The insurance industry once called Hartford home and earned for the state capital the not-so-glowing nickname "Filing Cabinet of America." Not exactly something you put on your souvenir sweatshirts. Not surprisingly, Hartford was for a long time a tourism backwater. These days, however, many visitors are realizing that the state capital of Connecticut hides some wonderful gems and very pleasant things to do. So file Hartford under possible destinations for your next vacation in the Northeast.
Mark Twain was born in Missouri and said he was a "Southern" writer. He also said of Hartford, where he lived from 1874 to 1891, "Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief." So where better to start your explorations of Hartford than at the Mark Twain House & Museum? It's the perfect place to learn about all things Twain and why he liked Hartford so much. Another popular Hartford author is Harriet Beecher Stowe and you can discover more about her life and letters at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has a large collection of American and European paintings, sculpture and decorative arts. The Old State House, the Connecticut State Capitol and the Governor's Residence are all national historic landmarks and all sites worth checking out.
Take a stroll through the historic district of Old Wethersfield on Main Street and stop in at the Main Street Creamery for great ice cream. If you're traveling with kids, head for the Children's Museum, which has interactive science and nature exhibits. For more Hartford history, spend a couple hours at the Noah Webster House and discover the impact he had on the building of American culture (a lot more than dictionary definitions). Bushnell Park is a great place to unwind during a day of sightseeing. One very "rosy" local attraction is the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden, where you can enjoy the sight and scent of 15,000 roses (peak bloom time is early June). If you want to get an overview of Hartford and the city center, take the elevator to the observation deck on top of landmark Travelers Tower.
Fine dining is largely concentrated in lively downtown Hartford, particularly along Asylum Street, but there are also good choices in Trumbull Street. Hartford is a good city for fans of pizza and pasta, due to the large population of Italian Americans here. Many of the city's Italian restaurants are located in South End.
Most of Hartford's shopping activity is also located in downtown Hartford. The Stackpole Moore & Tryon clothing store should be on your shopping itinerary -- it's been in existence since 1909. Other shops worth checking out include the Fiona Stone Boutique. The West Hartford Center, Blue Back Square and West Farms Mall offer more conventional shopping. In nearby Manchester, there's a charming pedestrian street with many shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants.
451 Hartford Tpke
351 Farmington Ave
901 Main St.