Connecticut Through the Decades Last Updated: July 2023
With the beginning of a new decade, it’s a good time to celebrate the essence of decades-past. Connecticut offers so many ways to evoke the glamour of the 1920s, the spirit of the 1950s, the groove of the 1970s and beyond. Here are a few places that will take you back.
Known for flapper fashion, glamourous parties, and prohibition, the 1920s were a time of prosperity and mass entertainment. Channel the bold energy of rebellious men and women when you step through the doors of Ordinary in New Haven, sip on some old-world cocktails at Little River Restoratives in Hartford, or taste moonshine at The Hidden Still in Ellington.
Although the 1930s began with the Great Depression, the decade saw success with air travel as advancements were made with the jet engine, the radio, and airship travel across Europe. Learn about these vintage aircrafts at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks.
As music evolved, swing took the place of jazz as popular music. Tap your toes to a live swing band at Villa Italia Ristorante & Bar in Stamford or swing dance at Ken Mercik's West Coast Swing, Polish Home in Windsor Locks, Vinnie's Jump & Jive Monthly Swing Dance in Middletown or Hartford Community Dance, West Hartford and Wethersfield, and get lost in the music of the decade. To learn more about music during the decade, take a trip to the Vintage Radio & Communications Museum of Connecticut.
Katharine Hepburn, who was born in Hartford, got her big break in the early 1930s. Celebrate her theatrical legacy by seeing a show at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook.
Did you know that the 1940s contained the only time period in history in which car production stopped for almost four years? Due to the World War II, no automobiles were manufactured beginning in 1942 and did not resume until 1946. Once production resumed, the late 1940s saw automotive feats, as automakers like Ferrari began producing sleek-looking sports cars. To get up close and personal, race back in time at Connecticut Seaport Car Club’s car shows, where you can check out popular cars that were driven in the 40s.
For a tasty meal, make a trip to Frankie's Diner in Bridgeport which has been open since 1946. Grab a bite any time you're feeling nostalgic – they’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
The late 1940s also gave birth to a whole new creation for automotive fans: NASCAR. While the first race was held in Daytona Beach, you can experience a NASCAR stock car race and fulfill your need for speed at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson or Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs.
At the end of the decade, music took a turn with the introduction of 45 RPM records. Homes became incomplete without a record player in them and record stores began popping up on every corner. You may just find some original copies of 1940s rhythm and blues at Redscroll Records in Wallingford or Willimantic Records in Willimantic.
The 1950s and 1960s
With the war over and most Americans returning to normal life, time spent on leisure activities increased. A popular pastime for many teens and young adults was eating dinner at the local diner before heading to a drive-in to catch the hottest new flick. If you’re feeling nostalgic for poodle skirts and shakes, you can eat with some friends at Shady Glen in Manchester or Famous 50s Diner in Bridgeport. In the spring and summer, the Mansfield Drive-In and the Southington Drive-In are open for the season and show popular films from the past and present.
Did you know the world's first nuclear-powered submarine was first launched in Connecticut in 1952? Today, you can board that submarine as well as see working periscopes, mini-subs and mini-theaters at Historic Ship Nautilis & Submarine Force Museum in Groton.
The 1958 development of NASA became vital to the United States in the space race which lasted throughout much of the 1960s. At the Connecticut Air & Space Museum in Stratford, you can see special space artifacts that were built right here in Connecticut.
Explore the history of high fidelity music, analog audio systems with components "Made in the USA," beginning in the 1950s with a fascinating and fun visit to the Vintage Hi Fi Museum in West Hartford.
The 1970s and 1980s
Music and dance dominated the lifestyle of the 1970s and 1980s. At night, crowds boogied down to progressive rock and disco at the local dance club or bar. Travel back in time at Connecticut hot spots like Vandome and dance to bright disco balls and flashing lights.
If they weren’t on the dance floor, you could find people grooving around under the lights of a disco ball at the local roller rink. To really soak in the nostalgia, put on your brightest neon pants and skate like they did in the 1980s at Ron-A-Roll Indoor Roller Skating Center in Vernon.
The 1990s was a decade of athletic success in Connecticut. The UConn men and women basketball teams took home two NCAA Tournament Championships, the men in 1999 and the women in 1995. Catch a game at Gampel Pavillion at the University of Connecticut in Storrs to support the continued success of these teams – and enjoy a fun sporting event.
Connecticut was also once home to the Hartford Whalers, a professional ice hockey team. The Whalers represented Connecticut in the NHL up until 1997, when they were relocated to North Carolina and renamed. Although the Whalers are no longer a Connecticut team, you can continue to enjoy Connecticut hockey by seeing a Bridgeport Islanders, Hartford Wolf Pack or Connecticut Whale game.