Today, science lets children as young as 7 years old stand in the eye of a hurricane and fly over the surface of Mars—at least at the Connecticut Science Center. The multi-sensory Science Center encourages all ages to explore the exciting side of natural and man-made phenomena. Whether they're braving gale-force winds in the hurricane simulator or engaging with exotic critters in the live animal touch tank, visitors play an active role in the Science Center's more than 165 hands-on exhibits. In the Sight and Sound Experience, adventurers feel sound vibrations, experiment with lasers and movement, and see themselves in 360 degrees, whereas Planet Earth encourages them to probe for fossils in a real seabed core. Exploring Space journeys outside the atmosphere with moon rocks and an up-close visit to a black hole, before Invention Dimension, which features LEGOs, returns to Earth so that fledgling engineers can build their own amazing structure and test Rube Goldberg-style machines without calculating the effects of zero gravity.
Recently, the Science Center welcomed its newest resident: a sound-equipped animatronic dilophosaurus, whose reptilian movements and noises recreate the goosebumps felt during the species' starring role in Jurassic Park. Robotics also plays a central role in Forces in Motion, which introduces the fundamentals of engineering and design by letting visitors shoot a basket with the help of an enormous robot. The Science Center's dedication to machine life also extends to its programs with a summer teen robotics program and camps during school vacations.
Beyond the permanent exhibits, the museum is also a frequent stop for headline-grabbing traveling exhibits from around the country. The Science Center also houses learning areas suited to its smaller guests: in KidSpace, ages 3–6 splash in a water play area, experiment with a wall of magnetic balls, and test their object recognition in searching activities designed by I Spy author Walter Wick. Other child-friendly areas include Critter Corner, Lunar Lander, and Tiny Town—the latter consisting of giant foam building blocks. Beyond the exhibits, a state-of-the-art 3D digital theater screens science-focused films, and four educational labs host special programs such as summer exploration camps and professional development for educators. On-site Subway and FroyoWorld restaurants, meanwhile, keeps visitors fueled. All of this adventure unfolds in the Science Center's sleek building, which honors its green architecture with a rooftop garden boasting panoramic views of Hartford.
Samuel Clemens lived a life so full that it encompassed two names. He was a riverboat pilot, a silver prospector, and a newspaperman—and it was in this last trade that he first used the name under which he would author some of America's greatest fiction: Mark Twain. In works such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Twain cast a wry spotlight on the political and industrial changes of the 19th century, from westward expansion to the end of slavery to the birth of ground-breaking technology such as the mustache comb. In much the same way, the very space where Twain wrote—the Hartford home where his family lived from 1874 to 1891—illuminates the times as well as the personal life of the man behind the letters.
These days, that home is a National Historic Landmark that serves as half of The Mark Twain House and Museum. Comprised of 25 rooms, including a glass conservatory and grand library, it has been open to the public since its 100th anniversary in 1974. Inside, visitors explore not only the billiard room where Twain penned novels such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but also nearly 16,000 Twain-related artifacts, such as his last pair of spectacles and photos of his daughters putting on plays. Even more objects and information fill the nearby LEED-certified museum, where rotating exhibits focus on subjects such as the Twain family's servants.
Spotlight Theaters’ screens enrapture audiences with first-run movies. In each movie house, digital sounds and visual projections of fresh Hollywood films alight inner emotions of audiences resting in plush, high-backed seats—each outfitted with a coin-operated mustache comb—or thrown directly into the action through 3-D technology. As eyes and ears relish motion-picture pursuits, soda, candy, and bounties of salty, crunchy popcorn emerge from the concession stand to occupy chatty mouths or catapult towards the screen to feed the hungry actors. Front Street’s brand new Spotlight Theater also houses a full-service restaurant and will soon feature themed movie-and-food pairings, such as French cuisine with French films.
Since 1968, the NHL-regulation ice surface at Veterans Memorial Skating Rink has hosted skaters for a bevy of blade-footed endeavors that range from recreational public-skate sessions to speed-skating lessons. For year-round open skating, participants can bring their own skates or don a pair of comfortable Riedell Soft rentals before carving figure 8s and chiaroscuro sketches of Wayne Gretzky into the ice surface. Other ice offerings include hockey and figure-skating lessons, and after skating sessions, a battery-powered Zamboni and electric edger smooth the ice's surface with minimal impact on the environment.
"Her words changed the world," reads the website for the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. "What will you do?" As the author of the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe's moving prose helped expose the brutal reality of slavery in the United States. Today, her family home still stands in honor of her memory, welcoming guests as a museum and historic site.
Guided tours can provide further insight into the life of a woman who, in a time period marked by prejudice and turmoil, nevertheless spoke in favor of equality and change.
Perfect your stance and tweak your technique when you bowl a game at Highland Bowl in Hartford.
Be sure to visit the restaurant at this alley for a delicious meal.
Having trouble finding that family-friendly activity everyone will love? This alley is made for all ages, so little ones are welcome to come along, too.
From craft cocktails to quality beer, Highland Bowl is a local hot spot with great drinks.
Parking is plentiful, so visitors can feel free to bring their vehicles.