Hartford, CT: Southern New England’s Cultural Hub

Hartford, Connecticut, USA skyline at Founders Bridge.

Few cities have a cultural scene as varied and dynamic as Hartford. Wide-ranging musical, cinema, theatre, and fine art exhibits and performances venues attract enthusiastic audiences.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (www.wadsworthatheneum.org) anchors the visual arts community. A major renovation completed in January added 17 new galleries to its already overwhelming collection. You can spend days viewing the paintings – particularly those from the Hudson River School – furniture, decorative arts, and sculptures from around the world. The Amistad Center for Art and Culture (www.amistadartandculture.org) is part of the complex. Its 7,000 artifacts, paintings, and historic documents examine the African-American Experience.

hartford bushnell

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts (www.bushnell.org) schedules Broadway shows, concerts, dance, opera, and children’s theater. Upcoming events include performances by the Hartford Symphony, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and – direct from London’s West End – a one-man parody of Downton Abbey.

hartfordCinestudio at Trinity College (www.cinestudio.org) is a reconstructed 1930’s movie house complete with a grand curtain in front of the screen that rises before the show. It screens classics, underappreciated and unknown indie and foreign films, and critically acclaimed current releases. The EBK Gallery (www.ebkgallery.com) has bi-weekly shows of contemporary artists. Real Art Ways (RAW; www.realartways.org) includes galleries, cinema, and performance areas. It’s dedicated to innovation, discussion, and “people-driven” creativity. HartBeat Ensemble (www.hartbeatensemble.org) creates works based on current issues. Infinity Music Hall and Bistro (www.infinityhall.com) presents well-known jazz, blues, and rock artists in its Contemporary American-style restaurant.

Two of Hartford’s most famous residents, Mark Twain (www.marktwainhouse.org) and Harriet Beecher Stowe (www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org), were also neighbors. Displays, aimed at both children and adults, at their respective homes tell the stories of their lives and the impact of their work. Allow at least two hours for each house. There is a combo discount ticket available.

“Hands-on” is the mantra at the Connecticut Science Center (www.ctsciencecenter.org). The ten galleries explore science with over 165 experiments and a 3-D digital theater. It’s as popular with adults as with kids.

Don’t miss:

• Hartford Walking Tours: 90-minute strolls through the historic district. www.hartfordwalkingtours.com

• Burgers and Brew Trail: Gastronomic adventures throughout central Connecticut, including the “only found in Connecticut” steamed burgers. www.centerofct.com

• West Hartford: The center of town, dating from 1600s, is the tree-lined, brick-sidewalked shopping and dining area. Blue Black Square has national retailers and boutiques.

• Noah Webster House, West Hartford: A surprisingly engaging look at the man who compiled the first American English dictionary. Interactive games explore ever-changing American English. www.noahwebsterhouse.org

• Elizabeth Park, West Hartford: Tulips and daffodils in bloom along the nature trails and meadows.

Insight Guides | Fran Severn