Yalers or Whalers?
July 14, 2008 8:07 PM   Subscribe

Should I live in Hartford or New Haven, Connecticut?

I'm moving to Connecticut tomorrow, though I'm not sure which city yet. I'm doing a 80-day contract for my company and they're gonna put me up in a 1-bedroom apartment of some sort. I don't have too much control over where I'm at within either city, but I can choose which one I'd prefer to be in. Either way, I'll be spending commuting at least twice a week between the two.

My company is going to pay for a fairly nice place, centrally located, so I'm not worried about quality of accomodations. However, I've never been to either city, don't know anyone in either location and don't really know anything about either place (except Yale is in New Haven, and I'll be working very near the campus). I'll have a car.

Important criteria to me: I like access to biking paths, hiking, nice coffee shops with wifi where I can do most of my work, good non-chain restaurants, historical stuff, easy access to trains to Boston and NY. I hate sprawl and traffic.

So.. is there any big difference? Is the Yale campus and student atmosphere a cool place for a 31 year old non-student? Is Hartford uhm... I have no idea what to say about Hartford. Is this six on one, half a dozen on the other?
posted by bluejayk to Travel & Transportation around New Haven, CT (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
New Haven. There is nothing in Hartford. Except roads that lead out of it.

West Hartford isn't too bad but you would definitely be taking a chance chosing Hartford if you can't chose the exact location IN Hartford.

New Haven has all of those things. Plus, it's on the end of the Metro north line which means a 90 minute ride to NYC.

Hartford is a big bag of inconvenience all rolled together.

*Disclaimer: I lived in Hartford.
posted by pencroft at 8:20 PM on July 14, 2008

New Haven has a severe criminal element to it, once you get more than a few blocks away from the Yale campus. An old friend worked as a nurse in one of the local hospitals. The police and paramedics told her that if she had to go home late at night after a shift, that she should blow through the red lights in order to avoid being carjacked.

Now, if you're the homesteading type, and you want to take on the gangs after-school special style, the go for it. But, go in forewarned.
posted by Citrus at 8:25 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: I grew up in a suburb close to New Haven and one of my parents works near Hartford. I like New Haven much, much better and think you should live there. Here are some reasons why:

-there is a nightlife in New Haven (theater, music venues [classical and non-], tasty restaurants, some nice bars - try the Anchor, etc.)
-it is on the train line to NYC and Boston (getting to NYC is particularly easy and reasonably cheap)
-there are some great coffee shops and some wonderful bookstores
-the Yale campus is quite pretty

I don't really know much about the hiking/outdoorsy options, but I'm pretty sure that Hartford wouldn't be any better on this front and it does worse on almost all the others (not much nightlife, not on the train line, not very pretty -- it's just not that thrilling of a city, to be honest). Also, since it is summer time, New Haven will not be very student-y at all and there will be a lot less traffic, it'll be easier to park, etc.

Hartford is not a bad place to live, but since you have the choice, go for New Haven.

(on preview: I agree with pencroft, and disagree with Citrus. The crime in New Haven is not half as bad as it used to be and I have always felt safe. Just stay out of the sketchy areas, as in any city, and it'll be pretty obvious where the sketchy areas are).

posted by deeparch at 8:29 PM on July 14, 2008

They're both crapholes, but New Haven is a craphole with an Ivy League school and easy access to NYC. Pick New Haven.
posted by nicwolff at 8:30 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

much more eloquently stated than my ramblings, nicwolff. well done.
posted by pencroft at 8:33 PM on July 14, 2008

I worked in Hartford for 3 months and lived midway between the two and found myself in NH on weekends a lot more than H..though it should be said that West Hartford is actually quite nice and has many of the same features as New Haven...

The train station in Hartford is one stop past NH on Amtrak. So let that not be your deciding factor. But downtown H empties out after dark. I mean completely. So if you are looking for bars, coffeeshops, etc, NH is better.

I suppose H has the Mark Twain house and the Art Museum. But those are good weekend day trips.
posted by melodykramer at 8:34 PM on July 14, 2008

Hartford isn't any safer than New Haven is, and at least in New Haven there are things for you to do when you're not getting mugged. I'm not very familiar with Hartford but New Haven definitely scores in the restaurants, historical stuff, coffee shops, hiking (well, there's East Rock anyway), and easy train access departments. I used to live in New Haven and appreciate it more every time I go back--I live in the Boston area now and New Haven strikes me as having a lot of urban amenities but also much more nice green space, shady sidewalks, beautiful architecture, reasonable traffic, etc. than I'm used to here.
posted by phoenixy at 8:43 PM on July 14, 2008

I lived in Hartford for four years while going to college. I was held up at gunpoint and had my car stolen twice. A dead body was found leaning against my dorm during the winter of my freshman year. There were endless stories about other students being beaten and shot and cars being stolen. Also there's nothing to do.

If it wasn't clear, that's a vote for New Haven. You will regret living in Hartford.
posted by null terminated at 8:48 PM on July 14, 2008

The AMC runs hikes almost every weekend if you're looking for places to hike.
posted by smackfu at 8:58 PM on July 14, 2008

My ex-coworker (same one from the Chucks question earlier today) is from the Hartford metro. He has a number of fascinating, colorful tales involving burning vehicles, being asked if he wanted to "buy some buttah" by crackheads downtown, stabbings, shootings, and the like.

New Haven probably isn't any better, honestly, but my pal paints a pretty grim, Southeast DC-style portrait of downtown Hartford. If you're not comfortable with that sort of thing, you probably want to stick to the college town and live pretty close to campus.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:05 PM on July 14, 2008

West Hartford is fine, but it's tiny. And it cannot make up for the sheer void that is Hartford.

Nice coffee shops in Hartford? There's one: Tisane. And that's on the West Hartford border.

Biking paths? Well, there are a few nice parks and good hikes within a drive from Hartford, but the closest you'll get is the reservoir... in West Hartford. Which is shared with pedestrians, if memory serves.

There are no restaurants in Hartford that made any kind of impact on me.

In terms of buses and trains, Hartford has Union Station, but New Haven is much more centrally located for anywhere you'd actually want to go.

There isn't "sprawl" in Hartford, per se, but traffic around the interlocking 84/91 highway exchange will make you regret your life - if the crime, civic indifference, and cultural zero-sum don't get to you first.

Please don't bother. Go South.
posted by mykescipark at 9:08 PM on July 14, 2008

There's fuck-all in downtown Hartford; the small downtown core of West Hartford wouldn't bore you in 80 days, but I doubt you'd get placed there by work. Judging from people I knew who worked in both, the sketchy areas of New Haven are worse; but from my own experience, if you're based in and around the Yale bits, you'll find it walkable and workable and insulated somewhat from that sketchiness.

That extra stop on the railway line makes a difference, too: you can take the Metro-North from NH into Grand Central if you want a car-free NYC weekend, rather than the Amtrak into Penn. You're also within easy reach of fun seaside places like Old Saybrook.
posted by holgate at 9:22 PM on July 14, 2008

The Mark Twain house is good to go every 10 years.
I used to drive through hartford with my dad every two weeks.
It is the classic place to make sure your car doors are locked.
Housing is cheeeeeeapp, for good reason.
Good italian and polish food in some places.
I've only driven past New Haven but it needs to be better than hartford.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:23 PM on July 14, 2008

I live in the Hartford 'burbs. Most of the 'burbs are fine, but if you have no control of where you'll be, I can't make the recommendation.

Then again, I'm not a huge part of the nightlife in the area. Most weeks on my days off I park my car in NH and head in to see friends in NYC...
posted by pupdog at 9:28 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: The 84/91 traffic isn't terrible around Hartford -- I've been through it plenty of times, and it's got nothin' on bigger metro areas. But downtown Hot-ford does pretty much empty out after happy hour. If you enjoy nightlife at all, the capital can be kind of limiting.

There are a few decent suburbs of Hartford. I love Middletown, but I'm biased since that was close where I grew up (excellent for restaurants, community events, theater, and funky coffee shops, though; it's where Wesleyan University is, and about 20 min south of Hartford). I tend to think of West Hartford as mostly upscale sprawl and Manchester (a popular city for young professional Hartford commuters) as all sprawl, but I'm sure WH has carefully cultivated, well-manicured charms somewhere.

New Haven's lots of fun, like others have said, and there are plenty of great bars, clubs, and restaurants. CT has a lot of historical stuff in general (Gillette Castle, Mark Twain/Nathan Hale/Harriet Beecher Stowe houses) that you can get to from either city on a day-trip. That's the nice thing about small states like CT: If you live in New Haven, say, you can get to NYC, hiking, beautiful shore towns, and Gillette Castle in 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

So basically, as the others said, live in New Haven but check out other towns on your way to Hartford. And either way, don't feel like you're limiting yourself too much. CT's tiny, and if you have a car you'll be just fine in terms of what you're looking for. If you'd like any suggestions or have any other questions, feel free to shoot me an email.
posted by landedjentry at 9:44 PM on July 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all, I appreciate it. Right now it's between a nice apartment complex in West Hartford and 'we're not sure' in New Haven. I'm still leaning New Haven, but we'll see.
posted by bluejayk at 9:59 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: ...biking paths, hiking, nice coffee shops with wifi where I can do most of my work, good non-chain restaurants, historical stuff, easy access to trains to Boston and NY. I hate sprawl and traffic.

Oh my lord. New Haven, a thousand times over.

Coffeeshops galore, lots of non-chain pizza and Asian restaurants, active nightlife (or so I hear), free concerts on the Green and at Yale, easy trains, great parks.

Crime in New Haven is not nearly what it was even ten years ago. There are plenty of places I don't walk at night, but it's within reason for a small city, and relatively easy to avoid trouble spots. Especially in the summer, the age thing really won't be an issue. Parking might be a pain if you're really downtown--look out for the biweekly street-cleanings--but you can just stash your car a little further out from the center if need be.

Hartford feels like an urban center. New Haven feels like a city, with neighborhoods and a culture and a personality.

On preview: I don't know if you'd be comfortable with this, but--if you find out where the NH housing is, you could post it and one of us Haveners could probably give you an idea what the neighborhood is like.
posted by hippugeek at 10:10 PM on July 14, 2008

Hundredthing New Haven, for all the reasons stated above.
posted by Opposite George at 11:20 PM on July 14, 2008

Best answer: This is very clear. New Haven.

I've lived and worked in both locations and New Haven is the superior city by a friggin' light year. The above impression regarding crime and blowing through red lights is false, although parking can be a hassle and break-ins seem to be the most common urban crime (no matter what the neighborhood). Bad neighborhoods are definitely prevalent, though. Don't wander around at night alone and on foot on Whalley or Dixwell, around Yale New Haven Hospital, or anywhere east of East St. These nabes are fine in a car and/or during the day, though.

Depending on your location, you'll be able to walk to all of your criteria and then some. New Haven has a TON of nightlife, as well, more concert venues of all sizes, nightclubs, and non-chain restaurants than seems possible, and free concerts on the green. Get to know the nine blocks of downtown.

For your hiking and biking needs, visit East Rock, which sits at the north end of Orange St. There's also a fantastic bike trail that starts in Hamden (directly north of New Haven) and stretches north for miles and miles. Go here and park your car in the CVS lot. The bike path entrance is at the back of that lot, alongside Connolly, close to the overpass there.

And like everyone else has mentioned. Union Station has trains out to NYC and Boston on the hour, so you're not stuck there if you hate it. (Although if you do then trust me, you would have hated Hartford so much more.)
posted by greenland at 11:38 PM on July 14, 2008

Another vote for New Haven, if you have to pick between the two. Something to consider about living in West Hartford is the commute you will be making to New Haven - The switch from I-84 E to I-91 S is awful and you might be required to do it. If you hate traffic, you will hate this commute.
posted by smalls at 12:08 AM on July 15, 2008

Best answer: I grew up in New Haven. It's not as dangerous as people are making it out to be. I wish I still lived there.

If you want to get a good general feel for the city, browse through The New Haven Independent

For your specific criteria:

biking paths: the Farmington Canal trail runs from New Haven to Northampton, MA. New Haven is an extremely bike-friendly city.

hiking (and probably biking too, in some places):
East Rock
West Rock
Sleeping Giant

nice coffee shops with wifi:
and of course Starbucks...
and Gourmet Heaven, which is open 24 hours
(I'm not sure whether Willoughby's or Lulu's have wifi, but they're great regardless)

good non-chain restaurants:
Plenty of these, on the high end and low end and in between.
Claire's Cornercopia for great vegetarian food.
Modern Apizza
really, just check out the list at the New Haven Advocate.

historical stuff:
the Grove Street Cemetery
New Haven Colony Historical Society
The Crypt at Center Church
And Yale itself is pretty historical, and very beautiful to just wander around.

easy access trains to Boston and NY:
You can only catch the Amtrak out of Hartford, which is pricey (though you'll have to take it no matter where you end up if you want to go to Boston). But for New York, New Haven has the advantage of being at the end of the Metronorth line, which costs half as much. And, unlike Hartford's, New Haven's Greyhound station is in the same building as the train station, in case you really want to save money.

other great stuff:
Nica's Market is the best of a bunch of a number of small, European-style grocery and produce stores on Orange St. They have great sandwiches, too.
Yale's two biggest art galleries: the Yale Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art
The Cinema at the Whitney
Best Video
posted by bubukaba at 2:00 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

A note on train v. bus - Greyhound or Peter Pan (without any sort of discount) from New Haven to NYC runs $20 to $30 - Metro North is $14 off peak, $18.50 peak, as long as you buy your ticket before you get on the train. Metro North isn't going to be full leaving NH, and drops you at Grand Central, right in the middle of everything. I've never even considered Greyhound, and really don't think I would recommend it for this trip.
posted by pupdog at 2:40 AM on July 15, 2008

Go with whichever city you'll be spending the most time working in. Hartford is nowhere near as bad as people have made it out to be, but the traffic around both cities is the stuff of nightmares. The 84/91 interchange is the worst in the northeast, and New Haven is the only place I've hit an interstate traffic jam at 2 AM.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 3:56 AM on July 15, 2008

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