East Hartford is a residential and industrial town on the Connecticut River, where Hartford’s skyline comes into view.
It’s just over five minutes across Founders Bridge from another downtown, so many of the best local activities can be found just a few miles west of Hartford.
But East Hartford does have a few places to recommend, especially the gorgeous Wickham Park, which is embroidered with ornamental gardens.
The town’s largest employer is aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney, which has a museum showcasing its high-tech afterburner jets and turbines that powered major World War II aircraft.
1. Wickham Park
This wonderful park on the east side of town is maintained by a nonprofit foundation that charges a small fee for cars ($5 Monday-Friday, $7 on weekends). It costs a small amount of money to visit this mosaic of different gardens, including Wetland Gardens, Lotus Gardens, Oriental Gardens, English Gardens, Botanical Gardens and Scottish Gardens, to name a few.
The formal cottage garden is located at the highest point of the park and delights with its exciting west-facing Hartford views.
In addition to ornamental gardens, Wickham Park is a recreational venue with trails, an 18-hole disc golf course, five tennis courts, two softball diamonds and horseshoe pits.
There is also an aviary, home to great horned owls, red-tailed eagles and turkey bald eagles, and a museum/nature center where you can learn about the flora and fauna of the area and learn about the Wickham family who donated this item The old manor in 1967.
2. Dahe Park
In East Hartford’s Great River Park, there are two miles of brightly lit riverfront surrounded by trees and meadows.
People cross the Founders Bridge or Charter Oak Bridge to enjoy Hartford’s cityscape from the East Bank, but there are many other reasons.
Big River Park has fascinating outdoor sculptures, food trucks make frequent stops, and on Thursday nights in the summer, the 350-seat amphitheater hosts a series of concerts featuring soul, Latin rhythms and rock classics.
On a typical day, you can go for a jog or use the fitness station, or just hop into Hartford for coffee or takeout, followed by a picnic by the water.
3. Pratt & Whitney Hangar Museum
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can tour the hangar on the Pratt & Whitney campus to see a range of engines from the company’s early days to the 21st century.
On top of that is the F135 afterburner turbofan engine used in the all-new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
Aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh was employed by Pratt & Whitney during World War II, and you can check out the desk where he worked during this time.
Among the various piston engines of the interwar and WWII era was an R-1340 Wasp that powered the record flights of Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post, and an R-2800 Twin Wasp that was used in some U.S. The most important aircraft of the war, such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
In addition to this, there are many jet engines, and interesting prototypes that never went into mass production.
In East Hartford, you’ll be drawn to the big city across the river.
Hartford, like its neighbors on the water, has a reputation for being gritty, but offers the dining, culture, and entertainment you want in a big city center.
Hartford, dominated by the insurance industry, was the wealthiest city in the United States in the last decades of the 19th century.
Mark Twain was a resident at the time, and his Gothic mansion in the west of the city was hailed as one of the world’s best writer’s house museums.
Broadway musicals, top musical artists and world-renowned comedians take the stage at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.
The park has outdoor performances, namesakes, and is the oldest public park in the United States.
Bushnell Park has a gorgeous carousel that has turned the strings of the Wurlitzer organ from 1914.
5. Wadsworth Athena
The mythical Wadsworth Temple in Hartford is the oldest public art museum in the United States, dating back to 1844 when it was founded by Daniel Wadsworth, the son of one of Hartford’s wealthiest men.
The collection has grown for over 160 years and is both vast and eclectic.
Its strengths lie in Italian Baroque painting, 20th-century Surrealist art, work from the Hudson River School, and American Modernism by the likes of Georgia O’Keefe and Marsden Hartley.
Browsing the gallery, masterpieces by Caravaggio, Renoir, Joan Miro, Magritte, Max Ernst, Derbyshire’s Joseph Wright and more will give you pause.
The museum’s collection of decorative arts is also astounding, including Chinese, Meissen, Vincent, Sèvres, and Chinese porcelain, Italian majolica, English silver, Venetian glass, and a wealth of pre-Columbian pottery.
Check out the Art and Curiosities Cabinet, which showcases about 200 objects in the style of the Early Modern European Curiosities.
6. Connecticut Science Center
Crossing the Founders Bridge, the first big attraction you’ll come to is the Connecticut Science Center, with nine floors of hands-on and educational fun.
There are over 165 creative exhibits on sight and sound, power, engineering principles, space exploration, Earth, human health, and more.
KidSpace is an exciting play area for kids under 7, with blocks and water experiments, while in the inventive dimension, kids can build LEGO masterpieces and race robots.
There’s a butterfly encounter on Level 4 of the Tropical Greenhouse, then head up to the Motion Lab for the science behind professional-level performances, while Energy City is all about renewable energy and green living.
You can also watch performances in the museum’s 3D theater, which has a 9 x 12 meter screen and an 18,000-watt Dolby sound system.
7. Renzler Stadium
The home of the UConn football team is a 40,000-capacity stadium that opened in 2003. UConn Huskies competes in the NCAA Division I FBS (American Athletic Conference), the highest level of college football in the United States.
From the end of August to the end of November, you can watch regular-season games against college football giants like the Houston Cougars and Memphis Tigers.
The benefit of the Huskies being one of the smaller teams in the conference is that games at Rentschler Field are rarely sold out.
But, despite that, a whole bunch of Huskies have made it to the NFL, like the Dallas Cowboys’ Byron Jones.
The U.S. women’s and men’s national soccer teams occasionally play games at Rentschler Field, and there is a range of events in the summer, including fairs and fun runs.
8. Baymont House, Macons
Makens Bemont House is one of a group of historic buildings next to Martin Park, owned by the East Hartford Historical Society and built in 1761. Spanning five bays, with clapboard cladding and a duplex roof broken by three skylights, the property has been preserved internally as an 18th and 19th century residence.
The floors are pine planks, and the northwest room has a Federal-style mantel and some Greek Revival.
The house was relocated about 800 meters along Burnside Avenue in 1971 and is now open for occasional visits in spring and summer.
9. Martin Park
In this local park, you can see other small ensembles of the East Hartford Historical Society.
This includes Burnham Smithy (1850) and Goodwin Schoolhouse (1821). The park itself is well cared for and has a basketball court, baseball field, soccer field, an outdoor swimming pool and playgrounds for toddlers and older kids.
If you just want to hang out, there are also open green spaces framed by hardwood trees.
10. East Hartford Golf Club
Any avid golfer eager to play in East Hartford will find a very functional course across the road from Wickham Park.
East Hartford Golf Club’s 18-hole par-72 course should be forgiving to novices, but it does present some challenges, such as the lush tree cover and small greens close to the fairways.
Most fairways are simple, with the exception of fairway 12, which has a dramatic dogleg line.
Prices are very economical at $21 for 18 holes per week and $28 for weekends.
Tavern on the Green in the clubhouse is the place to unwind after a long game, with a tempting menu of apps, salads, burgers, wraps and sandwiches.
11. Old State Capitol, Connecticut
While you’re in downtown Hartford, you can make a pilgrimage to the place where Connecticut democracy was born.
The exterior of the Old State Capitol (1796) has been restored to its Federalist style and is considered the first major project of the acclaimed architect Charles Bullfinch.
The lower level is constructed of Connecticut brownstone, while the upper two levels are brick and have a white porch, balustrade and dome.
For $6, you’ll gain access to a striking museum, the Governor’s Office, the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives, and a historic treasure chest.
The museum has many interactive exhibits and artifacts, such as Mark Twain’s bicycle, a fragment of Hartford’s famous Charter Oak (destroyed by a storm in 1856), and a 1912 fire engine. calf.
12. Mortensen Riverside Plaza and Sculpture Walk
The Hartford side of the Connecticut River has been revived over the past 20 years with a project connecting the West Bank to downtown Hartford.
At Mortensen Riverfront Plaza, there are grassy patios for outdoor performances and a marina that lets you ride the Lady Katharine on a themed cruise program along the Connecticut River.
Just north of Founders Bridge is Sculpture Walk, which came together in the 2000s.
Sixteen works of public art by famous sculptors including Don Gummer and Bruno Lucchese, all dedicated to the life of Abraham Lincoln, have been erected along the water’s edge, along with interpretive plaques.
13. Dunkin’ Donut Park
Hartford hasn’t had a top professional team since the NHL’s Whalers departed for North Carolina in 1997.
But in 2016, when minor league baseball team the New Britain Rock Cats switched to Hartford to become the Yard Goats, the city’s sports world got a shot in the arm.
A compact but immaculately constructed stadium was built for them at the 6,121-capacity Dunkin’ Donuts Park, helping to rebuild a neglected part of the city north of I-84. The court has a brick exterior to help it fit in with the school building across Pleasant Street, and there are windows along Trumbull Street that give you direct views of the home’s bullpen and the fields behind it.
The Yard Goats is a Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, so you’ll get to witness some of the young talents destined to be at the very best in baseball.
14. The Promenade Shop at Evergreen Walk
Just northeast of town off I-84 is a cluster of malls, large independent stores, drive-thru and sit-down restaurants all on top of the hill.
The most refined of these is the Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk, an outdoor mall set on a winding sidewalk lined with brands such as Banana Republic, Gap, Sephora, Clarks, LL Bean, New Balance, Pottery Barn and L’Occitane , just to get you started.
Moments from the Plaza and The Shoppes in Buckland Hills, with department stores such as Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as restaurants such as Red Robin, Olive Garden, Five Guys and LongHorn Steakhouse.
You can spend a good night watching a movie at Cinemark Studios, which has an IMAX screen.
15. Gilman Hayden House
Continue to the north end of East Hartford Avenue and you’ll come to a small historic landmark in the rural/uptown area.
Gilman-Hayden House is a private residence that has stood since 1784 and had some distinguished occupants at the time.
The Williams family lived here until the mid-19th century, and is best known as William Williams (1731-1811) who signed the Declaration of Independence.
In 1867, Edward Hayden, who became famous for the diaries he kept during and after the Civil War, lived on the property.
The building is Georgian, covered in clapboards, and spans five bays.