August 5, 2009

What to do in Bristol, Connecticut

Had to write this up for a special section for Little League tournament visitors and thought some of you would find if interesting - and, no doubt, find stuff to quibble about!

There’s more to Bristol than ESPN and the regional Little League tournament.
Aside from a parade of pizza shops that are always eager for business, there are plenty of parks, museums and other attractions that visitors may want to include on their journey.
From the city’s new skatepark to the country’s oldest amusement park, Bristol’s got enough going on to keep anyone busy while waiting for the next ballgame.
Near the top of the list is an outing to Lake Compounce, the nation’s oldest amusement park and still one of its best.
The Boulder Dash, a wooden coaster built into the mountainside, is routinely cited by coaster fans as one of the world’s finest. It’s a must for any thrill seeker.
The 1927 Wildcat is one of the older wooden coasters still flying around its tracks, providing a few more rattles than its newer counterpart, but it’s still got what it takes.
Lake Compounce also has an extensive water park, a historic carousel and much more.
Speaking of carousels, be sure to consider a stop at the New England Carousel Museum on Riverside Avenue. It’s got antique carousel figures and reams of information.
Another museum, near the old Federal Hill Green, showcases the history of clockmaking, an enterprise that made Bristol famous long before Chris Berman stepped behind one of ESPN’s microphones.
The American Clock and Watch Museum is full of clocks from every period as well as exhibits teaching the manufacturing history behind them.
The Imagine Nation, a downtown children’s museum on Pleasant Street, is a gem for school age children, with lots of hands-on stuff and a chance to learn while playing.
But if you want to get out and do something, consider grabbing a skateboard and checking out the new skatepark at Rockwell Park in the city’s West End.
The historic park is still in the midst of a major renovation, but the $500,000 skatepark is done and getting rave reviews.
The playground next door is also finished and it’s pretty nice, too.
Another great playground is at Page Park on King Street, across from Bristol Eastern High School. It’s accessible to those with handicaps and a popular spot as well.
Looking for a swim? The city has three pools that are available to the public, including the indoor one next door to the Little League complex on Mix Street.
Page Park has a large outdoor pool while Rockwell Park has a smaller one. Both are great spots to dodge the heat.
Searching for a nice spot to take a walk? The city has many.
Its historic Memorial Boulevard, constructed shortly after World War I, is lined with memorials and monuments to the city’s veterans of wars from the past century. It’s a hot spot for those taking a stroll.
Among the other parks are Pine Lake, off Pine Street, and the Hoppers-Birge Pond Nature Preserve, off North Pond Street, where it’s possible to head off into the woods and commune with nature.
The nature preserve has trails that circle Ice Age-era glacial hoppers that are especially pleasant.
The Barnes Nature Center on Shrub Road is another grand place for a walk in the woods.
And what about Bristol’s most famous spot?
ESPN is pretty much off limits, though it’s easy to drive by on Route 229 and see a portion of the sports giant’s sprawling camps, including some of its massive satellite dishes.
At the Imagine Nation, though, you can see an ESPN-donated SportsCenter exhibit that let you sit behind the sports anchor desk and read a script off a teleprompter.
It’s not the real thing, of course, but it’s as close as you can get unless you have some pull with the worldwide sports leader.

YouTube video of the skatepark in Bristol

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Well done, Steve.

Anonymous said...

like it.

Jack Ben Phil said...


On a clear day, I would also vote for driving up to the top of Chippens Hills and taking in the view from the Water Department pumping station up there.

(just make sure not to turn around and look at the old New Departure factory and think about what once was)

If apples are in season, you can stop at Minor's next door too.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic job, Steve! Good plug for our little city ;)

Anonymous said...

Steve, where is the Chamber in all of this?

THEY should be leading the charge and providing the stories to the Press!

Not faulting you, or the Press, but would rather have more time and effort spent on what is happening that no one else covers.

Anonymous said...

It's really unfortunate that there is nothing for the legions of ESPN fans who pass through Bristol. That old McDonalds would be a great place for a theme restaurant or even a tourist trap style store. ESPN seems to operate in a bubble.

Anonymous said...