Tips & Ideas

Tips & Ideas

The Spirit of Hartford, Connecticut

submitted by: Sheree Bykofsky

“Spirit… has fifty times the strength and staying power of brawn and muscle,” said Mark Twain.

His love of spirit is surely why Mark Twain chose to make Hartford his home for 17 years. Even though Mark Twain is gone, he has left his unique mark on this earth, and nowhere is that more evident than in Hartford, Connecticut. At the Mark Twain house you can learn everything Mark Twain said, while touring his magnificent whimsical Gothic Victorian house and grounds. What’s special about the Mark Twain museum is that, unlike most mansion museums, there are no ropes. Tour groups are escorted right through the rooms where Mark Twain cogitated, dreamed, dined, paced, smoked, lounged, played billiards, and wrote.

And Hartford itself is a city with as much spirit as Mark Twain himself. The Mark Twain house is such a special place that it’s worth a trip just for that (it could entrance a curmudgeon for a whole day), but there is so much art and culture alive and thriving in the city that one needs at least a weekend to just begin to appreciate the artistic pulse of this newly thriving city.

Theaters abound. From the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts to the Hartford Stage, which features famous actors like Estelle Parsons and Richard Thomas, to the funky Real Art Ways gallery and cinema, there’s something to suit everyone’s taste in Hartford.

No trip to Hartford is complete without a visit to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum. The building itself is truly inspiring, and the museum houses works by  Renoir, Van Gogh, Avery and Cezanne. The museum has a great spot for lunch. The cafe has tasty food and an airy bright environment.

Speaking of food, one block from the Goodwin Hotel, the two-tiered very cosmopolitan Trumbull Kitchen is an ideal place to have drinks and delectable tapas or a multi-coursed meal of unsurpassed cuisine. The experience at the Trumbull Kitchen is like the best of New York City at a fraction of the cost. What’s your pleasure: a watermelon martini or the Trumbull Woo? Either way it’s just $7.75. Some outstanding dishes are the Rock Shrimp and Sweet Potato Fritters, Crispy Five Spiced Calamari Salad, and the Stone Pies. Comforting entrees include Hilda’s Meatloaf, Macaroni and Cheese and Apple Teriyaki Seared Salmon. Even if you have no room, most will be tempted to end their meal with Macoun Apple Fritters or Warm Chocolate Pot Pie (all desserts $6!)

The Goodwin Hotel, wonderfully situated in this very walkable city, is an historic hotel with comfortable sleigh beds and marble baths. From the WIFI Internet connection to the white warm plush robe they’ve spared little by way of luxury amenities. The atmosphere is highly poised but with a sort of gracious sophistication.

A three-mile ride by bus or car down Farmington Blvd. to the shopping district of West Hartford, known as West Hartford Center, is a must for those seeking high-end shops, boutiques, and sidewalk restaurants. Reminiscent of Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, this upper class neighborhood is a jewel of Connecticut.

Caution: The arts in Hartford are addictive. But Hartford has mercy. For $99 you can order The Hartford Arts 6-Pack (Call 860 527 0713), which will allow you to choose from among The Bushnell Broadway Series, The Bushnell Dance Series, Connecticut Opera, Hartford Stage, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, TheaterWorks, and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. As they say: six venues: twenty-nine options.

Since 2000, 13 community groups have joined forces to revitalize Hartford and their results are apparent. And to ensure the arts and cultural light never dies the grassroots arts community of Hartford has infused the love of the arts in its younger residents. The Charter Oak Cultural Center a transformed synagogue features a place where children dance on a spring wood floor, learn crafts, and display their art. Charter Oak hosts a dazzling dance series where the audience is integrated into the choreography. At the Artists Collective, young people from the community who are trained by master artists’ll entertain you. Whether it’s dancing, jazz, drumming, or drama, you’ll experience spirit filled performances that emphasize the art and cultural of the African Diaspora. The Artists Collective makes the arts accessible and available to all people of all ages, and they’re proud to tell you about so many of the talented artists who got their start there, such as (ER’s) Eric LaSalle.

Experience the essence of Hartford; it is very much a city on the rise. Mark Twain would be proud.

If You Go:
Mark Twain House
351 Farmington Ave.
Hartford, CT 06105
869 247 0998

The Goodwin Hotel
One Haines Street
Harford, CT 06103
800 922 5006

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
600 Main Street
Harford, CT 06103
860 278 2670

Trumbull Kitchen
150 Trumbull Street
Hartford, CT 06103
860 493 7417

The Artists Collective
1200 Albany Avenue
Hartford, CT 06112
860 527 3205

The Bushnell
166 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106
888 824 2874

Charter Oak Cultural Center
21 Charter Oak Ave
Hartford CT 06106
860 249 1207

Connecticut Opera Association
226 Farmington Ave.
Hartford, CT 06105
860 527 0713

Hartford Symphony Orchestra
228 Farmington Ave.
Hartford, CT 06105
860 246 8742

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St.
Hartford, CT 06106
860 232 1006
Sheree Bykofsky is the author of The Best Places to Kiss in and Around NYC and the 52 Most Romantic Dates in and Around NYC