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November 26, 2011

Hartford, Connecticut With Kids

by Anne Paddock

Navigating and figuring out how to entertain kids in a city is always a challenge.  Harford, Connecticut has five great places to take kids:

  • The Connecticut Science Center
  • Mark Twain House and Museum
  • The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum
  • Bushnell Performing Arts Center
  • XL Center
The Connecticut Science Center

The Connecticut Science Center is an impressive 154,000 square foot $164 million building that includes 40,000 square feet of interactive science exhibits that will delight both kids and adults. Designed by architect Cesar Pelli, the Science Center opened in 2009 in downtown Hartford and is a great place to spend a day with children.

Full of natural light, the entrance to the museum has a glass enclosed atrium that reaches 143 feet.  The museum operates on 5 levels:

Level G: Garage level where there are four labs and a community room.

Level 1:  Lobby, 3-D Theater, Gift Shop, Cafe, and KidSpace (for 3-6 year olds)

Level 4:  Force in Motion, Sight and Sound Exploration, Traveling Exhibits

Level 5:  Exploring Space, Invention Dimension, Sports Lab, Picture of Health

Level 6:  Energy City, Planet Earth, River of Live, and Roof Garden

CT-Science-Cener-Flickr-VilseskogenThere are more than 150 hands on exhibits that will keep kids interested and busy all day. If they tire and need to sit and relax,  there are 3 different movies (Wild Oceans, Bugs, and Sea Rex until mid-December, 2011) shown in 3-D throughout the day (5 show times on weekdays, 6 show times on weekends) with the schedule available on-line. Ample parking is available in a 460-space 3 floor garage adjacent to the center. In addition, there is a garage across the street and several within a 2 block radius of the museum.

The museum is open from 10:00 – 5:00 everyday except Monday but during the summer, the museum is open seven days a week.  Tickets are $14-$17 with kids under 3 free.  Movie prices are $5 – $7 with discounts for museum/movie combo tickets.  Annual memberships start at $75 for one person, $105 for 2 persons, $135 for three persons, up to $285 for ten persons.

Connecticut Science Center
250 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, Connecticut 06103
Mark Twain House and Museum

The Mark Twain House and Museum (pictured below*) is a national historic landmark. Home of one of American’s greatest authors, Samuel Clement who is better known as Mark Twain, the 25 room Gothic home was where the author lived from 1874-1891. During those years, Mark Twain wrote some of his most famous books including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

800px-MarkTwainHartford2The visit begins with a continuous 20 minute movie that provides an overview of Mark Twain’s life. Across the hall is an exhibit of many of Mr. Twain’s personal items.  A guided tour then begins and is geared towards children 8 years and older, adults and anyone that can remember the thrill of first reading about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. The museum is open from 9:30 – 5:30 Monday to Saturday and from 12 noon to 5:30 on Sunday. Closed on major holidays and Tuesdays January – March.

The museum does an excellent job in programming special events, especially around Halloween (Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours), Christmas (Annual Holiday House Tours), and Mother’s Day (Princess Tea Parties). In addition, there is Tom Sawyer Day, the Annual Ice Cream Social, Sunday Jazz Brunch, readings, classes, and more.  See the website for a complete list and description of all the special events.

Ticket prices range from $6 – $16, with children under 6 free. Individual annual memberships are $50 and Household annual memberships are $75. There is a store and a cafe in the museum called Murasaki Cafe that is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 – 3:00.  The Ramen soup bowls are delicious, especially on a cold day.

The Mark Twain House
351 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, Connecticut 06105

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum

The Wadsworth is the largest museum (nearly 200,000 square feet) in the state of Connecticut and the oldest public museum (1844) in the country.  The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an extensive collection of impressionist paintings, Hudson River School landscapes, contemporary art, decorative arts, firearms, costumes, and textiles.

800px-Wadsworth_Atheneum,_Hartford,_ConnecticutOn the second Saturday of each month from 10:00 – 1:00, the Wadsworth offers a program appropriately called “The Second Saturdays for Families” with a different theme each month and free admission. There is always an art project, tours for children and activities that may include music, theater, film, and dance.  See the website for the calendar and programming description.

Free admission for children under 12 years of age.  Ticket prices are $5 for students and $10 for adults.  Annual memberships are $45 for individuals and $60 for households.  Parking is closest at the Front Street Garage at 105 Columbus Boulevard.  The museum is open Wed – Fri from 11:00 – 5:00, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 – 5:00 and the first Thursday of the month from 11:00 – 8:00 pm.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum
600 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103

Bushnell Performing Arts Center
Bushnell Performing Arts Center:  The Bushnell offers a wide variety of children’s programming in the 2011-2012 season including:
  • Breakfast with Santa
  • Cirque de Soleil
  • The Sleeping Beauty Ballet
  • Family Fun Day – Dragon Tales and Faerie Tales
  • The Gazillion Bubble Show
  • Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny
  • Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters
  • The Nutcracker
  • Peter Pan
  • Sesame Street Live
  • The House at Pooh Corner
  • The Little Red Hen
  • Wicked

See the website for complete list of programming, descriptions, and to purchase tickets.

The Bushnell Performing Arts Center
166 Capital Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

XL Center

The XL Center is an indoor sports and concert venue in downtown Hartford.  With ample parking connected to the building, the center offers a wide variety of hockey, basketball, and specialty programming that includes live Disney shows. Refer to the website for a complete list of programming and ticket prices.

XL Center
1 Civic Center Street
Hartford, CT 06120

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