Things To Do In Hartford

Hartford is the capital of Connecticut and the state's third largest municipality. It's one of the oldest cities in America and affectionately known as the "Insurance Capital of the World."

Having been founded nearly four centuries ago and home to a bunch of insurance salesmen you might think that Harford is a boring city.

However, if you make that assumption you'll be greatly disappointed. Harford, Connecticut is one of the most fascinating and interesting cities on the east coast. Its rustic charm and historical significance means there's always something to do in a town dubbed New England's Rising Star.

The Old State House (800 Main Street) was one of America's earliest state capitols. The structure dates to 1796 and was the site of the famous Amistad trail of 1841. Today, the Old State House is not only a museum but a hosting place for community and cultural events. An architectural marvel, the building stands as a beacon of democracy and freedom.

Other major historical buildings in Hartford include the Connecticut State Library & Supreme Court, the Hartford Public Library (founded in 1774), and the Cheney Building.

Hartford also possesses several religious buildings worthy of any sightseeing tour. The Cathedral of St. Joseph (140 Farmington Avenue) has the largest ceramic tile mural of Christ in Glory in the world. The St. Thomas Seminary (467 Bloomfield Avenue), and its gothic-inspired architecture, is located about eight miles north of Hartford in Bloomfield. The seminary first started enrolling students in 1930. This next example is rather ghoulish but still very historic. The Center Church and Ancient Burying Ground (675 Main Street) was the city's first public cemetery. It went into service in 1640.

Located at 600 Main Street, across from Travelers Tower, is Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art—the oldest public art museum in America. The Atheneum has a permanent collection of more than 45,000 works with the most significant pieces belonging to the post-impressionist and Italian Baroque genres. The museum was established in 1844.

If you want see more art while you're in Hartford check out Alexander Calder's sculpture at Burr Mall, the Amistad Center for Art & Culture, the Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk, and Real Art Ways—one of the oldest alternative art spaces in America.

Hartford has yet one more "oldest" claim to fame. Built in 1868, Bushnell Park is the oldest publically funded park in America. You'll find this 50-acre recreational area just north of the Connecticut State Capitol. Bushnell contains sculptures, fountains, a historic carousel, and the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch—the first triumphal arch in the country.

Other public parks and places of interest to see in Hartford include Bulkeley Bridge, the longest stone-arch bridge in the world; Constitution Plaza which hosts the city's annual Festival of Lights at Christmastime; the Elizabeth Park & Rose Garden, the oldest garden of its kind in the U.S.; Riverfront Recapture and Park, replete with bike trails, walking paths, and a boat launch; and Pope Park which was donated to the city in 1895.

Another thing to do in Hartford is stop by and see Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Well, not Twain and Stowe per se, but homes they used to own. The Mark Twain House and Museum (351 Farmington Avenue) is nestled in Nook Farm, part of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood. Visitors can enjoy daily guided tours as well as exhibits about Twain's life and writings.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House & Research Center (77 Forrest Street) also offers daily tours and educational exhibits. The mission of the Stowe House is to promote discussions of her work and to inspire social justice.

There are other famous residencies in Hartford like the Armsmear, the family home of gun maker Samuel Colt; the Isham-Terry House, an Italian Villa built in 1854; and the 189-year old Butler-McCook House and Garden located on Main Street.

For a city with about 125,000 inhabitants, Hartford has a thriving performing arts community. The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts (166 Capitol Avenue) welcomes the nation's top touring productions like Wicked, Jersey Boys, and Phantom of the Operas. The 2,800 seat venue, built in the 1930's, is also home to the Harford Symphony Orchestra.

The Charter Oak Cultural Center (21 Charter Oak Avenue) is located inside Connecticut's oldest synagogue building. The center is a nonprofit organization that provides spaces for performances and art exhibits. Charter Oak also seeks to preserve and celebrate Jewish heritage.

The Harford Stage (50 Church Street) is an award winning theatre that puts on seven to eight productions a year. The theatre has seen a lot of big time actors walk its boards over the years: Andrew McCarthy, Jesse L. Martin, Ed O'Neill, and Calista Flockhart, just to name a few. The Hartford Stage produces a wide range of works, everyone from Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams.

If you need more theater choices try the Hartbeat Ensemble (233 Pearl Street), the Harford Children's Theatre (360 Farmington Avenue), or TheaterWorks (233 Pearl Street).

You won't find Macbeth or A Streetcar Named Desire at the Comcast Theater (61 Savitt Way) but you will find the hottest concerts, touring festivals, and comedy acts. If locals don't know what you're talking about when you refer to it as the "Comcast Theater" try using its old name. The 30,000-capacity venue was formerly called the Meadows Music Theater.

Another place to see the best in entertainment and sports is the XL Center (1 Civic Center Plaza). This arena not only hosts big time concerts but basketball and hockey games as well. It's also the part-time home of the UConn Huskies men's and women's basketball teams. Interesting tidbit about the XL Center, apartments have been built on its roof thus creating New England's tallest apartment complex .

About 50 minutes away, in Uncasville, Connecticut, on the banks of the Thames River, sits the Mohegan Sun—the second largest casino in America. Apart from the gambling, you'll also find Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, and the Mohegan Sun Arena. The 12,000-seat arena hosts big time concerts and live events like WWE, UFC, and PBR. It's also the home of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun. The casino opened in 1996.


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