Both affordable and accessible, Hartford is historic, compact, and friendly—with a wide variety of conference, convention, and event spaces. 

Population: 120,752

 

Transportation: Bradley International Airport, the second largest airport in New England, is 13 miles from downtown Hartford, while the 30-Bradley Flyer route provides bus service to the Connecticut Convention Center and Union Station for a one-way fare of $1.75. “Our accessibility is a major selling point for planners and promoters of meetings, conventions, trade shows, and sports events,” says Robert Murdock, president and director of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau.

 

Vibe: “Hartford is culturally diverse with historic architecture and attractions, many of which double as off-site meeting venues,” Murdock says. “We’re a very walkable city, and there’s a free downtown shuttle as well. Hartford sits on the majestic Connecticut River with walking paths on both sides and parks all along the way. Having that connection to the outdoors is part of what makes us such a vibrant and friendly community. Plus, our hotels, venues, and convention services are quite affordable compared to New York City and Boston. As a result, many events report record-breaking attendance.”

 

Major Venues: The Connecticut Convention Center in downtown Hartford offers 540,000 square feet of event space, including 140,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. XL Center, Connecticut’s premier sports venue, has an arena that can seat up to 15,000 and just under 56,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space.

Xfinity Theatre is one of the largest amphitheaters in the country, seating up to 24,200 people (6,000 indoor seating and the remainder on the lawn). For meetings and events, an indoor lobby, VIP Club (capacity 300), and outdoor plaza space are also available. The spacious lobby, exhibit areas, 3D theater, and rooftop garden at the Connecticut Science Center are available after-hours for receptions and special events. Dunkin’ Donuts Park, a fan-favorite Double-A ballpark with stadium seating for 6,121, offers its enclosed 7,000-square-foot Premium TG Club and 18 premium suites for private events. On-field options are also available. 

  

Hotels: Greater Hartford has 11,300 overnight rooms. The largest property is Marriott Hartford Downtown, which is attached to the Connecticut Convention Center and has 409 guest rooms and 13,500 square feet of meeting space. The Goodwin Hotel, across the street from the XL Center, is a historic 124-room property with 3,000 square feet of meeting space. Smaller hotels, like Residence Inn by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton, and Holiday Inn, can also be found in downtown Hartford and nearby.

 

Restaurants: There are dozens of restaurants in downtown Hartford, with scores more across the city and throughout Greater Hartford. Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, located right across the street from the convention center, offers authentic Kansas City-style wood-smoked barbecue. Private rooms seat up to 40. Less than a mile away, in a 100-year-old downtown building with pressed tin walls, Southern folk art, and blues memorabilia, Black Eyed Sally’s Southern Kitchen & Bar dishes out Southern fare and live music, and there, private rooms can accommodate up to 80. Across from the XL Center, the award-winning Max Downtown has been offering “elevated chophouse classics” for 25 years, and its large private room can accommodate 50 diners. City Steam Brewery, housed in an 1877 building on Hartford’s Main Street, offers crowd pleasers like wings, nachos, burgers, and locally made hot dogs and kielbasa; live music and comedy; a billiards and game room; and an event space that can accommodate groups from 20 to 300.

 

Check out the neighborhoods

Pratt Street in downtown Hartford is a cobblestoned block lined with small shops and eateries between Main Street and the XL Center. The street closes to traffic for a variety of special events, including the Pratt Street Salsa Socials. Attendees strolling the street between meetings might also find pop-up outdoor markets and free yoga/workout classes.

Parkville, a lively and diverse residential and business community in the west end of Hartford, features a variety of restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses with global cuisines that include Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Asian, Italian, and more. Parkville Market, Connecticut’s first-ever food hall, opened two years ago in the former Capitol City Lumber Co. building. It features 20 restaurant vendors, three bars, pop-up shops, live entertainment, private event space, and indoor and outdoor dining for 400-plus patrons. A $6 million expansion is underway to include a rooftop deck, event spaces, and a larger location for the popular Hog River Brewing Co. Just blocks away are Real Art Ways, a nonprofit art space that exhibits visual art, houses an independent cinema, and presents live music, theater, and literary and community events, and Hartford Flavor Co. Housed in a historic manufacturing building where the first pay phones were made, the distillery crafts small-batch all-natural spirits, specializing in botanically infused liqueurs. Diana’s Lair, the tasting room, can be reserved for private events, including seated dinners for up to 55 guests.

 

How the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau helps

The sales and convention services staff at the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau helps planners research, plan, and book meeting venues, accommodations, restaurants, off-site space, attractions, and activities across the state. The bureau is Connecticut’s only statewide meetings and sports event sales and marketing organization, and its team can introduce planners to local Hartford hospitality and business partners, as well as to resources that maximize attendees’ experiences. 

Atlantic City

Last year was the highest grossing ever for the United States commercial gaming industry.* Meeting planners who hold gatherings at casinos may just feel like they’ve hit the jackpot, too. Casino-based events provide one-stop convenience—the amenities of convention centers and bountiful hotel rooms, plus activities, dining, and nightlife. 

 

Doreen Guerin grew up an Air Force brat, living in Texas, Louisiana, and later England and France. When she was 13, her parents moved to Queens and, Guerin says, “I’m a New Yorker through and through.” That’s apparent from her accent as well as her dedication to the Javits Center, where, as the senior vice president of sales and marketing, she oversees the booking and event-related operations for more than 170 events each year. 

M+E: What fueled your interest in working in the conventions industry?

 

If you want to be sure your meeting in the Northeast will strengthen team bonds, consider holding it at Cliff House Maine. Nestled on 70 acres atop Bald Head Cliff on the southern coast of Maine, the luxury property offers 226 guest rooms, including 40 suites, an adjacent 18-hole golf course, and 25,000 square feet of conference and meeting space that can accommodate up to 300 attendees. Venues include the Atlantic Ballroom, with its double-height panoramic windows offering endless views of the Atlantic Ocean.