West Hartford, CT
New England charm abounds in West Hartford, Connecticut, from the town's numerous Colonial-style homes to its quaint and stroll-worthy downtown. A suburb of larger Hartford to the east, the city keeps a leisurely, small-town pace while still offering a wealth of activities.
When looking for things to do in West Hartford, a good starting point is an exploration of the town's many historical locations—a map is available at the West Hartford Public Library on South Main Street. With 39 buildings and sites marked by the Architectural Heritage Committee, West Hartford's roots are easy to trace. Top stops include 18th-century houses like Whitman House and James Butler House, and particularly the Sarah Whitman Hooker House on New Britain Avenue.
From there, sightseers can head about a mile to the Noah Webster House, which honors the birthplace of one of America's greatest educators and early patriots. The restored 18th-century home displays the simple lifestyle of that era, and a one-room schoolhouse on the property allows visitors a glimpse into the environment that sparked Webster's educational reforms.
Webster's spelling books, known by their blue covers, were so influential in American education that the city named a downtown area Blue Back Square. This shopping district, located one mile north of the Noah Webster House, brings retailers like REI and Crate and Barrel together with boutique shops such as Munson's Chocolates, a Connecticut stand-by since 1946 and now a popular West Hartford attraction.
Also in downtown are several public artworks, for which the town's website provides a walking guide. Outdoor art ranges from a whimsical giant snail to a somber veterans’ memorial that honors the state's military service members. On South Main Street, a French-inspired outdoor labyrinth encourages meditation as its walking path winds inward.
For more outdoor pursuits, West Hartford attractions include a popular and sizable preserve, West Hartford Reservoir, just east of Downtown. The reservoir and grounds cover 3,000 acres, with paved and gravel trails running through lush forest. Information kiosks at the main entrance contain hiking maps of four different looped trail options. Kids can find things to do on the playgrounds and in the outdoor pool at Kennedy Memorial Park, on the west side of downtown.
After a day of perusing art and enjoying natural vistas, West Hartford bars and restaurants provide a fun switch to an easy pace. Locals praise Republic, a hip pub with exposed brick, funky light fixtures and craft beers on tap. Another favorite, Plan B Burger Bar, delivers a twist on classic hamburgers by featuring a super-spicy chipotle burger as well as a homemade veggie burger.
Although city nightlife is lively, West Hartford primarily conveys a relaxed, community focus, with neighborly gatherings like weekly farmers markets and summer parades. The town's website even encourages visitors to climb trees and attend block parties. Close to Hartford's urban conveniences but with a pace all its own, West Hartford maintains the charm that has kept it thriving for over 300 years.