Guide to Hartford, Connecticut | Eat, Stay & Play

With deep New England roots, a vibrant art scene, and a flashy new hotel district, there’s plenty to see and do in Hartford, Connecticut.

By Katherine Keenan

Sep 10 2019

Things to Do in Hartford Connecticut 11

One of the oldest cities in the country, Hartford has become a major commercial and industrial hub over the last few decades.

Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons
One of the oldest cities in the country, Hartford, Connecticut, has become a major commercial and industrial hub over the past few decades — but it doesn’t skimp on culture, either. Whether you’re visiting the “Insurance Capital of the U.S.” for business or fun, you’ll be surprised by the number of things to do in Hartford, Connecticut. Plus, nearby Bradley Airport makes this capital city a great home base for day-trips to picturesque surrounding towns.  Ready to pack your bags? Then read on for our guide to Hartford, Connecticut.
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Founded in 1635, Hartford is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. — but it doesn’t look its age.
Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons

What to Do | Activities in Hartford, Connecticut

Mark Twain House
The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

The Mark Twain House & Museum

The Mark Twain House & Museum offers a look into the life of Samuel Clemens (better known by his pen name, Mark Twain). The Clemens family lived in this downtown Hartford, Connecticut, house for 17 years, and it’s where Clemens wrote some of his best-loved works. We recently toured the house, which has been named one of the world’s 10 best historic homes by National Geographic.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived in this Hartford, Connecticut, home for the last 23 years of her life. The house is now a National Historic Landmark and a museum that is open to the public. (It’s adjacent to the Mark Twain House, making it easy to tour both in one day.)

Real Art Ways

A 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Art Events,” this contemporary art center and cinema presents an array of live performances, concerts, films, exhibitions, readings, and community events.

Elizabeth Park

If you’re planning a visit to Hartford, Connecticut, in the summer, don’t miss Elizabeth Park. A 102-acre green space in the city’s West End, this idyllic spot is home to the nation’s oldest public rose garden. Named a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Public Rose Garden.”

Connecticut Science Center

Looking for family-friendly things to do in Hartford, Connecticut? This nine-story museum offers more than 165 hands-on activities exhibits and a 3-D digital theater. Named a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Science Museum.”

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

The nation’s oldest continuously operating public art museum, the Wadsworth underwent a $33 million renovation in 2015. This castle-like building now houses 50,000 works spanning 5,000 years of human creativity. Make sure to stop by the Museum Café, where menu specials are inspired by current exhibitions.
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Looking for a break from the concrete jungle? Wander through Elizabeth Park.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

Where to Eat | Restaurants in Hartford, Connecticut

Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ 

The Front Street District location of this local chain has ample seating and a full-service bar, and it’s only steps away from dozens of must-see Hartford destinations including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The menu includes barbecue staples such as pulled pork and baby back ribs, but what really makes this spot special is the more offbeat fare, like the “Bear Bowl” (cornbread topped with BBQ beans and your choice of meat). Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Barbecue.”

Black-Eyed Sally’s

Southern comfort food is the name of the game at this 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Music and Southern Menu.” The lineup includes fried green tomatoes, “gumbo fries” (yes, french fries topped with gumbo), jambalaya, and shrimp and grits. Did we mention they have live music almost every night?

City Steam Brewery Café

Enjoy award-winning beer in this revamped 1870s brownstone while snacking on homemade pretzels, char-grilled street corn, crispy vegetable dumplings, or a bacon-wrapped and locally made hot dog. Named a 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Beer and Snacks.”

Cora Cora

Get the full Peruvian cuisine experience with ceviche (citrus-cooked seafood), lomo saltado (tender beef sautéed with tomatoes and onions), and chicha morada (a drink made from purple corn, pineapple, and spices). Can’t decide where to begin? A three-course weekday lunch special provides a budget-friendly way to sample the whole menu for $15 a person. Named a 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best South American Fare.”

Porrón & Piña

One half of this dual-concept restaurant (Porrón) serves up Spanish-inspired dishes while the other half (Piña) serves coffee by day and craft cocktails by night. Don’t miss the “ham bar.” Plus, they serve 60 (!) different wines by the glass. Named a 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best New Restaurant.”

Tisane Euro Asian Café

This café begins the day as a coffee and tea shop, but come nighttime it serves an assortment of Asian-fusion fare and cocktails: sesame salmon over spicy vegetable lo mein, a vegetarian burger topped with kimchi and sweet chili mayo, and a “Cucumber Martea-ni,” to name a few. Named a 2012 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Martini.”

Where to Stay | Hotels in Hartford, Connecticut

The Goodwin

Known for the English Queen Anne terra cotta facade it shares with the rest of its Goodwin Square complex, this grand dame hotel was completely revamped in 2017 — a renovation that left it looking as alluring as ever on the outside and dramatically rejuvenated on the inside. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Upscale City Stay.”

Marriott Hartford Downtown

This 409-room hotel overlooks the Connecticut River and offers a spa and indoor pool, as well as the ability to walk to Hartford attractions including the Connecticut Science Center. Named a 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best All-Access Lodging.”

Delamar West Hartford

With bold art on loan from the New Britain Museum of American Art and champagne at check-in, Blue Back Square’s boutique hotel is astonishingly sophisticated for its suburban location. Even visitors who aren’t staying in the quiet, natural light–filled guest rooms can book a restful session at the hotel’s European-style spa and savor farm-to-table fare at the indoor-outdoor restaurant Artisan.  Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best New Hotel.” What are your favorite things to do in Hartford, Connecticut?

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