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West Hartford, Connecticut – Farmington Avenue

Main Streets 2017 – Connecticut

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Mark Twain House West Hartford min
West Hartford Reservoir min
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It’s just five miles outside the capital city of Hartford, but the atmosphere in this Connecticut town is far from urban. Voted one of the Coolest Suburbs Worth A Visit by Travel + Leisure magazine, West Hartford stays true to its motto, “Where City Style Meets Village Charm.”

Once known for agriculture, West Hartford is now a vibrant community with appealing destinations that include numerous historical sites, plus The Children’s Museum and the Rockledge Golf Club, a carefully kept public golf course that’s been named one of New England’s “Best Places to Play.”

The popular downtown area known as West Hartford Center has been the community’s hub since the late 17th century. Plenty of trendy retail shops and appealing restaurants beckon visitors along Farmington Avenue near its crossing with Main Street. The addition of Blue Back Square in 2007 incorporated a blend of retail and residential space, bringing even more vitality to this area. Notes Travel + Leisure: “New transplants have spurred a flurry of activity and buzz along Farmington Avenue, where a young, trendy set can be found late at night ordering bottle service and grooving to house music at Shish Lounge.”

Downtown also hosts a number of annual festivals, events and special celebrations. Each June, Celebrate! West Hartford brings the community together to enjoy a wide range of family-friendly activities, with games, carnival rides, arts and crafts, and a 5k road race. Visitors can also learn about local businesses, recreation groups and nonprofit foundations. Each year, 30,000 people attend the two-day festival free of charge.

The Holiday Stroll brings cheer to downtown each December, as hundreds flock to West Hartford Center to take a horse-drawn carriage ride, visit Santa Claus and witness the tree lighting. Residents can even take in a local choir performance while getting in some holiday shopping.

If you prefer to enjoy local greenery, don’t miss visiting West Hartford Reservoir. With more than 3,000 acres of woodland and 30 miles of scenic trails for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s no wonder the locals call it West Hartford’s version of Central Park. Or meander over to Elizabeth Park Conservancy, which proudly calls itself America’s oldest public rose garden. Opened to the public in 1897, Elizabeth Park has just over 100 acres of gardens and grounds to explore — and it’s open without charge, 365 days of the year.

Primary photo taken by Pedrik
Mark Twain House photo taken by Ken Zirkel
West Hartford Reservoir photo taken by Patrick

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Mystic, Connecticut – West Main Street

Main Streets 2016: Connecticut

In Mystic, Connecticut, you’re always close to the sea — to the look of it, the scent of it, the way the air seems to make room for it. This village on the Mystic River, an estuary of Long Island Sound, has only about 4,000 people, but it’s home to two of New England’s most popular tourist destinations: Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport, both just upriver from Main Street and the old waterside downtown.

The Mystic Aquarium is part of the nonprofit Sea Research Foundation. Dedicated to education, the facility’s most popular attractions include New England’s only Beluga whale exhibit, habitats for rays, sharks and barracuda, a below-water viewing gallery where you can observe over 28 African penguins, a glimpse into the underwater world of the Amazon, and chances for kids to touch small sharks and over 20 other species in the Discovery Lab.

Mystic Seaport calls itself the Museum of America and the Sea. It is the largest maritime museum in the world, notable for its collection of sailing ships and boats, and for its re-creation of the crafts and fabric of an entire 19th-century seafaring village. It is home to the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaling ship.

Old downtown Mystic centers on the Mystic Bridge Historic District. The district lies along the east side of the river and is bisected by Main Street, which is also the major artery U.S. Route 1. The vibrant center of village life, downtown alive with local businesses like Bank Square Books, Bartleby’s Café, Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream — and a certain pizza place on the corner of West Main and Bank Street. Mystic Pizza owes its worldwide reputation to the popular 1988 movie by the same name, which included Julia Roberts among the cast of then-unknowns.

Closer to nature, Mystic River Park features a park and pier for fishing. The Mystic Outdoor Art Festival is the oldest festival of its kind in the Northeast, with crowds of more than 85,000 coming from all over New England. The two-day affair features more than 250 artists and artisans. The art festival is just one of many events organized and supported by the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, a unifying voice in a community.

West Main Street and Bridge photos courtesy of Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce
All other photos courtesy of Eastern Regional Tourism District/Mystic County

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