What’s included: Informational tours that take place outside on a recurring basis and involve walking as the primary mode of movement.
What’s not: Tours that have you sitting on a bus, boat, or bicycle; tours that are (probably or definitely) on hiatus; tours that are only self-guided; general walks; private tours that require your membership for participation; campus tours intended to attract students.
Coltsville National Historical Park
Where else around here can you get a guided tour from a National Park ranger?
It is possible to abhor ongoing gun violence and to think that Sam Colt was basically a schmuck, while thoroughly enjoying this tour.
If you have a casual understanding of the Colt family legacy, this tour will fill in the gaps. Elizabeth Colt comes out of this looking like the hero; her husband and one child who made it to adulthood, not so much. The tour balances Samuel’s contributions as an inventor and industrialist with his failures and sometimes shortsighted leadership style. The son, Caldwell, who dies mysteriously as age 35, would be in good company with any one of the overprivileged Peter Pan types common today — just give him a man-bun and call it a day.
Meet by the Colt monument inside the Colt Park entrance from Wethersfield Avenue at 10 am or 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays for the free walking tour. The suggestion to wear a hat and bring water is no joke. It’s not a physically fast-moving tour, but it remains hot even in the shade at mid-day. Contact (717) 856-9629 to confirm if the tours are happening — they do cancel for “bad weather,” but we all have different definitions of what that means.
Cedar Hill Cemetery
Learn about trees, birds and butterflies, monuments, and the people buried here. There are many free and low-cost walking tours. The Hallowed History Lantern Tour is the most expensive one, but if you can spare the money, go for it. This takes place after dark near Halloween each year and involves character actors. It’s not often you are encouraged to hang out in a graveyard at night.
Take free garden tours from May-October. The Moonlight Park & History Tour, offered later in the season, involves wandering around in the dark. Bring a flashlight if you don’t feel like your ankles need added excitement.
Free one-hour history tours are offered once each month from June-October. Every Thursday (weather-permitting) and on some special occasions from May-October, you can take a tour of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. It’s possible to walk up, look around, and come back down on your own, but the tour segment is quick and painless — about ten minutes altogether. Unless you’re one of those CrossFit maniacs, you’ll probably benefit from that downtime after taking on the steep steps.
Shoeleather Walking Tour
These are sporadic, so sign up when you see that as an option. Having been to one years ago, can say that this is info-packed and gives another side of Hartford’s history than what you’ll get if you stick to only where the tourism sites point you. Steve’s description of his tours is on point: “The first route starts and ends at the Old State House, downtown on Central Row. It covers Emma Goldman, James Connolly, Big Bill Haywood, John Brown, union organizer Rebecca Weiner, suffragist Josephine Bennett, artist Alton Tobey, and much more” and “[t]he second tour (Charter Oak Avenue to Huyshope Ave.) introduces the boy genius and the golden boy, the Solidarity priest and the radical rabbi, the doctor who was a Puerto Rican revolutionary and the doctor who created the first WMD, struggles of women factory workers, tenants, the unemployed and homeless, Mark Twain, baseball and more.” Future tours for other parts of the city are in the works.
Ancient Burying Ground
Middle school students are the tour guides for these free cemetery tours, Monday-Friday, 12-2 pm. These only go through the beginning of August. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-690-9150 to get more information or schedule a tour.
Connecticut Trails Day (Weekend)
Every year in June, organized walks/hikes are planned throughout the state. There are usually ones planned for Keney Park, Cedar Hill Cemetery, and somewhere downtown Hartford.
This series of October walks is in the planning stages.