Hartford, the state capital of Connecticut, is often overshadowed by its more prominent neighbours, New York and Boston, or by the more 'touristy' destinations of New England, but the city does attract multitudes of business travellers. It sits at the end of the navigable portion of the Connecticut River, and this waterway has shaped the city's evolution into the 'insurance capital of the world'. Historically, its location made Hartford an important trading centre, and when groups of merchants began to share risks, the Hartford Insurance Company was born. It still operates in Hartford today, along with many of the nation's largest insurance corporations.
Despite this reputation for business, Hartford does have a lot to offer those visitors with leisure in mind. Greater Hartford is home to more than 200 cultural, arts and heritage organisations. Hartford Stage, one of many venues for live musical and theatrical productions, has been recognized by the Tony Awards and the OBIEs. During the warm summer months, many outdoor concerts are staged downtown, and various festivals, sporting events and performances are held at the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza throughout the year. The Riverfront has a pristine shoreline and encompasses 148 acres of park grounds with walkways, biking trails and water activities on offer. The state-of-the-art Connecticut Convention Center is also located here.
For history buffs, Hartford lives up to its responsibility as one of the oldest cities in the nation. At the State Library, visitors can view the Fundamental Orders adopted in Hartford in 1639, the first document in history to establish government by the consent of the people. A few blocks away, the entertainment district begins west of Main Street, offering visitors no end of dining, pub and club options. Sports fans can revel in University of Connecticut basketball; year after year, the UConn Huskies are contenders in both the National and Big East Championships.
The Wadsworth Atheneum is the oldest public art museum in the United States, and famously boasts the largest collection of paintings of the Hudson River School, a mid-19th century American landscape art movement influenced by Romanticism. These fine paintings, originally obtained by Daniel Wadsworth, are now considered American masterpieces. The Wadsworth Atheneum now houses over 50,000 works of art ranging from the ancient to the contemporary, and the building itself is fascinating. The museum also hosts excellent temporary exhibitions and special events like lectures and seminars.
The Old State House was built in 1796. It is one of the oldest state houses in the country and has been named a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can tour the magnificently restored rooms, listen to the audio tour and visit the education centre and museum shop. Celebrated as the site where Connecticut's democracy was born, the Old State House is an interesting monument to the state's proud history and contains some quirky and fun artefacts as well as more sombre, historic ones. The museum hosts frequent events and exhibitions and is open to the public year-round. A visit should entertain and educate the whole family.
Mystic Seaport, just under an hour's drive from Hartford and a popular excursion from the city, allows visitors to experience a classic New England seafaring community. Its four sections include a restored 19th-century village, comprising more than 30 shops and businesses; the waterfront, featuring tall ships and other historic vessels that visitors can climb aboard and explore; the preservation shipyard, where antique vessels are restored using traditional methods and tools; and a collection of galleries and exhibits. Mystic Seaport, which describes itself as 'The Museum of America and the Sea', is the perfect family destination, with several restaurants, boating activities and programmes for children.
Mark Twain, one of America's most celebrated writers, lived in a stately house on Farmington Avenue between 1874 and 1891. This elegant, 19-room mansion, built in a Victorian Gothic style, was where Twain wrote many of his most famous and successful works (including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), and has since been declared a National Historic Landmark. Visitors to the Mark Twain Museum Centre can anticipate a fascinating Ken Burns documentary detailing Twain's life and work, and state-of-the-art exhibition facilities. William Faulkner once called Mark Twain 'the father of American literature', and anyone with even a passing interest in American culture, would be ill-advised to pass up a visit to this significant, and memorable museum.
Hartford has a humid continental climate, with four distinct seasons. Spring in New England tends to be fleeting, arriving in early May and soon giving way to summer, which is hot and humid. Autumn is chilly, but the landscape is at its most colourful and beautiful. Winters are quite cold, and snow is common. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. Temperatures in summer average between 61°F (16°C) and 90°F (32°C), while winter temperatures average between 0°F (-18°C) and 39°F (4°C), making the temperature range in Hartford quite extreme. While summer is a lovely time to visit, the autumn foliage of the nearby countryside also draws many visitors in September and October.
Walking around the downtown area is possible and pleasant in Hartford, although visitors also have the option of taking the Dash Shuttle, a free shuttle service that loops the central business district, making stops near hotels and major attractions. It operates Monday through Friday, 7am to 7pm. CTfastrak is Hartford's newest transportation option, and the buses have free wifi. CT Transit bus services also operate regularly. Many visitors choose to hire cars, especially if they plan to travel outside of the city. A number of car hire options are available and driving is relatively stress-free in Hartford and the surrounding region. App-based taxi services, like Uber, are available.
Known as an enjoyable city to live, work and play, Hartford offers the vibrancy of a big-city arts and entertainment scene paired with easy access to New England's colonial history, charm and natural beauty. Hartford provides business travellers many lively options for relaxing after their meetings and it serves as the perfect gateway for holidaymakers wishing to explore New England's charms without giving up the excitement of the city.
The Mark Twain House and Museum is a worthy pilgrimage site for book lovers, as is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center; the Old State House provides a taste of the city's proud democratic history; the Wadsworth Atheneum is the oldest public museum in the country; and the Hartford Stage is a celebrated, award-winning theatre venue. There are also plenty of parks to stroll through: Riverfront Recapture is a non-profit organisation working to reconnect metropolitan Hartford with the Connecticut River and it has established a network of several beautiful parks and public recreational facilities along the shoreline. Here, free events are staged year-round, and visitors can walk, run, bike, picnic, enjoy boating and rowing activities, fish or set sail on a river cruise. The Mystic Seaport, only a short drive out of the city, is also a joy for tourists as it genuinely still has a classic old New England feel.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination