15 Best Things to Do in Rocky Hill (CT)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Folded into the Connecticut Valley on the west bank of the river, the small town of Rocky Hill has much to offer.

The oldest operating ferry service in the whole of the country departs from the riverbank for Glastonbury May through October.

Rewind 200 million years and the tracks of a carnivorous dinosaur have been preserved down the ages in brownstone. These  can be admired under a Space Age geodesic dome at Dinosaur State Park & Museum.

Rocky Hill has volumes of human history dating back almost 400 years and presented at the Academy Hall Museum. If you’re into history like me, the town is also close to the largest historic district in the state, at Old Wethersfield, just ten minutes away.

Let’s explore the best things to do in and around Rocky Hill:

1. Dinosaur State Park & Museum

Dinosaur State Park & MuseumSource: Jeffrey M. Frank / shutterstock
Dinosaur State Park & Museum

Some 200 million years ago an early carnivorous dinosaur similar to a Dilophosaurus walked across the sandy shore of a lake in what is now Rocky Hill.

Those tracks were preserved in brownstone to be revealed once more when the site was quarried in the 19th century.

There are about 2,000 individual prints in the state park. Around a quarter of these are displayed under a geodesic dome that was put up in the 1960s.

Inside I got to study the tracks, see dioramas evoking Rocky Hill in the Jurassic era, and check out other fossilized tracks collected around Connecticut.

The outdoor space at Dinosaur State Park also needs to be explored for its arboretum growing 250 cultivars of conifers. These woods give a sense of what Mesozoic-era woodland might have looked like.

2. Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry

Rocky Hill-Glastonbury FerrySource: Raymond Deleon / shutterstock
Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry

The oldest continuously running ferry crossing in the United States links Rocky Hill on the west bank of the Connecticut River with Glastonbury on the east.

This service has existed in some form since 1655 when it was a raft propelled by a pole.

That was replaced by a horse on a treadmill, followed by a steamship, which in turn was switched out for the current barge and towboat system.

For drivers, the ferry saves a long detour via Hartford or Middletown. It’s also a godsend for cyclists who aren’t permitted to use the Putnam bridge in Wethersfield.

There are services May through October. When I went to press the toll was $5 per vehicle ($6 on weekends) and $2 for cyclists and pedestrians.

3. Still Hill Brewery

Still Hill BrewerySource: Still Hill Brewery / facebook
Still Hill Brewery

One of the great things about Connecticut in the 21st century is that there’s a craft brewery for every town, and sometimes more than that.

Rocky Hill’s own purveyor of quality beer is Still Hill, which opens the doors to its industrial home from Thursday through Sunday.

The brewery has forged links with some great local food trucks. So there will always be good food to go with your pints or flights.

When I put this list together there were 13 beers on tap. Among them was the delicious Sluggy Buggy, an earthy Oatmeal Stout with chocolate and coffee notes.

4. Quarry Park

Quarry ParkSource: Brian Leveille / Facebook
Quarry Park

Rocky Hill is named after this basalt landform that became a quarry, exploited from the end of the 19th century to the post-war period.

The old quarry is tiered, with ponds in the lowest pockets. From the highest point near the north end of the rise I could see across Hartford, the Connecticut River and Glastonbury. 

On the trails in the park’s 84 wooded acres you’ll stumble upon some of the decaying quarry buildings.

The most intact of these is the old compressor house, but there are also some ghostly arcades, all daubed in graffiti.

5. Rocky Hill Historical Society

Rocky Hill Historical SocietySource: Rocky Hill Historical Society & Academy Hall Museum / Facebook
Rocky Hill Historical Society

The museum for the Rocky Hill Historical Society is inside a handsome Federal-style academy building from 1803. Academy Hall is one of just a handful of surviving school buildings in the state from the early 19th century.

You’ll find it in a row, sandwiched between the town office building and the Rocky Hill Congregational church.

The building served as a school of some description until 1941 and was finally leased to the Rocky Hill Historical Society 20 years later.

The museum, open Tuesdays and Saturdays, selects from the society’s vast inventory of artifacts.

These include tableware, agricultural implements, jewelry, toys, dolls, period costume, Native American finds, military uniforms, paintings, tapestries and sports gear, for the briefest introduction.

6. Rocky Hill Ferry Park

Rocky Hill Ferry ParkSource: Kyle Lee / shutterstock
Rocky Hill Ferry Park

One of the best ways to idle away an hour or two in Rocky Hill is by the Connecticut River watching the ferry shuttling to and fro. The historical marker for the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry can be found here. 

Ferry Park is a small parcel of greenery, with dreamy views over to Glastonbury. My tip for early birds is to come at dawn when the scenery is at its most dramatic. 

Naturally, the vistas of the Connecticut River are also sumptuous in the fall season, and this is a world-class leaf peeping spot.

7. Elm Street Historic District

Elm Street Historic DistrictSource: Magicpiano / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Elm Street Historic District

On Elm Street between Silas Deane Highway and Grimes Road you’ll be on a Colonial-era roadway that was laid down in the 17th century, leading off from the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry.

This section of the road, from No. 18 to 191 is a Historic District added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. 

As you make your way you’ll see a real cross-section of New England architecture styles. These include Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, American Foursquare, Craftsman/Bungalow, and a smattering of Queen Anne and Italianate houses from the Victorian period.

The oldest building of all lies at the intersection of Chapin and Ashwell Streets and has been here since 1769.

8. Codeword Escape

Escape RoomSource: graletta / shutterstock
Escape Room

Rocky Hill has its very own highly-rated escape room attraction.

For the uninitiated, escape rooms require a series of puzzles to be solved, using individual skill and teamwork, within an hour time limit.

Often you simply have to get out of the room, but often there’s a specific mission to complete.

When I dropped by, Codeword Escape had three rooms: Movie Mayhem, Curse of the Golden Touch and Gangster Gnomes II.

You may have to battle against time to recover a priceless award stolen from a movie theater, or find a Midas-style king’s magic lamp to turn his daughter from gold to human again.

Whatever your task, a helpful game master will be on hand for any queries and for little clues if you get stuck.

9. Cora J. Belden Library

BooksSource: jakkaje879 / shutterstock

Rocky Hill is rightly fond of the homey Cora J. Belden Library, praised as one of the best in the region, and run by warm, accommodating staff.

Like all the best local libraries, this place is a local cultural point of reference. There’s rich programming for adults, teens and children.

There are summer reading programs, book clubs, all sorts of fun activities for children and twice-weekly movie screenings (Monday and Friday) for classic films and recent releases.

The excellent children’s section, with books, LEGO, toys, puzzles and computers, is on a separate floor to the stacks for grownups. I found this a blessing for people who need some peace and quiet.

10. River Highlands State Park

River Highlands State ParkSource: Jennifer Yakey-Ault / shutterstock
River Highlands State Park

There’s natural drama just down the Connecticut River in Cromwell, at this wood-shrouded state park on the high west bank.

The cliffs at River Highlands reach a height of almost 160 feet, which makes for some marvelous vistas. I should point out that these are best when the foliage is gone in winter and early spring.

The woodland is dominated by white pine, beech and oak, and the loftier vantage points can be found to the north and south of the park.

On the way to these lookouts you’ll venture along trails tracing the edge of bluffs, crossing streams and dipping down to the water’s edge.

There you’ll find an unusual geological feature known as the “Blowhole”. This got its name from the hum of the wind as it rakes along the bluffs.

11. Old Wethersfield

Old WethersfieldSource: SMGarten / shutterstock
Old Wethersfield

The largest historic district in the state of Connecticut is ten minutes by car from downtown Rocky Hill.

Old Wethersfield is spread over two square miles, with 1,100 buildings, the earliest going back to the 17th century.

My favorite piece of trivia is that some 100 of Old Wethersfield’s buildings date from Colonial times. Yet another 100 have been here since before the Civil War.

You can dive right into this history at the Webb Deane Stevens Museum, preserving a row of three houses. 

Two of these have ties to George Washington: His Revolutionary War headquarters were at the Webb House in May 1781, and he dined at the Silas Deane House in 1775.

12. Elm Ridge Park

Skate ParkSource: Parilov / shutterstock
Skate Park

Although this space isn’t quite as scenic as the other parks on my list, it’s a hive of activity year round for its multiple facilities.

Just for a quick rundown, there are two little league baseball fields, a softball field, outdoor pool + wading pool, a basketball court, a volleyball court and a skatepark.

There’s a fabulous recently updated playground/sandbox, a pavilion, two charcoal grills, a gazebo, the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater and dog park. Then in winter Elm Ridge Park has a popular skating rink.

Check the events calendar, as there are outdoor movie screenings on the main field in summer, as well as concerts throughout the season.

Then, towards the end of October is the annual Fallfest at the amphitheater. This brings rides, live music, fun competitions and fireworks.

13. John Robbins House

John Robbins HouseSource: Jerry Dougherty / Wikimedia
John Robbins House

Along Old Main Street you’ll come to what is held as one of the best examples of brick-built Georgian architecture in Connecticut.

A private residence, the John Robbins House, completed around 1767, is 2.5 stories tall and composed of bricks fired from clay recovered from a local field.

There’s a gambrel roof with elongated chimney stacks at each end, and a fine Palladian window above the main entrance.

An intriguing detail is the pair of circular windows just below the roof on the side elevations. The house was built by John Robbins, who bought the plot from the Duke of Cumberland.

In its earliest days Robbins ran a tavern here, known as the Duke of Cumberland Inn.

14. Center Cemetery

Center CemeterySource: George A Chien / Facebook
Center Cemetery

This moody old cemetery sits on a triangular plot between Main Street and Dividend Road.

It’s the burial place for many of Rocky Hill’s early ministers. I’m always fascinated to see how locally recurrent family names like Merriam, Robbins, Goodrich and McNamara go back to Rocky Hill’s foundation.

The earliest interment was an unnamed baby, the daughter of Benjamin and Mary Deming, who died in 1731. 

You can take a stroll and read grave markers, most of which are still legible, and cast your eye over the elaborate stonework on the crypts and obelisks.

A couple of the more noteworthy burials are Susan Webber (d. 1952) who survived the sinking of the Titanic. Also keep an eye out for Calvin Chapin, who was a fifer in the Revolutionary War.

15. Van Vleck Observatory

Van Vleck ObservatorySource: Vineyard Perspective / shutterstock
Van Vleck Observatory

During the academic year you can swing by Wesleyan University’s Van Vleck Observatory on Wednesdays for a night of wonder.

Starting at 8:00 PM there’s a topical half-hour presentation by a member of the astronomy department. This will often deal with a new discovery or breakthrough.

If the weather’s good this will be followed by the chance to peek through two of the observatory’s three telescopes.

For families, I’d recommend looking out for one of the Kids’ Night at the Observatory sessions. 

The fine observatory building deserves a mention as it’s more than a century old. It was named for Wesleyan University’s two-time president John Monroe van Vleck (1833-1912), a prominent mathematician and astronomer.

An impact crater on the moon, on the north-eastern rim of the Gilbert plain, was also named for van Vleck in 1976.

15 Best Things to Do in Rocky Hill (CT):

  • Dinosaur State Park & Museum
  • Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry
  • Still Hill Brewery
  • Quarry Park
  • Rocky Hill Historical Society
  • Rocky Hill Ferry Park
  • Elm Street Historic District
  • Codeword Escape
  • Cora J. Belden Library
  • River Highlands State Park
  • Old Wethersfield
  • Elm Ridge Park
  • John Robbins House
  • Center Cemetery
  • Van Vleck Observatory