Thursday, July 21, 2016
We Call It Storrs...UCONN and Mansfield
Back in 1880, Charles and Augustus Storrs donated some land to make an agricultural school. Who knew where that train was going? Today's University of Connecticut at Storrs is it's own town. And, the area that surrounds it is a lot of fun to spend time in. My son has some inklings of pursuing his academic career there, so while we were out checking out Connecticut this summer, we went to take a look. For yet another installment of my in depth study of travel and life in Connecticut I give you Mansfield, Storrs, and Manchester.
I won't lie, when we came into Mansfield on Route 44, I saw a little gathering of buildings wondering how on Earth 20,000 students managed to go to school in such a small place. I also wondered where the top notch football and basketball teams were holed up.
Needless to say, when my son directed me down the road to the "real campus," I was impressed. Storrs is the city that's in Mansfield, the tiny town. There's positively everything there. Every single building from Gampel Pavilion to the student union is impressive. I got lost driving around the campus, to the point that we found the agricultural school on the other side. It was one of the biggest farms I'd ever seen in the northeast. Long story short, this gargantuan educational city just pops up out of the wilderness that tends to be northeastern Connecticut. In the end I told my son that if that was what he wanted, I couldn't argue. I already knew that they have an amazing engineering program and that they are improving that department as we were there.
Being summertime, there wasn't a whole lot going on, although it was busier than colleges used to be in the summer when I was in school. I wanted to see what else goes on in the area, so our first stop was the UCONN Dairy Bar. My son spends a lot of time out that way with school programs already, so he told me that I had to try the ice cream that they make right on campus. He wasn't joking. If you go out that way, give it a try. It's worth finding a campus map so you can find the Dairy Bar. It was some really great ice cream.
But, what to do with spare time in the wilds of northeastern Connecticut? Well, on the deserted road to UCONN, there was a park called Shelter Falls Park. You know me. It said falls. So we stopped at the trail head and went in to take a look. Along the road there was a little pond/swamp, so we knew that there was water.
It was a little dark in there. The woods are thick. There was a cute bridge to cross the stream on. The walk was nice, and there were cascades. I don't know if anything I saw was really a falls, but it was a nice park. It would be a great place to escape when Storrs is a little much. After that we checked out downtown Mansfield. There isn't much there. The whole town is basically Storrs. The rest is barely a hole in the wall. So, we moved on. Where would you go to shop? Where would you go to eat out? Where would you go for activities?
We did find a lovely state park called Gay City in Hebron which isn't far. There's a great picnic area there, with a pavilion and lots of space. They have a beach on the pond which is quite nice. They have hiking trails and the whole place is very scenic. We liked it. We also found an adventure park by Storrs where you can zip line and climb through the trees.
Manchester, Connecticut is a great place to spend your time, and it's just over 10 miles from Storrs and UCONN. Case Mountain is the park of choice to visit there. The view and the trails are great. But there are many things to do in Manchester. It's a hub of entertainment in that area of Connecticut. You can do everything from shop til you drop to shooting archery. They have an indoor adventure park and a rock climbing spot. They have movies, arcades, and even a Sonic Drive In.
Manchester has a great downtown with all the small town charm you'd like to see in New England. They also have a historic district and museums. There are a lot of parts of Manchester that are scenic and pretty quiet where you can go and just do what you want.
However, where all the highways come together, there's the shopping and eating. Buckland Hills Mall has been a shopping staple for decades. It sits up on the hill above the main drag that connects to all the interstates around. It does share that hill with a lot of other things from Walmart to Christmas Tree Shops to Home Depot and beyond. Below the hill are strip malls with all kinds of other shops. This is a great discount shopping area and it's full of really great restaurants. If you want to get away from school, this is your stop. Especially the discount shopping.
So, it's an area. It's not a particular place. If you want to visit UCONN at Storrs, remember that it's actually in Mansfield. If you want to check out the neighborhood sights, you will drive around a little. If you want, there are a lot of things to do right there on campus. Your child will not be bored. But, seriously; how did a gargantuan university end up in the middle of nowhere? Probably because it used to be an agricultural school. I wonder if Charles and Augustus Storrs had any idea what they were starting? Enjoy!