Hey, where did we go?
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow
Playin’ a new game
Those words from Van Morrison’s song seem hopelessly romantic but there is actually a place in Tolland County where they come true. Mansfield Hollow State Park, just past the University of Connecticut‘s famous land-grant campus, is one of those magical places that takes you back in time. Explore Connecticut has all the details about parking, specifics of trails, and a little history. Thanks to the Friends of Mansfield Hollow, Inc. and donations from Senior Girl Scout Troop 5471 and Thread City Cyclers, their map shows the lakes, hiking, and mountain biking trails. There is even a waterfall website that gives you lots of views of this feature of the park.
You can’t get to the Hollow without passing UConn, and it is worth a couple of hours of your time. Why? Well, the changes at this campus over the past five to 10 years will make you ask yourself if this the same place you remember all those basketball games. The University has never looked better with the new Student Recreation Center with 30,000+ square feet that looks like a modern hotel; the Gant Science Complex that supports science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); the Innovation Partnership Building; library; parking renovations (including Electric Vehicle chargers!); and the bookstore, which is now 41,000 square feet with a Starbucks, an Apple technology store, and even an Urban Outfitters pop up. And yes, the UConn Dairy Bar is still open! Online orders for pick up can be called in ahead of time.
On the way home, grab some foot at Hilltop Restaurant in Willington, the Bidwell Tavern in Coventry, Rein’s Deli in Vernon, or the timeless classic Shady Glen Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor in Manchester with its famous cheeseburgers.
Before you go, read about each of the towns in the Tolland County Community and Visitors Guide. It has the inside scoop on where to bike or walk on the Hop River Trail, how Bolton’s history includes Revolutionary War hero General Rochambeau, the local landmarks of Nathan Hale’s beginnings in Coventry, how to parachute in Ellington, where to picnic at Gay City State Park in Hebron, how to play golf in Somers, or when to watch the races at the Stafford Motor Speedway, an official NASCAR auto-racing track.
Just in case you can’t make it out to Storrs this weekend, UConn’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will have an online Women’s Suffrage Puppet Pageant September 26. Learn more about how they are acknowledging the complex history of the women’s suffrage movement, and the leadership of women of color, Native women, working-class women, and immigrant women in the struggle for suffrage; as well as the movement’s intersections with abolitionism and other movements. The museum will celebrate women’s suffrage heroes from around the world, including Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Jovita Idár, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mai Ziadeh, and Luisa Capetillo, among others, noting the successes of the movement, and its challenges in the face of racism and forces opposed to suffrage.
There’s nothing like a long drive on a beautiful fall day to escape for a few hours and explore this picturesque part of Connecticut.