Middletown, Connecticut is probably best known as the home of Wesleyan University. The campus of Wesleyan is beautiful and many historic houses are now part of the university. Plan to spend part of your visit walking around and enjoying it.
While Wesleyan may be the big attraction today, Middletown is one of the older cities in Connecticut and was at one time one of the greatest ports on the east coast of the United States. Its location 15 miles south of Hartford, right on the Connecticut River gave it an ideal location.
Much of the early wealth in the city is as a result of shipping and trade. Middletown has a mile long Main Street and it is the perfect place to get a real feel for the city. In the 19th century, it was tree-lined and particularly attractive. Like many other cities, it was the victim of mid-20th-century redevelopment which removed the historic town hall and courthouse and replaced them with ugly, new construction.
Luckily, it isn’t all bad news. In the last 20 years much has been done to restore the glory that was Main Street and while there are still not many stores, there are loads of restaurants and Main Street is the place to come for a wide selection of fine and casual dining. The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected Middletown, Conn. as one of five "Most Romantic Main Streets" in the nation.
If Middletown has one weakness, it is that it has very little choice in the way of accommodations. The Inn at Middletown is certainly the only quality place in town and it is both beautiful and historic. It was created using the old armory and offers luxurious rooms and a very nice restaurant and tavern. From the Inn, you can walk to a wide variety of restaurants as well as the Middletown Historical Society which has some interesting displays on the history of the city and the area.
The Wadsworth Mansion is the site of several events during the year including a summer concert series. If you would like to tour the mansion, it is open on Wednesdays from 2-4 p.m. for guided tours. Trails throughout the parkland are open to the public.
Connecticut River cruises are offered by Lady Katherine Cruises on the riverfront and if you prefer to look at vintage cars, there is a cruise night offered in June on Main Street. If you are visiting with children, KidCity is a very popular destination. Genealogists come from all over to visit the Godfrey Library which has an excellent collection of material on the area and beyond.
A popular and delicious attraction in Middletown is O’Rourke’s Diner. Located at the north end of Main Street it has been satisfying hungry appetites for over 60 years. While you are there you will see historic St John Church and school. Built by Irish Catholics over 150 years ago, the church is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Norwich. A stop at NORA, (North of Rapallo Avenue) Cupcake Shop is also in order while you are in the north end of Middletown, I don't think I need to give details about why but think delicious!
While Middletown may not be the best-known city in Connecticut, it has a lot to offer visitors to the area and best of all, it is my hometown.