Hartford Introduction Walking Tour, Hartford

Hartford Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Hartford

Hartford, Connecticut is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Founded in 1635, this capital city of Connecticut has a long and storied history. The city offers a multitude of museums, a booming art scene, interesting architecture and excellence in cuisine.

The area where Hartford now sits was once home to Algonquins. More specifically, it was inhabited by the Massacoes, Podunks, Poquonocks, Saukiog, Tunxis and Wangunks. Dutch settlers, followed soon after by the English, laid claim to the land in the early 17th century. It was first called Hartford by Samuel Stone, who named the area after his home of Hertford, England.

Hartford is known as being instrumental to the founding of the United States. The Charter Oak in the city was where the Connecticut's Royal Charter of 1662 was hidden. A monument to that Charter Oak still stands today. It is also thought by some historians that a sermon delivered in Hartford by Thomas Hooker inspired the Connecticut Constitution, and then later the United States Constitution.

Today, people visit Hartford to take in some of the historical landmarks and museums. Bushnell Park is a centrally located park that is popular with locals and tourists alike. Other nearby landmarks include the Ancient Burying Ground, Center Church and the State Capitol building. Take this self guided walking tour to explore the top attractions in Hartford.
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Hartford Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Hartford Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Hartford (See other walking tours in Hartford)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: Caroline
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museum of Connecticut History
  • Connecticut State Capitol
  • Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch
  • Bushnell Park
  • Butler-McCook Homestead
  • Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
  • The Travelers Tower
  • First Church of Christ and Ancient Burying Ground
  • Old State House
Museum of Connecticut History

1) Museum of Connecticut History

The Museum of Connecticut History gives visitors insight into the earliest days of the state. Patrons can see exhibits such as the Freedom Trail Quilt Project, the Mitchelson Coin Collection and the world famous collection of Colt firearms.

This museum pays homage to World War I with a model of the USS Connecticut, service medals and other artifacts from the Great War. Historic documents at the Museum of Connecticut History include the original royal charter from 1662, the Fundamental Orders from 1639 and the state constitutions that date to the 19th century. There is also a small art gallery that is part of its permanent exhibitions.

This museum is a great place to spend an hour or an afternoon. The museum is located in the Connecticut State Library, which is located across the street from the state capitol. There is no charge for patrons, but donations are accepted through the Connecticut Heritage Foundation.

The museum is located near several areas of interest, such as the state capitol, Bushnell Performing Arts Center and Columbus Green. You do not need to make an appointment to visit the Museum of Connecticut History, so you may choose to squeeze this visit in as time permits while planning other tours.
Connecticut State Capitol

2) Connecticut State Capitol (must see)

The 20 foot tall dome of the Connecticut State Capitol is a sight to behold. Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours or enjoy a tour led by one of the experts who are well versed in the history and architecture of this magnificent building.

Self-guided tours may be conducted at any time that the building is open. Those large groups wanting a guided tour should contact the Capitol in advance to arrange a time. Groups of up to 30 people can attend each tour. Smaller groups can arrive at the visitor desk and request to join a tour, but this is not guaranteed.

The capitol, located in Bushnell Park, dates to 1878. It contains a number of elaborate stained glass windows, sculptures and statues. It is a working building. Therefore, visitors are asked to remain quiet while admiring the building and its many fascinating features.

A statue that visitors must see is the Genius of Connecticut. This bronze and plaster statue was crafted in 1878 by Randolph Rogers. She is said to symbolize the spirit of the people of Connecticut.

The Hall of Flags, in the west wing of the Capitol, holds historic state flags and battle flags from the Civil War. The Hall of Flags is also home to a statue of William A. Buckingham, who was the governor of the state during the Civil War.

Other artifacts to look for at the Capitol are the bed that formerly belonged to the Marquis de Lafayette, the tombstone of Israel Punam and the Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon.

Why You Should Visit:
The Capitol allows visitors a unique perspective into the state. They can see the history of Connecticut while also experiencing present-day governing. Guided tours may be worth the extra effort as they can take visitors to places they might not otherwise reach.

Visiting the State Capitol is both educational and economical. Entry into the building and the tours are free.

Take time to look around while exploring the Capitol. There are important and interesting details hiding in the rugs, wall hangings and even the ceiling.

Food and drink is not allowed while touring the Capitol, but visitors can purchase meals at the on-site cafeteria. There is also a small gift shop on the first floor.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch

3) Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch is located within Bushnell Park. This structure was erected to pay honor to those 400 Connecticut soldiers and sailors who died during the United States Civil War. It dedicated in 1886 on the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

The Arch includes a plaque that honors the 128 African American Connecticut residents that fought for the Union. It also features four statues that represent different vital trades of the time: the mason, the carpenter, the blacksmith and the farmer.

Guided tours of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch are available for free from May through October. Visitors to Bushnell Park are welcome to explore the Arch at any time.

The Arch is the final resting place of its architect George Keller and his wife Mary. The ashes of George and Mary were buried in the east tower after they died in 1935 and 1946, respectively.
Bushnell Park

4) Bushnell Park (must see)

Bushnell Park is a hub of activity for visitors to Hartford. It is also the oldest publicly funded park in the country. Tourists could easily spend a full day at this centrally located, historic park area. Plan to visit some of the sites, go to a special event or simply stroll around the park for a carefree, relaxing day.

Attractions at Bushnell Park are varied and include the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch and the State Capitol. Visitors can walk around the park and enjoy a number of statues as well as the 30-foot tall Corning Fountain.

A popular activity in Bushnell Park is the Tree Walk. Over 150 different types of trees, both native and rare, can be seen throughout the park. Free brochures are available to guide guests as they explore.

The Spanish-American War Memorial was dedicated in 1927. The statue, also known as the Spirit of Victory, honors residents of Hartford who fought in the war.

The Performance Pavilion at Bushnell Park has a 3,200 square foot stage where concerts, plays and dance performances are regularly held. Visitors may be able to enjoy a jazz performance, take a yoga class or experience one of the area's many festivals.

Children will enjoy the Bushnell Park Carousel and accompanying playground. The historic carousel was built in 1914. The wooden horses have been painstakingly restored to retain their original grandeur. The playground was created to mimic the surrounding area in style, including a climbing structure inspired by the Connecticut State Capitol.

Why You Should Visit:
Bushnell Park is located near much of the activity in Hartford, making it an easy spot to explore while in the city for business or pleasure. The large number of free activities ensure that visitors will not over-spend while enjoying a day appreciating nature, history and art.

Bring a jacket! The vast majority of activities are outdoors, which can get chilly even during summer.
Butler-McCook Homestead

5) Butler-McCook Homestead

The Butler-McCook Homestead is a historic landmark in Hartford that is not to be missed. This is one of the city's few surviving 18th-century homes that has been preserved to showcase the architecture of the 1700s and its further progression through the ages.

The 2-1/2 story house stands on about 2 acres of land, part of which is taken by formal gardens created by landscape architect Jacob Weidenman, the principal designer of Hartford's Bushnell Park. The main house was built in 1782 for Dr. Daniel Butler, a physician who kept his consulting room here.

Prior to becoming a museum, the house remained in the hands of Butler descendants for almost two centuries. Its furnishings and decorative items ranged from the Colonial through the Victorian eras.

Also part of the Butler-McCook Homestead grounds is the Main Street History Center, recounting Hartford's history with the Witnesses on Main Street exhibition, which is open for a self-guided tour.

Visitors who arrange a tour in advance will be taken on a unique and educational journey. After perusing the house, visitors can enjoy the gardens on their own. Those who time their visit just right may be able to take in an outdoor, evening concert or attend a lecture.

Cost is $12 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 18. All tours must be arranged in advance. Please call (860) 247-8996.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

6) Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (must see)

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is beautiful both inside and out. The museum was founded in 1842, making it the oldest continually operating public museum in the country. Many of the items in the museums collection were donated by notable individuals including Elizabeth Jarvis Colt, John Pierpont Morgan and the family of Daniel Wadsworth.

Visitors can view rotating exhibits or enjoy the museum's permanent collection. The Wadsworth hosts European art, American art, contemporary art and costumes. Pieces from Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Monet, Ernst, Picasso, Manet and Gauguin are among those in the European collection.

Featured American and contemporary artists include Thomas Cole, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Winslow Homer, Norman Rockwell, Georgia O'Keeffe and Andrew Wyeth, among others. Arguably its most famed piece is the "Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776" by John Trumbull.

Special events are regularly held at the Wadsworth. These include guided tours, family tours, comedic performances and art lectures. Free admission to the museum and most events is available, though advance reservations are required.

The Wadsworth contains a gift shop and bistro. It is wise to call ahead to ensure the bistro is open on the day you plan to attend.
The Travelers Tower

7) The Travelers Tower

Once the seventh tallest building in the world, the Travelers Tower is a 34 story, 527 foot skyscraper in downtown Hartford. Though the tower serves as a headquarters for Travelers Insurance Company it is available to select visitors with invitation from employees in the building. Those lucky few can take in the views from the 27th floor observation deck.

Visitors to the observation deck will be able to look over the Ancient Burial Ground, Stone Field Sculpture and portions of Bushnell Park. The panoramic view allows tourists to see a number of government buildings and small public green spaces like Pulaski Circle and State House Square.

Even those who cannot enter the tower can marvel at the architecture while they stroll through Tower Square.

Travelers Tower is located between the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Connecticut's Old State House. It is also near the Connecticut Science Center. A visit to Travelers Tower is an excellent way to break up a trip that is centered around learning about the state's history.
First Church of Christ and Ancient Burying Ground

8) First Church of Christ and Ancient Burying Ground (must see)

The oldest church in Hartford was the First Church of Christ, founded by Thomas Hooker in 1636. The building itself was erected in 1807 as a tribute to Hooker, who is known as the Father of Connecticut.

Visitors cannot enter the church as it remains locked when services are not in session. However, exploring the exterior of the the First Church of Christ shows a stunning structure that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Lovers of architecture will recognize the Classical Revival design that was based off of the Church of Saint Martin in London.

The Ancient Burying Ground is the oldest historic site in Hartford. Visitors can walk through the grounds during daylight hours where they will observe gravestones dating to 1640. Interred at the Ancient Burying Ground are Thomas Hooker, founder of Connecticut; colonial governors William Leete and Joseph Talcott; English Royal Colonial Governor, John Haynes; and Jeremiah Wadsworth, delegate to the Continental Congress from Connecticut.

Tourists can guide themselves around the church and burying ground or they can sign up for a guided tour. The gates are open every day between 9AM and 5PM unless weather causes disruption. It is an excellent location for an easy, yet meaningful trip to the past.

Thanks to the central location, the First Church of Christ and Ancient Burying Ground are perfect choices for all visitors to the city. They are only blocks from the Connecticut River and Constitution Plaza. Both are accessible by a short walk from Bushnell Park.

Why You Should Visit:
Any lover of history should not let a trip to Hartford pass without a visit to the Ancient Burying Ground. As it is the oldest structure of its type in the state, there is no substitution for this solemn, yet meaningful visit.

Plan the trip to the First Church of Christ and Ancient Burying Ground around any trips to Bushnell Park. It is a short distance and well worth the walk. There is no charge for the outdoor, self-guided visit.
Old State House

9) Old State House (must see)

Connecticut's Old State House is a downtown building that is a marriage of yesterday and today. The Old State House was completed in 1796 where it was used for government affairs. Over the years it has served a number of different purposes, including as a site for conventions, trials, museums and, currently, a popular farmer's market. In 1839, the start of the Amistad trial was held there.

The Old State House has a reputation for being haunted, which makes it a must-see for those who enjoy all things macabre. It has even appeared on an episode of the paranormal investigation show "Ghost Hunters."

In addition to its haunted history, the third floor of the Old State House is home to the Joseph Steward Museum of Curiosities. Joseph Steward began collecting these curiosities in the late 18th century and added to them throughout his life. Some of the items include a calf with two heads, a pig with two heads, over-sized animals and machinery with unknown uses.

The Farmers Market is the oldest of its kind in the state. Those who are lucky enough to be visiting on a Tuesday or Friday can attend the open air market where they will find farmers, artisans and even manufactured goods. A holiday shopping fair is also held at the state house during the holiday season.

Tours can be self-guided or led by volunteers. The Old State House features hands-on activities that can be enjoyed by all members of the family. Fun historic items, like Mark Twain's bicycle, are offered here as well.

Why You Should Visit:
Connecticut's Old State House has something for everyone. The low cost of admission and the wide number of activities make the Old State House a must-see.

Cost to visit the Old State House is $8 for adults, $4 for students and children under the age of five are free. Those planning to visit Connecticut's Old State House should call first to make sure the building is open.

Walking Tours in Hartford, Connecticut

Create Your Own Walk in Hartford

Create Your Own Walk in Hartford

Creating your own self-guided walk in Hartford is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
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Among these jewels is Armsmear, a historic mansion originally built for Samuel Colt, the famed inventor...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Hartford's Historical Houses Tour

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Visiting old houses is like treasure hunting, where you are bound to uncover secrets of the former owners. Hartford was once home to well-known historic figures, whose abodes today have been converted into museums for future generations to explore.

Among these is the Mark Twain House, a former residence of the iconic American author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. This Victorian...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles