Sunday, June 7, 2009

Connecticut Tailgate and Visitors Guide '09


Connecticut State Capital in Hartford Click to enlarge

This is one of a series of tailgating guides for Big East football schools written by Syracuse fan and tailgate aficionado TexanMark. If you have any feedback or additional information you think belongs in this guide, please drop an email message to Mark by clicking here.

First Things First: GETTING THERE

UConn is close for most Rutgers and Syracuse fans but others will have a bit further to go. Pittsburgh and Morgantown based fans should expect 8-9 hour drives. A word of advice: try to avoid going through NJ if you are traveling during peak traffic periods. You should look at driving up to Scranton, PA and take I-84 to CT.

Flights:

People can fly to Hartford inexpensively via Southwest Airlines or alternatively to Providence and Albany (and drive over). Of course, you can also fly into Boston (95 miles to East Hartford) or any of the Metro NYC airports. Before flying into NYC or Boston you should check airfare and if nonstop service is available into Hartford-Bradley Int'l. The airport is quite large and offers excellent service to many markets. There are no direct trains from NY or Boston (required change in New Haven or Springfield respectively). However, you can easily take a bus or drive from South Station in Boston or the Port Authority in the City to Hartford.

UConn’s football stadium is located about 30 minutes west of Storrs in East Hartford (a separate city from Hartford ). The stadium is about three miles east of Downtown Hartford. In East Hartford, there is easy access off I-84 at Silver Lane. From the west take I-84 East toward East Hartford. Follow I-84 East to Exit 58, ROBERTS STREET/SILVER LANE. On the Exit Ramp, keep to the right and continue straight through Silver Lane into the RENTSCHLER FIELD MAIN GATE. (Driving directions from other approaches can be found here)

It is a great venue with seating close to the field. It was literally built on an old Pratt and Whitney Factory Airfield (Rentschler Airfield) and opened for the fall 2003 season. You can checkout your seating location By clicking on the interactive seating tab on the left side of the stadium web page.

Parking
You can park just outside the stadium if you have preferred VIP seating or access to a season parking pass. If not you can park in the general parking areas south of the stadium (near Cabela's) which is also where the RVs park. You will be parking your car near the old Runway/taxiways and should enter the Willow Street Gate. You can catch a shuttle from the outlying lots to the stadium. For a Weeknight game, you will find folks entering the parking lot around 3:30pm . Saturday games depend on the kickoff time but expect the hardcore to arrive 4 hours prior to kickoff. Expect to pay $12 for cars, $20 for RVs, and $30 for buses. Close in parking is available for handicap you must hang an official tag from your state.


GENERAL ADMISSION LOTS (south of the stadium enter through Willow St.)

General Admission parking is located at the Hanger and Red-South Lots. RV parking is near Red-South. This link will show you all your various options.


If you do not want to park with the masses a better option might be the Aero Club discussed below or other private lots along Silver Lane and adjacent side streets.


Rentschler Field

Tailgating

UConn has a restrictive tailgating policy in their official parking areas.

A quick summary of rules: Small propane grills are okay, kegs are not, tailgating must end two hours after day games and no tailgating after night games. Also note: it you toss a football in the parking lots you are asking for trouble from the parking lot monitors--it is not allowed. UConn fans have assured me this is much overstated. The major part of tailgating occurs after the game as the “hardcore kick back, grill and kibitz about the game crowd” takes over the parking lots. On Saturdays, some will bring TV’s and stay from after the game well into twilight (6 PM or beyond).

They serve Beer in the Stadium (lots of variety too; everything from Sam Adams, Rolling Rock, Heineken, Corona , and Bud … to local Brewpub pints. This is not an on-campus facility.


Rentschler Field Panorama Click to enlarge
Image Courtesy of UConn fan Santini15

You won’t find large numbers of professional scalpers selling tickets around the stadium. It just isn’t part of the environment for UConn. That’s not to say you won’t find some guy waving an extra ticket at the gate; I do not think you’ll find volumes of tickets available … but there will be some. The best spots to find tickets are at the end of the runways nearest the stadium or near the two gates on the other side of the stadium ( Silver Lane side). Ticket Scalping Rules get liberalized on October 1st, 2007.


More Tailgate Options:

If you have the inclination you can cruise Silver Lane east of the stadium. Parking is offered in the parking lot of Silva’s Youth of Today Learning Center, 656 Silver Lane, just east of Rentschler Field. HINT: One more potential parking spot came to my attention. It is at Medical Care Center - 677 Silver Lane. It's on the same side of the street as the stadium. They charged $10 for a recent rock concert so I expect they'll charge the same for a UConn game. There are other lots in the vicinity that charge usually a nominal amount to park. If you are coming from the east you might consider taking I-384 and exiting at Silver Lane and drive west toward the stadium and start looking. Down the road: I expect a few other lots east of the stadium will sell parking with more retail projects taking away some parking spaces south and west of the stadium. I have also been told if you near Forbes St. and Silver Lane there is a closed down Cinema with ample parking. Note: I would ask a local fan first before parking in any empty business lots.

Visiting Fans Best Option--Aero Club on Silver Lane

The Aero Club was going to become a reserved parking lot before the 2007 season due to Cabelas. Fortunately the powers that be let it became available again for season permit use. So the Aero Club Lots to revert back to general admission lots. In the past the Pratt & Whitney Aero Club lots were private. They offered inside bathrooms, lots of grassy fields and relaxed rules. I'd appreciate if a fan can relay to me if it is still $10 and do they allow RVs. I tailgated there in 2005 and found it very convenient to make a quick getaway if desired. You also can walk to hotels on Robert Street if you want to leave your car behind. It is located on Silver Lane on the north side just east of the stadium entrance. Look for the Softball Fields. One more place is available just east of the Aero Club. The old Frank's Nursery at 656 Silver Lane offers parking for $10 on gameday.

TAILGATE SUPPLIES:




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NOTE: Just east of the stadium is Town & Country Package Store 785 Silver Lane Phone# 860-569-1444 and the Super Stop and Shop (a full range grocery and pharmacy) at 940 Silver Lane in Charter Oak Shopping Plaza (Just before Forbes St.) Phone# 860-569-7050 They use a rewards card so you might ask the cashier to scan their card for you. Lotte's, 818 Silver Lane, ph(860) 895-8779‎ offers Beer among other things. If you are entering the stadium from Willow (west side) you might want to stop at Shaw's on Main Street. It is a full service grocery store. They use a Shaw's Reward Card so if you don't have one you might ask the cashier if she can scan their card for you.

Cabela's A New Option

Cabela's opened fall 2007 just southwest of the stadium. They offer gameday/tailgating supplies, rain ponchos and clothing. This is a destination store and well worth your time to check it out. Your kids will love it.

TAILGATE HAVEN--Total Tailgating Resource


Tailgate Haven is your total resource for setting up and managing your football tailgate online. Do you think the tailgate is sometimes just as important as the game? The goal of Tailgate Haven is to make your life easier by organizing your tailgate group; thus eliminating countless emails, text messages and phone calls about the current weeks tailgate information. The concept is simple but pure genius. You easily register by choosing your favorite team and picking a creative name for your tailgate group. Now log in and instantly each of your teams games becomes its own webpage with your team colors. Next, invite your friends to join your tailgate group and the site comes to life. In addition to this tailgate manager, every team has its own tailgate profile. Do you travel to away games? This is where you can find the best information on where to park, find extra tickets, where to stay, eat, party and golf. Navigate the city easily as you travel to a stadium for the first time.

LODGING (Close):

The bad news is not a lot of lodging located within walking distance. Two (One temporarily see below) motels are located across the freeway on the north side but you can walk to the stadium.
The Days Inn, 333 Roberts St. offered nice accommodations at a moderate price. NOTE: As of June 2009 the property is closed undergoing a major face lift. Not sure if it will be rebranded. This used to be the Wellesley Inn until July 05 when it converted to the Days Inn.

The other close motel is the Holiday Inn and also offers nice rooms for a moderate price (860-528-9611, 363 Roberts St .)
If you reserve early you should be able to get a room in either motel for about $100 a night. Two-night minimum stays are not required which is great for quick trips. I believe both have shuttles to the gate. Margarita’s Restaurant is large and has hosted get-togethers for opponents both pregame and post game. It is located across the street from the two motels.

Sheraton Hartford (ph 860-528-9703, 100 East River Dr. East Hartford)
This motel is bit farther away but is within walking distance (15-20 minutes tops but you might want to still drive to the stadium since the the road is a busy highway).

LODGING (5-10 minutes away):

Three other hotels in East Hartford or Manchester but not within walking distance:
Clarion Suites (ph 860-643-5811, 191 Spencer St. Manchester)

EconoLodge (ph 860-569-1100, 490 Main St. East Hartford)

Finally one new option is coming to East Hartford on Pitken Street. Scheduled to open sometime during the fall is a Hampton Inn. It will offer a nice view of the river/bridge and located by the Riverwalk.
America's Best Value Inn--BUDGET ALERT 400 Tolland Turnpike Manchester Phone: 860-643-1555
It is located about 5 miles east of the stadium on the south side of I-84. It has some very reasonable rates for Connecticut. So if you want to save some money this might be your best bet. It is very close to shopping and restaurants.

The town of Glastonbury is a few miles south of the stadium and is conveniently located for those driving up from NYC/NJ and has easy access to the Willow Street Gate on gameday. The area is adding several chain hotels like the Comfort Inn and Homewood Suites. The Hilton Garden Inn is also located in Glastonbury, a few miles south of the stadium. Expect to pay $120+.

LODGING options found in downtown Hartford (10 minutes away):

If you plan to just go to the game and you want a convenient place to “crash” the motels in East Hartford should be okay. If you want to be near more amenities you should try downtown Hartford. The cities of Vernon and Manchester to the east also offer some lodging and are within 20 minutes of the stadium.

The Goodwin Hotel (boutique hotel)closed at the end of 2008. The Residence Inn by Marriott has a real nice property. The Marriott has also opened a second huge hotel in 2005, this one is very upscale. The nice thing about the Marriott is it is located next door to the brand new in 2009, Connecticut Science Center. The Hilton also is fairly new and just had a recent major renovation. If people want to stay in the nicer suburbs southwest of Hartford (closer to NY Metro area), the Farmington Marriott or Courtyard by Marriott are very good hotels. Because they are business-focused, they likely will have plenty of rooms on weekend nights.


Hartford Marriott

More info about Lodging can be found at the local city visitors' website.

If you want to stay in an old New England Inn many of them are located near Hartford. A few of the notable ones to the west and northwest are the Litchfield Inn, White Hart Inn, and Interlaken Inn. The Griswold Inn south of Hartford near Old Lyme is another nice inn.

SHOPPING/KID FRIENDLY STUFF:

A major mall – Buckland’s Hills Mall in Manchester, is only a few exits east: it has major department stores and most restaurants you would find around a typical core mall. (All the family chains) Also, newly opened and also very popular is The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk it is located also in Manchester just a few miles east of the stadium. It is upscale and quite nice.
The West Farms Mall in West Hartford is very nice and probably a bit more upscale than Buckland Hills. West Hartford Center (literally the town center) is very nice, with smaller stores, restaurants, etc (see below in dining section for more info). Probably the most popular high end shopping center in West Hartford is The Blue Back Square. It has an awesome mix of both popular and some very exclusive retailers and food establishments. Two other sources of shopping info in Hartford to keep your nonfootball watching spouse occupied for hours:


Shoppes at Buckland Hills

West Farms Mall









Finally, a new museum and science center opened Summer 2009 in downtown Hartford. It is the Connecticut Science Center. It looks awesome and should keep the kids happy for hours. It is located steps away from the Marriott Hotel.



Connecticut Science Center Exhibit




DINING: (outside downtown Hartford)

You can find several restaurants near the stadium (pizza, BBQ, etc...) Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant is located across the street from the two motels at 350 Roberts St. They have Margaritas, duh! As mentioned above this is a great choice for gatherings before or after the game. Just beware Margaritas is usually crowded on gameday. If you are craving for an old time hamburger and sandwich joint then Augie and Rays is made for you. It is located south of the Willow St. stadium entrance at 314 Main Street. The Cookhouse is close to the stadium and offers barbeque. It is apparently pretty good despite being up north. If you want a cheeseburger with a milk shake try the Shady Glen Dairy Store in Manchester. You want a great fish sandwich? Try Mickey's Oceanic Grill in East Hartford. Have an urge for Pizza after the game? Try Pazzo's Pizza in Glastonbury. As noted above, there are great numbers of options around the Buckland Hills Mall … like Macaroni Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Fridays, etc… About 15 miles northeast of Hartford is Willington Pizza. It is worth the trip. If you have some time and want to check out the UConn campus in Storrs be sure to stop in Willimantic. The Willimantic Brewing Co./Main Street CafĂ© is a living landmark restaurant and pub brewery located in Willimantic, in the heart of rural northeastern Connecticut.
Finally, world famous Pepe's Pizzeria of New Haven has opened up a restaurant in Manchester a few miles to the east.

Sports Bar Alert!

The closest sports bar is about 2 miles east of the stadium (just drive east on Silver Lane and it turns into Spencer Street) in Manchester. All Stars Sports Bar and Grill offers all the TV packages.A nice sports bar called the Diamond Pub and Grill is also in Glastonbury. A Buffalo Wild Wings (First one in Hartford) just opened in 2007 off I-91 between Downtown and the Airport. It isn't real close to the stadium but it is an option if you want to watch games before or after the UConn game. It is in Windsor at 703 Poquonock Ave. Phone: 860-688-9464. If you are staying in the SW suburbs try one of these two locations of Sliders Sports bars. In the south suburbs is Rookies Sports Bar and Grill. It looks like a good one. Finally, downtown has a really nice, new sports bar called Black Bear Saloon.


Hartford Dining:

Hartford has a ton of places to eat. Some restaurants cans be found near the Hartford Civic Center and the Union Train Station for those staying downtown. I have been told there are several very good Italian Restaurants on Franklin Ave. downtown.

UConn fan Gars45 gives a nice overview of the Downtown and West Hartford Dining Scene:
downtown Hartford has many nice restaurants and bars, but not centralized on one convenient little strip. To direct people, I would describe the general vicinity as the Hartford Civic Center block, which you could describe as Asylum, Trumbull, Ann Street area. The best are Civic Cafe, Max Downtown, and about 5-6 other very nice spots in this block. A block away to the west and south are places like Vito's by the Park and Black Eyed Sally's. One block east of the Civic Center is Main Street, and there are a couple of nice restaurant bars there, including the City Steam Brewery and Cafe and Morton's Steakhouse.

West Hartford Center is about 18 minutes from downtown, car door to car door. There you will find a concentrated strip of fine restaurants/shopping along the corner of two streets, Farmington Avenue and LaSalle Road. The entire walk is no more than a quarter mile, if that. These are interspersed with a number of little coffee and ice cream shops where you sit outside on the curb. It looks like a block of the upper East Side. The centerpiece establishments are Grant's, Oyster Bar, Elbow Room, Bricco's, but there are about four more in this highly compact little block. The place is just booming because, well, it's the suburbs, it's close to I-84, it looks just like a little city, there is plenty of low cost parking right there (e.g., $1.00), and there is no crime. The area is doing so well that currently a smallish high end shopping mall is under construction two blocks away, with a high rise residential attached. Right across the street from the Whole Foods market. It's that kind of place.


A Couple of Irish Bars
There’s an Irish pub, The Half Door, that’s very good. The Half Door is not the biggest place and its closer to the West Hartford line, they go out of their way to host international soccer viewing parties and probably would make an effort to accommodate an enthusiastic group of visiting fans. It also has an outdoor patio to accommodate more people. Another good Irish Bar is Sully’s. It is located west of downtown Hartford.

Parking info for Downtown Hartford:

Plenty of garages and on street surface lots. The central core seems well lit and safe. Stay near the businesses + bars and you should be fine…that’s the mantra I would remember.



Downtown Hartford

Nearby Diversions
Connecticut offers so much in such a small state. If you happen to be there during October you should be blessed with some opportunities to see some great fall foliage. Take a drive to Litchfield County about an hour northwest. You can hike a nice section of the Appalachian Trail along the Housatonic, in addition to canoeing, whitewater rafting, fly fishing etc. For the wife there is antiques galore and quaint little towns.

If you are looking for that famous New England Seaport look then Mystic is it. It is located about an hour southeast of Hartford. Nearby Mystic is the Coast Guard Academy in New London. Tours are available.

Casinos

If you like to gamble there are two casinos close to Hartford. Both are about 45 mins southeast. Foxwoods is under going a huge expansion MGM Grand at Foxwoods, had a breathtaking new $700 million development project, completed in 2008.

Mohegan Sun is a full service casino with gaming, hotel, dining, shows and golf. Either one can make it a great experience over a weekend of football and casino.


GOLF:
There are a wide range of courses in the greater Hartford area. Here are some choices for you to consider:
Rockledge Golf Club is a fairly easy, usually well maintained public course in West Hartford about a mile off I-84 (take exit 41).
Yardage: reds: 5434, whites: 6069, blues: 6436.Cost: About $30 to walk on weekends.

Rockledge Golf Course

Lyman Orchards Golf Club features two top notch public courses, one designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr and one by Gary Player. Both are beautiful, well mantained and very challenging. And both are ranked among the top 10 public courses in the state of Connecticut. This club is located about 20 miles south of Hartford in Middlefield.
Yardage: RTJ blues: 7,011, Gary Player blues: 6,725Cost: $65 to ride on the weekends (carts are mandatory).


Lyman Orchards Golf Club

Manchester Country Club has reasonable rates and is very playable. It's a much more interesting and scenic layout than most other value courses. They've finished a number of renovations to the design orignally laid out in the 1920's by the same guy who designed Medinah.


Manchester Country Club--close by and very nice

Keney Park is a municipal course located in the City of Hartford, not far from downtown. Built in 1927, it features small elevated undulating greens and tight fairways. The tee boxes tend to be mostly dirt and the fairways get dry and hardpan in the summer. The neighborhood is also somewhat questionable.
Yardage: reds: 5005, whites: 5678, blues: 5969. Cost: about $35 to walk on the
weekends.

Another option for those who want to play golf on a nice layout without shelling out half a weeks pay. Try Goodwin Golf Course which is about 5-10 mins SW of the Rent on the other side of the river. The course is in a great neighborhood in the south end which is home to arguably the best restaurants in the city (one block from little Italy). If you would like some more info on the course and the local restaurants let me know and I will get it over to you. The course has been in great shape and you can't beat the price! BTW, Football fans ask for the manager--he is a huge UConn fan who reads the internet foums.


Goodwin Golf Course--just a block from Little Italy (Golf and Pasta!)

MORE EXPENSIVE OPTIONS
Another option is to play at Foxwoods , Lake of Isles is just across the street from the Foxwoods Casino Complex
Lake of Isles is expensive but quite nice. The Foxwoods opened two Rees Jones designed 18 hole tracks that are spectacular.

Another ourse located conviently between Foxwoods and Moheghan Sun Casinos is River Ridge It is a good track, has on course beverage service, does not have flukey holes, but not in the same class as lake of isles. However, it is much more affordable.

Not to be outdone Mohegan Sun also offers their golf course at Pautipaug. From their webite:
A private 18-hole championship golf course considered by many to be the best kept secret in all of Connecticut. It is nestled in the hills of Baltic, Connecticut, located minutes from Norwich, New London and Willimantic.

The country club property gently rolls through the scenic hills of the southeastern corner of the state. Established in 1960, Mohegan Sun Country Club at Pautipaug is recognized for immaculate conditions and impeccable greens.

The private country club atmosphere at Pautipaug assures a quality golf experience and an unforgettable day. Our members and guests have enjoyed the exquisite beauty of this golf course and we are sure you will too.




Hope this helps! TexanMark, Syracuse Fan.

A special thanks to UConn fans, “Pudge”, “DuzyPies”, "UConnfan009", "Palatine", "WiscHusky", Excaliber33, and "Gars45" for their help on this guide.

The opinions expressed in this guide are those of TexanMark. While every effort has been made to ensure all the information presented is accurate and current, it would be wise to verify things when possible. Please note that this guide is not endorsed by Scout.com, Rivals.com or its site publishers, administrators and/or moderators.


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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark, great job, very classy guide to the Big East football scene.

hbarth said...

Rookies www.rookiesct.com in Cromwell is a great Sports Bar.
We also have a 'Tee Time' package where you can stay overnight and play 18 holes of golf for 2 for $169 at Lyman Orchards Golf Club www.lymangolf.com. Hal Barth, Crowne Plaza Cromwell, CT www.crowneplazacromwell.com