Safety. Hartford's gangs have gotten great publicity over the last decade. From their local appearances on the nightly news to their jaw-dropping performances on the hit show, Gangland, these strapped killers and drug slingers have reached stardom, all by wearing matching outfits, stringing necklaces with red and blue friendship beads, and bonding over some old-fashioned senseless bloodshed. Sound like the good life? Well, if you want to live in the war zone, then look to the Northeast, also known as the Northend. If you prefer a safer neighborhood, then you can find the best security in the downtown and West End neighborhoods. Most other areas are perfectly safe during the day, but comfortable only to the streetwise after dark.
Slumlords. Hartford is full of slumlords, that is, landlords with the compassion and competency of a senile shark in a pool full of blood-drenched money. Out to make a buck, these greedy landlords advertise low rental rates to hook you in. Then, they make their money back by nickel and diming tenants with surprise fees and excessive utility bills while hoarding any profits from being squandered on things like heat, pest control, security, and basic maintenance. The results can create a very grim living environment, full of crime, roaches, mice, and bedbugs, as well as people being driven mad from a summer without air conditioning, or a winter without heat. And, you can expect your rent to increase quite a bit with each lease renewal, even short term leases. The best way to deal with slumlords is to read the lease very carefully, and to inspect the apartment before you sign anything. If the heater isn't working and your front door doesn't lock by the time you sit down for the signing, it's highly unlikely that it will ever get fixed. And, legally speaking, if you know your rights, treat the management respectfully (no matter how rude or condescending they may be), and pay your rent on time, then there is always legal recourse. A legit and knowledgeable tenant can get even the worst management to bend over backwards.
Commute. Every morning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., flocks of wealthy, espresso-wired suburbanites swoop into Hartford down the 84, bringing traffic to a slow roll all the way from the western border to downtown. Then, after a good day's work, they race to get back into their suburban comfort zones before the sun sets. This daily race in and out of town is brutal, with people speeding, flipping the bird, and willing to die before they dare yield to anyone. Fender benders are so common, people rarely bother to pull over and swap insurance. You can just call it a Hartford love tap. To avoid this rush, it is best to try to find an apartment close to work, especially if your work is around downtown. Bicyclists should look to the eastern edge of downtown, where they can enjoy leisurely rides along the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000 mile bike route that runs from Main to Florida. There are also nice, wide bicycle lanes along Capitol Ave., Zion St., Scarborough Ln., Whitney, and South Whitney. Public transportation is more than sufficient, with local and commuter bus services, as well as a free downtown shuttle.
Neighborhoods in Hartford
Downtown. Business hustlers, bar hoppers, and urban socialites nibbling on hundred-dollar hors d' oeuveures in luxury lofts. $$$$$
Sheldon Charter Oak. The neighborhood that Colt built, complete with the old Colt Firearms Factory, the Colt Estate, the expansive Colt Park, a statue of the revolver-revolutionary himself, Samuel Colt, as well as the only church in the world with a gun-motif. $$$$$
South Meadows. Small apartments in an industrial community with air traffic noise, but worth it for river views and year-round food from Hartford's Regional Market, the place for fresh fruits and veggies, meat and cheeses, plants and pots and everything that farmers can fit into an 185,000 square foot warehouse. $$$
South Green. Historical homes and churches with ghostly sightings, a block of mansions known as "Governor's Row", some funky townhomes, some upscale condos, and a few homeless shelters. $$$$
South End. Amazing restaurants, bakeries, and shops from the days when it was lovingly referred to as Little Italy. $$$ - $$$$$
Southwest. A neighborhood of proud homeowners; sorry, no apartments here for now, but you can always scroll Craigslist for a bedroom rental or a granny flat.
Behind the Rocks. Literally behind the rocks along the western border of Trinity College, complete with meandering streams, lush greenery, tons of park space, and great hole-in-the-wall eateries. $$$ - $$$$$
Barry Square. Close-knit, culturally rich, and easily walkable for Trinity College students. $
Frog Hollow. A neighborhood of college students, medical personnel, and downtown night-lifers. $$
Parkville. A culturally rich neighborhood, featuring the innovatively-alternative-music-laced art space and independent cinema place born out of Hartford's art scene heroes, Real Art Ways. $
West End. Home to law students, professors, white-collar professionals, community club socialites, and the governor, all just a couple of miles from downtown. $$ - $$$$
Asylum Hill. Cheap apartments and luxury lofts looking down on the former homes of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. $$ - $$$$$
Upper Albany. The hottest spot in town for Puerto Rican Pride Parade after parties. $ - $$$$$
Blue Hills. Home to a large population of students attending the University of Hartford, and, you're going to love this... the largest per capita of residents claiming Jamaican-American heritage in the United States. $$$
Clay Arsenal. Bordering downtown on the north side, here, you should either spring for a secure upscale apartment with safe parking, or keep your game face on at night. $ - $$$$$
Northeast. The war zone: gangs, drugs, violence, and just a dash of hope. $
Hartford is a historical city, so much so that its history has helped to shape our own American values and government. Known as the capital city of the Constitution State, this city has so much more to offer than can be summed up in one guide. So, get out there and experience it yourself!