Monday, October 6, 2014

Exploring: Connecticut

You might remember a couple months ago I was planning a trip to visit college friends in Connecticut. Well, Hope is having me back to share a bit about my weekend trip!

We traveled by car to Hartford, the state capital. From Pittsburgh it took us about eight hours or so. It was a pretty drive, and I imagine it would be even more beautiful in the fall as the leaves start to change colors.

On our first full day there we visited the Connecticut Science Center, located in Downtown Hartford. The building is just beautiful, and LEED-certified. We had a blast there, and I'm not just talking about Jack...we all did! We spent a lot of time exploring each floor, starting with the rooftop garden. The space was lovely, with quite a view of the city! My favorite part was a touch garden, where Jack got to feel the plants. He loved the soft leaves.

Each floor was very interactive, with many games and puzzles. It's good to know that since the next several years of my life will be spent in these types of places that I can still have fun as an adult!

The next part of our day was spent in West Hartford, which is not part of the capital. It became it's own town in 1854. The area has been ranked on many "Best City" lists. And I can see why! There are so many cute shops, hip cafes and high-end restaurants. But my favorite part of the town, by far, is Elizabeth Park.

The park has been open to the public since 1897 and covers over 100 acres. The gardens
throughout the park are just breathtaking. The rose garden is actually the oldest public rose garden in the country. There are over 15,000 rose bushes and arches! We took more pictures than I know what to do with. It was pretty magical...and we weren't even there during the peak season! It's no surprise that it is a major destination for wedding photos! I wish I could redo my wedding pictures there! At some point we lost count of how many bridal parties we saw. It was so special to watch all of the couples smiling on their big day in this beautiful park!

Continuing our tour of West Hartford, we went to dinner in the popular Blue Back Square. We ate at Rizzutos, an Italian restaurant. It was fabulous to sit outside on the patio and enjoy a huge Italian meal. I was thrilled to see on the wine menu a wine from Montepulciano, where Hope and I took a day trip when I visited her a few years ago. The meal was awesome and we had perfect service. I can't recommend it enough! 

The next day we decided to drive to the town of Mystic, CT, about an hour southeast. Our plan was to check out the popular aquarium, but the parking lot was SO pack we figured we'd save it for another trip. And it's a good thing too, because we need as much time as possible to explore the Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea

The museum preserves the nation's maritime history. It's site was the leading area for shipbuilding, started in the 1600s. And believe it or not they are still building ships on-site! In the Henry duPont Preservation Shipyard we got to see the carpenter shops where they are still building wooden ships in the historic way, by hand! It was so incredible to walk through the shipyard...definitely a highlight of the day! 

The seaport also has a recreated 19th century village. We hand-dipped our own wax candles, and even Jack got in on the action! We ate fish sandwiches in the cafeteria, while Jack sucked on ice cubes (it was a very hot day)! I kept thinking about how much fun it will be to take Jack to things like this when he is older and understands it more. This trip made me realize how much fun traveling will be with a child...not the normal sentiment, I hear. 

After spending most of the day at the seaport, we drove around the town of Mystic. We searched for a place to eat dinner and actually were seated at an outdoor restaurant when it started to pour down rain. So after a quick bit of searching we found a cute pizza fitting that we ate pizza in Mystic, but it wasn't THE Mystic Pizza. The place wasn't crowded and we got to really talk the night away and catch up. Our trip ended the next morning after a quick breakfast of crepes at Cafe Sofia in West Hartford. It was tough to say goodbye, but know that we'll return soon to be with friends and explore more of the beautiful state of Connecticut! 

I'll leave you with my favorite photos of Jack from the trip! He took his first boat ride and his little expressions were adorable! 

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