Planning a perfect, romantic dinner, outing, brunch date, or getaway with that special someone can be high pressure. Luckily, the Greater Hartford area of Connecticut offers plenty of intimate restaurants and other fun places with the proper ambience for romance year-round. If you're looking for first date inspiration, a Valentine's Day surprise, or even a place to propose, consider one of these 10 romantic things to do in Hartford, CT, or make it your mission to experience them all.
Dine at a Romantic Restaurant
Even a hole-in-the-wall restaurant can be romantic if you're with the right person. But when you really want to make an impression or toast an anniversary, the Hartford area has reliably romantic restaurants that should be on your radar. Carbone's Ristorante in Hartford's South End, a fixture since 1938, serves Italian fare with an air of old-world class and romance. Be sure to share a Caesar salad prepared tableside. Mill on the River in South Windsor is a picture-perfect Connecticut restaurant that's been voted "most romantic" in many polls over the years. Couples adore the river views and multicultural menu. There are hot, new restaurants that ooze romance, too. Treat yourselves to dinner at Present Company in Simsbury or Artisan in West Hartford. Looking for an intimate, unintimidating spot for a first date? Bin 228 Winebar in Hartford is your best bet.
Stroll, Bike, Picnic, or Dine in Elizabeth Park
A dozen roses will never seem adequate again after you've given each other the gift of time in America's oldest municipal rose garden. Elizabeth Park is a Hartford treasure: more than 100 acres of scenic landscapes and gardens on the west side of the city. And while it is a beautiful spot for a walk or a meal at the Pond House Cafe year-round, it is at its most spectacular in June when the roses are in peak bloom. We're talking about 800 different varieties including heirloom roses you've likely never seen. Bring a blanket and a picnic and enjoy a cheap date: Admission is free.
Taste Connecticut-Made Wines
Yes, it is possible to sip love from a glass. Arrigoni Winery in Portland is a relative newcomer on the Connecticut wine scene, and their Chocolate Love wine will win your hearts. This drinkable, not-too-sweet red has a subtle, chocolatey finish. Visit the year-round tasting room to try all of Arrigoni's reds, whites, and specialty wines. They even make your new favorite breakfast wine—Sugar House—with real maple syrup. There are many more wineries just a short drive from Hartford along the CT Wine Trail. If you really want to kick up the romance, hire a limo and visit several.
See a Show at Infinity Hall
Downtown Hartford's premier concert venue offers a busy weekly calendar of shows, from national touring acts to cover bands. Infinity Hall is more than a great venue for live music, though. It's date night made easy, with an on-site bistro and bars and the Hartford Marriott Downtown right across the street if you want to stay over after the show: Concert-goers can take advantage of exclusive, discounted hotel rates. For the most romantic experience, reserve mezzanine seats, where cabaret-style food and beverage service is available during the performance.
Share a Dessert
What's sweeter than two forks or spoons and one dessert? The Hartford area offers plenty of places to indulge together. Head to the city's South End for pastries, cannolis, and other Italian treats at Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop or Modern Pastry Shop. There are plenty of dessert delights in West Hartford Center, too, including dozens of signature cheesecake flavors at The Cheesecake Factory, profiteroles at Avert Brasserie, and bubblecones overflowing with over-the-top ice cream creations at Milkcraft. If you consider yourselves ice cream connoisseurs, don't miss adventurous, handcrafted flavors like Salted Caramel Bacon Brittle and Blood Orange Chocolate Chip on the ever-changing menu at Grassroots Ice Cream in Granby, Connecticut.
Take a Plunge
Hartford County's best free place to cool off is a bit of a best-kept secret. Within Enders State Forest in Granby, Connecticut, a trail leads to a series of waterfalls and swimming holes, and taking a dip in these natural pools is a heart-pounding thrill. Now, officially… this is not advised. And if you see people doing risky things like jumping off cliffs, you should remind yourselves that being crazy in love is enough. Wear sturdy shoes, enjoy being outdoors together, admire the beauty, and maybe get your feet wet.
Book a Romantic Carriage or Sleigh Ride
A horse-drawn carriage or sleigh ride is an experience straight out of a fairy tale, especially when you book a private ride and the weather is chilly enough for snuggling. You won't have to travel far from Hartford to make jingle bell dreams a reality. Wood Acres Farm in Terryville, Connecticut, offers carriage and winter sleigh rides on their 25 acres of picture-perfect wooded trails. They'll even supply the bubbly for an additional fee. If you're looking for a romantic photo op, Allegra Farm on Lake Hayward in East Haddam, Connecticut, offers horse-drawn outings in beautifully restored antique coaches, carriages, and sleighs.
What better way to show your true love you'll be there to help him or her up after a fall than to go ice skating? Don't think for a moment this invigorating activity is limited to the winter months. Among the many places to go ice skating in central Connecticut, you'll find year-round indoor rinks that offer public skating sessions including the world-class International Skating Center of Connecticut in Simsbury, where Olympians train. Some indoor ice skating sessions at West Hartford's Veterans Memorial Ice Skating Rink even feature a DJ. Here's another retro-fun date idea: Hold hands while you spin around the floor at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink in Middletown, Connecticut, or Ron-A-Roll in Vernon, Connecticut.
Kick Up Your Heels
Connecticut's pretty far north of the Mason-Dixon line, but that doesn't mean you can't slip on some cowboy boots and kick up your heels at a western bar. Even if country line dancing is out of your comfort zone, the friendly crowd at Southington, Connecticut's Cadillac Ranch will encourage your efforts… on the dance floor, on the karaoke mic, or on the mechanical bull. Dance lessons every night except Sunday, Monday, and Thursday will help you pick up the steps. Or order wings and beers, and be spectators. At the end of a lively night, you'll feel like you've been away on a romantic getaway… even though you never left Hartford County.
Say "I Do" or Renew Your Vows
Ready to pledge your lifelong devotion for the first or even the second time? Hill-Stead Museum—a lovely historic estate in Farmington, Connecticut—is perfect for elopements and vow renewals because they'll handle all of the arrangements for you. Book the Elope in Style package or the Renew Your Vows in Style package, and they'll provide the scenic setting, officiant, photographer, champagne, and even your hotel room for the night. All you need to do is relax and enjoy special moments with those closest to you. Plus, you'll be gifted a one-year museum membership, so you can return again and again to this romantic spot.