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Hartford, Connecticut: Come Explore New England's Rising Star

The capital of Connecticut, Hartford is home to several attractions and fun things to do that excite everyone in the family. Less than an hour away from New Haven, an hour away from Boston, Massachusetts, and just over two hours to New York City, this capital city offers performing arts, historic sites, museums, and more, despite being one of the smaller cities in New England.

What is the Capital of Connecticut?

Connecticut didn't become a U.S. State until 1778; a list of 163 men and women founders remains on a monument in the Ancient Burying Ground of Hartford

Although the city of Hartford became the state capital of Connecticut in 1875, it's one of the oldest cities in the United States. Various Native American tribes lived in the area before European colonization arrived in northeast North America. Chief among these were the Algonquin people. Dutch settlers founded Hartford, CT, in 1635 after a quarter-century of exploration in and around Greater Hartford and Hartford County. The town was initially named New Town, but many English settlers changed the name to "Hartford" in honor of Hertford, England. (They kept New London the same, for whatever reason.) The city initially sat on Park River, a tributary of the Connecticut River, until flood control projects buried it in the 1940s. The Atlantic Ocean seashore lies only 35 miles away from Hartford in Long Island Sound.

Today, Hartford is the fourth-largest city in the state of Connecticut, behind Bridgeport, New Haven, and Stamford. Today, the Connecticut capital city borders the cities of Windsor, Storrs, and Middletown.

After the Civil War, Hartford became one of the wealthiest cities in America. The capital city is nicknamed the "Insurance Capital of the World" because it headquarters many insurance companies, including Travelers, The Hartford, and Aetna. In fact, the Aetna building on Farmington Avenue is one of the most popular destinations in Hartford.

Hartford is known as a "foodie" town for many reasons. The first American cookbook was published in Hartford. Early Dutch and English settlers influenced the city's cuisine, which sparkles with breweries, food markets, and ethnic restaurants.

11 Things to Do in the Capital of Connecticut, Hartford

1. Mark Twain House & Museum—ZpOtAY-k/

Explore the house built by the famous author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Finished in 1874, the house was where Twain wrote his most famous novels and most of his short stories.

The Mark Twain House offers a guided tour as long as you purchase advance tickets. Explore the grounds with beautiful gardens, historic Nook Farm, and the carriage house.

2. Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Next door to the Mark Twain House is the home of his good friend and fellow author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Writer of Uncle Tom's Cabin, her home offers a more interactive, conversational guided tour where you can discuss her revolutionary views on slavery and the role of women as you take in the beauty of the building.

Fans of gothic architecture will love this tour of Stowe's Victorian Gothic cottage.

3. Bushnell Park

Bushnell Park is the oldest publicly funded park in the country, a sprawling area with over 50 acres of green space built in 1868. With a pond, champion trees (Japanese Pagoda, Gingko, and Baldcypress, to name a few), a fountain, a performance pavilion, and more, the park has plenty to offer.

However, the piece de resistance at Bushnell Park has to be the vintage 1914 carousel. You may catch live music while you walk the grounds. Guided tours are available and begin at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch.

4. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

From the oldest publicly funded park, head to the oldest continuously operating public art museum in the country, opening its doors in 1844. Highlights include the Morgan collection of Greek and Roman antiquities and European decorative arts, impressionist paintings, American Art, and American colonial furniture.

This is an art gallery you won't want to miss. Be sure to check their website to see any special events that may be happening.

5. Thomas Hooker Brewery at Colt

Headquartered in nearby Bloomfield, Thomas Hooker Brewery has this satellite location in Hartford to quench your thirst. The brewery, located in the historic Colt Firearms building, is named after Puritan pastor and Connecticut colony founder Thomas Hooker. Hooker is allegedly the source of the "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut," which some scholars consider the first written constitution in the Western tradition. So now you can drink beer in his honor when you visit the "Constitution State."

With fun beers like "Sizzling Hippie," a watermelon ale, and "I'm Super Single," they also offer hard seltzers.

6. Dunkin Donuts Park

No, this isn't a Dunkin' theme park. Instead, it is home to the Hartford Yard Goats, a Double-A minor league baseball team. It's a great place to catch a game, grab a beer and eat a hot dog! As for why they're called the Yard Goats, your guess is as good as ours. We tried to research it, we promise. If there are a ton of yard goats in Hartford, the census bureau isn't saying.

7. The Old State House

For a different slice of history, visit Connecticut's Old State House on Main Street. Built in 1793, the former home of the general assembly was designed by famed architect Charles Bullfinch. The building houses an original portrait of George Washington, done by Gilbert Stuart.

An interactive experience, it's a spot both children and adults will enjoy. You can also check out the current Connecticut State Capitol less than 2 miles away, where the state senate and state house representatives meet.

8. Hartford Stage

An award-winning theatre that brings innovative, educational works to life. The theatre has housed over 80 world and North American premieres, several on Broadway.

9. Connecticut Science Center

With more than 165 hands-on, "minds-on" activities, a state-of-the-art 3D digital theatre, this 9 story museum is sure to delight children of all ages with its many interactive exhibits. Be sure to check out their special exhibits, like the Dinosaurs Around the World, which runs through September 6, 2021.

10. Elizabeth Park

Technically located next door in West Hartford, Elizabeth Park should not be missed. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and situated over 100 acres, the park offers formal gardens (including a gorgeous rose garden, green space, walking loops, and delicious food at the Pond House Cafe. Be sure to check out their events to see what is on before you visit.

11. Hartford's Ancient Burying Ground

The oldest historic site in Hartford, the Ancient Burying Ground, houses graves from 1640 through the early 19th century. Download a guide for a self-guided walking tour to explore the graves of some of Connecticut's earliest settlers.

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