This morning, we're headed to Hartford's premier cultural institution, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and you wouldn't want your grumbling tummy to distract you from appreciating one of America's foremost art collections. Named after the Athenaeum in Rome, the Wadsworth dates to 1842 and is the nation's oldest public art museum. Its permanent collection of fine and decorative arts is particularly strong in Hudson River School landscapes, Old Masters, American furniture, French and American Impressionist paintings, European art of the Baroque era, German and French porcelain and African-American works. The Wadsworth has also gained a stellar reputation for mounting special exhibitions. Information about current shows is available at the museum's web site at www.wadsworthatheneum.org.
For a late lunch, change gears from high brow to good beer at the City Steam Brewery, located adjacent to the Residence Inn. You'll know you're in the right place when you spy a restaurant with five large fermenting tanks in the front window. Yes, the beer is made on the premises, and there are often more than a dozen brews from which to choose. Casual, reliable lunch fare includes tasty sandwiches such as Cheddar Chicken, stone baked pizzas and bun-free burgers for Atkins followers.
|The Riverfront Plaza in Hartford
Don't feel guilty if you opted for a burger with a bun, though. There's one more stroll to enjoy before bidding Hartford adieu. Located on Columbus Boulevard on the east side of the city, Riverfront Plaza represents the city's recent efforts to restore public access to the Connecticut River. This body of water has played an important historic role in the city's development since the first European settlers arrived on its banks in 1635. The insurance industry that still dominates Hartford's business scene arose in 1810 to provide protection for Connecticut River shipping interests. Now, thanks to the efforts of the non-profit group Riverfront Recapture, you can meander across the river on foot. The Founders Bridge Promenade in Riverfront Plaza serves as a pedestrian link between Hartford and East Hartford. In season, it is often home to weekend outdoor festivals and performances, so check the Riverfront Recapture web site at www.riverfront.org for events that coincide with your visit. In the summer months, Riverfront Plaza also serves as the launch pad for the Hartford Belle cruise line, which takes passengers on leisurely, scenic half-hour and hour sightseeing guided cruises of the Connecticut River, with a bar in the stern.
On your walk or cruise, you'll notice that riverfront redevelopment is an ongoing process for the city that bills itself as "New England's Rising Star." Adriaen's Landing, a 30-acre complex, is beginning to take shape. The Connecticut Convention Center, the first major component of the project, is already exceeding projections in its first few years, drawing large, diverse groups into town for all sorts of shows and conventions. Construction is also well under way for the Connecticut Science Center, slated to open in 2008.
Since it's your last night in town, you might as well go out with a bang—a fiery, spicy one. Black-Eyed Sally's Bar-B-Que & Blues is Hartford's premiere location for both mouthwatering barbecue and live blues. Sally's slow-smoked ribs are a must, but opt for the half-rack so you can sample the jambalaya as well. And if you think the food is hot, wait until the band arrives; for a complete lineup, check out the calendar of the restaurant's web site (www.blackeyedsallys.com).
Hartford may always be regarded as "that city between New York and Boston,"but once you've spent some quality time in this likable little capital, you'll think of it as much more than a pit stop.
For more information, visit the Hartford Tourism Board, www.hartford.com.