New Britain, Connecticut
Saturday, May 30, 2009 - Sunday, May 31, 2009
Our first multi-city minor league baseball adventure took us to one of our least favorite destinations - Connecticut. Not sure why, but it's just not a place we like to travel to (nor is most of the rest of New England, at least the parts we've been to). I had a 'full' weekend off, and since the Binghamton Mets were in New Britain we thought we'd make a weekend jaunt of it (since there wouldn't be anything to do at home probably).
The weekend actually started out on Saturday morning in Syracuse. Jill had a speaking engagement at the Sheraton Syracuse University for the AAPC. Mike and I did a tour of Rite Aid's in the Syracuse area looking for items for Jill. After she was done, we started east along the thruway, stopping at the P.F. Changs in Albany for lunch (yummy!).
We had originally planned on just going to Mohegan Sun to check that out, but as we progressed further into Connecticut we realized that we would be able to make it to Norwich in time for the baseball game - bonus! We arrived just before game time, and sat in traffic for a good 10-15 minutes. Not well designed, one road in, one road out, never bodes well for this kind of traffic. The stadium itself was nice, well cared for, but nothing here really 'jumped' out at us that would make us go out of our way to come back. There were actually quite a few people at this game, which was kind of against the 'norm' for the Defenders. It was a warm Saturday night, and they were giving out Tim Lincecum bobbleheads, so I'm sure both of those factors fed into the abnormally large crowd.
After watching the game for a while, and wanting to miss the 'end of game' traffic on the one lane road, we scooted out and headed to the Mohegan Sun. What a place this was! Bigger and better than a lot of the Vegas casinos that we've been to, and it blew Foxwoods and Turning Stone out of the water! We wandered around the place for a bit, grabbed a mediocre dinner at Jasper White's Summer Shack - big price for little portions of bland seafood, we probably wouldn't visit another one of these places - dropped Mike off at the arcade, and then lost some money in the slot machines. Afterwards, we drove to Rocky Hill, Connecticut where we had made reservations at the Hampton Inn. What follows is Jill's evaluation of the hotel:
My family and I spent the night at the Hampton Inn in Rocky Hill, CT after taking in a baseball game in Norwich, CT, and the night before yet another game in New Britain. When we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed that there were about 100 motorcycles parked in the lot, and a few interesting characters hanging out front smoking cigarettes. But, I don't personally have anything against motorcyclists or smokers (although I choose to do neither myself), so I wasn't too concerned.
We checked into the hotel, and were given a room on the second floor, actually right above the check in desk (so our window was directly facing the area outside where the folks were outside). Lobby was actually a bit 'trashed' - that should have been our first clue, since it was an average Hampton Inn (and they don't typically look that way). Small, older woman was working the front desk, but was very friendly and sent us on our way to our room quickly.
Room was clean - looked like all other Hamptons do. Beds were comfy - Bathroom was in good shape and clean as well.
Unfortunately all night long our friends were outside holding motorcycle drag races in the parking lot, and just generally partying it up being very, very loud. The fan in the room does not run continuously, so we weren't able to drown the sound out really in any way, so we just left the TV on so our young son didn't have to listen to their foul mouths. The woman at the front was unfortunately unable to do anything about it at all... But, this was obviously not the fault of the hotel. My only reason for mentioning it is that my first instinct was to find another hotel, upon seeing the lobby in the shape it was. Should have gone with that instinct!
I'd go back - but if the parking lot was filled with motorcycles again, I'd definitely turn around and find another hotel elsewhere!
We got up the next morning, and after perusing all of the breakfast options we decided to try out yet another recommendation from Guy Fieri of "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" fame. O'Rourke's Diner in Middletown, Connecticut was our morning meal destination, and below is the review written by Jill:
We happened to be in the New Britain, CT area for a ball game, and had previously seen a segment about the O'Rourke Diner on the Food Network. We gladly gave up our 'free breakfast' at the Hampton Inn to take the short drive to visit this establishment.
Upon arriving, we noticed it to be a fairly 'rough' area (for Connecticut anyway), but on the corner sat this cute little diner, with a few tables out front. We were able to find street parking just a block or so away, and parked the car to walk up and find a short line. After waiting only about 10 minutes, we were seated inside. We were given our menus and a delicious little plate of breads - something to tide us over until the yumminess arrived!
The menu is quite large, but I decided on the Irish Soda Bread French Toast (very delicious - three slices, each covered with a different type of jam. Their soda bread is much different than the Irish Soda Bread I make, but it was still very, very good). My son had the Napoleon Pancakes - three pancakes stacked "Napoleon style" with jam in between and whipped cream and a strawberry on top (also quite delicious - light and fluffy pancakes - jam was yumcious!). My husband had the Dubliner omelet, which was an omelet with Corned Beef hash inside, served with potatoes on the side (he reported the omelet was delicious. Potatoes were very good, although not 'common' hash browns by any means).
Service was efficient - some servers were clearly friendlier than others, and several different people ended up helping us during our visit.
I'd absolutely go back in a heartbeat, and would love the opportunity to head there for dinner, which is now being offered on Friday and Saturday nights.
If you're in the area and looking for something a little 'different', stop by. It's not traditional greasy spoon diner fare - if that's what you're looking for, you might want to look elsewhere. But, the quality and quantity of food provided was excellent!
After breakfast, it was off to New Britain Stadium to watch only the second 'away' game involving the Binghamton Mets. The Eastern League is more than a little spread out, so getting to away games (with so many other baseball options closer to home) is usually a chore. That being said, New Britain Stadium quickly became our second favorite Eastern League Stadium (second only to Binghamton Municipal Stadium of course). That may have a lot to do with the fact that the stadium looks very much like our own; not an exact carbon copy, but the design is very much the same! Seating area cut by the walkway, covered concession area under the stands, skyboxes on either side of the press box behind home plate (and down the lines) - it was a very eerie sight to see that's for sure!
We had pretty good seats in almost the same 'spot' as we sit at home, and as an added bonus we sat in a row with the Binghamton Mets bus driver! He was there with his wife (who travels with him when she can) - very nice couple, very nice to be able to sit there and chat with them during the game. The B-Mets didn't fare so well in the game, but it was well worth the trip none the less between the stadium and folks around us.
Wanting to grab some dinner before we started the trek home, so we scoped out the East Side Restaurant (from the ads at the stadium) - a German restaurant on, well, the east side of New Britain! Authentic German food (and beer) made for a yummy dinner for all of us! They had a man strolling around the restaurant, playing the accordion! We skipped dessert there though, because we had coupons for free Rita's from the baseball game! We found a Rita's on Queen Street in Southington to take advantage of those. Home to Binghamton afterwards.