Arts & Culture

Top Museum Tours In Connecticut

August 18, 2014 8:00 AM

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Photo Credit: dinosaurstatepark.org

Photo Credit: dinosaurstatepark.org

Anyone can go to a museum to see the sights, but not all museums have guided tours. In Connecticut, fortunately, there are a number of museums where tour guides and “historic interpreters” (some of them in period costumes) will escort groups or even individuals around to point out the highlights and explain the importance or relevance of the exhibits. Whether the museum-goer wants to travel to the colonial era, walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, view a great art collection or march about the battlements of a castle, here are just five of the top museums in Connecticut that offer tours to their visitors.

Gillette Castle State Park and Mansion
67 River Road
East Haddam, CT 06423
(860) 526-2336
www.ct.gov

For a mere $6 extra ($2 for children 6-12 and at no charge for those 5 and under), visitors to Gillette Castle State Park and Mansion can take a guided, narrated tour of the magnificent home of the famous stage actor and art collector William Gillette. The wealthy Gillette, who made his fortune portraying Sherlock Holmes and other great characters on the stage in the late 1800s and early 1900s, built the stately 24-room mansion in the form of a castle, from whose battlements atop The Seventh Sister he could see the other hills and valleys that make up the Seven Sisters Range. The building itself is a work of art, and each room is filled with period furniture, exhibits about Gillette and his career and pieces of Gillette’s own extensive art collection. There is also an exhibit that shows his fascination with railroads and trains. The surrounding grounds include an extensive network of hiking and nature trails, riverside walks and picnic grounds.

Hill-Stead Museum
35 Mountain Road
Farmington, CT 06032
(860) 677-4787
www.hillstead.org

The basic guided tour of the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington is only 35 minutes long, but it takes visitors into an era of elegance and serenity in which time seems to stand still. The grand colonial era house is home to a wonderful collection of French Impressionist paintings, and is decorated with many works of art – small and grand – as well as original furniture and furnishings from the period. The tour includes a walk through the sunken garden, and information about the 150 acres upon which the estate is situated. Longer, higher-level and higher-priced tours are available for those who wish to see more of the estate and the collection. Guides call themselves “interpreters” for they do not merely point out the treasures of the collection, but relate stories as to how the works of art came to be created and collected. Tours start at $12 per adult.

Related: Top Museums For Dates In Connecticut

Noah Webster House
227 S. Main St.
West Hartford, CT 06107
(860) 521-5362
www.noahwebsterhouse.org

Noah Webster is one of Connecticut’s most famous citizens, and not just because of the dictionary he created that bears his name. He was also a leading abolitionist, as well as a respected educator and lawyer. Guided tours of his home in West Hartford are led by costumed historical “interpreters” who over the course of 45 minutes, talk about his accomplishments and daily life in the early 1800s. There is also a video tour and limited seating is provided for those who need it. The museum has other exhibits and activities, including special Bookworm and Summer Camp adventures.

Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
211 Main St.
Wethersfield, CT 06109
(860) 529-0612
www.webb-deane-stevens.org

Connecticut’s colonial and revolutionary war history come to life in the guided tours at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield. The tour takes visitors through each of the three homes – one of which George Washington actually slept in (the Joseph Webb house, which he used as a military headquarters prior to marching south to Yorktown in 1781). The Webb house, built in 1752, is the oldest of the three. The Issac Stevens house is the newest, built in 1789, while that of Silas Deane – whose diplomatic efforts helped bring France into America’s side in the Revolutionary War – dates from about 1770. Guides talk about the history of the great men – but also about the challenges of daily life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  There is also an extensive Colonial Revival garden.  Tours are $10 for adults, but discounts are available for children, seniors, families and groups.

Dinosaur State Park Arboretum
400 West St.
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
(860) 529-8423
www.dinosaurstatepark.org

The guided tour along the Dino Trail at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill is one of the best museum tours in Connecticut. Visitors are taken along a path through the arboretum that follows the fossilized tracks made by dinosaurs that walked what was then a river bed during the Jurassic Era. Known as “Track Talks,” the live narrated tour is one of the most popular attractions at the park, especially for first-time visitors.  While the trail is surrounded by the trees and plants of the arboretum, there are also indoor exhibits, including sections with displays of live birds, reptiles, bugs and small mammals.

Related: Connecticut’s Best Museums

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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