Whether it’s by working 40 hour weeks and saving up, or selling their soul to the student loan fairy, otherwise known as Sallie Mae, college students are having a tough enough time living comfortably, much less are able to treat themselves to a nice vacation during a demanding semester. So, as Spring break came and went, fewer students came back sharing tales with classmates of illustrious trips and more told sob stories of being stuck here in New Britain. While we all would love to be able to throw down a credit card and take off to some Caribbean beach, with the economy like it is, it’s just not an option anymore. Despite not being able to go somewhere fun and exciting, the upside to going to C.C.S.U. is that that we don’t have to. Sure New Britain, CT may not be considered a vacation hot spot, but it has at least 5 hidden gems that are fun, exciting, and well within the confines of a student’s budget.
First, right in our own backyard is the New Britain Museum of American Art, which is considered to be one of the nation’s most dynamic art museums. Between their permanent collection (which includes a captivating mural of the Sept. 11) and their special exhibitions (constantly filtering new and different pieces), they combine to provide engaging and intellectually accessible arrangements. Free admission with a student ID allows you to not only a trip through corridors covered in amazing artwork, but the opportunity to participate in their Adult Studio sketching and watercolor classes, attend independent film screenings and lectures from established artists as well. Another perk is the great tasting café that allows you to sit outside and eat while overlooking Walnut Hill Park, another hidden gem.
Walnut Hill Park is most known for its rolling green hills and intriguing architecture. At the main entrance to the park, there are stone walls laid into the ground and the base of the hill and layered all the way to the top creating a truly gorgeous landscape. Trails inside the park include many historical monuments that make for a pleasant and peaceful walk. It isn’t always quiet and peaceful however, because from late Spring to early Fall, the huge venue inside the park has many musical talents visit. The huge stage faces an inclining slope equipped with stadium seating and room on the lawn for many other fans on blankets. Guests such as The New Britain Symphony, Music Series at South Church, the Park and Recreation Summer Music Program and Connecticut Virtuosi are just some of the musical entertainment the venue provides to the residents of New Britain, free of charge!
If you spent most of your break in front of the TV, the least you could do for yourself is go down the road to the Hole in the Wall Theatre and get some live entertainment. Voted Best of the Hartford Readers Poll in 2008, Hole in the Wall Theatre is known for combining drama and comedy with mystery and music, and with a suggested donation price of $20, it’s a great bargin for solid live entertainment. Currently the theatre is producing the play “Live Old Time Radio” which opened March 20th and will run for the next five weeks. For an evening they’ll transport you back in time to our last financial crisis during WWII and share the entertainment Americans turned to then. Don’t forget to hit the concession stand on the way in or out (or both!) as it is filled with delicious home baked goods at low costs.
The fourth hidden gem is the soon to re-open New Britain Stadium, home of the Rock Cats, on Wednesday April 8th for their season opener. The double AA baseball team is affiliated with the MLB team the Minnesota Twins, but luckily doesn’t charge MLB prices. General Admission is $5 and goes up as the seats get better, rounding out with a whopping $12 for behind the plate and dugout seats, best in the house. If that isn’t enough, on Wednesdays they offer a combo pack for $30 complete with 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 sodas, and 4 popcorns…try getting that deal at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. So grab three friends, and get a seat in a ball park and a whole meal all for only about $8 each. Even if it’s not a Wednesday, ticket and concession prices are still really low and there are group ticket packages available through their website so the more friends you bring the more you save. Where else will a couple of bucks buy you a hot dog meal and a ball game?
If after paying tuition, buying books, paying rent, and food shopping, even the most discounted price is out of your budget, then you truly are lucky to live in New Britain where you don’t have to pay to enjoy it. Not only does New Britain have beautiful parks, they have lots of them. Apart from Walnut Hill Park, the five other parks located around town (A.W. Stanley, Chelsey, Osgood, Washington, and Stanley Quarter Park) ensure there’s one close to every neighborhood. Conveniently, Stanley Quarter Park is within short walking distance of CCSU and certainly one of the best. Equipped with the usual soccer, baseball, and softball fields, it also has tennis and basketball courts, a playground, and a widely popular skate park. As if that isn’t enough, the park also has a huge gorgeous lake with a track that wraps around it to provide a place for people to walk their dog, take a run, or simply take a seat on the many swings around the lakes perimeter that allow you to take in the beautiful scenery, all for free.
So sure it may not be as glamorous as lying on the beach sipping a cocktail or as exciting as backpacking through Europe, but if those luxuries aren’t in your budget, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to boredom during school vacations, or even weekends. There are still fun and exciting things to do right here in New Britain that are in your budget, and these hidden gems are the proof.