Here is everything you need to know about this site. I am Steve Wood and I live in West Hartford, but grew up mostly in Delaware. I went to UConn and have lived in Connecticut since then (1991). I am married to the most wonderful Hoang and we have two boys, Calvin and Damian. I write everything on CTMQ.
Cool… What is CTMQ?
CTMQ is the premier website to find everything there is to experience in the state of Connecticut. It is the most comprehensive and well-researched source for almost anything you could imagine ever being interested in – whether you live here or are just visiting. It is one man’s honest and personal travelogue/memoir, and it can actually be informative and funny at times.
But… that’s not remotely true, is it?
No, not really. When I say “everything there is to experience in the state of Connecticut,” I mean “everything I care to experience and write about.” CTMQ is not a food blog or an event listing site. Some things I generally don’t list and write about are golf courses, pick-your-own orchards, town fairs and events, skating rinks, parades, random stores and restaurants… I’m sure this upsets people, as the CTMQ Town Guides don’t list that stuff. I get it. But it won’t change, sorry.
Yeah, okay, but what’s a “CTMQ”?
CTMQ began in September 2006 as “Connecticut MuseumQuest,” abbreviated as CTMQ. Initially, it was humorous blog chronicling my experiences at Connecticut’s vast array of museums. Within a few months, it expanded to include some worthwhile trails to hike. Within a year, there were other lists of interesting places to visit. After about 8 years, there was so much non-museum stuff that a rebranding became necessary.
The name CTMQ retains the humble beginnings of the site and mission, but is nonspecific enough to allow for much more under the umbrella. The site aims to list everything to do and experience in all 169 towns, cities, and boroughs in Connecticut.
Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC when they began serving food other than fried chicken. This is the same thing.
What are some of the other non-museum things on CTMQ?
This list is vast, though admittedly subjective. (I can’t visit and write about every store and restaurant in the state, y’know?) Poke around! A small sampling includes every state park, every waterfall, every brewery, every homemade ice cream shop, every trail, every first, only, and oldest… on and on. It’s a bit ridiculous, I’ll admit.
Ridiculous? How so?
CTMQ is now so “big” and so comprehensive, that it’s impossible to describe. And even if and when I’m able to describe it, 99% of the time it is still not fully comprehended. There are nearly 3,000 pages of original content on this site. On average, I’d guess I have visited/will visit probably 40-something entities per town. I can guarantee that whatever town(s) you are most familiar with in Connecticut, you will be somewhat entertained by my experiences there.
Ok, but how do you do it?
I love to write. I love to travel, hike, explore, and learn. I love to tell stories. I write really, really quickly. I have a bit of a list obsession, and CTMQ is nothing if not a massive collection of lists. Completing these lists drives me.
Why do you do it?
But do you get paid?
No, not really. Sure, I’ve scored some paid writing jobs from CTMQ and in 2018 I’m exploring unobtrusive paid advertisements. Google Ads nets me some pocket change. But CTMQ will never, ever accept “pay for play”. In fact, I make sport of calling out what I call “shill bloggers” – you know, the people who blog about restaurants and food and/or are “foodie” Instagrammers who get a free meal from a restaurant in exchange for exposure. They LOVE their free meal, of course. Their “opinions” are bought in exchange for free stuff. Everything you read on CTMQ is honest and forthright and I will never accept anything “free” in exchange for a write-up.
So how do you make money?
I have a full-time job having nothing in the world to do with CTMQ.
Why don’t you write a book?
Make it worth my while and I will.
Where can I get some sweet CTMQ gear?
Nowhere at this time. I see so many blogs – that I know won’t last too long – selling “merch” and I can’t wrap my head around that. If it happens, CTMQ shirts will be the coolest shirts ever.
Do you do speaking engagements?
Yes. Historical societies, libraries, other civic organizations have brought me in to talk about what I do. A modest honorarium is requested. Feel free to contact me.
Do the state tourism folks know you exist?
Yes. In fact, there are fans at that level and I have worked with their marketing firm a few times on other projects. Even though CTMQ is not a “cheerleader,” per se, I obviously have an affinity for Connecticut and try to help out in my own unique way.
In the summer of 2018, I was contacted and offered a contract to “partner” with the state through a social media/content initiative. Though I was flattered by the generous offer, I had to decline for personal, ethical, and professional reasons.
(So yeah, the state is aware of me!)
Why don’t you do a podcast?
I went pretty far down that road in 2016, but ultimately decided it wasn’t the medium for me. Also, the time commitment to do shows that I’d be happy with would be too much with the whole full time job and family stuff.
Speaking of your family, those poor people…
I hear you. My wife, Hoang, is an incredible woman that puts up with all of my obsessive CTMQ nonsense. Although, she has said in the past that it’s nice to have a husband whose hobby is going to random museums with retirees and writing – as opposed to golfing every weekend or gambling or something.
As for my sons, I try my best to make our adventures fun and interesting for them. They don’t complain (too much). And frankly, my eldest, Damian, will always be at my side…
Oh yeah, Damian. Tell me more about him.
Hoo boy. Damian has Smith-Magenis Syndrome. SMS is not fun. He is “globally delayed” and has severe sleep and behavioral issues. Self-injury is a hallmark of SMS and by that I mean he regularly punches himself in the head and face. Hard. Throughout the day. Every day.
But he also serves as a huge inspiration for CTMQ. The site began essentially with his birth and the story of our journey as special needs parents is woven throughout the site. I want people to know about him and about his syndrome and what it means for parents like us. I want to get him “out there” and challenge not only him, but what people assume about him and others like him.
Also, with the exposure CTMQ gives to SMS, I’ve been able to raise nearly $100,000 (with the help of many great friends) for the SMS Research Foundation – a non-profit organization I wholeheartedly support.
Cool. Can I help out the SMSRF?
Of course! Please donate your tax deductible amount here.
How can I best navigate the vastness of CTMQ?
I have done my best to make the site as friendly as possible. It is certainly built for desktop enjoyment, but works fairly well on other devices. It has gone through many changes and I can’t pretend it’s perfect. After a decade of writing, I shifted gears a bit and began putting together “CTMQ Town Guides.” I am confident that nothing like this exists on such a scale for any state anywhere. If you are lucky, your hometown will have a guide already! (Full guide completion is targeted for March 2021. So you may have to be patient.)
Other tabs include Museums of course (over 700!), Hikes (Every. Single. Trail.), Curiosities (way too much to mention here), Food & Drink (way too much to mention here), and then the Blog which includes things like out of state travel, SMS essays, book reviews, etc.
There is a hierarchical system of categories and tags as well. At the bottom of each post you’ll see both. If something interests you, click on it! Explore! And have fun.
Why don’t you list/go to my favorite particular restaurant?
Restaurants are great. Connecticut has a ton of good ones. But CTMQ is not a restaurant review site or restaurant guide at all. It IS pretty much everything else though. For me to visit and write about a food/drink place, it must fulfill at least one of the following criteria:
A nationally recognized place for something
A Unique or historic place
A “classic” diner
A “Roadfood Eat Before You Die” place
A “CTMQ International Food Tour of the World” place
A chocolate maker
A homemade ice cream maker
A “classic” tavern
A soda maker
Unfortunately, if a town has none of those things, dining at – and writing about – every random restaurant someone suggests would be impossible for me. Plus, I’m not very good at food writing.
How do you pick your “Town Completion Celebration Meal” restaurant?
Believe it or not, I do have some criteria. Roughly, the qualifications are…
1. Independent, locally owned is required, unless there are none.
2. If nationally recognized for something, that’s a plus.
3. If historic, that’s a plus.
4. If iconic, that’s a plus.
5. If they’ve helped me with a fundraiser in the past, that’s a plus.
6. If there’s a “story” somehow that can be mildly entertaining, then that’s a plus.
7. If there are none of the above, I pick what seems “the best” or “most towny” to me.
8. If there’s only one restaurant in town, no-brainer.
And if there is a town with literally no restaurants, I’ll get creative.
When will you finish?
I have no idea. Or if it’s even possible. That’s why I like to have the different lists, and now the town listings. Finishing a town for me is just the best. Until a new museum or brewery opens in that “completed” town of course!
What towns have you “completed?”
I like your use of quotation marks there. Anyway, here are the towns I’ve “completed”.
What museum will be your final museum?
I have an idea, but reality will probably be “whatever museum I finish with.” Sorry.
What’s your favorite museum/brewery/hike/chocolate shop/whatever?
I’ve never played that game. Too many variables and too many worthy suitors and I’ve felt strongly that it’s impossible to say which is “best” if I haven’t experienced them all, y’know? Maybe when I’m 70 I’ll think about it.
I know about something you don’t know about and I’d like you to know about it.
Great! Send me an email or comment somewhere on the site. I LOVE learning about stuff that was previously unknown to me. Of course, there are limits to what I visit and write about. I mean, do y’all really want me to list and visit every milk and veggie purveyor in the state?
What if I disagree with your opinion on something?
Then you disagree with my opinion on something. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Why were you mean to my favorite trail/museum/restaurant/etc?
I don’t ever want to be mean. I rarely am and as I go through the older pages on CTMQ, I am softening some of the early blows. Sometimes the tone of my writing in the first years was… youthful? Sarcastic? I recognize that’s not how I want CTMQ to be remembered, so I am cleaning that stuff up a bit.
But really, if Connecticut has 100 breweries in 2020, they simply can’t all be great or even good. Not all 700 museums or 2,000 trails are great or even good. I’m okay with that. If an entity doesn’t want me to say negative things about them, they should be better.
For me, It’s that simple.
Why are your pictures sometimes tiny and terrible?
I am not a photographer. I made the decision long ago that CTMQ is driven by the stories and not the pictures. I sometimes regret this fact, but I am a better writer than photographer, for better or for worse. Back when I began the site, digital photo storage was at a premium so my pictures are in a small format. It bothers me too, but to go back and find each picture on old DVD-R’s is monumentally time consuming.
What else can I ask?
Anything. Really. I hastily wrote this page and if there’s anything more you think would help out, let me know. Thanks for reading!