Hartford may be the capital of Connecticut, but it’s not often considered a vacation destination. It has, after all, earned itself the nickname of the “Insurance Capital of the U.S.” due to its plethora of insurance companies. However, as every Hartford local knows, there’s so much more to this city than just insurance headquarters and capitol buildings, which is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to experience this Connecticut town in person during a recent trip to the East Coast.
I had been in Providence, Rhode Island for nearly a week on a business trip when I discovered that I had accidentally booked my flight home for the wrong day. Suddenly, I had two extra days to kill before heading back home. While I could have gone to the airport to see if I could catch an earlier flight, I decided to make the most of my scheduling mistake and take a mini vacation. So I pulled up a map of nearby cities and landed on Hartford, the charming and historic capital of Connecticut. It was easy to get to Hartford, since I was able to take the train from Providence to Hartford, and this trip only took a few hours. While I was sitting and relaxing on the train, I pulled up HotelTonight’s app and booked a great last-minute hotel in Hartford, and within minutes I had a hotel room waiting for me in this pretty Connecticut town.
After getting off the train, I felt the need to stretch my legs, so I asked a local for a suggestion of a nearby park where I could take a nice, peaceful walk. He suggested that I go to Elizabeth Park, a beautifully designed park that sits on over 100 acres of land. This park is more than a century old, and it’s one of the most beloved spots in the city. I quickly discovered why Elizabeth Park is considered a local gem – it’s manicured, colorful, and even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The showstopper of Elizabeth Park is the public rose garden, which is the third-largest rose garden in the country. Walking through this vibrant, fragrant rose garden is like walking through a fairy tale, and it was the perfect way to kick off my short stay in Hartford.
Downtown Hartford is the heart of this historic city. A walk through downtown Hartford will take you past the Old State House, Bushnell Park, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and the Connecticut Science Center. You could easily spend an entire day exploring downtown, but I knew I had to carefully monitor my time if I wanted to see as much of Hartford as I could during my short stay. While I was downtown, I took a tour of the stunning Connecticut State Capitol Building, which is registered as a National Historic Landmark. I also popped into the farmer’s market, which is full of fresh, beautiful produce, baked goods, and spices, and is a favorite spot among locals.
Just a stone’s throw from the river, the Front Street District is definitely one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Hartford. The concierge at my hotel recommended that I check out Front Street at night, when locals flood into the area looking for great restaurants and nightlife. Since I wanted to enjoy some great food and entertainment during my one night in Hartford, I knew that Front Street was the place to go. I learned that this area is Hartford’s newest, most exciting hub for entertainment and excitement, and this district recently underwent a huge revival. I was certainly glad it did, because today this area is fun, lively and very walkable. It’s the perfect place to spend an evening if you want to enjoy great food and entertainment in a trendy, hip atmosphere.
The next morning, I made my way to another favorite outdoor space in Hartford, the Charter Oak Landing, a riverfront park that boasts great views of the river as well as of the downtown Hartford skyline. At Charter Oak, you can hop aboard boats and take a tour of the river, you can walk along the paved trails along the banks, or you can even spend time fishing in the Connecticut River. I only had a few hours before I had to leave Hartford, so I took a short boat tour of the river and soaked in the beauty of this Connecticut town while I still could.
While I wasn’t able to see all of Hartford during my short stay in this capital city, I was able to get a true sense of the heart and soul of Hartford. Even if you only have a day or two to explore a new place, it’s worth it if you tap into the side of the city that locals love. I’m glad I was able to experience the Hartford that its residents love so much, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to make this last-minute trip happen without HotelTonight.