Three part question about Hartford CT -- driving there, walking safety, dining/attractions.
August 14, 2009 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Three part question about Hartford CT -- driving there, walking safety, dining/attractions.

1) How long will it take to drive from downtown Boston to downtown Hartford tonight (around rush hour)? It's just under 100 miles. Google maps says 1h40m -- but how much time will traffic add (90W->84W)?

2) We're staying right near the Civic Center and going to a concert at the Dodge Music Center aka Comcast Theatre. Is walking from one to the other possible/safe? It's not very far, but it doesn't look very pedestrian friendly on the satellite map... Will there be taxis around after the show, at the venue?

3) Any recommendations for restaurants or attractions for tomorrow?

posted by Perplexity to Travel & Transportation around Hartford, CT (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hartford takes about an hour and fifteen from Boston, but that doesn't include in-city driving. The downtown green area (near the Bushnell theatre) is quite pretty, and the city is reasonably pedestrian-friendly. it is, after all, an old New England city built before the invention of cars. As for nice restaurants, I know there are some cool bars with food, but haven't really been there since being old enough to drink.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2009

Black Eyed Sally's BBQ & Blues. Cannot be beat.
posted by scalefree at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2009

I wouldn't suggest trying to walk to the theater from mid-downtown. Hartford does have some taxi service but they are pretty much all on-call type services and I would be VERY surprised if there were any waiting around after the show.

As for other stuff to do there are a few bars/restaurants in the city, I would second Black Eyed Sally's. And City Steam was always a decent place and is close to the civic center.

If you are interested in art/museums at all the Wadsworth Atheneum is worth a visit.

I grew up in Hartford and it's just really not a tourist town, so your options for fun may be limited unless you have the time to venture out of the city some.
posted by Captain_Science at 11:17 AM on August 14, 2009

If you leave Boston during the rush hour, by the time you get to Hartford there shouldn't be any traffic inbound. Hartford doesn't have that much traffic (relative to Boston and other larger cities) anyway, or at least it didn't when I was commuting into and out of it on the eastern side a few years ago.

Seems like you might run into some getting out of Boston on 90W, although I'm not familiar enough with Beantown traffic to really give you any hard numbers.

The downtown area is fairly pedestrian friendly, in the sense that it has sidewalks, and there are taxis that you can hail from most of the big hotels and outside venues like the Civic Center.

The main problem with Hartford is that it was gutted by highway construction; 84 chopped it in half horizontally, and 91 ruined the riverfront. Although a lot of improvements have been made since that happened, sometimes it seemed like you had to walk forever out of your way to get around a badly placed highway ramp. (I think they've built a few more pedestrian walkways since I was walking around there in the mid-90s so it's probably easier now.)

I don't think the walk from the Civic Center to the Meadows (which is what it is and will always be called, Comcast be damned) is unsafe; I did it back in the day after Radio104 Fest, and I think the area was a lot more sketchy then than it is now. The most direct route would be to cross 84 on Trumbull (which, looking at Google Maps, has sidewalks) and then go up Market, which changes names but does seem to have sidewalks all the way. Alternately, I'm not sure but I think you can walk down to the river and up that way; if it's a nice day that might be more pleasant and involve inhaling less exhaust.

If it's at night or you just don't want to walk for whatever reason, it should be a cheap cab ride in any event.

In terms of restaurants, there are a lot of good options; my knowledge is probably way out of date to be useful in finding any cheap eats / hole-in-the-wall places, but if you want upscale food, Max's Downtown is nice (I'd recommend the steak au poivre, if the menu hasn't changed). If you want something less pretentious, Lena's First and Last pizza was always a good time. Max's would be walking distance from the Civic Center---across the street, really---while Lena's would definitely be a cab ride. There's also a good Brazilian churrascaria downtown that I've been to within the last year or so, if you feel like gambling with meat overload; the name escapes me but if I can remember it I'll post a followup.

On preview: Black Eyed Sally's is worth a visit, although I'm not sure I'd recommend it to someone visiting Hartford from, say, Memphis. And I'll second City Steam; I'm not sure why I didn't think of that sooner. (Probably because I used to like the much-more-lowbrow Keg, but it's now gone I think.)

The usual tourist attractions are the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe house, either of which is worth a few hours of your time if you can get there when they're open.

Also: I've heard good things about the Museum of Connecticut History, inside the CT State Library, although I haven't been there myself. I'd probably visit it after the Wadsworth though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 AM on August 14, 2009

I suspect that Kadin2048 is talking about Churrascaria Braza, which is a little challenging to get to from downtown if you don't have a car.

Black-Eyed Sally's does have good food. There's also a cute little restaurant right across the street from the Civic Center (now called the XL Center) called The Russell--I had a Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich there last week that was fabulous. Cool atmosphere (bar with Caribbean vibe); try to sit in the upstairs balcony if you can. Another really good place right down the street from the Civic Center is Trumbull Kitchen--it's owned by the same folks who own Max Downtown, but it's cheaper and funkier.

Tomorrow there's a fun event on the Hartford Riverfront, which should be walkable but I think may also be accessible by shuttle bus--the Dragon Boat Race and Asian Festival. It's free. For pricier entertainment, the Connecticut Science Center just opened recently.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:18 PM on August 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. We're staying right next to Black-Eyed Sally's. Sounds like a good place to check out.

Still hoping for more opinions about walking from there to the Meadows/Comcast/Dodge...
posted by Perplexity at 12:20 PM on August 14, 2009

I don't think it would be a bad walk. There will be a lot of people walking from the theater to halfway back to 84 along Market, because one of the parking lots is over there. It's not sketchy or anything. More desolate than anything. And Trumbull and Market will be full of cars of concert-goers.

There are probably also people walking to the Crowne Plaza on Market, which is the closest hotel.

I don't know about walking around Hartford downtown at night though.
posted by smackfu at 12:22 PM on August 14, 2009

I think of the Boston to Hartford drive as being about 2 hours. Depending on the traffic around Boston, it could be much shorter. Hartford traffic is rarely a big problem. The previous poster who mentioned the construction is right, though.

I would not walk from the Civic Center to the Meadows (or whatever it's called now). I wouldn't mind doing it at the beginning of the show, but I wouldn't want to walk back afterward. There's plenty of parking around the venue, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Black Eyed Sally's is good. I guess it depends on what you're in the mood for. Personally, I always like Spris (Italian food) on Constitution Plaza.
posted by Maisie at 12:24 PM on August 14, 2009

Mmmmm, Trumbull Kitchen! Go there for dinner then go hang out in the bar at Black Eyed Sallys after.
posted by Maisie at 12:26 PM on August 14, 2009

Response by poster: For the searchable record...

Boston->Hartford took about 2h40m. Pretty heavy traffic on 90W while close to Boston. And very heavy traffic on 84W for the last 3-4 miles in to Hartford -- I guess that was at least substantially caused by the concert itself.

Walking from the Meadows/Comcast back to downtown was just fine. Many other concertgoers doing the same thing, and lots of police around directing traffic and such.

Black Eyed Sally's provided some highly satisfactory barbecue sandwiches for Saturday lunch.
posted by Perplexity at 7:16 AM on August 17, 2009

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