What To Do With One Day In Hartford

October 5, 2013 8:00 AM

Many of the towns and cities of Connecticut have indoor and outdoor pleasures to offer those seeking a day out, and while the mountains and beaches that ring the state are big attractions, the place most often overlooked is the capital city: Hartford. Here are just five of many places to visit during a day in Hartford – which is in many ways the beating heart of the Nutmeg State.

The Mark Twain House
351 Farmington Ave.
Hartford, CT 06105
(860) 247-0998

Sometimes it is good to start a long day easy and with a bit of history to help set the mood. The Mark Twain House on Farmington Avenue in Hartford is one such place. It is where the famous author and humorist lived for nearly 20 years, and where he penned such classics as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Prince and the Pauper” and, most fittingly for someone who made his home in the state, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Tours of the 25-room home are available, although visitors are also free to wander about the grand library, glass conservatory and elegant hall – as well as other rooms where Twain spent his days, among them his billiard room.

Bushnell Park 
Bounded by Elm St., Jewell St. and Trinity St.
Hartford, CT 06123

Bushnell Park is the oldest publicly funded park in the country, and its 50 acres are the lungs as well as the soul of the city. It has a beautiful carousel, a lovely tree walk, a performance pavilion and a beautiful fountain whose waters make a music of their own. The star of the park, which sits in the shadow of the gold-domed state Capital, is a mighty massive arch that pays tribute to Connecticut soldiers who fought in the Civil War (guided tours of the arch occur at noon on Thursdays from May through October). Frederick Law Olmstead, who went on to design New York’s famous Central Park, was originally contacted to plan out the park, but as he was preparing for that bigger project, he recommended Jacob Weidenmann for the job. It was a fortunate choice, for the Swiss-born Weidenmann was also a botanist, and it was his vision that Bushnell should be a place where, as Shakespeare put it in “Julius Caesar,” the public could walk about and “recreate themselves.”

Related: Top Outdoor Fall Dates In Connecticut

Agave Grill
100 Allyn St.
Hartford CT 06103
(860) 882-1557

Hartford is an undiscovered country of culinary delights, even at lunchtime. It has many neighborhoods with unique ethnic restaurants, but for a light or late liquid lunch or pre-theater dinner, few beat the Agave Grill on Allyn Street. What better way to cool down from a morning’s walk about town than with a margarita – and Agave’s barkeeps make some of the best in the state. The 32-ounce Agave-rita is an epic concoction meant for two or more to share, but for those who want to be able to get out of their seats or up from the barstool to see more of the Capital city, the La Fruta might be more apropos. It is a great margarita that is served frozen, chilled or on the rocks – and it goes very well with one of the spicy and authentic Mexican luncheon combinations.

The Hartford Stage
50 Church St.
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 527-5151

The play’s the thing, and The Hartford Stage is an often-overlooked treasure of reparatory theater in Connecticut. Although best known for its annual holiday production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (November 29 through December 28 this year), The Hartford Stage is also a great place to see Shakespeare (his “Macbeth” starts in September) as well as the works of contemporary and new playwrights. This season, for example, in between the heavy-hitting guaranteed crowd pleasers, are “La Dispute,” a French prose comedy of manners originally performed in the mid-18th century, and “The Underpants” by Steve Martin.

The Russell
103 Pratt St.
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 727-4014

Unlike most other towns and even cities in Connecticut, Hartford has a late-night scene, and one of the best places to go after the theater for music and drinks is a club owner Hugh Russell is so proud of, that he put his name above the door. Styled and decorated to look like a cozy Caribbean hotel, The Russell has an elegant bar, a fine restaurant and many private little hideaways up on the mezzanine. After-theater goers have the choice between partying in a lively club or sitting down for a quiet drink in a comfortable corner, away from prying eyes and eavesdropping ears.

Related: Top Spots In Connecticut To Propose

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

Listen Live