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Monday, July 29, 2019

Elizabeth Park Rose Garden - Hartford, Connecticut

One day long, long, ago in my early twenties, I was sitting at the break room table at my job as a seasonal employee in the middle of summertime, exasperated that it was only Wednesday.  Between bites of whatever I was eating, I sighed out loud that I wished it was Friday.  And then I heard some of the best advice I have ever been given.  Don't wish your life away. 

Boom, it was such a short saying that packed a punch. You can't live for the weekend, and you certainly can't sit at the break room table miserable with your job wishing it was Friday.  Because Monday through Thursday?  Well, they can rock too. 

So maybe you can't go on an epic hiking trip on a Tuesday afternoon.  But what you can do is find a new-to-you treasure right there in your home state, maybe even the next town over.  I am thankful that Connecticut has a lot to offer in the summertime.  Concerts on the beach, amazing parks, beaches galore, dinner on the farm series, and so much more.  What I didn't know until recently was that Connecticut also has this amazing rose garden in a place where you least expect it, our less than glamourous capital city of Hartford.  Not only does it have this beautiful rose garden but it is dog-friendly, FREE, and home to a Wednesday concert series.  

The free admission and dog-friendly atmosphere of the park were amazing.  The free concert?  Well, that was a double-edged sword.  The music was great and it was nice to enjoy the park with a picnic dinner and live music.  But make no mistake, there were so many people here that parking and the crowds were an absolute nightmare.  And I may or may not have had a meltdown when the entrances to the park were closed off and after running out for wine, I couldn't get anywhere NEAR the park.  So if you don't like crowds, avoid this park during their summer concert series.  If you love roses and free public parks, head to Elizabeth Park Rose Garden.   

It's kind of like a little hidden oasis.  You drive through some less than lovely parts of Hartford before seeing some small signage for this Elizabeth Park.  After driving through the park for a bit, you reach the rose garden and you are pretty much stunned that this place exists in the middle of Hartford.  Next thing you know, you are walking among 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties of roses.  They are all around you, beautiful arches of roses, rows of roses, climbing roses, and this sweet little green gazebo in the middle of it all.  You literally need to find some time to stop and smell these roses. 

The ParkElizabeth Park is on the national register of historic places.  The park is home to the first municipal rose garden in the United States and the third-largest rose garden in the country today.   The park offers just over one hundred acres of formal gardens, green space, recreational facilities, walking loops, and the Pond House CafĂ©. Come enjoy the beauty of the gardens and grounds. 

Rose Garden Blooms: June to October.  The arches are in bloom once only, mid-June to early July. 

The Roses: Theodore Wirth began the design of the Rose Garden in September of 1903, and it opened in June of 1904. The Rose Garden began with about 190 varieties of roses.   Today, the Conservancy oversees and manages the Rose Garden, and needs to raise over $100,000 annually for rose expertise, full-time summer gardeners, contractor services, and fertilizer, mulch, lime, and replacement roses.  There are over 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties of old and new roses in the garden. 

Restaurant:  If you rather go the easy route and get food at the park, you can dine at the Elizabeth Pond House Cafe or place an order to go.  You can feel good about spending a few bucks at the Cafe as a percentage of the proceed goes back to help fund the park. 

Hours Elizabeth Park is open 365 days of the year, dawn to dusk, and is FREE to the public. There are no admission fees.

Location Prospect Ave.  Hartford, CT 06106

You are invited to pack a picnic to enjoy in the park (outside of the rose garden) and that is exactly what Ashley and I did.  If you don't feel like cooking or prepping, just grab something to go from the Pond House.  We took our wagon over and found a shaded tree where we enjoyed a summer picnic on a Wednesday night, live music and crowds included.  Our dogs were with us, enjoying the shade and the time outside on a warm summer night.


It goes to show you that with a little bit of research and a short drive can bring you to some pretty wonderful places, right in your back yard.  It goes to show that you don't need a Saturday for an adventure, but a random Wednesday and a wagon full of picnic supplies can turn an ordinary day into an evening in the rose garden.  It goes to show that right in your state, you can spend the evening in America's first Municipal Rose Garden.  And you can pack up the kids and the dog, all while leaving your wallet at home.  

Connecticut, thanks for teaching me that even after all these years in this state, there is always somewhere new to explore.  

Happy Wandering, 

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