Things To Do In Waterbury, CT: Top Attractions To Discover | Stanton House Inn
architectural detail of one of the monuments in Waterbury, one of the best things to do in Waterbury, CT

Things to Do in Waterbury, CT: Top Attractions to Discover

Waterbury, CT, also known as Brass City, from the west
Daniel Case, Grossus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Waterbury, Connecticut, carries a unique nickname – the Brass City. The city’s motto, “Quid Aere Perennius?” translates to “What Is More Lasting Than Brass?” It’s a tribute to the city’s rich history, intertwined with manufacturing, primarily brassware. The city’s downtown area is a blend of the old and the new. You’ll find grand architecture from the 19th century alongside modern culture. The Mattatuck Museum and the Palace Theater are key attractions, surrounding a central green space that’s held its place since the 1680s.

 

And Waterbury is a large city. It’s the second-largest in New Haven County, the fifth-largest in Connecticut, and the ninth-largest in New England.

 

The area was first inhabited by the Algonquin bands before the arrival of European settlers. The first settlements appeared in 1674 in what is now known as the “Town Plot” section. Waterbury is a city packed with historical landmarks and natural attractions. It’s an adventure for all who visit. The city offers a variety of activities and culinary delights.

 

Ready to discover the best things to do in Waterbury, CT? Let’s get into it:

 

Quick hits

  • Discover Waterbury, CT’s rich history and vibrant arts scene with iconic landmarks like the Elton Hotel and Municipal Center.
  • Explore nature at tranquil parks or captivating theaters for a unique experience, from Union Station to Library Park!
  • Visit nearby towns for more attractions, from Southbury Green to Litchfield Hills.

things to do in waterbury ct map Things to Do in Waterbury, CT: Top Attractions to Discover
Map design by Stanton House Inn

A Brief History of Waterbury, Connecticut

Postcard of the Union Station in Waterbury, CT

The Waterbury Land Company established the city, and it quickly became a hub for brass manufacturing and clockmaking. The initial settlement in 1674 was part of the town of Farmington, Connecticut, later named Mattituck Plantation. It was incorporated as a town in 1686 and as a city in 1853. The city’s name stems from its numerous waterways.

 

In its early years, Waterbury’s growth was slow. The Naugatuck River frequently flooded the city, and outbreaks of disease were common. Waterbury overcame these challenges to emerge as an industrial powerhouse in the early 19th century. It began manufacturing brass, using the waters of the Mad River and Naugatuck River to power factories. This industry attracted workers from around the world, creating a diverse community.

 

By 1853, Waterbury had earned the title “Brass Capital of the World”. It was renowned for the quality and durability of its products. The city’s clock industry became as significant as its brass industry. Clocktowers and old brass factories became city landmarks.

 

Historic postcard of the railroad to Meriden, CT, from Waterbury, CT

Starting in 1858, Waterbury began producing silverware. Companies like Rogers & Brother and later Rogers & Hamilton were part of this industry. Their designs are now part of collections at museums and historical societies throughout the United States.

 

In June 1920, Waterbury experienced labor unrest, with striking workers clashing with police. During World War II, the Scovill Manufacturing Co employed 10,000 people. The city’s metal manufacturing mills occupied over 2 million square feet and more than 90 buildings.

 

Today, Waterbury, like many other spots in the Northeast, hosts monuments to its illustrious past. And meanwhile, it works to find its newfound position in the modern world.

 

The Best Things to do in Waterbury, CT

Downtown Waterbury in 1917

Prepare to explore and uncover the best things to do in Waterbury, CT as we guide you through the city’s attractions. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or an adrenaline junkie, this city has plenty to offer.

 

Downtown Waterbury

Waterbury City Hall and Bronson Library, turn of the nineteenth century

Waterbury’s downtown is a rich tapestry of cultural diversity and historic landmarks. It’s a place where the old and the new coexist. Landmarks like the Elton Hotel and the Municipal Center stand tall. The John Kendrick House adds to the historic charm. Over 130 buildings contribute to the historic district. They stand in harmony with modern architecture. The city’s arts scene thrives in places like the Mattatuck Museum and Palace Theater. When summer arrives, the city pulses with the rhythms of the Brass City Jazz Fest. As jazz music fills the air, the city dances under a starlit sky. The city’s diverse character is mirrored in its downtown. And this area is currently undergoing a regeneration, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all ends up.

 

Waterbury Green

Eagle in the World War II memorial

Waterbury Green is a two-acre oasis that serves as the city’s heart. It sprawls across the area that was the original town commons in the 17th century.

This park is nestled in the Downtown Waterbury Historic District. It’s at the crossroads of North Main Street, East Main Street, West Main Street, and Church Street.

 

Getting to Waterbury Green is easy. It’s a perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The park boasts the Welton Fountain, a bronze water fountain for horses. It also houses the Waterbury clock, a piece designed by Paul Lux in 1915.

 

The Veterans Monument and Soldiers Monument are situated south of the flagpole. Atop the granite base stands a bronze “Winged Victory” statue. It reaches 48 feet into the sky as a tribute to local Civil War veterans.

 

Bank Street Historic District

Historic Bank Street
Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bank Street Historic District is a sight to behold. It’s an elegant row of commercial buildings that reflect the city’s architectural grandeur. Landmarks like Union Station, The Howland-Hughes Building, and the Waterbury Clock Company Building stand out. The district was established in 2009 from Market Square to Grand Street. It showcases four buildings from the turn of the century that have admirably withstood the test of time.

 

The Pritchard Building, located at the street’s north end, is one of only three buildings in the city built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. The Whittemore Building is a four-story Georgian Revival-style brick edifice. The Griggs, the largest structure, is a commercial building from 1884 in the Queen Anne style, a design typically reserved for residences. Lastly, the Republican Building, named after a 19th-century newspaper, houses the Diorio restaurant on its ground floor. It’s a great place to grab a bite.

 

Union Station

Union Station stands tall on Meadow Street in downtown Waterbury. Its majestic clock tower and eight she-wolf gargoyles make it unique to the skyline. And it’s hard to miss it, even if you’re just passing through along I-84.

 

The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad constructed the station in 1909. Its clock tower, the largest in New England, is adorned with gargoyles in the shape of she-wolves. These gargoyles are a nod to the tale of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. The tower was built to replicate the 14th-century Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy. Now, it serves as the headquarters for the local Republican American newspaper. The station’s design, inspired by the city’s watch- and clockmaking past, has become a symbol of Waterbury.

 

Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center

Inner courtyard of the Mattatuck Museum Arts & History Center
Jllm06, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Step into the world of American art and cultural history at the Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center. This institution celebrates the cultural history of the Naugatuck Valley and the artists of Connecticut. The museum is home to American art exhibits, all deeply connected to Connecticut. It also houses a unique button gallery, showcasing 10,000 miniature artworks from across the globe. Some even spotlight the works of Afghan artists who fled their homes in 2021 due to the Taliban’s rise to power.

 

The buttons are a special collection from the Waterbury Button Company. The collection is vast, boasting over 15,000 buttons. Each button is a small yet fascinating window into Waterbury’s past.

 

The Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center has a history dating back to 1877. It has been hosting 12 rotating exhibitions every year since its opening in 1912. The Waterbury Companies generously donated the button gallery, filled with 10,000 miniature artworks, in 1999.

 

Library Park

Former Waterbury Companies along the Mad River
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Library Park, nestled in the heart of Waterbury, is a peaceful sanctuary. Encircled by the grand Silas Bronson Library, it’s the city’s largest green space. Recently, it’s been spruced up with new flowerbeds, a winding trail, and a plaza. It’s a great spot for relaxation and outdoor events, like the Brass City Jazz Festival in August. If you fancy a picnic, it’s the perfect place. It’s conveniently located near great eateries and the towering Union Station. A trip to Library Park is a delightful city break.

 

Hop Brook Lake

Hop Brook Lake

Hop Brook Lake is another popular spot outside of town. Covering 270 acres, it attracts nature enthusiasts and RV travelers. The lake and is environs boasts a sandy beach, trails, picnic areas, and fishing spots. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the spot.

 

The Army Corps of Engineers constructed it in 1965 as part of the Naugatuck River Basin Flood Control Project. Today, this Connecticut lake spans Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Middlebury. Its initial purpose was to limit flood risk. Now, it’s a prime spot for relaxation and swimming. The calm waters are suitable for swimmers of varying skills. There are also opportunities for fishing and boating.

 

Hancock Brook Trail

Ready for an invigorating hike? Then, lace up your boots and head to the Hancock Brook Trail. This scenic trail offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historic interest, with remnants of 19th-century industry dotting the path.

 

From rocky terrains to steep uphill climbs, the trail offers a moderate challenge that’s worth every step for the stunning vistas it offers.

 

Harrub Pilgrim Memorial

Pay a visit to the Harrub Pilgrim Memorial, a granite statue that honors the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts. Crafted by Hermon Atkins MacNeil, this statue honors the enduring spirit of those early settlers, their courage and perseverance in overcoming hardships.

 

Holy Land USA Ruins

1960s postcard of Holy Land USA

Holy Land USA Ruins, an 18-acre Bible-themed park, overlooks I-84 in Waterbury, Connecticut. The park was designed by John Baptist Greco, a local attorney and devout Roman Catholic. He modeled it to resemble a miniature Bethlehem. It once attracted 50,000 visitors annually, featuring religious dioramas, a depiction of the Garden of Eden, and statues of Jesus. Its most notable feature was a 56-foot steel cross, inscribed with “Holy Land USA.”

 

In 1984, Greco closed the park for renovation. But he died in 1986, and the park fell into disrepair. Today, volunteers are restoring the park, though nature still appears to be reclaiming the land. Visitors can explore the grounds during the day. A visit to the Holy Land USA Ruins offers a unique exploration of biblical history in Waterbury.

 

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Step into the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and be awed by its stunning architecture. This Roman Catholic church, crafted by the Maginnis & Walsh firm from Boston, is a remarkable example of the Renaissance Revival design. Its magnificent depiction of Christ in Majesty and the gilded baldachin below add to its grandeur and serenity, making it a must-visit for both its architectural and spiritual significance.

 

Things to do in Waterbury, CT, at night

As day turns to night, Waterbury, CT, comes alive. Theaters fill with applause. Sports arenas buzz with anticipation. Whether you’re an art lover, a sports fan, or a thrill-seeker, Waterbury has it all. Read on for the nighttime delights of Waterbury, CT:

 

The Palace Theater

Palace Theater in Waterbury, a first-rate historic entertainment venue

Take a trip to the Palace Theater in Waterbury. It’s a creation by theater magnate Sylvester Z. Poli, built for those who have a love for the performing arts. You’ll find it right in the heart of Waterbury. The theater hosts a wide array of performances, from Broadway musicals to concerts and children’s shows.

 

Thomas Lamb, a skilled architect, was the man behind its design. The theater stands as a symbol of Waterbury’s commitment to the arts. It’s a cultural beacon in the city. Built between 1920 and 1922, it showcases a fusion of Federal, Arabic, Greek, and Roman motifs. Inside, you’ll find grand lobbies and intricate dome ceilings.

 

The Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT has a rich history. It started as a vaudeville house and grew into a bustling venue for performances. However, it closed its doors in 1987. After a period of restoration and expansion, it reopened. Now, it offers a full performance schedule.

 

The Palace Theater is one of only two venues built by Poli. It offers a diverse range of shows. You can enjoy Broadway musicals, concerts, live comedy, author talks, and children’s shows.

 

Seven Angels Theatre

Performers

Set in the historic Hamilton Park Pavilion, the Seven Angels Theatre is a cultural gem of Waterbury. From musicals to plays to concerts, this theater presents a varied program that caters to every theater aficionado. Whether you’re a seasoned theater-goer or new to the scene, the intimate setting and top-notch performances at Seven Angels Theatre guarantee an unforgettable experience.

 

Brass Works Brewing Company

Enjoying examples of craft brews makes for a great weekend

Brass Works Brewing Company resides in a forgotten office park. That said, this hidden gem is a craft beer haven. Founded by brothers Michael and David Ieronimo in the late ’80s, it’s a family-owned brewery that’s grown to become one of the best breweries in CT. Over the years, they’ve perfected their craft, experimenting with unique flavors and ingredients. They produce top-notch brews, from IPAs and lagers to ales. Whether you’re a seasoned craft beer aficionado or a casual fan, Brass Works has something for you. Each small-batch brew promises a memorable taste adventure.

 

Waterbury Stadium

Feel the thrill of a live game at the Waterbury Stadium, a historic venue that has hosted the likes of Ted Williams and Jimmy Piersall. Whether it’s the exciting Thanksgiving Day game between Crosby and Kennedy or the annual convention of the Connecticut State Police Association, this stadium is a hive of activity.

 

Waterbury Symphony Orchestra

Symphony orchestra event

For music lovers, a performance by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra is a treat not to be missed. Founded in 1938, this renowned ensemble performs a variety of classical music, such as symphonies, concertos, and chamber music.

 

Their performances at the Palace Theatre and other venues around Litchfield County are a mark of their enduring excellence and commitment to the arts.

 

Extreme Paintball

For adrenaline junkies, Extreme Paintball in Waterbury, CT is a must-visit. This popular spot in Waterbury offers a thrilling paintball experience for players of all skill levels. With safety gear supplied for everyone and games available on weekends, it’s a fun-filled way to spend your day.

 

Brass City Raceway & Axe Throwing

Axe throwing target

Test your skills at Brass City Raceway & Axe Throwing. Whether it’s the thrill of racing around the go-kart track or the satisfaction of landing a perfect throw, this place offers a unique mix of activities that promises a day of excitement and fun.

 

Roller Magic at the Waterbury Skating Center

Roller skating at the Waterbury Skating Center

Step back in time and enjoy a bout of old-fashioned roller skating at Roller Magic. With a smooth maple surface ideal for roller skating and an arcade brimming with redemption games, this rink provides a nostalgic journey into the past.

 

Lakewood Lanes

End your day with a fun-filled bowling session at Lakewood Lanes. As the largest bowling alley in the Waterbury area, this place offers 42 synthetic lanes for you to test your bowling skills. From casual players to seasoned bowlers, Lakewood Lanes provides an enjoyable and exciting bowling experience for everyone.

 

Shopping in Waterbury, Connecticut

Shopping at Fascia's Chocolates

Beyond its attractions, Waterbury, CT, also presents a delightful shopping experience. From indulging in the sweet delights of Fascia’s Chocolates to hunting for treasures in antique shops, shopping in Waterbury is a delightful experience that promises something for every taste and preference.

 

Fascia’s Chocolates

This family-run chocolate factory calls Waterbury, Connecticut, home. And locals have loved it for over 50 years. The Fascia family offers a variety of chocolates. These include truffles and chocolate-covered fruits.

 

The story begins in 1964. John Fascia, an electronic technician, worked at the Bristol Company. He needed to support his pregnant wife, Helen. He started roasting nuts in his spare time and selling them to make ends meet. As time passed, they decided to venture into chocolate.

 

Today, Fascia’s Chocolates is an institution in Waterbury. It has a factory, a retail store, and a public space. Visitors can buy chocolates, watch the production process, and make their own chocolate bars. The factory also produces special daily selections for tastings on the factory tour.

 

Breakfast in Waterbury, CT

diner dining room for great food

Like every New England city, there are plenty of cuisines represented in the Waterbury area. This writer stuck to breakfast in Waterbury, as there’s nothing better than comfort food from a diner.

 

An odd thing to say from a bed and breakfast innkeeper, admittedly.

 

Top picks in town for breakfast include:

 

 

Directions to Waterbury, CT, from Greenwich, CT

Road from nearby cities in New England to Waterbury

Traveling from our Greenwich, CT, bed and breakfast to Waterbury, CT, is a direct route. Just hop onto I-95 N or the Merritt Parkway from Greenwich, CT, and on to CT-8 N, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Waterbury in no time. Along the way of your CT day trip, you’ll enjoy scenic views, and with several places to take a break, it’s as much about the journey as the destination.

 

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Waterbury, Connecticut

Motel sign

If you’re looking to spend more than a day trip here, you’ll be a bit limited for options as far as weekend getaways in CT.

 

Aside from the standard chain hotels, there are motels. The Big Apple Motel is particularly well-known.

 

Some nearby inns to visit include:

 

More Nearby Cities and Towns to Explore Near Waterbury, Connecticut

Southford Falls State Park in Southbury, CT

Enhance your visit by venturing into the neighboring towns and cities in the Waterbury area. Each one offers its unique Connecticut attractions and experiences, making them worthy additions to your travel itinerary.

 

Southbury, CT

A brief drive away from Waterbury, the town of Southbury, CT, boasts a variety of bucolic attractions. From pristine nature spots like Kettletown State Park and Southford Falls State Park to the vibrant Southbury Green, there’s plenty to see and do in this charming town.

 

Litchfield, Connecticut

Cow in Litchfield, CT

Nestled in the picturesque Litchfield Hills of Northwestern Connecticut, Litchfield is a destination that oozes New England charm. The historic architecture and charming village center make Litchfield, CT, a destination not to be missed.

 

And if you’re a nature lover, the renowned Litchfield Hills offer plenty of outdoor activities, from hiking to fishing.

 

New Britain, CT

Just a short drive east from Waterbury, you’ll find New Britain, CT. This city is known for its unique mix of art, culture, and history. It’s often referred to as the “Hardware City” thanks to its rich industrial past. One of the city’s main attractions is the New Britain Museum of American Art. This is the oldest art museum in the country dedicated to American art. Another point of interest is the historic Walnut Hill Park, designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The city also features a unique neighborhood known as Little Poland. Here, you’ll find a bustling scene of Polish businesses and eateries. Sports enthusiasts should not miss out on a visit to the New Britain Stadium, home of the New Britain Bees baseball team. The city is conveniently located just about 20 miles from Waterbury, CT.

 

Meriden, Connecticut

Castle Craig in Meriden, Connecticut

Just a short 30-minute drive east from Waterbury, you’ll find the resurgent city of Meriden, Connecticut. Its title was “Silver City” thanks to its long history of silver manufacturing. Meriden offers a variety of attractions that make it a worthwhile visit. From the historic downtown area, filled with unique shops and eateries, to the beautiful Hubbard Park with its iconic Castle Craig, Meriden is a city that invites exploration. Its close proximity to Waterbury, CT makes it an easy and enjoyable addition to your travel itinerary.

 

Southington, CT

Just a short, 20-minute drive southeast from Waterbury will bring you to the charming town of Southington, Connecticut. Southington is known for its rich history, natural beauty, and vibrant community. The town offers a variety of attractions that make it a worthwhile visit. You can explore the historic downtown area filled with unique shops and eateries. Or you can enjoy the tranquility of the beautiful Panthorn Park. For the adventure seekers, the popular Mount Southington Ski Area is a must-visit. Given its close proximity to Waterbury, CT, adding Southington to your travel itinerary is both easy and enjoyable.

 

Tl;dr

Waterbury, CT, is a city steeped in rich cultural history and filled with diverse attractions. It provides a unique travel experience. The city’s historic districts are worth your exploration. Its tranquil parks offer a perfect spot for relaxation. The culinary scene here is a delight to indulge in. In Waterbury, every moment presents an opportunity to create unforgettable memories. So plan your day trip today. Experience the gritty charm and history of this unique city firsthand.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Brass items made in Waterbury, Connecticut

What is Waterbury Connecticut famous for?

Waterbury, Connecticut is famously known as the Brass City due to its past of having a thriving brass industry. Today, it’s home to the Mattatuck Museum and has a population of over 55,000.

 

Why is Waterbury known as the Brass city?

Waterbury, nicknamed the “Brass City”, became known for its abundant brassware production in the first half of the 20th century. It employed a peak of 50,000 brass workers during WWII and was responsible for a third of all brass produced in the U.S. by the 1920s.

 

What are some must-see attractions in Waterbury, CT?

Waterbury, CT has a lot of great attractions to offer, like historic districts, parks, and cultural spots like the Palace Theater and Mattatuck Museum.

 

What was the Timexpo Museum?

The Timexpo Museum was once a notable landmark in Waterbury, Connecticut. It was a tribute to the history of the Timex Group and its early beginnings with the Waterbury Clock Company in 1854. The museum was located in the Brass Mill Commons shopping center. It spanned 14,000 square feet, with an extra 8,000 square feet for exhibits of timepieces and archaeology. The museum came to life in 2001, after receiving funding of $5.45 million from the Naugatuck Valley Development Corporation and the Connecticut Department of Economic Development and Community Development. Despite its grandeur, the museum closed in 2015 due to insufficient attendance.

 

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