A Restored Pratt Street
Through improved and restored retail storefronts, renovated residential spaces, and curated programming, Pratt St is being rediscovered.
When your plans take you to the Northeastern U.S.A. – specifically towards New England – have you ever thought about visiting the state of Connecticut?
There are a few reasons why one would visit the fifth state of the union. For example, some would attend a convention or travel for business to the state. Or, as a stop on the to, from, or way between New York City and Boston. However, most local and visitors I’ve talked find that one of the primary reasons to visit the state to see relatives or friends that live there.
Maybe it is time to consider Connecticut as a destination unto its own. The state is a historic, vibrant, and beautiful destination to visit. It is also home of a deeply rooted LGBTQ+ community positioned across the state.
Having never set foot in that state, I was curious what Connecticut has to offer. And, I am glad I did.
Which brings me to my first tip for traveling anywhere: Bring your curiosity.
To truly see the state, I brought on Stellantis North America to guide my curiosity to Connecticut. They had me pick up a 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4 from just over the state line in White Plains, New York to traverse the western portion of The Constitution State into its capital of Hartford.
From over the state line from New York, I took the opportunity to take a healthy drive along Interstate 84 through Danbury, Waterbury, Bristol, and New Britain to get to the state’s center.
Since time was of an essence, stopping by these lovely cities west of Hartford was not on the agenda. Although, each of these places are worth checking out when time permits you to do so. Not to mention, the drive is absolutely beautiful with rolling hills and lots of trees. If you can, take Interstate 84 across the state – you will be absolutely rewarded.
My primary stop, Hartford, offers a lot of history with modern twists. After checking in at the Marriott Hartford Downtown along the Connecticut River, my hosts from the Connecticut Office of Tourism had me running right off the bat. Well…theoretically running, but you get the idea.
In Hartford, you are at the heart of it all. The state’s capitol is really where things are happening by celebrating the past with an eye towards the future.
It starts with the past. Hartford offers history by the volume. In the heart of downtown is the Old State House, which has become a destination for outdoor activities, such as Hartford Live. This is a summer outdoor concert series that brings everyone together. The state government has since moved several blocks away in 1878, but you can experience Connecticut’s past in this post-Revolutionary War building.
Pratt Street has been the center of commerce for Hartford since 1814. It is full of cool and hip places to shop, dine, hang out, and have a great time. There is an emphasis on local businesses, restaurants, and entertainment along this street. This also includes restored residences along the street and above the storefronts.
For urban beauty, one stop you should make is the Elizabeth Park Conservancy (1561 Asylum Ave., West Hartford), a botanical urban getaway that is beautiful and calming. Not far from Elizabeth Park are the Mark Twain Home and Museum (351 Farmington Ave., Hartford) and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center (77 Forest St., Hartford). Both are essentially next door to each other where you can view the homes they used to live in, as well as learn a lot more about these historic figures from American history.
To find what truly defines Connecticut, you have to make your way towards the Long Island Sound. For that quest, I headed southeasterly from Hartford for a stop in Mystic. Where the Mystic River flows into the Sound is an idyllic seaport community that is usually coupled with New London and Stonington. These are the last few communities along Interstate 95 before you enter Rhode Island.
Upon arriving at Mystic, my first stop was the Mystic Seaport Museum (75 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic). This harborside attraction provided a look at how life was when Mystic was a major port of call for seafaring people and tall sailing ships. It is a good stop when exploring the shoreline right off of Block Island Sound.
Beyond these stops, there are places that are truly unique to the state and its communities. One such place is an interdisciplinary art space called Real Art Ways (56 Arbor St., Hartford). The Executive Director, Will K. Wilkins, greeted me with their space including galleries, artist studios, and a movie theater. This space designed to incubate and foster ideas of what truly is. There is more to come with expansion plans under way for more cinema screens and additional art space.
Let’s talk about the dining scene in the state. It has been called “up and coming,” but you will think that they’ve always been great based on the places I have dined. Salute (100 Trumbull St., Hartford) offers an elevated Italian cuisine that is full of superb ingredients and great hospitality. In fact, they love out-of-town visitors, as well as locals that are regular. It is also LGBTQ+-owned – a huge plus for us looking for great places to dine.
The next block up from Salute is Max’s Trumbull Kitchen (150 Trumbull St., Hartford). It is another elevated experience transforming everyday dishes into special ones. For example, when you order meatloaf, you normally get it with a tomato sauce or gravy poured over it. Instead, the sauce is a tomato jam with a mix of sweet and spicy elements. Combined with great service and atmosphere, Max’s Trumbull Kitchen was absolutely incredible.
If you’re looking for an informal place to grab something to eat, check out Parkville Market (1400 Park St., Hartford). This market/food hall offers a world of choice from stalls representing several national cuisines. There will be something for everyone, including new-to-you meals!
In Mystic, I met up with Executive Chef Renee Touponce. It is worth noting that Touponce was a finalist for one of the 2023 James Beard Awards, already achieving the distinction as Chef of the Year at the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s 2022 CRazies Awards. Currently, Touponce is the Executive Chef at the Oyster Club (13 Water St., Mystic) and The Port of Call (15 Water St., Mystic). She is perhaps one of the leading LGBTQ+ Executive Chefs in this country.
At The Port of Call, it is truly a global culinary tour of port cities made with local ingredients. From Green Thai Current Mussels to a Carne Asada, Touponce turned every meal into something above the ordinary. You can agree with judges of the awards she has received with every bite.
Talk about places to stay, certainly you have many choices. The two places I stayed at were the Marriott Hartford Downtown (200 Columbus St., Hartford) and the Inn at Mystic (3 Williams Ave., Mystic).
When you travel, always consider the location. The Marriott Hartford Downtown was at a perfect vantage point to go anywhere throughout the state and beyond with perfect access to both Interstate 84 and 91. The hotel is located right on the Connecticut River and is connected to the Connecticut Convention Center. You also get comfortable modern rooms with many amenities, including Vino Seasonal Trattoria and the L Bar – both inside the hotel.
The Inn at Mystic sits on a historic fourteen acres of hospitality overlooking Fishers Island Sound and Mystic Harbor. Along with the Rocks 21 restaurant, the Inn provided a historic perfect on top of a hilltop. From that perch, you can enjoy the vistas of Mystic Harbor outward to ocean. It is also a very popular wedding venue with the Haley Mansion offering a beautiful setting for your nuptials. Not to mention, the rooms are very lovely, comfortable, and accommodating.
As far as connecting with the LGBTQ+ community, there’s plenty of things to go and do across the state. For those of us looking for our community, one of the places in Hartford to check out is CHEZ Est (458 Wethersfield Ave., Hartford). Wednesday nights are for Karaoke With Joey. I have not done karaoke in a long time – it does take courage to do so. Even with a diverse crowd in attendance, you do not have to worry about being great on the microphone. One patron even said that not even the regulars had a perfect tone. Simply, it’s all about having a fun time.
CHEZ Est also hosts drag performances, bar nights for Bears and other communities. It has plenty of space to have fun just south of downtown Hartford.
On the second Thursday night of each month, Out Film CT hosts a Queer Thursdays movie event at Cinestudio (300 Summit St., Hartford) on the campus of Trinity College. That evening, we saw the Focus Pictures/NBC documentary “Every Body,” described as a “revelatory investigation of the lives of intersex people.” The crowd was loyal, supportive, and enthusiastic. There was definitely a spirit in attendance for this screening.
My last day in Connecticut was completed with a stop at the tenth Pride at The Beach in New London. Pride at The Beach is produced by OutCT as part of an extended weekend of New London Pride events for the LGBTQ+ community in Southeastern Connecticut. The festival was lively, vibrant, and full of public support from within and outside the local LGBTQ+ community. The people I chatted with were open and friendly to tell their experiences about how they were uplifted by this diverse and deep community across the state – and, specifically, in Southeastern Connecticut.
If you are planning your trip to Connecticut, it it is suggested to fly into Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks north of Hartford. Both Delta and Sun Country fly direct from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport to Bradley International. Sun Country only offers a seasonal service. Access to every proportion of the state is very easily done from Bradley International.
Let’s make one thing clear: There is a lot more to Connecticut than what I have experienced in my stay there. I kept hearing about other places across the state to check out – from natural locales, small towns, and other attractions. New Haven has a great arts and creative community to check out. Plus, a drive anywhere in the state will yield a lot of beauty, rolling hills, and small towns to simply stop and explore.
LGBTQ+ life is found essentially statewide with a multitude of place to connect with other people. You won’t get much attention if you and significant other simply enjoy each other’s company.
Since there is a lot to see and do in Connecticut, why not just make it destination for a visit? It is a state worth discovering. After all, Connecticut is a vibe worth capturing on your next vacation.
For more information on visiting Connecticut, log on to www.ctvisit.com
Plus, check out these places where I visited:
Elizabeth Park Conservatory: www.elizabethparkct.org
Pratt Street: www.prattst.com
Mark Twain Home and Museum: www.marktwainhouse.org
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center: www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org
Trumbull Kitchen: www.trumbullkitchen.com
Real Art Ways: www.realartways.org/about/
CHEZ Est: www.chezest.com
Out Film CT: www.outfilmct.org/
Read original article here.Go Back