecticut Vacation Guide, available by calling 1-800-CT-BOUND (282-6863).
- Deacon John Grave House, Madison (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Flyer House, Windsor (North Central)
- Hempsted Houses, New London (Mystic & More)
- Henry Whitfield State Museum, Guilford (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Allis-Bushnell House & Museum, Madison (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Butler-McCook Homestead, Hartford (Greater Hartford)
- Cheney Homestead, Manchester (Greater Hartford)
- Denison Homestead, Mystic (Mystic & More)
- Hatheway House, Suffield (North Central)
- Holly-Williams House, Lakeville (Litchfield Hills)
- Martha A. Parsons House, Enfield (North Central)
- Ogden House & Gardens, Fairfield (Coastal Fairfield)
- Pardee-Morris House, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
- Salmon Brook Settlement, Granby (North Central)
- Sarah Whitman Hooker Homestead, West Hartford (Greater Hartford)
- Stanley-Whitman House, Farmington (Greater Hartford)
- Thankful Arnold House, Haddam (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Wethersfield, including Webb-Deane-Stevens Houses, Buttolph-Williams House and more (Greater Hartford)
- Barnes Museum, Southington (Central)
- Hicks-Stearns Museum, Tolland (Greater Hartford)
- Osborne Homestead, Derby (Greater New Haven)
- Solomon Rockwell House, Winsted (Litchfield Hills)
- RESOURCE: There are Historical Societies in many villages and towns throughout the state, and some offer guided walking tours. Numerous listings can be found in the Connecticut Vacation Guide, available by calling 1-800-CT-BOUND (282-6863).
- Barnum Museum, Bridgeport (Coastal Fairfield): Memorabilia from the life of P.T. Barnum and the Greatest Show on Earth
- Comstock, Ferre & Co., Wethersfield (Greater Hartford): National Historic Landmark is the oldest continuously operating seed store in the U.S., a source of heritage varieties.
- Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford (Greater Hartford): Continuously changing exhibits on social, political, historic subjects.
- Eli Whitney Museum, Hamden (Greater New Haven): Inventing Change is the theme of the Whitney site.
- Glebe House, Woodbury (Litchifled Hills): 18th century gambrel-roof farmhouse with period furnishings was the birthplace of the Episcopal Church; also features the only extant Gertrude Jekyll garden in the U.S.
- Hartford Ancient Burying Ground, Hartford (Greater Hartford): Final resting place of Thomas Hooker and the founders of Hartford, plus Revolutionary War soldiers and settlers.
- Keeler Tavern Museum, Ridgefield (Housatonic Valley): A British cannonball from the 1777 Battle of Ridgefield is embedded in the furnished tavern’s exterior; costumed guides lead tours.
- Leffingwell House, Norwich (Mystic & More): Home of early industrialist was a meeting place for patriots during Revolutionary War.
- Living Museum of Avon, Avon (Greater Hartford): Restored 19th century schoolhouse tells history of life along the Farmington Canal.
- Lock 12 Historical Park, Cheshire (Central): Restored section of Farming Canal with lockkeeper’s house, helicoidal bridge.
- Merwinsville Hotel, Gaylordsville (Litchfield Hills): 1843 hotel with museum rooms, RR waiting station, wine cellar memorabilia.
- Museum of Connecticut History, Hartford (Greater Hartford): State collections include 1662 Royal Charter, Colt firearms.
- Nathan Hale Homestead, Coventry (Northeast): Family home of Connecticut state hero reflects lifestyle of America’s first citizens.
- N.E. States Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, Stafford Springs (North Central): Tools, equipment and photos of CCC campsites, Work and recreation.
- Noah Webster House, West Hartford (Greater Hartford): 18th century Webster family farmhouse; first editions of Blue-Backed Speller and American Dictionary.
- Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine, East Granby (North Central): America’s first chartered copper mine and state’s first colonial prison, used by Continental Congress to House Loyalists; mine tour, exhibits.
- Old State House, Hartford (Greater Hartford): America’s oldest statehouse, newly restored; site of country’s first written constitution.
- Old Tolland County Jail Museum & 1893 Warden’s Home, Tolland (Greater Hartford): Original stone-celled stronghold, warden’s home.
- Phelps Tavern Museum & Homestead, Simsbury (Greater Hartford): Period rooms and interactive exhibition galleries show the use of the historic Capt. Elisha Phelps house as an inn from 1786 to 1849.
- Putnam Cottage, Greenwich (Coastal Fairfield): Meeting place of Revolutionary War leaders including Israel Putnam.
- Revolutionary War Office, Lebanon (Northeast): The Council of Safety used this store to plan supply lifeline for Revolutionary War troops.
- Shaw Mansion, New London (Mystic & More): Connecticut’s naval War Office during Revolutionary War. Guided tours with emphasis on West Indies trade and local history.
- Solomon Goffe House, Meriden (River Valley & Shoreline): Gambrel-roofed 1711 living history museum with costumed interpreters.
- Tapping Reeve House & Law School, Litchfield (Litchfield Hills): America’s first law school, recently restored, offers period furnishings; graduates included Aaron Burr, John C. Calhoun, 130 members of Congress.
- American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol (Litchfield Hills)
- Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum, Cheshire (Central)
- Carousel Museum of New England, Bristol (Litchfield Hills)
- Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum, Windsor (North Central)
- Farm Implement Museum, Bloomfield (North Central)
- Kerosene Lamp Museum & Lighting Emporium, Winchester Center (Litchfield Hills)
- Lock Museum of America, Terryville (Litchfield Hills)
- Menczer Museum of Medicine & Dentistry, Hartford (Greater Hartford)
- Museum of American Political Life, West Hartford (Greater Hartford)
- New Britain Industrial Museum, New Britain (Central)
- New England Carousel Museum, Bristol and Mystic (Litchfield Hells/Mystic & More)
- Special Joys Doll & Toy Museum, Coventry (Northeast)
- Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
- Black Rock Fort/Fort Nathan Hale, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
- Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park, Groton (Mystic & More)
- Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum, Groton (Mystic & More)
- Iwo Jima Memorial Monument, New Britain (Central)
- Military Museum of Southern New England, Danbury (Housatonic Valley)
- Museum of the Fife and Drum, Ivoryton (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Purple Heart Museum, Enfield (North Central)
- Salisbury Cannon Museum, Lakeville (Litchfield Hills)
- U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London (Mystic & More)
- LANDMARK: Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic (Mystic & More): Indoor and outdoor maritime museum tells the story of America and the sea in a re-created 19th century village with working craftspeople. Board historic ships at shipyard. Maritime art collections and artifacts, changing exhibits, educational programs and seasonal events.
- Connecticut River Museum, Essex (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, South Norwalk (Coastal Fairfield)
- New London Maritime 1833 Robert Mills U.S. Custom House Museum, New London (Mystic & More)
- Old Lighthouse Museum, Stonington (Mystic & More)
- RESOURCE: The Connecticut Vacation Guide
- LANDMARK: Subert Performing Arts Center, New Haven (Greater New Haven): Extensive tours are offered of this legendary performing arts center, including backstage, dressing rooms, graffiti walls with performers’ autographs.
- ONE-OF-A-KIND: National Theatre of the Deaf, Chester (River Valley & Shoreline): Award-winning ensemble performs in sign and spoken language.
- Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford (Mystic & More)
- Hartford Stage Company, Hartford (Greater Hartford)
- Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
- Rich Forum, Stamford (Coastal Fairfield)
- Westport Country Playhouse, Westport (Coastal Fairfield)
- Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
Regional theater (often seasonal)
- Brookfield Playhouse, Brookfield (Housatonic Valley)
- Clockwork Repertory Theatre, Oakville (Waterbury Region)
- Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Storrs (Northeast)
- Gateway’s Candlewood Playhouse, New Fairfield (Housatonic Valley)
- Hole in the Wall Theater, New Britain (Central)
- Ivoryton Playhouse-The River Rep, Ivoryton (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater, Middletown (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Maxwell Anderson Playwright Series, Greenwich (Coastal Fairfield)
- Playreaders Theatre of Waterbury, Waterbury (Waterbury Region)
- Polka Dot Playhouse, Harbor Place-Bridgeport, Opens 1999 (Coastal Fairfield)
- Puppet House Theatre, Stony Creek (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury (Waterbury Region)
- Sherman Playhouse, Sherman (Housatonic Valley)
- Stamford Theatre Works, Stamford (Coastal Fairfield)
- TheaterWorks, Hartford (Greater Hartford)
- White Barn Theatre, Westport (Coastal Fairfield)
- Wilton Playshop, Wilton (Coastal Fairfield)
- Yale Summer Cabaret, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
Additional repertory groups perform seasonally: check local listings.
- EVENT: Music Mountain, Falls Village (Litchfield Hills): America’s oldest continuing summer chamber music festival on 120 acres.
- EVENT: Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Norfolk (Litchfield Hills): The Music Shed at the Stoeckel Estate has been the site of renowned performances every summer and fall for decades.
- LANDMARK: Bushnell Memorial Hall, Hartford (Greater Hartford): Tours highlight the early history, artistic interior and past performances of the important theatric venue.
- LANDMARK: Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam (River Valley & Shoreline): Historic 1876 Victorian gem on the Connecticut River offers backstage tours; preserves the American musical as an art form.
- Centennial Theater Festival, Simsbury (Greater Hartford)
- Charles Ives Center for the Arts, Danbury (Housatonic Valley)
- Connecticut Children’s Dance Theatre, Watertown (Waterbury Region)
- Garde Arts Center, New London (Mystic & More)
- Goodspeed at Chester/Norma Terris Theatre, Chester (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts, Westport (Coastal Fairfield)
- Lyman Center for the Performing Arts, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
- Music Theatre of Connecticut, Westport (Coastal Fairfield)
- Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Opera Theater of Connecticut, Clinton (River Valley & Shoreline)
- Palace Performing Arts Center, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
- Palace Theatre, Stamford (Coastal Fairfield)
- Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield (Coastal Fairfield)
- Rich Forum, Stamford (Coastal Fairfield)
- Summer Music at Harkness, Waterford (Mystic & More)
- The Meadows Music Theater, Hartford (Greater Hartford)
- Thomaston Opera House, Thomaston (Waterbury Region)
- Westport Art Center, Westport (Coastal Fairfield)
For a free Connecticut Vacation Kit call:
1-888-CT-VISIT, 1-888-288-4748 (net)