West Hartford separated from Hartford in 1854, and since then the two have had little in common. West Hartford Center, on Farmington Avenue and Main Street, now is emerging as a mecca for trendy, upscale restaurants and shops. The Museum of American Political Life, on the University of Hartford campus, is a fascinating collection of this country's sometimes inspiring, sometimes disgusting and sometimes hilarious politics over two centuries. Noah Webster House on South Main Street, the dictionary master's birthplace, is open for tours. The Science Center of Connecticut, on Trout Brook Drive, has hands-on exhibits on animals, technology and space as well as a life-size model of Connecticut's state mammal, the sperm whale.
In nearby New Britain is the New Britain Museum of American Art, a small but impressive collection of American art from the 18th through the 20th centuries (including some well-known Thomas Hart Benton murals). And visit Farmington, a charming rural town filled with colonial and Federal-era houses. There you'll find the excellent Hill-Stead Museum, whose setting is an estate codesigned by Theodate Pope Riddle, one of America's first notable female architects. Her father's fine collection of impressionist art is on display.
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