The Greater Hartford & River Valley manages to eke out the smallest amount of coastline of the Connecticut regions other than the landlocked Litchfield Hills. It makes the most of it though, taking advantage of the Connecticut River, which bisects the region (and state), flowing in from Massachusetts and emptying into Long Island Sound between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme.
The southern end of the river includes the historic colonial town of Essex, listed in the guide “1,000 Places To See Before You Die”. With its pretty Main Street full of shops, the Griswold Inn, hosting travelers since 1776, and the picturesque harbor, it feels like a place out of time. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers a great way to extend your enjoyment of this beautiful area, first by train and then via riverboat, all narrated to give you the full flavor of the area’s history and natural environment.
Continuing upriver, make stops to admire Gillette Castle, the East Haddam Swing Bridge and the state parks that dot the shores before arriving in Hartford, Connecticut’s capital and one of America’s oldest cities, founded in 1635. The oldest public art museum, Wadsworth Atheneum, is here, along with the oldest continuously published newspaper (the Hartford Courant).
Known as “the insurance capital of the world”, and hosting many insurance company headquarters, it is sadly a rather poor city, a shadow of its once gloried self, having suffered through flood, fire and the industrial era.
That said, there is plenty to see here – The Mark Twain House & Museum, the Connecticut Science Center, the stunning Connecticut State Capitol, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Bushnell Park, the Cathedral of St Joseph, the Connecticut Historical Society and so much more. It is a city well worth exploring.
Further upriver from Hartford you’ll find interesting museums like the Vintage Radio & Communications Museum in Windsor, the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor, and the New England Civil War Museum in Vernon.
So travel up the river and see what you can discover.