It’s easy to walk anywhere, the student behind the information desk assured us when we stopped in the visitors center for a map of the flagship Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut. More than 18,000 undergraduate and 6,000 graduate students attend classes here, and they tend to think of their surroundings more as a small town than a sprawling campus. Unless you follow college basketball (where the Huskies dominate), UConn might have slipped below your radar. But there is plenty for visitors to enjoy within the groves (or more accurately, rolling pastures) of academe.
Located in the heart of campus, the Nathan Hale Inn & Conference Center (855 Bolton Road, 860-427-7888, www.nathanhaleinn.com, from $140) is named for Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, who grew up in nearby Coventry. (He was a Yale grad, but UConn wasn’t founded until 1881.) Display cases in the lobby hold memorabilia inspired by Hale’s heroism (a cigar box, a bottle of Nathan Hale Golden Lager, postage stamps, and decorative china), while the inn itself offers a fresh take on comfortable, traditional furnishings and features an indoor heated pool. Somewhat less convenient, the Best Western Regent Inn (123 Storrs Road, Mansfield Center, 860-423-8451, www.bestwesternconnecticut.com, doubles from $88) has conventional roadside motel rooms with one king or two double beds. It’s about 6 miles south of the UConn campus.
Not even cold weather deters students from the UConn Dairy Bar (3636 Horsebarn Hill Road Extension, 860-486-1021, www.dairybar.uconn.edu, $2-$6), which transforms milk from the school’s dairy herd into about two dozen ice cream flavors. Jonathan Supreme, a mix of vanilla ice cream, peanut butter swirls, and chocolate covered peanuts, is named for the school’s husky mascot. Ted’s (16 King Hill Road, 860-429-9545, entrees and pizzas $6-$17) is the student favorite for good bar food with a side of televised sports. The sports theme continues at True Blue Tavern in the Nathan Hale Inn, which features photos and memorabilia from UConn’s sports teams. Diners can enjoy the same menu of burgers, steaks, seafood, and pasta (entrees $11-$27) in the adjacent Blue Oak restaurant, where quiet music replaces giant TV screens. Diner fans should cruise less than nine miles south from campus to the Aero Diner (361 Boston Post Road, North Windham, 860-450-1959, www.aerodiner.com, sandwiches and dinner specials $6.99-$10.99). The 1958 Bramson diner is one of only two built by the Oyster Bay, N.Y., manufacturer of hospital equipment. Its sibling has been lost to history, but the Aero has been faithfully restored and serves a menu of diner classics.
DURING THE DAY
Walking tours of campus are usually available from Monday through Saturday. Inquire at the Lodewick Visitors Center (115 North Eagleville Road, Unit 3225, 860-486-4900,
www.visitors.uconn.edu). The William Benton Museum of Art (245 Glenbrook Road, Unit 3140, 860-486-4520, www.thebenton.org, free) has mounted two intriguing exhibitions this semester. Through March 16, “Persepolis: Word & Image” explores the intersection of literary and visual arts with images from the graphic novel/coming-of-age memoir by Iranian-born French author Marjane Satrapi as well as other works by Iranian author/artists. In “Making the Movement Move,” powerful black-and-white photographs from the 1950s and 1960s document the struggle for civil rights. It’s on display through March 30 and includes a few images from a sit-in on the UConn campus in 1974. The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History (2019 Hillside Road, Unit 1023, 860-486-4460, www.mnh.uconn.edu, free) is open weekdays only. It doesn’t take long to view the well-conceived exhibit “Human’s Nature,” but the exploration of the ways in which humans and the environment affect each other will give you much to think about. The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (1 Royce Circle, Unit 101B, Storrs Center, 860-486-8580, www.bimp.
uconn.edu, free) was long a hidden gem on the UConn campus. But it comes out into the open when the institute moves into a new facility in the Storrs Center development of shops, restaurants, and housing on the edge of campus. Scheduled to open March 1, the museum will display highlights from its collection of more than 2,600 puppets from around the world as well as rod puppets made by students in UConn’s Puppet Arts Program. The museum will also have a puppetry performance space.
The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts (2132 Hillside Road, Unit 3104, 860-486-4226, www.jorgensen.uconn.edu, $25-$47) has an eclectic schedule of events ranging from the Irish Baroque Orchestra to the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. Already open in the new Storrs Center, the UConn Co-op Bookstore (1 Royce Circle, Unit 101, 860-486-8525, www.book
store.uconn.edu) schedules readings and other events, including Thursday night performances by UConn jazz studies students. The bookstore has a small selection of university merchandise, but for the full selection of Husky-logo goods, stop at the UConn Co-op (2075 Hillside Road, 860-486-3537) next to the Museum of Natural History. For hoisting a few drafts and catching some televised sports, head to Ted’s.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at email@example.com.