Hartford, Connecticut had a historic atmosphere that surprised me when I visited during a recent convention. The city, located on the Connecticut River, is the insurance industry capital and I expected more gleaming glass and new towers. But I enjoyed the old architecture existing alongside newer buildings.
A quaint calm seemed to permeate while visiting in early August. The riverwalk, Old Statehouse, Bushnell Park, and the Mark Twain House caught my attention. The downtown section is much smaller than I would have thought; but so is the city’s population at 124,060 according to City Data. My hometown of Pasadena, California is 143,667.
We landed at Hartford’s Bradley Airport and took a city bus to the Marriott downtown by the convention center during a Wednesday afternoon.
Bradley Airport to Convention Center–40 minutes during afternoon rush hour
Cost: $ 1.25 per person
Convention Center to Bradley Airport–15 minutes (appx) on a Sat afternoon
Cost: $ 36 flat fee (four passengers in the cab)
Star Shuttle in downtown Hartford
After we checked in, we took a Star Shuttle tour from the hotel and made our exit near Bushnell Park. The Star Shuttle is free and the bus driver was knowledgeable with some of the different restaurants and their tastes.
I suggest riding the entire Star Shuttle route around downtown to get a feel for the city, or exit at Trumbull Street and Asylum Street to have easiest access to restaurants and the limited nightlife.
Star Shuttle highlights:
- Stop 1 is the Hartford Convention Center on Columbus Street near the river,
- Stop 3 is across from Bushnell Park which is a nice large park for walking, and a fountain to take food and sit. It also leads to the capitol area.
- Stop 5 is the heart of downtown Hartford
- Stop 8 is near the bus station, train station, and Holiday Inn Express
From Stop 8 at Asylum and Union Street is about one mile from the Mark Twain House.
Bushnell Park is about a 15-minute walk from the convention center. My wife and I walked around the perimeter and enjoyed peeking in on the Merry-go-Round during a birthday celebration the business community was hosting for it.
Riverwalk is a nice stroll, up the steps past the Connecticut Science Center. There are thick woods along the riverbank and a few different trails to choose.
Immediately under the bridge, there are statues representing Abraham Lincoln and aspects of his life such as speaking with Harriet Beecher Stowe and his frontier boyhood.
- Old State House
- , 800 Main Street, www.ctosh.org
Connecticut’s capitol from 1797 to 1873 the Old State House is open for group and individual tours. It’s a 5-minute walk from the Convention Center.
- Mark Twain House and Museum
- The Mark Twain House and Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue, www.MarkTwainHouse.org
Admission: $5 for the museum only
We stopped at the Mark Twain Museum shortly before we had to leave for the airport. We missed taking the house tour which would have been worthwhile. But seeing the museum itself and watching the 20-minute documentary gave me a renewed appreciation for Samuel Clemens’ writing and his fight for equality among blacks and whites.
It also gave me a writing idea to explore: that Clemens went bankrupt when trying to develop and sell a new printing press. I thought of the painful time his family must have endured when they had to leave the house they loved in Hartford and travel to Europe where they could live more cheaply while moving from hotel to hotel.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
- Harriet Beecher Stowe’s bicentennial is 2011. She wrote the ground-breaking anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. She was a student and teacher at Hartford Female Seminary.
Convention Center area
The Hartford Convention Center is spacious and designed with an open feeling that offers a welcome to visitors.
Connecticut Science Center
Located near Riverfront Plaza on Columbus and State Street. The center has over 150 exhibits, 10 galleries and a 3D theater.
We stayed in the Marriott Hartford. Our room was nicely located on a corner overlooking the convention center and the river behind us. A nice perk was two windows – one looking south and the other looking east.
The swimming pool and fitness room are located on the 22nd floor. The fitness had a nice array of equipment.
Fine dining and casual dining is located primarily on or near Trumbull Street between Pearl Street and Pratt Street. We did not eat out much, as is our habit. However, we enjoyed pizza at Vito’s – a wonderful deep dish meat pizza for $26 that was large and thick enough for five. We also ate at DDs Gyros on Temple Street just below Main Street. We had a lamb plate – all the food was fresh and the seasoning on the lamb was wonderful.
Hartford’s slogan is New England’s Rising Star. I definitely recommend seeing the downtown area when visiting Connecticut or the region.
Hartford is about 118 miles from New York City and 102 miles from Boston.
We flew to Hartford on United Airlines from Los Angeles to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. and then took a United Express on a Canadair jet from D.C. to Hartford.