Visiting Hartford, Connecticut, was a learning experience. That’s what you call a trip that was spur-of-the-moment and didn’t turn out as you planned. Our entire 2020 summer road trip was fraught with changes due to the pandemic, and Hartford was a last-minute, half-day stop. We managed to have fun and squeeze in a tour of a park and a museum and eat at a great BBQ place.
We arrived in Hartford early in the afternoon and decided to rest as we had spent hours on the road. We drove from Maine and the holiday traffic for independence Day was heavy.
Check-In At the Holiday Inn
Upon entering the hotel and checking in, we learned from the front desk that we couldn’t use the indoor pool. The kids were so upset! They had been looking forward to jumping in the pool as soon as we arrived. Sadly, It couldn’t happen. I had forgotten to check to see if that Holiday Inn had an indoor or outdoor pool. We couldn’t cancel or transfer to a different Holiday Inn as they would charge the total amount of our bookings if we do. So, we decided to cancel our 2nd night and stay overnight instead.
Oh well, I learned a lesson. Check the amenities and facilities of the hotel before booking.
We were tired from driving eight hours from Maine, so we rested in the hotel and watched movies. We didn’t leave our room for dinner because we had lots of leftovers. The kids enjoyed relaxing at the hotel and watching movies that interested them. We also got to watch a family movie together. While the rest of the family watched their shows, I planned our next day’s itinerary.
Half-Day Itinerary In Hartford, Connecticut
These are the places we visited during our second day in Hartford, Connecticut. If you have limited time in the area or are just thinking of stopping by for the day, I recommend these three places to visit. Of course, you don’t get to tour the city, but you’ll have a little background of the place. If you start early, you’ll have enough time to see three to four sites during the day. Or squeeze in one or two attractions plus a restaurant if you plan to stay overnight as we did.
8:00 am in Elizabeth Garden
We were all rested and recharged for the day, so we checked out of our hotel at 8:00 am and headed to Elizabeth Gaden, ten minutes drive from our hotel. The Garden is easy to find, and we didn’t have a problem finding a parking spot. We drove inside the gate, followed the signs, and parked on the side. I love starting the day in nature.
Walking into Elizabeth Park, we immediately looked for the Rose Garden as that is the primary attraction. It’s nice to be there in the morning when the sun comes out. Benches are scattered around the park if you decide to sit and enjoy the smell of the beautiful roses. On our way to the center gazebo, we walked through a stunning rose arbor. It’s so beautiful and gives you a magical feeling to walk under it. The gazebo is beautifully made and is in the center of the garden. There’s a bench inside if you need to sit in the shade away from the sun. It’s a perfect place to rest. This tiny gazebo is covered over with leaves and is beautiful and unique.
On every side of the garden, from east to west, there’s a rose arbor. So whichever side you enter, you can enjoy walking through it. On your way back out of the park, you will notice a decent size pond. If you’re lucky, you can watch the ducks swim in the pond. Nate and the kids went there first. The kids enjoyed watching the ducks that swam towards us. There is also a bench near the pond under the shade of a big tree.
Facts About Elizabeth Garden
Elizabeth Garden is the first and, therefore, the oldest rose garden in the United States. It’s the third-largest rose garden in the country. Theodore Wirth designed the Rose Garden in September 1903. The park started with 190 varieties, and by the 1950’s it had grown to nearly 1,000. Today the park has 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties, both old and new.
The Conservancy, which manages and oversees the Garden, has to raise over $100 000 annually for rose expertise, full-time summer gardeners, contractor services, and fertilizer, mulch, lime, and replacement roses. The rose garden is 2.5 acres now since they added the North and South Wing to make it bigger and accommodate more people.
10:00 am in the Mark Twain House and Museum
The Mark Twain House and Museum opened at 10:00 a.m. Perfect timing as we finished our stroll through Elizabeth Park. We parked on the street side right in front of Mark Twain’s House. The caretaker instructed us to go to the main building where the museum is located to process our tickets and meet our tour guide. It was an easy process.
Since we visited the area during COVID time, they were strict, being sure we followed social distancing and didn’t touch anything. That was hard on Kyle. He got bored following the guide around and hearing about the history.
The house, built in a Victorian gothic style, is decorated with Morocco, India, Japan, China, and Turkey motifs. These come from the four designers of the home who brought ideas from around the world where they had traveled. The house has been beautifully restored.
Facts about the Mark Twain House And Museum
Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) is one of the top 20 American famous authors. His most well-known books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, were all written in the Billiard Room of his home. This third-floor combination office/entertainment space was Twain’s inner sanctum. The family was not allowed there. No one except the cleaning lady and Twain’s male friends was allowed in this attic room. Clemens said, “Every man ought to have a room he can swear in. It’s not good to repress such emotions.” The Billiard Room was such a room for Mark Twain.
Samuel’s writings were not confined to adventure stories. He co-wrote The Gilded Age‚ a novel that attacked political corruption‚ big business, and the American obsession with getting rich seemed to dominate the era. Ironically while railing against riches, Twain also said, “The lack of money is the root of all evil,” and he had to curtail some of his criticisms to earn a living lecturing to offset debt he incurred by bad financial investments in inventions that failed. Twain was both a businessman and a publisher.
After widely traveling both through the United States and the world, Clemens married Olivia Langdon. They first lived in Buffalo, New York, later moving to Hartford, Connecticut. When Twain’s financial investments failed, the family was forced to move to Europe, where living expenses were cheaper, and Samuel could earn a living by lecturing.
Mark Twain’s house was sold to the Bissell family in 1903 and owned by several different owners until 1929 when The Friends of Hartford purchased it. To earn money to save and restore the 25 room house, they rented out the property’s first floor from 1930- 1956. In 1963 the formal restoration of the house began, and that same year the home was designated a National Historic Landmark.
11:00 am at Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ
There are three popular barbecue places in the area. We pick this place based on the reviews. It is also convenient being nearby the Mark Twain House and Museum. Bear’s Smokehouse is famous for its barbecue. We ordered the family deal and a sandwich. It was one of the best barbecues we have ever tasted in our travels.
There’s a parking garage near the restaurant. There are also a couple of parking spots in front of the restaurant, and you have to pay for those spaces. We didn’t have trouble finding parking as it was COVID season. If the spaces in front are taken, the parking garage is a short walking distance from the Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ.
Bear’s Smoke House BBQ Motto
Engage and Empower
Appreciate and Show Gratitude
Respect Ourselves and Others
Even though we spent a limited time in Hartford, Connecticut, we could see some of its important places and eat at a great restaurant. The locals are proud of their history. One site that we didn’t have time for is the Harriet Beecher Stowe house close to Mark Twain’s House and Museum. Harriet is the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel famous for its anti-slavery stance that enflamed passions around the issue before the Civil War. It’s worth your time to visit Hartford, Connecticut. Though the city is statistically speaking, has a high crime rate, we felt safe roaming around Elizabeth Park early in the morning. The following links are the other articles of our road trip as a whole: The Best Way To Change Your Itinerary During COVID-19, How To Plan A Road Trip During COVID-19?