48 Tips from Hartford Locals to Have the Best Cross Nats Experience


48 Ways Hartford’s Got Your Back at Cyclo-cross National Championships
by Mary Topping
From January 3 through 8 in Hartford, Connecticut we’ll revel in the thrill of competition, the clang of cowbells and hopefully the many joys of mud. The 2017 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships are also a time for catching up with friends and family and discovering a slice of America. So pack your bags and plan for a week to remember with these ideas and tips supplied by area locals. Check ahead for availability as some locations may modify schedules during the event.
Fueling stations
Epicenter of American bicycle manufacturing in the late 1800s thanks to Albert A. Pope’s ingenuity and pedaling machines including the Columbia brand, Hartford knows how to feed hungry cyclists and cyclo-cross fans.
Coffee shops
  1. Mozzicato Caffé and bar, next to Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop. 329 Franklin Avenue, south end, 860-296-0426.
Traditional Italian ambiance and ready access to cookies.
  1. Tisane, 537 Farmington Avenue, west end, 860-523-5417.
Teas and coffee or go for a martini and Asian-Euro fusion food. Near Stowe and Twain houses and next to The Wash Tub laundromat.
  1. Metro Café, 580 Farmington Avenue, west end, 860-231-7868.
Breakfast and lunch with vegetarian options. Pair with a visit to Stowe and Twain houses.
Beer plus
  1. Hanging Hills Brewing Company, 150 Ledyard Street, south end, 860-263-7033.
Anyone for a Twain Rye, Metacomet or Three Women (yes, that’s a beer name)? The owners source local ingredients and recycle spent grains. Area local Tony mapped out the ride from Riverside Park.
  1. Hog River Brewing Company, 1429 Park Street but search on 30 Bartholomew Avenue, west end, 860-206-2119.
Classic German beers—think Kölsch-style ale and Dunkelweizen—to bold barrel-aged selections. Near Stowe and Twain houses. Check food truck schedule online.
  1. City Steam Brewery, 942 Main Street, downtown, 860-525-1600.
Listen for the sound of antique steam-whistles while choosing from over a dozen beers on tap. Gluten-free menu. Room for groups. Live entertainment on weekends.
  1. Little River Restoratives, 405 Capitol Avenue, west end, 860-403-0340. Open till 1 a.m.
Cocktails, punches, possets and grogs.
Winter warmers
  1. Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, 25 Front Street, downtown, 860 785-8772.  
Award-winning Kansa City style BBQ. Area local Peter’s favorites: brisket and turkey. Jackie praises the baked potato topped with mac and cheese and pulled pork.
  1. Vaughan's Public House of Pratt Street, 59 Pratt Street, downtown, 860-882-1560. 
Tony calls this place “warm and snug.” Practice your Gaelic between bites of comfort food: shepherd's pie, fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage. Party platters and kids menu.
  1. Republic on Capitol Ave, 10 Capitol Avenue, south downtown, 860-310-3269.
Enclosed outdoor dining area with a fire pit and cozy, two-story bar. Internationally flavored menu with raw bar, cheese selection and gluten-free choices.
  1. Ashley’s Restaurant, 221 Main Street, south end, 860-247-8730.
No nonsense diner serving breakfast and lunch staples.
  1. Sarah's Coffee House, 257 Asylum Street, downtown. 
People rave about the coffee, food, staff and vibe here. A portion of the coffee house’s profits benefits charitable organizations.
  1. Donde Julio Restaurant, see below.
Pizza (gluten-free options available)
  1. First and Last Tavern, 939 Maple Avenue, south end, 860-956-6000.
Coal-fired brick oven pizza, pasta, salads, raw bar, grinders (New England for hero sandwich), cheese cake and gelato. Local landmark since 1936. Jackie’s pick: sweet pea and ricotta pizza. First and Last Bakery across the street serves breakfast and lunch.
  1. Sorella, 901 Main Street, downtown, 860-244-9084.
Wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, pasta, extensive antipasti and wine selection.
  1. J Restaurant & Bar, 297 Washington Street, south end, 860-527-7764.
Artisan pizza, pasta, burgers and more. Jackie says, “The cannoli is to die for.”
Specialty fare
  1. Donde Julio Restaurant, 83 Park Street, south end, 860-724-3379.
Eat what Nairo Quintana probably grew up on for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Veggie or vegan and gluten-free friendly. Small and friendly. Tony suggests a pan de bono (cheesy bread bun) with coffee for a light breakfast.
  1. Fire and Spice Vegan Restaurant, 248 Sisson Avenue, west end, 888-367-7970 and 491 Capitol Avenue, west downtown, 860-519-0476.
Jamaican-inspired vegan and gluten-free. Buffet.
  1. Agave Grill, 100 Allyn Street, downtown, 860-882-1557.
Mexican dishes and large tequila bar. Private room for large groups.
Sights and sounds
Nineteenth-century residents Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) and Harriet Beecher Stowe lived here in homes that top the list of cultural attractions. Skate on ice or four wheels, or tap to live music (some shows are free) most nights. While open on New Year’s Day, the Connecticut Science Center will be closed the week of January 2.
Winterfest and Bushnell Park, Pulaski Circle at Wells and Elm streets, downtown.
  1. Test your edge with free skate rentals and rink time from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find the ice next to the Pump House in Bushnell Park where 48 hand-carved wooden horses gallop around a 1914 carousel on Saturday and Sunday for $1 a ride. Plenty of open spaces for showing off snow angel skills.  
Cultural gems
  1. The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue, west end, 860-247-0998. Closed Tuesdays.
Guided tours of the 25-room Gothic-style home where Mark Twain wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and possibly “Taming the Bicycle.” His ornery high wheel bike currently occupies the Old State House. Online advance ticket purchase is recommended.
  1. Harriet Beecher Stowe House, 77 Forest Street, west end near Mark Twain House, 860-522-9258. Closed Tuesdays.
Portions of the home of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author will be under renovation, however, guided tours will include an adjacent eclectic 1884 Queen Anne mansion. Combine with the nearby Mark Twain property tour and score discount tickets.
  1. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main Street, downtown, 860-278-2670. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
With almost 50,000 works of art from roman antiquities to European and American masterpieces, a stop here will surely distract riders from pre-race jitters. The five-building museum is the oldest continually operating public art museum in America.
  1. Heaven Skate Park and Museum of Public Art, Main and Trumbull streets, north downtown.Urban graffiti zone and neighbor to murals on the Market Street Goodyear building near the Riverside Park pedestrian/bike bridge and at 499 Windsor Street.
Live Music
  1. Arch Street Tavern 85 Arch Street, downtown, 860-246-7610.
Live music shows accompanied by tavern menu and large beer selection. Can seat groups. Peter recommends its long handsome bar, burgers and hearty soups.
  1. Infinity Music Hall and Bistro, 32 Front Street, downtown. Box office: 866-666-6306.
Stylish concert hall with mezzanine dining during show time.
  1. Black-Eyed Sally’s, 350 Asylum Street, 860-278-7427.
Live jazz, blues, rock and roots music alongside barbeque and southern cooking. Gluten-free menu.
Party time
  1. The Connecticut organizing committee hosts and community have teed up nightly entertainment during nationals week. All events begin at 7 p.m.
Thursday, January 5: Cyclo-Art Show, Hartford Fine Art & Framing, 80 Pitkin Street, East Hartford 06108 (across the river).
Friday: "The Mechanic's National Championships." Black Bear Saloon, 187 Allyn Street, west downtown.
Saturday: Shimano Industry Party to benefit the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP), Black Bear Saloon, 187 Allyn Street, west downtown.
Sunday: Champions Party, City Steam Brewery, 942 Main Street, downtown.
For juniors
  1. Swim with a guest pass at the YMCA pool, 90 State House Square, downtown, 860-522-4183. Open swim for families Friday night and Sunday.
  2. YOUmedia, a digital learning space for ages 13 to 19 at the Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street, downtown, 860-695-6300.
Bring a library card for admission. No adults allowed.
  1. Catch a movie, Front Street Stadium 4 theatres, 39 Front Street, downtown, 860-422-7711.
  2. Follow a basketball or hockey puck. XL Center, One Civic Center Plaza, downtown, 860-249-6333.
  3. Build a Lego masterpiece. The iQuilt Innovation Center, 22 Central Row, downtown, 860-728-2265.
Getting around
The League of American Bicyclists just named Hartford a "Bicycle Friendly Community" and several streets have marked bike lanes. Paths for walking or cycling line both sides of the Connecticut River. The national championships unfold on the west side in Riverside Park, under a mile from northeast downtown. This map of downtown may come in handy.
Downtown to Riverside Park venue on foot or bike
  1. Off-street option from downtown east. Cross over Interstate 91 on the raised Mortensen Riverfront Plaza just north of the Marriott hotel at Columbus Boulevard and State Street. Head down to the river then north on the paved trail to Riverside Park.
  2. On-street option from downtown north. From the Hilton hotel at Trumbull and Church streets, go north on Trumbull, left on Market Street then right on Pequot Street to the bike/pedestrian bridge that crosses over Interstate 91. Riverside Park is on the other side.
Walk or pedal
  1. Scenic river view walks and trails stretch along both sides of the Connecticut River. 
  2. BiCi Co. plans to rent city bikes and Central Wheel offers choices in Farmington, 860-677-7010.
Public transit and parking
  1. CTtransit’s trip planner describes local bus routes. Each bus carries two bikes. Bus service runs to downtown from the airport.
  2. Choose between metered on-street parking or paid surface lots or garages. Parkopedia identifies open spots and compares prices.
Bike and other lifelines
Here’s a selection of the many long-standing and award-winning bike shops within a 10 to 15 minute drive from Hartford. A downtown community shop will open to visitors just for cyclo-cross nationals. Travelers will find essentials for snacks or dinner fixings, keep up with yoga or hitting the laundromat to ensure a super-clean kit for race day.
Bike shops
  1. BiCi Co., 95/97 Park Street, south downtown, 860-247-3227.
A community-based shop and organization focused on sustainable transportation and youth programs. Starting January 2 visitors have access to affordable do-it-yourself service with tools and work stands. Used and new parts and tires for purchase. Also planning evening events.  
  1. Newington Bicycle, 1030 Main Street, Newington, CT 06111, 860-667-0857. Closed Mondays.
A multi-year Best of Hartford winner, Newington Bicycle has women ambassadors who mentor new cyclists.
  1. Manchester Cycle Shop, 178 West Middle Turnpike, Manchester, CT 06040, 860-649-2098. Closed Sundays.
An active community partner, this shop helped launch a women’s cyclo-cross team and is building inventory to support racers’ equipment and nutritional needs.
  1. Pedal Power, 359 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457, 860-347-3776 x1.
This shop has supported the CCAP state-wide youth cycling initiative since the league’s inception in 2013.
Essential and feel-good services
  1. Laundromats: The Wash Tub, 545 Farmington Avenue, west end, 860-523-1394 and Super Saver, five locations in Hartford and East Hartford.
  2. Grocery store: Greenway Market, 71 Asylum Street, 860-263-7823. Meets a traveler’s tastes with staples, salad bar, soups, deli counter and juice bar. Order menu items online for delivery.
  3. Stick with your yoga routine while you’re away, relax with massage, or warm your bones at the YMCA sauna. Hartford.com lists establishments.
  4. Mr. Sparkle Car Wash, four locations in Hartford and East Hartford, with self-service.
  5. REI, 71 Raymond Road, West Hartford 06107, 860-233-2211. 
Peter Heard, bike enthusiast and Travelers executive; Jackie Gorsky Mandyck, Managing Director of The iQuilt Plan; and Tony Cherolis, the car-free BiCi Co. Program Coordinator and Program Manager of the Center for Latino Progress, contributed to this article.

This Article Updated December 9, 2016 @ 10:38 PM For more information contact: