15 Best Things to Do in Newington (CT)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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A residential suburb in Greater Hartford, Newington has plenty of things I want to share with you.

Amateur radio operators will already know it as the hometown of the American Radio Relay League and the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station.

Newington is also the proud owner of America’s littlest waterfall. This can be found in a lush park in the center of the town.

At Newington Junction there’s tons of beautiful New England architecture going back as far as 300 years. Two spellbinding houses are opened to the public by the Newington Historical Society.

The town is wedged tight between neighboring suburbs. So I’m pleased to say you’ve got museums, craft breweries, and one of the best public golf courses in the state a few minutes away.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Newington:

1. Mill Pond Park

Mill Pond ParkSource: photo by Kristine Berry / facebook
Mill Pond Park

Between Newington’s prime thoroughfares, Willard Avenue and Main Street, lies a park with a waterfall at its heart.

Mill Pond Falls isn’t just any natural landmark, as it is officially the smallest natural waterfall in the United States.

Water from the park’s pond, named for a sawmill that was raised in 1860, drains from the south end. 

Here it drops 16 feet over a flight of rocks at a maximum rate of 3.5 gallons per second. It’s an adorable sight, and I love how it’s become a part of the city’s culture with an annual festival. 

There’s a path around the pond, traversing the falls via a little wooden footbridge. In the remainder of the park you’ll find a baseball field, a basketball court, tennis courts, two soccer fields, a public pool, children’s playground and a concession stand.

Try to be here for Newington’s Fourth of July fireworks show, considered one of the best in the state.

2. Cedar Hill Cemetery

Cedar Hill CemeterySource: Chrissypan (talk) / Wikimedia
Cedar Hill Cemetery

Open to the public 365 days a year, this important cemetery dates to 1866, and needs to be seen.

In keeping with the rural cemetery style, Cedar Hill Cemetery is set across 270 landscaped acres. The property is laced with ponds and a brook, and you’ll find much to admire throughout. 

There’s a wonderful array of beautiful historic buildings, imposing burial monuments and graves to some influential and famous people.

In terms of architecture, check out the Northam Memorial Chapel from 1882 and the Gallup Memorial Gateway. The latter has a stunning wrought iron carriage gate from 1888. 

Architects and sculptors like Carl Conrads, George Keller and Randolph Rogers have produced monuments here, while the list of burials is distinguished.

I was moved by the rather modest grave of Katharine Hepburn, and her feminist and suffragist mother, Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn.

Also be sure to look for Keller’s striking monument for the banker John Pierpoint Morgan and his family. Another important burial is the inventor of the Colt Revolver, Samuel Colt.

3. Lucy Robbins Welles Library

Lucy Robbins Welles LibrarySource: digitalbookmobile / Flickr
Lucy Robbins Welles Library

The local library is a prized amenity for Newington Residents, with more than 167,000 items in its catalog. Little wonder that the book borrowing rate in this town is almost double the national average.

The Lucy Robbins Welles Library was established in 1939 after a donation of money and land by two important local sisters, Fanny A. Welles and Mary Welles Eddy.

In keeping with its location, it was constructed in a quaint Georgian Revival style. Along with that enormous book collection, the library offers free Wi-Fi, public computers, newspapers and busy activity programmes for infants, children, teens and adults.

There are exhibitions by local artists, movie screenings, storytimes, craft workshops, talks and yoga classes.

4. Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station

Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial StationSource: ARRL - the National Association for Amateur Radio / facebook
Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station

Newington lays claim to the flagship station for amateur radio operation in the United States. W1AW by its call sign, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station has hardly changed since it was built in 1938.

It stands beside the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) headquarters, which arrived in 1963. The station was such a big deal that its dedication ceremony in 1938 was broadcast live nationwide on the CBS network.

It was named after Hiram Percy Maxim, the ARRL’s co-founder and first president, and adopted his personal call-sign, (W1AW). The station is still internationally renowned for its news bulletins and Morse code practice sessions.

Starting at the ARRL building, tours are given in the morning and afternoon, Monday to Friday, and of course W1AW is a highlight.

You’ll see Hiram Percy Maxim’s roll-top desk, a post-WWII-era transmitter and a rotary spark gap transmitter, “Old Betsy” once installed at Maxim’s Hartford home.

Personally I was fascinated to see the current transmitters, the three studios and the digital station.

There are three guest operating positions at W1AW. You can use these if you’re a licensed amateur, and depending on your class.

5. Newington Junction

Newington JunctionSource: TheCatalyst31 / Wikimedia
Newington Junction

In the north east of the town at the intersection of Willard Avenue and West Hill Road is a leafy area with a rich past. 

Newington Junction is composed of three different historic districts: Newington Junction South, North and West. If you’re into local history, I think it’s all a fine place to do a little exploring. 

The oldest building here dates from 1650, and among the 30 or so contributing buildings are some resplendent houses These are in a variety of styles from Colonial to Gothic Revival, Late Victorian, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival.

Another monument on the National Register of Historic Places is the Newington Junction Railroad Depot and Freight House. Erected in the 1890s it’s now occupied by a garden center and landscaping business.

6. Gen. Martin Kellogg House

The Kellogg-Eddy HouseSource: www.newingtonct.gov
Gen. Martin Kellogg House

One of the finest houses in Newington is also on Willard Avenue at No. 679 and preserved as a historic house museum.

The substantial Gen. Martin Kellogg House is an outstanding piece of Federal-period architecture. The mansion dates to 1808 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987.

The original and foremost wing of the building has five bays, a wooden frame and an original Doric portico at the main entrance. The wing to the right is an extension from the late-1920s.

Inside there’s some masterful woodwork to admire,  as well as period-appropriate decor in the parlors and chambers.

Among the exhibits are Meissen porcelain, and an important collection of farm tools. For details of tours, usually taking place on Sundays, inquire at the Newington Historical Society.

7. Kelsey House

Kelsey HouseSource: Chrissypan / Wikimedia
Kelsey House

Also in the care of the Newington Historical Society is the Enoch Kelsey House. This was built by the namesake farmer/tinsmith and his son David in 1799. 

The house was slated for demolition until members of the historical society discovered four rare murals on the walls. Composed freehand, these trompe-l’œil paintings imitate wallpaper.

These works are of course my highlight. But the fine restored wooden paneling, and original beehive oven and fireplaces all demand closer inspection.

Also compelling is a barn loom, dating back to 1822 and used by four generations of women in the same family.

8. Newington Waterfall Festival

Newington Waterfall FestivalSource: Newington Waterfall Festival / facebook
Newington Waterfall Festival

The smallest waterfall in the United States is celebrated every September with a one-day festival on Market Square.

The Newington Waterfall Festival was launched in 2000 and now pulls in people from well beyond the town. On the agendar are live music, and a farmers’ market.  Added to that are 70+ arts and craft stalls and food vendors.

The Kids Zone is also worth mentioning, with performances from the Newington Children’s Theater Company. 

The main event on the day is the Artist’s Chalk Walk, in which the surface of Market Square is turned into a big, colorful art gallery.

9. Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

Webb-Deane-Stevens MuseumSource: Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum / facebook
Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

The largest historic district in the state is next door in Wethersfield. In under ten minutes you can be at this museum preserving a row of three 18th-century houses. Each has an intriguing history to uncover.

My priority is the Joseph Webb House (1752). Here George Washington spent five nights in 1781 and met the Comte de Rochambeau to plot the final push in the Revolutionary War.

The Silas Deane House (1769) was the purpose-built home of another important figure in American Independence. Deane would later represent the Continental Congress as the first American diplomat to France.

At the Isaac Stevens House (1788) you can take a peek into the lifestyle of a middle class leatherworker in the first decades of the 19th century. 

On show here are period furniture, wallpaper and the new technologies brought by the Industrial Revolution. Upstairs is a fabulous collection of toys, dolls and dollhouses.

Another property, the Bottolph-Williams House (1711) is set close by and is enriched with decorative arts from the 17th century.

10. Montana Nights Axe Throwing

Montana Nights Axe ThrowingSource: Montana Nights Axe Throwing / facebook
Montana Nights Axe Throwing

The largest axe-throwing facility in New England is right here in Newington, and it’s an activity you never knew you wanted to try. Think darts, but a little heavier.

Montana Nights, Newington has seven pits. To my mind, the best way to take part is to gather a group of eight buddies. Otherwise you may end up making up a random group of 12 on busier nights.

Naturally axe-throwing isn’t without its dangers, so you’ll need orientation from your “axespert” first. Then you can compete in a variety of throwing games for the next hour or so.

After all this action there’s a bar stocked with craft beer, as well as pool, chess tables and arcade games.

11. Alvarium Beer Company

Alvarium Beer CompanySource: Alvarium Beer Co. / facebook
Alvarium Beer Company

A brief cab ride will bring you to this craft brewery in New Britain, managed by a multi-talented three-man team.

In industrial surroundings, the taproom has been put together by hand and is a thing of beauty, with wood paneling and a 10-ton bar made from steel I-beams.

There’s shuffleboard, foosball, board games, hand-crafted wooden tables and digital menus over the bar that tell you what’s on tap. For food, you’ve got kielbasa and soft pretzels at the bar, and a food truck comes by most days.

When I wrote this article there were 16 brews on tap, and twice as many to-go. These run the full gamut from hoppy and fruity New England IPAs and DIPAs, to an Oatmeal Stout. Last time I was here they had an excellent Düsseldorf-style Altbier (CTRL+ALT+DEL).

12. Dinosaur State Park

Dinosaur State Park & MuseumSource: Dinosaur State Park, Friends / facebook
Dinosaur State Park & Museum

It won’t take you more than 10 minutes to reach one of North America’s largest dinosaur track sites, dating back 200 million years.

This stunning find was made in a sandstone quarry in 1966, and the park opened two years later.

The main building at Dinosaur State Park is a geodesic dome, protecting around 500 tracks left on what was once the sandy shore of a lake by a carnivore resembling a dilophosaurus.

These are up to 16 in inches long and as much as 4.5 feet apart. For reference you can see life-sized dilophosaurus models in the dome in dioramas, as well as live exhibits with lizards and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Outside, I had a great time rambling around the arboretum. Growing here are 250 different species and cultivars of coniferous trees to resemble Mesozoic woodland, all criss-crossed by two miles of trails.

13. Stanley Golf Course

Stanley Golf CourseSource: Stanley Golf Course / facebook
Stanley Golf Course

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better public golf facility than the nearby Stanley Golf Course. From my experience, this course compares well to a high-end private club.

There are 27 holes of golf here, across three nine-hole courses. The tracks are known for their testing greens and tee positions that require a soft touch.

You can shake off the rust at the floodlit driving range and the practice greens. In fact a lot of people just come to hit a few balls thanks to the newly installed TopTracer tech.

Green fees are around $40 on weekends for 18 holes, which is very little considering the quality. Meanwhile the Back Nine Tavern Restaurant has a hunger-busting menu of American classics, pizza and sandwiches.

14. Iwo Jima Survivors’ Memorial Park

Iwo Jima Survivors' Memorial ParkSource: Sage Ross / wikipedia
Iwo Jima Survivors’ Memorial Park

One hundred men from Connecticut were among the 6,821 US servicemen who died at the brutal Battle of Iwo Jima in February and March of 1945. 

The name alone calls to mind the famous image of six marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi, taken on February 23.

The National Iwo Jima Memorial in Newington reproduces that photograph in bronze, and was dedicated on February 23, 1995. I found the whole site extremely moving.

There’s an eternal flame close by, while black granite panels below record the names of the one hundred Connecticut men who gave their lives.

15. Copernican Observatory and Planetarium (CCSU)

Copernican Observatory and PlanetariumSource: en.wikipedia.org
Copernican Observatory And Planetarium

Central Connecticut State University’s Physics & Engineering Department maintains a planetarium and set of telescopes for its astronomy program. These are made available to the public roughly every other Saturday.

Free planetarium shows, put on by enthusiastic teachers and students, begin at 8:00 PM and cover a rotating list of topics. I was in town for a winter solstice show, exploring the astronomical roots of this ancient celebration. 

Afterwards, if the sky is clear you’ll be able to head to the roof to wonder at the cosmos through the observatory’s telescopes.

15 Best Things to Do in Newington (CT):

  • Mill Pond Park
  • Cedar Hill Cemetery
  • Lucy Robbins Welles Library
  • Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station
  • Newington Junction
  • Gen. Martin Kellogg House
  • Kelsey House
  • Newington Waterfall Festival
  • Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
  • Montana Nights Axe Throwing
  • Alvarium Beer Company
  • Dinosaur State Park
  • Stanley Golf Course
  • Iwo Jima Survivors' Memorial Park
  • Copernican Observatory and Planetarium (CCSU)