Area Museum Itineraries for Families
The Hartford area is packed with world-class museums, all within a few miles of each other. Families can plan out itineraries for day trips while hitting multiple destinations—all for free thanks to the Connecticut Summer at the Museum initiative. These five popular museums would like to share how to plan a visit with littles: what to do and what to expect. From the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford to the Matt in Waterbury, here are some suggestions for arts-related, kid-friendly day trips to the museums up and down I-84.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
- Family Guides: Grab one of the Look! Family Guides in the galleries and use the questions inside to help you find details within works of art, including paintings by Salvador Dalí, and Georgia O’Keeffe, and make connections between what you see in the works of art and your own life. Available in English and Spanish, in the galleries and online.
- Family Audio Tour: Bring a smartphone or connected device and a pair of headphones to listen to this family friendly audio tour as you explore. Great for older kids!
- Cabinet of Art & Curiosity: Discover wonders of all kinds in the Cabinet of Art & Curiosity at the Wadsworth. There’s more to see than just what’s on the walls, open the drawers of the cabinets to explore the hidden treasures within. Once you’ve found your favorite objects, sit and play the interactive game on the touch screens to create your own cabinet and find out what type of collector you are.
- Second Saturdays for Families: Visit the Wadsworth on the second Saturday of the month of an afternoon of free family fun. From noon–2pm you’ll find artmaking activities, music, performances, and tours to join in on with a new theme each month. Admission is free during Second Saturdays for Families. Coming up on August 13, see how artist Naama Tsabar creates sculpture that is both a work of art and a musical instrument, design an instrument of your own, watch a presentation by our friends at the Connecticut Science Center as they unravel the mysteries behind sound, and find the Ice Cream for a Dream truck parked outside the museum for free ice cream while supplies last. Check thewadsworth.org for more information.
- Coloring pages: Print one of these coloring pages at home before you visit and bring it with you to the museum. Find that work of art on view in the galleries and see how your artwork compares!
- Tours for families: Explore the Wadsworth with other families led by one of the museum’s docents. Eyes on Art, recommended for ages twelve and under, is offered every second and fourth Saturday at 12:15 p.m.; and ABCs: Art, Books, Connections, recommended for ages six and under, is offered every second Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
- Outdoor sculpture: As you’re coming or going, don’t miss these larger-than-life works of art and a great opportunity for a family photo! On the front lawn you’ll find a portrait of Nathan Hale by Enoch Smith Woods, and two abstract sculptures: Tony Smith’s Amaryllis and Conrad Shawcross’ Monolith (Optic), plus Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus is right next door.
- Bushnell Park, Elizabeth Park: Venture out for a picnic lunch or moment of play to Bushnell Park, just a few blocks away, or take a short drive to Elizabeth Park in West Hartford to see the gardens in bloom.
Connecticut Historical Society
- Play and Picnic Outside: The grounds at the museum feature ample greenery and tons of space to run, as well as picnic tables for you to bring your own lunch and enjoy it in the shade.
- Making Connecticut is a colorful, interactive exhibit filled with more than 500 historic objects, images, and documents. Making Connecticut is the story of all the people of Connecticut, from the 1500s through today. Themes of daily life, clothing, transportation, sports and leisure, work, and social change run throughout the exhibit. Hands-on activities for kids (and adults!) include working a World War II assembly line, hand stenciling designs for a 19th-century chair, sewing a Native American moccasin, replacing bobbins in a textile mill, and cooking a meal and setting the table in both a colonial and a 1980s kitchen. Come be surprised, inspired, and amused as you explore our state’s past and your own place!
- The CHS offers FREE family activity booklets to encourage young visitors to explore different themes throughout the exhibition. These booklets are available in both English and Spanish and can be picked up at the front desk.
- Sensory bags are available for visitors with sensory sensitivities. These sensory kits contain industry-approved tools that will help families navigate our museum and are available at the front desk.
- You will also find indoor snacking space available for families who want to take a break, refuel, and regroup. This is the only space inside the museum where food and drink are allowed, but throughout the building, you will find varied types of seating throughout the building for tired feet.
- The museum facilities also include a separate family bathroom with a changing table.
- First Saturdays are always free at the Connecticut Historical Society and each month, we offer a fun family program (or related Grab and Go Bag) for families to play, learn, and celebrate the history of Connecticut.
- From the Porch: Our outdoors performing arts series (calendar), now in its third year, offers performances that are family-friendly and fun for everyone in attendance. For the families who love classical music, we will be welcoming the Ballard Chamber Collective, a quartet comprised of professional musicians, on August 10, 2022, at 6 p.m. For this event, tickets are $20 per person. Opera Connecticut will also be returning to Hill-Stead’s Sunken Garden with its cadre of talented sopranos, tenors, mezzos, and basses, on August 15, 2022, at 6 p.m., and tickets will also be $20 per person. Lastly, one of our most popular events amongst families by the dance company Pilobolus is also returning to Hill-Stead. This year they bring Pilobolus is a Fungus, an interactive performance for young audiences based on Branches, a site-specific dance piece commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow. In this show, the audience takes a journey through nature, perceiving the sounds, shapes, colors and movements of birds, water, trees, and of course, our namesake fungus, in new and unexpected ways. The performance will take place on September 9, 2022, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children under 12.
- Picnic: Hill-Stead is fortunate to have 152 acres of gardens and grounds. Our expansive property makes for the perfect spot for a family picnic with a beautiful natural backdrop. The grounds are open every day from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm and visiting is free to the public. Make sure to take advantage of this unique picnic spot while the warm weather lasts!
- RADICAL SPIRITS: Tarot, Automatism, and Feminist Histories by Hilma’s Ghost: Explore this exhibition with your family and immerse yourself in the world of the mystical and magical forces! Through this exhibition, the artists Dannielle Tegeder and Sharmistha Ray explore the creative, spiritual, and narrative potential of tarot, mediumship, and automatism in art-making. In this, they tap into the long-established but overlooked history of these practices at Hill-Stead. The exhibition is open during regular museum hours (Wed-Sun 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.).
New Britain Museum of American Art
- Stanley Black & Decker Makerspace: After being inspired by the art in the galleries, families can create their own work of art following a virtual art teacher in the Stanley Black & Decker Makerspace.
- Art & Book Nook: Families can stop by the Art & Book Nook in the Education wing to explore some art-related stories and make some memories with a hands-on art project.
- Scavenger Hunt: Ask the Front Desk for a scavenger hunt worksheet and add a special focus to your child’s visit through the galleries.
- Fun Benches: Visitors of all ages will love the unique benches located throughout the Museum. A crowd-favorite is the Grizzly Bear Bench, made by Judy Kensley McKie. It’s a sculpture your kids can not only touch but can sit on!
- Walnut Hill Park: The NBMAA’s location next to the historic Walnut Hill Park provides the perfect space for families to take a walk, have a picnic, or spend some time playing after a visit to the Museum.
- Outdoor Sculpture Garden: When visiting the NBMAA, spend some time outside strolling through the Sculpture Garden. Engage your children with a Sculpture Garden Family Guide filled with educational information about some of the sculptures, discussion questions for families, and drawing and coloring activities. The Sculpture Garden Family Guide can be found at the Front Desk or on our website.
- During your visit to The MATT, explore on your own with:
- Family Exploration Series (ages 3-13): During your visit, we invite families to participate in a hands-on art activity or journal writing prompt that expands on ideas and themes found in the galleries. Age-appropriate activities change monthly. Available Daily & Included with admission
- Continue your family adventure into the galleries with OnCell, our interactive app, including scavenger hunts, eye spy, journal prompts and more. Don’t have a smartphone or tablet? iPads are available to borrow at the Welcome Desk, ask our Visitor Services Associates for more details.
- Enjoy a hands-on experience in the newly reinstalled history gallery as you explore Waterbury: A City of Transitions including games, interactive panels, and discussion walls. Learn stories of important transitional moments in the City’s past. Waterbury’s history reveals how times of change created a city that adapted to persevere.
- Stay for lunch at Art of Yum Cafe @ The MATT featuring delicious family friendly menu items. Enjoy your lunch outside on the brand-new Rooftop Terrace which overlooks the historic Waterbury Green. Cafe is open daily from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Story Time @ The MATT (all ages) - Select Saturdays, 11 a.m. & Included with admission. During your visit, join us in the Studio for a fun story relating to one of our special exhibitions. You can even bring your favorite stuffie so they can listen too!
- Kids Art Workshops (ages 5+) - One Saturday per month, 11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Join an art educator in our classroom for hands-on activities and art-making relating to one of our special exhibitions.
- Museum Minis: Foundational Playtime (ages 0-3) - 3rd Saturday of the Month, 10–11 a.m. We invite our youngest explorers and their caregivers to meet in the Museum galleries for some art and history fun while practicing developmental, social, and mobility skills. A Museum Educator will facilitate 30 minutes of playtime in the galleries with an opportunity to mingle with other parents and caregivers, followed by a 15-minute themed story and a small art activity.