Fun Things to do With Kids in West Hartford, CT
West Hartford constantly receives accolades as a wonderful place to live and raise a family. In recent years, Family Circle magazine listed it as one of the "Top 10 Towns for Families." Here you will find a diverse, highly-motivated community that cares deeply about education and culture. Known for excellent schools and a vibrant economy, this Hartford area town is not only a fantastic place to call home, but also a great destination for a day trip.
West Hartford is the birthplace of Noah Webster, the influential author who wrote the American Dictionary of the English Language and the Blue-Backed Speller. You can visit the Noah Webster House, his childhood home, and enjoy hands-on exhibits and several children's programs throughout the year.
About a mile up the street, a statue of Mr. Webster greets visitors outside the Noah Webster Library at Blue Back Square. Can you tell he's West Hartford's favorite son? The library has a large children's section with a mini bank, puppet show, and well-equipped play area. There are also two smaller libraries: Faxon Branch in the Elmwood (south) section of town, and the Bishops Corner Branch on the north side. Blue Back Square is home to the main branch, and is a lovely place to stroll around with shops and restaurants. An outdoor pergola is popular for free, live music in the summer.
Across the street from Blue Back, you'll find "The Center," the bustling heart of this community. Several shops, boutiques, pubs and eateries welcome you as you stroll down Farmington Avenue and Lasalle Road. Get creative at the Claypen, a paint-your-own pottery studio that all ages will enjoy. The Toy Chest has been the go-to toy store since 1956 and offers classes and free gift wrapping. Shopping will make you hungry, so for a delicious sandwiches, soups, and desserts at Elmwood Pastry Shop. If you need a cocktail or a great meal, check out Max Burger, which can accommodate every dietary need and provides a great child-friendly atmosphere and menu. For the best pizza in town, check out Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana on New Britain Avenue.
A short walk from the center you'll find The Children's Museum of West Hartford. Here you'll find several hands-on permanent and traveling exhibits, a planetarium, live animals, and more. The museum needs a bit of a face lift, but it is still worth a trip; if you plan on visiting more than once, a yearly pass is a must since admission for a family of four will cost you nearly $60.
The Park Road Association holds the annual Park Road Parade in October, a favorite among families. Effie's Place is an institution on Park Road, known for delicious breakfasts, and Greek and Italian specialties. Just up the road from Effie's you'll find Playhouse on Park, an intimate professional theater that features several children's shows each year. A.C. Petersen Farms is conveniently located next door, offering delicious treats since 1940, including milkshakes, specialty sundaes (think warm chocolate molten lava cake topped with your choice of ice cream), and pies.
On the north side of town, near Bishops Corner, you'll find Westmoor Park, an environmental and education center open to the public. You can explore (for free!) the farm, barns, fields, gardens, ponds, and trails. Year round, the park hosts nature programs and camps through the town's Leisure Services department for very reasonable rates.
There is no shortage of recreation and natural beauty in the town rated #1 overall by Hartford Magazine. Veterans Memorial Skating Rink prides itself on public lessons, ice time, and DJ Skate. Several parks and town pools are available, including newly-renovated Fernridge Park (AKA Fern). Fern has two playscapes, tennis courts, baseball fields, a splashpad, and an infinity pool. The Metropolitan District Reservoirs boast more than 3,000 acres of woodlands to hike, bike, run, snowshoe, or cross country ski. On the Hartford border, you'll find gorgeous Elizabeth Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In June, the world-famous rose garden comes alive with thousands of plants in different varieties and colors. The weekly, free, outdoor summer concert series captures the spirit of the West Hartford as children run and play, while great music lingers in the flower-scented air.
Originally published 1/19/14.