Hartford is the 2nd worst city in the country? So says "Areavibe," a website that supposedly measures how livable a city is. [ http://www.areavibes.com/library/top-10-worst-cities-to-live-2013/ ]
First of all, lets look at the photo accompanying the review. That ugly old building was torn down three years ago. And if you read the critique, it has the same kind of cliches used by people who have only passed through our city. Seriously, very little effort put into this piece.
Many reviewers focus on downtown. Bad idea. The real city has always been the people, an amazing mix of culture and cultures.
Festivals and parades all summer long, jazz every Monday night in Bushnell Park. Great art, music, and movies at Real Art Ways. Astonishing food at El Mercado on Park Street (and that's where you can buy your Rosca del Reyes before Three Kings Day). I count six authentic bakeries (West Indian, Portugese, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Italian, Vietnamese) but I'm sure there are more. Pretty cool farmers' markets that are more like weekly parties. Don't get me started on food.
More park space than seems possible in a small city. Cricket played in at least two of the parks, golf and baseball, dragon boat racing and fishing in others. I could point out where Jack Kerouac, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs and Dr. King walked when they visited, where 3,000 healthcare workers marched and 10,000 suffragists paraded.
Three professional theaters within walking distance of each other. Free Shakespeare on Mark Twain's lawn. The HartBeat Ensemble's new home, where professionals and local folks tell the city's stories. Charter Oak Cultural Center.
In terms of civic activity (not a valued an indicator of a city's attraction, apparently), you could go to Rawson School in the Blue Hills neighborhood on Election Day and see lines around the block, crowds of people (and pols) who honor Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner every time they vote. Very old churches where social action campaigns are nurtured and where Cesar Chavez, Coretta King, Jesse Jackson have spoken. The Catholic Worker movement's two houses of hospitality, rooted in the neighborhood and run by some great folks (when they're not in jail for civil disobedience). Where Occupy Hartford camped and where welfare moms set up their tent city. Websites like Real Hartford that keep us up to date on what's really happening in our city.
Some of the coolest and weirdest outdoor art and memorials, all with their own stories: Calder's Stegosaurus, Andre's Stone Field Sculpture, the Roberto Clemente monument, the manhole covers made from melted-down guns collected by the police, graffiti all over the skateboarders' "Heaven." Murals, both commissioned and unauthorized. Crazy knitting on telephone poles.
Anyway, you get the idea.
I grew up just outside of Hartford, CT. The downtown area provides nine to five employment for numerous commuters from the surrounding areas during the work week. On weekends, some of that same crowd returns for a colorful nightlife. Hartford lacks residents in the downtown area who both live and work in the city. Hartford is very much a commuter city. This means the streets can be empty on Sundays, and restaurants and clubs often struggle to thrive outside of the work day and Saturday night crowds. I would have liked the nightlife better, but sometimes you would go out on a Saturday night and very few people would be out. This situation has improved somewhat, as more people are moving into new apartments in the downtown area and downtown Hartford has a safer reputation than even five to ten years ago.
During the day, Elizabeth Park has recreation areas and a notable garden. Hartford has a number of restaurants ranging from fine dining to fun, neighborhood eateries. You can always find something to your liking, provided you venture into downtown Hartford when most establishments are open, such as a Friday evening.