Monday, September 12, 2016

Hidden Gem: Hartford's Envisionfest offers Creativity, Culture, and Food Trucks

Hidden Gem: Hartford's Envisionfest is Delightful, Interesting and Family-friendly!
One of the most enjoyable fall festivals we attended last year was Envisionfest which takes place right in Hartford, CT. This was an under-the-radar event for us last year and after the terrific time we had there, we were beyond thrilled that hadn't overlooked it!
Envisionfest Hartford will take place Saturday, September 17th, 2016. Open from 9:00am-6:00pm, this is a totally FREE event!! Click here for event details.

Spread over a number of very walkable blocks and a park in the downtown area, Envisionfest is a lovely showcase of the thriving arts and culture in the Hartford community. Moreover, it offers an in-person experience with the exciting efforts from the iQuiltPlan--downtown Hartford's urban design Plan for re-energizing the downtown area with the vibrancy of the community. There is a full day of fun--both indoors and outdoors--and dozen of worthy family-friendly activities to even count.

The majority of the events and activities are held on the giant lawn at Bushnell Park but there are plenty of local municipal and arts buildings which host events and exhibits as well so be sure to venture out and about to fully take advantage of the festival.

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Wadsworth Athenaeum Night FallThe plentiful activities will draw you to different areas of downtown which is a helpful way to explore the excellent facilities that Hartford is home to such as the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the Bushnell Performing Arts Center, and the Bushnell Plaza Sculpture Garden. Some civic buildings even offered scheduled guided history tours and without a little wandering around we might have missed seeing the Alexander Calder sculpture "Stegasaurus" which is placed in a plaza adjacent to the Wadsworth.

We toured through the newly renovated Hartford Athenaeum and soaked up the exuberant and breathtaking half wall mural--just stunning!--and took time to browse the excellent art exhibits inside--all free to enjoy during Envisionfest.

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Calder Sculpture
With live music as a soundtrack to the festival, there was a rotation of different performers from the area and it was a nice touch that one of the stages was set up near the food truck area to make the area more vibrant. The food trucks were set up together on a side street and the small touches like having cafe chairs and tables to eat at were very welcome (and made us realize how frequently other festivals have left us to find space on the ground or on steps somewhere to eat precariously from our lap).

The Envisionfest Marketplace hosts were dozens of booths featuring hands-on silkscreening lessons, puppet crafts, a lego area, art exhibits, face-painting, and more.  You could join an open air yoga class, try hula hooping, or kids could make their own giant cardboard Calder sculpture.

Booths showcasing local artists and cultural events were truly terrific and so much thought and originality went into each one. Night Fall Hartford's fish-bicycle and giant puppets roaming the park were some of the highlights for us and it certainly inspired us to make a point to attend Night Fall's October 8th event this year.

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Human Foosball Night FallThere's a section set aside for "Big Games"--and they were plenty of fun. The "human foosball" game was riotous as people (mostly kids) stood inside an enclosed rink (the "table") and functioned as the players in a foosball game--only your feet could be used to kick the ball to score.
There were enormous blocks for a round of giant Jenga, jumbo Bananagrams tiles, and super-sized chess and checkers games going on all day. Kudos to the event organizers who smartly assigned enthusiastic, high energy volunteers at these events to draw people in, offer instruction, or fill in as a player just to get a game rolling. Every single game in this area was being used and enjoyed--and we think the volunteers deserve all of the credit for keeping this area active and well-used. 

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Bananagrams, Carousel, Wadsworth Athenaeum exhibitFamilies could take a ride on the antique carousel or step inside an inflated hot air balloon for an unusual photo. With events spread across the lovely park and inside of local buildings, everything was easy to access, well-marked, and offered something new.

Envisionfest a very family-friendly atmosphere with booths, crafts and games to draw in young children up through teens. That being said, it's not just for families as there were plenty of activities, exhibits, and events that will appeal to adults on their own. Of all the fall festivals we attended this past year, this may have been the most organized one, jam-packed with something for everyone, and the festival shows the amount of heart that was put into planning something truly original. We'd recommend this annual event wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. Click for event details.

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