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The 15 Best Museums in Connecticut [2024]

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Amar Hussain

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Table of Contents

  • The Best Museums in Connecticut
  • How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to Connecticut Museums
  • Final Thoughts

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Connecticut is home to Yale University and some of the most influential figures in American history, so it’s not surprising that the state also has its fair share of renowned museums. Whether you’re a fan of nature, a history buff, or an art lover, there’s a museum in Connecticut to add to your travel itinerary.

The Best Museums in Connecticut

1. Bruce Museum (Greenwich)

Bruce Museum
Image Credit: Bruce Museum

The Bruce Museum focuses on art and science. In the 100 years since it first opened its doors, it has acquired over 30,000 pieces. This collection consists of works of art as well as examples of natural history and ethnology from around the world. All items in the museum’s care can fall into 5 categories: art, ethnology, history, science, and textiles.

Some of the most beloved pieces housed on-site are “Sachiko Bower” by Andy Warhol, the egg of an emperor penguin, examples of American 19th-century fractional currency, and a doll made and used by people of either the Apache or Dakota cultures.

Since the Bruce’s collection is so large, only a small portion can be displayed at a time. Galleries are occasionally rotated, and temporary exhibitions are hosted to showcase items from the archives as well as those on loan from other facilities.

Admission is free for members and children under 5, $15 for students and seniors 62+, and $20 for adults. Ticket fees are waived for everyone on Tuesdays. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest train stop is Greenwich Station.

  • Address: 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, CT 06830

“The Bruce Museum is a museum of both art and science, so it truly has something for everyone no matter their interests or age.  Our science exhibitions appeal to natural history buffs and engage young visitors, and our art galleries feature both contemporary artists and old masters.”

Taylor Gray, director of marketing and communications, Bruce Museum

2. Connecticut River Museum (Essex)

Connecticut River Museum
Image Credit: Connecticut River Museum

Connecticut River Museum educates the public on the importance and history of the Connecticut River Valley. The facility’s location is also tied to the river, with all exhibits displayed in what was once a steamboat warehouse.

The museum’s permanent displays house 3 exhibits:

  • On the Great River” delves into the history of the Connecticut River and the first communities to depend on it.
  • The River that Connects Us” focuses on the waterway’s natural aspect and how it has impacted the landscape and natural resources in the region.
  • Vertical Mural” is a folk art project that aims to show the differences in culture and identity along the river’s 410-mile route.

Temporary exhibitions are also held on-site. While some are one-time occurrences, others are annual events, like “Steve Cryan’s Holiday Train Show” and the “Eagles of Essex.” Private events can also be held at the museum.

Admission is free for members, $2 for children under 6, $8 for kids 6 to 12, $9 for students, $10 for military personnel and their immediate family and seniors, and $12 for adults. This museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Essex Center at Essex Square.

  • Address: 67 Main St., Essex, CT 06426

3. Connecticut Science Center (Hartford)

Connecticut Science Center
Image Credit: Connecticut Science Center

Since its opening in 2009, the Connecticut Science Center has been one of the state’s premier science education centers. Using a combination of traditional and interactive displays, the facility provides an engaging place for people of all ages to learn.

Currently, there are 15 permanent exhibits for visitors to explore. “River of Life,” “Rooftop Garden,” and “Invention Dimension” are just a few favorites among guests. There are usually 1 to 2 temporary exhibit spaces open as well. “Forest of Illusions” is one such exhibition that’s become so popular that it has become a yearly exhibition each fall.

The Connecticut Science Center also has an on-site theater where 3D films are shown. These films range from educational to fictional. Keep in mind the theater requires a separate ticket. A number of educational events are also held at the museum for both children and adults to help foster an interest in STEM fields.

Admission is free for members and children under 3, $19.99 for children 3 to 17, $25.99 for seniors 65+, and $27.99 for adults. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer and open at 10 a.m. at other times. The nearest bus stop is Columbus Boulevard at Bob Steele Way.

  • Address: 250 Columbus Blvd., Hartford, CT 06103

4. Danbury Railway Museum (Danbury)

Danbury Railway Museum
Image Credit: Rudy Garbely via Danbury Railway Museum

Located in a decommissioned train station, the Danbury Railway Museum preserves the history of rail travel in the New England region. The facility houses dozens of pieces, including 75 locomotives and rolling stock cars. However, this is a continuously growing collection as new items are donated and acquired.

Some museum highlights are the Electric Boat Carol locomotive, the Penn Central #23662 caboose, the New Haven #47 self-propelling car, and the Metro-North #002 passenger car. There’s also a comprehensive research library that can be accessed with prior approval from the facility.

A lecture series and collection of video stories from experts and people with personal experience with the area’s historic trains are also available. Special events, including themed train rides, are frequent parts of the site’s event calendar, though these often require a separate ticket.

Admission is free for members and children under 3 and $7 for everyone else. Special events may cost extra. The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nearest train stop is Danbury.

  • Address: 120 White St., Danbury, CT 06810

5. Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme)

Florence Griswold Museum
Image Credit: Florence Griswold Museum

Located in a historic house, the Florence Griswold Museum is one of Connecticut’s most prominent art museums. In particular, the facility has gained fame for its collection of American Impressionist art.

Currently, over 2,000 items are housed on the premises, though typically, only a small fraction of this collection is displayed at a time. Therefore, the exhibits are often rotated to bring pieces out of the archive. Usually, 1 to 2 special galleries are hosted at any given time, while others are available online.

Some highlighted pieces are “Kalmia” by Willard L. Metcalf, “Summer Evening” by Frederick Childe Hassam, and “On the Piazza” by William Chadwick. Community outreach and education are both important pillars for the museum, and a number of art programs for children and adults are hosted each year. There are even camps, film events, and travel events.

Admission is free for children under 4, employees and docents of other museums, military personnel, and veterans, $5 for kids 5 to 12, $13 for students 13+, $14 for seniors 62+, and $15 for adults. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but closes at 4 p.m. January through March. The nearest bus stop is Route 1 and Florence Griswold Museum.

  • Address: 96 Lyme St., Old Lyme, CT 06371

6. Harriet Beecher Stowe Center (Hartford)

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
Image Credit: Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Located in her home, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center gives visitors a peek into the life and work of the historic author and abolitionist activist. Through a guided tour and a selection of interactive exhibit displays, the center offers a unique museum experience to both children and adults.

Much of the home is furnished with Stowe’s personal effects and other antiques from the 19th century. However, the museum acquired several documents, photos, and other artifacts to help tell the story of her personal life and career.

This museum also offers visitors a chance to learn about social issues in the U.S. during the 1800s, which ranged from abolishing slavery to granting women more rights. Discussions, lectures, and even open-to-the-public book clubs are just a few of the events that make up the center’s full event calendar. 

Admission is free for members, Hartford residents, and children under 6, $10 for children 6 to 16, $15 for seniors 65+, and $20 for adults. The museum is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday from 12 to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Farmington Avenue at Gillett Street.

  • Address: 77 Forest St., Hartford, CT 06105

“The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is a social justice museum and education center where visitors can explore the ideas and actions of Stowe and the many abolitionists of all backgrounds who influenced her. We offer both a window into the past and the opportunity to understand how each and all of us have the ability to make positive change today.”

Karen Fisk, executive director, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

7. The Mark Twain House & Museum (Hartford)

The Mark Twain House Museum
Image Credit: The Mark Twain House & Museum

The Mark Twain House & Museum honors the life and career of one of the country’s most influential authors. During the 17 years Twain lived in the home with his family, he worked on some of his most well-known books, including “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Prince and the Pauper.”

Though the house has undergone restoration projects over the years, today, it’s virtually identical to the condition it was in when Mark Twain lived here. Many of the furnishings and decor pieces also belonged to the writer and his family.

The 16,000 pieces in the museum’s care are divided into 3 collections. However, the majority of these items are stored in the archives and only displayed for special exhibitions. Literary and educational events are also routinely held on the premises. For crowd control reasons, the space recommends reserving tickets before your arrival.

General admission is free for children under 6, $15 for kids 6 to 16, $25 for seniors 65+, and $27 for adults. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Farmington Avenue and Gillett Street.

  • Address: 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, CT 06105

8. Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center (Mashantucket)

Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
Image Credit: Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

Operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center preserves the history of this culture. 

Most of the artifacts housed on the premises are from between the 16th and 20th centuries and consist of both historical artifacts and works of art. This space also combines traditional and immersive elements in its exhibits to create an engaging learning experience for all visitors.

One area of the museum that’s a favorite among guests is the diorama. Using dozens of life-sized figures, it depicts an approximation of life for the Mashantucket Pequot people and how it evolved over the last 12,000 years.

Nature and changes in the environment are also key parts of the museum. Voices of current members of the culture are also uplifted through commissioned works of art displayed throughout the museum’s exhibit spaces and special events.

Admission is free for children under 6 and members, $16 for kids 6 to 17, $20 for teachers, college students, and seniors 65+, and $25 for adults. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Trolley Line Boulevard and Lantern Hill Road.

  • Address: 110 Pequot Trail, Ledyard, CT 06338

9. Mattatuck Museum (Waterbury)

Mattatuck Museum
Image Credit: Nick Colabella via Mattatuck Museum

The Mattatuck Museum primarily showcases the work of Connecticut’s artists of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Some artists featured include Kay Sage, Abe Ajay, and Frederic Church. Currently, the Mattatuck preserves nearly 30,000 pieces, ranging from traditional works of art to intricately crafted furniture and household items.

A collection of this size cannot be displayed all at once, so the museum frequently rotates its galleries. Items are also occasionally lent to the museum for special exhibitions. Beloved pieces in the collection include “Summer Landscape,” “Rosemary,” and “Bessie Smith Close Up.”

Mattatuck also has a sizeable collection of decorative buttons from around the world that was once featured in its own museum. This museum functions as a local history museum as well. Spaces are dedicated to honoring and remembering the successes of Waterbury businesses and how the city has evolved over time.

Admission is free for children under 5, $8 for kids 5 to 18, $10 for college students, $12 for seniors, and $15 for adults. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nearest bus stop is West Main Street at Central Avenue.

  • Address: 144 West Main St., Waterbury, CT 06702

10. Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic)

Mystic Seaport Museum
Image Credit: Andy Price via Mystic Seaport

The Mystic Seaport Museum is the largest museum in the country focused entirely on ships and the maritime industry. The museum campus includes over 60 buildings, many of which are restored commercial buildings that were once important in sea trade.

In particular, the museum has become notable for its collection of ships, many of which are authentic 19th-century vessels. There are typically over a dozen gallery spaces between permanent and temporary exhibits. These delve into topics like maritime trade, ship routes, and the fish and plants of the Atlantic Ocean.

Beloved items in the collection include an ocean liner sampler that signified an established partnership between the U.S. and the U.K. and a rare copy of the “Admiral of the Seuss Navy” campaign designed by the acclaimed children’s book author. Mytic’s Seaport Museum also hosts educational programs for visitors from preschool to adulthood.

Admission is free for children under 3, $21 for kids 4 to 14, $27 for teens 13 to 17, $29 for seniors 65+, and $31 for adults. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but hours can vary during winter and fall.

  • Address: 75 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic, CT 06355

11. New Britain Museum of American Art (New Britain)

New Britain Museum of American Art
Image Credit: New Britain Museum of American Art

When it opened in 1903, the New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA) was the first museum in the country dedicated purely to art by American artists. Today, the space has over 8,400 pieces in its permanent collection, which consists of paintings, sketches, photos, sculptures, and more.

Since not all of the works of art housed by NBMAA can be displayed at once, some are part of temporary showcases, and galleries are often rotated. This museum also collaborates with other facilities and artists to host specialized exhibitions.

The museum features all types of art styles and periods. Some highlighted pieces include “Washington Square” by William James Glackens, “Hanna Minot Moody” by Joseph Badger, and “The Arts of Life in America: Arts of the West” by Thomas Hart Benton. NBMAA also hosts special events like lectures and tours.

Admission is free for members and children under 5, $10 for kids 6 to 17 and college students, $15 for seniors 62+, and $20 for adults. The museum is open Friday through Sunday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The nearest train stop is West Main Street at Lexington Street.

  • Address: 56 Lexington St., New Britain, CT 06052

12. Niantic Children’s Museum (Niantic)

Niantic Childrens Museum
Image Credit: Niantic Children’s Museum

Niantic Children’s Museum has been a favorite place for Connecticut families since it opened in 1992. Each of the museum’s exhibits encourages children to foster a curiosity about the world by diving into art, science, and culture. Though guests of all ages are welcome, most of the areas in the facility have been designed for children under the age of 10, so keep that in mind if you plan on visiting with older kids.

The museum is broadly divided into 4 wings: “Imagination Room,” “Discovery Room,” “Nano Mini-Exhibit,” and “Outdoor Playscape.” If weather conditions are unfavorable, the outdoor areas might be closed.

A wide array of events are hosted on-site during the year to help promote learning and creativity. These range from camps and workshops to classes. Special sensory-friendly events are also ideal for visitors who can get overwhelmed or overstimulated.

Admission is free for kids under 1 and $10 for everyone else. Group rates are available. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Main Street and Columbus Avenue.

  • Address: 409 Main St., Niantic, CT 06357

13. USS Nautilus Submarine Force Museum (Groton)

USS Nautilus Submarine Force Museum
Image Credit: USS Nautilus Submarine Force Museum

When it was operational, the USS Nautilus was known as the first nuclear-powered submarine in the world. A few years later, it gained further fame when it became the first submarine to successfully transit the North Pole. Today, the submarine has been transformed into a museum that teaches visitors about the history of submersible travel and the Nautilus’s career as a submarine.

While the museum is intended to be a self-guided experience, the facility offers multiple ways to enhance your visit. Guided tours can be arranged with advanced notice, and an on-site scavenger hunt is a staple part of the Nautilus experience. You can even download the scavenger hunt list and packet before your arrival.

There’s also an on-site theater that shows short documentaries about the submarine force and the development of naval vessels over the years. An ongoing oral history project collects the stories of sailors in the U.S. Navy, particularly from the Second World War onward.

Admission is free for all visitors. The museum is open Wednesday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May through September and closes at 4 p.m. throughout the rest of the year. The nearest bus stop is Crystal Lake Drive and Subbase.

  • Address: 1 Crystal Lake Road, Groton, CT 06340

14. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford)

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Image Credit: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has one of the best art collections on the East Coast and is the largest museum in the state. Since its opening in 1842, the museum has amassed a collection of over 50,000 works of art from all over the world in 9 permanent collection wings. These exhibits are frequently rotated to allow archived items a chance to be displayed.

Some significant pieces housed by Wadsworth are “St. Francis in Ecstasy” by Caravaggio, “Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes” by Orazio Gentileschi, and “Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Wadsworth is a prominent art space and was the first facility in the country to feature works by European masters such as Frederic Church and Salvador Dalí.

Admission is free for members, Hartford residents, and visitors under 18, $10 for students, $15 for seniors, and $20 for adults. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Main Street at Gold Street.

  • Address: 600 Main St., Hartford, CT 06103
Yale University Art Gallery
Image Credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Yale’s University Art Gallery (YUAG) is the oldest art museum on a university campus in this part of the world. It also houses one of the largest collections in the world, with over 300,000 works of art on display and in the archives.

The YUAG’s galleries feature art from a variety of styles and time periods. However, the museum has amassed a particularly large number of pieces from the Italian Renaissance, African sculptures, and modern art.

A few of the works of art preserved by the museum are “Hercules and Deianira” by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, “Kylix with a Symposium Scene” by Gales Painter, and “The Hundred Guilder Print” by Rembrandt van Rijn. As part of the Yale University campus, the museum is also a premier research facility and hosts several lectures and discussions for students and the general public.

Admission is free for all visitors. The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Chapel Street at York Street.

  • Address: 1111 Chapel St., New Haven, CT 06510

How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to Connecticut Museums

We’ve indicated with each museum whether or not children, students, or seniors receive free or reduced admission. Several other programs offer similar concessions.

The Museums for All program offers free or reduced admission to museums through the U.S. for those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits). Participating Connecticut attractions include the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the Mattatuck Museum, the Nowashe Village, and the Stanley-Whitman House.

Bank of America’s Museums on Us program offers cardholders free general admission on the first full weekend of every month to the following Connecticut museums: the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, the Bruce Museum, the Fairfield Museum and History Center, and the Mattatuck Museum.

Participation is subject to change; please verify participating museums and entry conditions before your visit.

Final Thoughts

Connecticut may be a rather small state, but it has no shortage of museums worth visiting. From fine art to American history, there’s something to suit virtually any interest in this corner of the Eastern Seaboard. We hope this list has helped you figure out which of the state’s museums’ belong on your list, whether you’re planning a family trip, a solo getaway, or a couple’s vacation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of museums are in Connecticut?

Connecticut has a wide array of museums to suit virtually any interest. As one of the country’s oldest states, it has a lot of historical exhibits, but there are also a number of art and culture museums that showcase pieces from around the world.

How many museums are in Connecticut?

There are nearly 200 museums spread across Connecticut that cover a wide variety of topics. This number may change in the future as new facilities open and others close. This number doesn’t count all of the small exhibitions and galleries in the state, either.

What’s the largest museum in Connecticut?

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is Connecticut’s largest museum. However, just because the state’s other museums are smaller doesn’t mean they’re not worth visiting. In fact, there are a number of hidden gems with much smaller collections that Connecticut locals love.

Are Connecticut museums free?

Some of Connecticut’s museums offer free admission to all visitors, but not all of them. Most facilities offer discounts and free tickets to qualifying visitors though. Make sure to check museum promotions before your visit to see if you are eligible for a deal.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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