Where should one live around Hartford CT?
December 18, 2010 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Might end up around Hartford CT...which neighborhood/two within a short drive from East Hartford should I look into?

It has to have a good nightlife. It should be walkable that is, I shouldn't have to drive to/from bars or restaurants. I want to see people walking the streets, I want to be able to shop without getting in my car if I wanted to.
I'm a single guy in my 30s and I want to have access to a bustling dating scene without having to drive for hours just to meet someone for drinks.
It has to be a safe nieghborhood.Moreover, parking and lodging shouldn't be very expensive. I intend to keep a car as well.
Does such great place exist?
posted by spacefire to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Based on long-ago experience, good nightlife anywhere in Connecticut outside of New Haven is hard to find.
posted by zippy at 1:22 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I moved to Hartford in 2001 with pretty much the same goals. I didn't find anything, and I moved in late 2002 (not related to the lack of finding what I wanted, though). That said, West Hartford is a pretty good fit for what you're looking for. "Bustling dating scene" and "Hartford" might be a bit of a stretch in the same sentence, but West Hartford might be for you, there's a few good bars and restaurants and it's all pretty walkable.

I'm not sure what you mean by "parking and lodging shouldn't be very expensive", though - are you looking for a neighborhood to visit or to live in? What's the East Hartford connection?
posted by pdb at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2010

Ugh...yeah I'm not sure such a place exists. I grew up in Hartford and my parents still live there. You much have good luck with like the more central areas of Manchester or Newington. If you are willing to go about 20 minutes south of the Hartford area Middletown has Wesleyan University and the main street through there is your best bet for finding an area like you are looking for.

I would TOTALLY forget about finding anything like that in Hartford or East Hartford.
posted by Captain_Science at 2:07 PM on December 18, 2010

I lived in Hartford for a time. Your best bets, I think, are Middletown (about a 20-30 minute drive) and West Hartford (closer, but with an older population.) Also, there's a pretty decent arts scene in Hartford itself...Real Art Ways, I think is the name of the organization.
posted by melodykramer at 2:09 PM on December 18, 2010

Given that list of conditions you probably want to be either in downtown Hartford itself, or possibly in West Hartford (preferably near W. Hartford Center).

There are places east of the river that have charming, historic, New-England-y town centers, with some shops, places to eat, possibly even places to drink, but it's not going to be "a bustling dating scene" or "good nightlife." Most towns will have a bar or two (even the very small town in E. CT that I grew up in has one), but you're not going to do very much barhopping without getting in a car.

Admittedly, there are places that I haven't been in a few years (perhaps more like 10), and it's possible they've changed. But it's hard to imagine Glastonbury having suddenly acquired "nightlife," not that it's a bad place to live.

Manchester has really been built up and there are probably more youngish people living there than just about anywhere east of Hartford (with the exception of UCONN/Storrs), but it is mostly retail with some adjacent apartments and condos; certainly lots of places to eat and drink but not a great example of a walkable downtown.

So I'd probably be thinking Hartford / W. Htfd., but the only issue there would be what the commute is going to be like in the morning; you'll probably be looking at least at a few minutes of sitting in traffic every day, getting across the river. Depending on what you're used to, though, it might be nothing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:15 PM on December 18, 2010

"Bustling dating scene" and "Hartford" might be a bit of a stretch in the same sentence

Ha, I was going to say I think this question may be the first time "bustling dating scene" and Connecticut have ever been used in the same sentence. Also "safe neighborhood," "parking shouldn't be very expensive," and "Hartford." I've never lived in Hartford and I'm certainly not an expert on it, but the few times I've checked, rents always seemed inordinately high there too. I disagree with zippy about the nightlife - it definitely exists outside of New Haven, I've just never heard of it existing in Hartford. I agree with the others that West Hartford and Middletown would be better. And maybe, this is probably not what you want but if you don't mind a more suburban/commute kind of deal, Manchester or Glastonbury or South Windsor. Just because those places are always really full of people, and Hartford always seems kind of dead. (Though most of my experience is during the day, so take that for what it's worth.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:24 PM on December 18, 2010

I am currently finishing up a gig in downtown Hartford. Here's what I know:

- There are no grocery stores within walking distance.

- A new deli on Asylum, a sort of older, dustier deli on Main.

- Two theaters - Hartford Stage and Hartford Theaterworks, for the seeing of plays. Both have great quality programming.

- No real shopping to speak of, if you're talking about interesting store fronts or department stores.

- There is basically every bank under the sun except Chase and Citibank.

- There is a single CVS drugstore on Main Street within comfortable walking distance.

- There is a single, delightful wine store called Spiritus.

- There are some hotels.

- No movie theater within walking distance.

- Decent bus service.

- There is a great art museum called the Atheneum.

- Several totally vacant mid-rise buildings and storefronts. A vacant McDonald's sits directly across the street from where I'm staying. There are, however, to my knowledge, 3 Dunkin Donuts within a six block radius. A Burger King. A Subway in the train station.

- There are about a dozen bars and restaurants. Food choices are about what you get anywhere - a bit of sushi, a few Italian places, an American with Asian Influences place, a couple of steakhouses, some Irish pubs, an Indian place, sandwiches/burgers.

- There is one Starbucks nearby that closes at 6 pm and is closed on Sundays and sometimes is also closed on Saturdays (haven't quite figured out the rationale.) Oh, wait...there's another in the Marriott hotel which is nicer and has longer hours but it's sort of a hike from where I'm staying, especially when it's really cold out.

- There is a really nice YMCA. However, it's open only til 2 on Saturday and closed completely on Sunday.

- There's a concert and basketball venue called The XL Center in the same building as the Y.

- There's a gorgeous, relatively recently completed Science Center right on the river.

- There's a walking path along the river.

- Bushnell Park is pretty and walkable and has a good path for jogging when it isn't 10 degrees outside. Which it's been for a little while now.

- The area around Bushnell Park, the capitol building, the train station, from Asylum Hill down to the riverfront? Populated mostly by corporations in tall buildings and some hotels and corporate housing. The foot traffic on the street is mainly between these office buildings and the handful - HANDFUL - of places to grab a sandwich at lunch. At night on the weekends? People walking and laughing between the XL Center and some of the bars, or the hotels and some of the bars, or some of the corporate housing places and some of the bars, or just people in town on business blowing off steam late at night.

Frankly, though the people are lovely and I've enjoyed my stay, the place is kinda sleepy and seems in a weird transitional state between what once was a vibrant, bustling place and....well, sort of City of Corporations. West Hartford seems to be more of where you'd want to be. That's where I've been to shop for groceries and things, and there are many malls out that way, too. Pretty homes. Variety.

That's about it. Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:34 PM on December 18, 2010

You're talking about moving/staying long term, right? I'm answering as if you are:
I live in the area (have since college) and I'm also in my 30's. I don't think you're going to find exactly what you want, but I think your best bet is going to be Glastonbury. We don't really do "bustling downtown" here, but this is probably as good as it gets. In Glastonbury, there are some apartments around the town center, and within walking distance is a Whole Foods, a few bars, and a number of other restaurants. No issues with parking cost, and the area is very safe (it's on the yuppified side). I can't really tell you about the dating scene, but I can tell you that I spend a lot of time going out to eat in the Glastonbury area, and I prefer it to Hartford.

I live in Middletown, and it's cool here, but if you're going to be driving into East Hartford, you probably want to be staying on the east side of the river. The commute through Hartford is a PITA, and so is the I-84 merge from I-91 (from Middletown), so skip that if at all possible.
posted by smalls at 2:52 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hartford is just kind of weird/boring/dead. I mean, it's simultaneously "the insurance capital of the world" and the second most impoverished city in the nation. I grew up in Hartford (& now live in New Haven) and agree with those who have recommended Middletown and, though I'm not much of a fan, West Hartford. My boyfriend's brother and some of my oldest friends live in Hartford (my friends all grew up in a neighboring suburb where I went to school) and other than going out to bars, they tend to do most of their hanging out at their or their friends' homes.
posted by eunoia at 3:03 PM on December 18, 2010

I'll add another vote for Middletown. Restaurants, theater, shopping and a couple of decent bars. I never found the dating scene in CT to be bustling, but pdb gave me a good chuckle.
posted by mearls at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2010

OK, so now I feel I need to represent Middletown since so many people are recommending it and I live there... really, I feel the downtown part is kind of "nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there (unless I went to Wesleyan)". Middletown not bad, it is getting better every year, but it's still got a way to go.

The only grocery store in Middletown within walking distance of downtown is a health food store called It's Only Natural. It's not tiny, but it would be hard to get everything you need there. If you want to live within walking distance of a grocery store (like Price Chopper), that's possible, but it is in an area that is very car oriented, so about the only other things you will have access to are strip mall type stores and fast food places.

Parking in downtown Middletown is annoying (and they just tore up a big public lot to put in a parking garage). If you live within walking distance of downtown, you will probably be looking at on street parking, which can be inconvenient in the winter. Also, I wouldn't consider all of downtown Middletown to be safe. Finally, Middletown has serious issues with bike-ability, (as does most of CT) and it comes straight from the local government.

Yes, There is a good restaurant scene for this part of the state, especially if you like Asian food. But unless you attend Wesleyan, there's probably not much of a dating scene (although plenty of places to take the dates you do find).

When I commuted into Hartford, it was about 45 minutes each way, and I left at 7:10 AM. My cousin lived in East Hartford (behind Pratt), and this was maybe 25 minutes in non-rush hour traffic, although I live north of downtown, so you might want to add a few minutes for that. I really can't stress how annoying the I-84 merge is from I-91, which you will face every day on your northbound commute.
posted by smalls at 4:20 PM on December 18, 2010

A friend of mine, 31, lives in West Hartford, because she works for the government, in a house-share with a few other people and it fits *some* of your criteria. She was just telling me last week how she doesn't want to change her online dating profile to say anything but New Haven because there's no one to date in Hartford except (her words) 'old divorced guys'. I don't know how Manchester is at all, though, so I can't speak to positive or negative there.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:01 PM on December 18, 2010

I have to disagree with smalls. Glastonbury's social scene is almost all married-with-kids-we-are-on-the-PTA-and-our-kids-go-to-soccer-camp-together-by-the-way-is-that-the-new-A6-you-just-bought? With a healthy dose of entitlement and an inferiority complex when it comes to simsbury and Avon. Avoid, except to the extent you wish to shop at whole foods.
posted by slateyness at 10:56 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Glastonbury is really the only place I can think of with a grocery store, services, and decent restaurants within walking distance, which is why I recommended it. I suppose, since I don't live there, that I can't exactly comment on the social scene... what I do is go there to go out with my friends or for post-work happy hours, and the places I visit are generally filled with other 30-something in groups or on dates. I never feel as if I stick out there because I don't drive an Audi, and I didn't grow up there so I don't know any soccer camp/PTA parents. The handful of people I do know who live there are either single or divorced and are pretty down to earth.

The area has changed in the past few years. I really can't think of another place in the area that is as walkable as downtown Glastonbury.
posted by smalls at 9:11 AM on December 19, 2010

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