Sightseeing in Hartford

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Samuel Clemens lived a life so full that it encompassed two names. He was a riverboat pilot, a silver prospector, and a newspaperman—and it was in this last trade that he first used the name under which he would author some of America's greatest fiction: Mark Twain. In works such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court­ Twain cast a wry spotlight on the political and industrial changes of the 19th century, from westward expansion to the end of slavery to the birth of ground-breaking technology such as the mustache comb. In much the same way, the very space where Twain wrote—the Hartford home where his family lived from 1874 to 1891—illuminates the times as well as the personal life of the man behind the letters.

These days, that home is a National Historic Landmark that serves as half of The Mark Twain House and Museum. Comprised of 25 rooms, including a glass conservatory and grand library, it has been open to the public since its 100th anniversary in 1974. Inside, visitors explore not only the billiard room where Twain penned novels such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but also nearly 16,000 Twain-related artifacts, such as his last pair of spectacles and photos of his daughters putting on plays. Even more objects and information fill the nearby LEED-certified museum, where rotating exhibits focus on subjects such as the Twain family's servants.

351 Farmington Ave
Hartford,
CT
US

"Her words changed the world," reads the website for the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. "What will you do?" As the author of the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe's moving prose helped expose the brutal reality of slavery in the United States. Today, her family home still stands in honor of her memory, welcoming guests as a museum and historic site.

Visitors step into the past via the front door, stopping by the front parlor to see where the Stowes gathered to take tea, play games, and debate the pressing issues of the day. The ground floor also houses some of the Stowes' original furnishings, including a dining room table and Harriet's own oil and watercolor paintings. The second floor offers a more personal look at the author's day-to-day life through touches such as her hand-painted furniture, as well as a terrarium that reflected her love of nature. Guided tours can provide further insight into the life of a woman who, in a time period marked by prejudice and turmoil, nevertheless spoke in favor of equality and change.

77 Forest St
Hartford,
CT
US

Today, science lets children as young as 7 years old stand in the eye of a hurricane and fly over the surface of Mars—at least at the Connecticut Science Center. The multi-sensory center encourages all ages to explore the exciting side of natural and man-made phenomena. Whether they're braving gale-force winds in the hurricane simulator or engaging with exotic critters in the live animal touch tanks, visitors play an active role in the center's more than 150 hands-on exhibits. In the Sight and Sound Experience, adventurers feel sound vibrations, experiment with lasers and movement, and hear light, whereas Planet Earth encourages them to probe for fossils in a real seabed core. Exploring Space journeys outside the atmosphere with moon rocks and an up-close visit to a black hole, before Invention Dimension, which features LEGOs, returns to Earth so that fledgling engineers can build their own Rube Goldberg machine without the calculating the effects of zero gravity.

Recently, the center welcomed its newest resident: a sound-equipped animatronic dilophosaurus, whose reptilian movements and noises recreate the goosebumps felt during the species's starring role in Jurassic Park. Robotics also play a central role in Forces in Motion, which introduces the fundamentals of engineering and design through the use of sleek, responsive mechanical flyers. The center's dedication to machine life also extends to its partnerships; working with First Niagara Bank Foundation and scientist Tim Gifford, the center sponsors a teen robotics team for camps and competitions.

Beyond the permanent exhibits, the museum is also a frequent stop for headline-grabbing traveling exhibits from around the country; with multiple exhibits coming through every year, no visit is likely to be the same as the last. The center also houses learning areas suited to even smaller guests: in KidSpace, ages 3–6 splash in a water play area, partake in story time, experiment with a wall of magnetic balls, and test their object recognition in searching activities designed by I Spy author Walter Wick. Beyond the exhibits, a state-of-the-art 3D digital theatre screens science-focused films, and four educational labs host special events such as summer exploration camps and experiments in cootie vaccination. An on-site café, meanwhile, keeps visitors fueled with dishes made from organic, locally sourced ingredients. All of this academic adventure unfold in the center's sleek building, which honors its green architecture with a rooftop garden boasting panoramic views of Hartford.

250 Columbus Blvd
Hartford,
CT
US