Top 10 Things to Do at UConn This Summer

Hello everyone, I’m Abby Mace. Although I’m a native Mainer, I’m happy to have made UConn my home for the past three years. At UConn, my majors in communication and journalism have led me to some amazing opportunities. I’ve written for the student newspaper, The Daily Campus, appeared on live television for the UConn Television Channel, and tried my hand as a real news reporter during an internship at The Republican-American in Waterbury. My adventure this summer is an internship on campus with University Communications. The current assignment – to select UConn’s top 10 summer attractions – was one of the most fun I’ve had. (At times it left me wondering if what I was doing really counted as work.) I hope you enjoy visiting each destination as much I did!

Explore Storrs Center

Enjoying the Jan Jungden Trio during Live Music Wednesday at Storrs Center. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
Enjoying the Jan Jungden Trio during Live Music Wednesday at Storrs Center.

I’ve been at UConn for three years now, and no part of the Mansfield area has undergone more of a transformation in that time than Storrs Center. When I arrived for my freshman year, just one building was completed there. So it’s been exciting to watch a project unfold that has given not only UConn students but the greater University community more entertainment and dining options and a place to gather. With so many choices, it’s hard to recommend just one spot to visit. The picturesque town square was finished this spring and hosts live music each week throughout the summer.

Should you get hungry, make a stop at Geno’s (as in famed women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma) for lunch or dinner. The restaurant showcases owner Auriemma’s Italian American heritage. The pasta selections are fresh and phenomenal (I recommend the Carbonara). If you visit on Saturday afternoon, you can’t pass up a trip to the Farmer’s Market for local produce, freshly made cheeses, and homemade baked goods. You don’t have to buy anything – the vendors love talking about their farms and bakeries and encouraging you to sample their products. I tried black bean brownies on my last trip, and they were so rich and fudgy I vowed I would someday make them myself.


Unwind by Mirror Lake

Here I am enjoying an afternoon at Mirror Lake with my track and field teammates, Kat Vodopia (on the swing with me) and Laura Williamson (in the tree).
Here I am enjoying an afternoon at Mirror Lake with my track and field teammates, Kat Vodopia (on the swing with me) and Laura Williamson (in the tree).

Today, Mirror Lake is one of UConn’s most beautiful places to read, relax, stroll, have a picnic, or ride on the wooden swing (my personal recommendation).

The name was selected by students in 1922, and it was in that year that the island was formed and planted with pine seedlings. The University also moved its rope-pulling competition between freshman and sophomore men from Swan Lake (called  Duck Pond at the time) to Mirror Lake that same year.

The swing nearby was added just a few years ago.


See Protest and Puppetry Collide at Benton

I'm in awe of this approximately 20-foot-high puppet, Washerwoman, created by Peter Schumann to speak out against nuclear weapons in New York in 1982. Washerwoman is part of a display at the Benton Museum through mid-August. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
I’m in awe of this approximately 20-foot-high puppet, Washerwoman, created by Peter Schumann to speak out against nuclear weapons in New York in 1982. Washerwoman is part of a display at the Benton Museum through mid-August.

A peek inside the William Benton Museum of Art’s Bread and Puppet Theater Exhibition will have you revisiting the preconception that puppets were whimsical creations for childhood entertainment. In fact, the Bread and Puppet Theater is more food for thought than entertaining. The puppets – the largest of which loom 20 feet tall – were born out of creator Peter Schumann’s “upset-ness” with American political and social issues. Through his puppets, New Yorker Schumann protested against the Vietnam war, the Attica prison uprising, nuclear weapons, war in the Middle East, and more.

I’m pictured here with the giant Washerwoman. Crafted in 1979, this Washerwoman was part of a 1982 anti-nuclear parade in New York that became the largest American political demonstration of the century. UConn has a rich tradition of puppetry – its Ballard Institute is one of just two collegiate puppet programs in the nation – and it provides the perfect context for the exhibition, which will be on display through Oct. 11. Puppet fans, be sure to check out the National Puppetry Festival, a week-long extravaganza of exhibits, shows, and films that are open to the public, on campus Aug. 10-16.


Shop at the UConn Co-op

Here's me getting a little lost in the endless selection of UConn apparel at the Co-Op. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
Here I am getting a little lost in the endless selection of UConn apparel at the Co-op.

Take a piece of UConn home with you by visiting the Co-op. At first it’s a little difficult to navigate the sea of navy and white, but when you’re done you’ll emerge with some serious Husky swag.

Don’t feel guilty about indulging here – the UConn Co-op is a not-for-profit business owned by 30,000 students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

With so many ways to show your Husky pride, the hardest part is deciding which item to choose. My favorites are the vintage UConn tees – necessities for when football season kicks off in August.


Rub Jonathan’s Nose at Wolff Family Park

Laura, Kat, and me posing with Jonathan post-good-luck nose rub at Wolff Family Park. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
Laura, Kat, and me posing with Jonathan post-good-luck nose rub at Wolff Family Park.

For a dose of good luck, rub Jonathan the Husky’s nose at the Wolff Family Park next to Gampel Pavilion.

As with so many traditions, there is no written record of when or how this custom originated, but it’s one students have observed for years, perhaps as far back as 1995, when the statue was installed on campus.

The park honors Thomas Wolff and his wife, Bette, generous donors to the School of Business and the Division of Athletics. Thomas, a 1956 UConn graduate who founded of one of the state’s most successful insurance agencies, received the University Medal in 2003. Although he had a long list of accomplishments, he was particularly proud of his dedication to Husky basketball as a season ticket holder for 60 years.


Experience Local Food at Chuck and Augie’s

Chuck and Augie’s is a true UConn dining experience, both as a namesake and for the cuisine itself. The lunch and dinner spot in the Student Union was named after Charles and Augustus Storrs, who donated land in 1881 for the agricultural school that would become UConn. My favorite part about Chuck and Augie’s is its commitment to local food, which is reflected in its seasonal menu and weekly specials that are chef-created to incorporate local ingredients. Chuck and Augie’s grows herbs on its patio and is the top customer at Spring Valley Farm, a farm run by UConn students.

Getting a sweet start to lunch with sweet potato fries and maple sauce at Chuck and Augie's Restaurant. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
Getting a sweet start to lunch with sweet potato fries and maple sauce at Chuck and Augie’s Restaurant.
The Mediterranean Salmon Salad is equal parts sweet, salty, and refreshing with homemade stone-ground mustard, salmon, feta cheese, and Chef Kyle Davis's own lime curd. (Abby Mace/UConn photo)
The Mediterranean Salmon Salad is equal parts sweet, salty, and refreshing with homemade stone-ground mustard, salmon, feta cheese, and Chef Kyle Davis’s own lime curd.

Since the restaurant opened in 2005, it’s become a favorite of men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie, whose go-to is three sides of steamed broccoli with two sides of grilled chicken. When I visited, I opted for a more traditional (and in my opinion tastier) dish by ordering the Mediterranean Salmon Salad off the menu. The salad is Chef Kyle Davis’s favorite dish, and I can see why – the tender salmon is encrusted in a house-made, spicy stone-ground mustard accompanied by cucumber ribbons, roasted tomatoes, lime curd, feta cheese, and local greens. Another must-have for my friends and me are the sweet potato fries with maple dipping sauce – made with real, local maple syrup of course.


Celebrate Student-Athletes at Husky Heritage Sports Museum

I'm all smiles for my Sports Illustrated shoot with 2014 NCAA champion point guard, Shabazz Napier. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
I’m all smiles for my Sports Illustrated shoot with 2014 NCAA champion point guard Shabazz Napier.

At the heart of being a Husky is the enthusiasm and pride that UConn athletics generate. No place on campus celebrates this spirit more than the J. Robert Donnelly Husky Heritage Sports Museum, located in the Alumni Center.

As a student-athlete on the cross country/track and field team, I appreciate both the commitment that accomplished athletes make to their sport, and the fans’ support that helps keep the athletes going. It was a proud moment for me to tour the museum and see the names of some of my teammates who help make up UConn’s more than 100 All-Americans.

Be sure to check out the “National Champions” gallery dedicated to the men’s soccer, field hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball teams that have earned national titles, as well as the Connecticut Basketball Rotunda, where you’ll find memorabilia from the 14 combined NCAA Championships the men’s and women’s basketball teams have won.


Snap a Photo at the UConn Sign

Me and my friends and teammates on the UConn Track & Field Team Laura and Kat, perch on top of the UConn sign at the corner of North Eagleville and Storrs Roads. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
Me and my friends and teammates on the UConn cross country/track and field team Laura and Kat, perching on top of the UConn sign at the corner of North Eagleville and Storrs Roads.

Join in on another UConn student tradition and snap a photo – or several – of your crew at the UConn sign at the intersection of North Eagleville and Storrs Road to commemorate your visit.

There’s a little more to this location than meets the eye. It was the site of the very first building on campus in the late 19th century, and in 1935, the original husky dog mascot, who was killed when a car hit him in 1935, was buried here. During a memorial service for Jonathan I, students watched as the four class presidents lowered the husky, enclosed in a blue-and-white box, into the grave.


Admire the Beauty of Horsebarn Hill

Me posing for a selfie with a polo pony at Horsebarn Hill. (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
A selfie with a polo pony at Horsebarn Hill.

The animals that claim Horsebarn Hill as home are the pride of UConn’s Animal Science Department. I like the horses the most – the cutest additions to the group being the six foals born this spring. Since the foals are let out into the pastures in June, summer is the perfect time to get a glimpse of these newborns.

I challenged myself by attempting a selfie with a polo pony, but don’t try this yourself – touching or feeding the animals is prohibited! However, visitors are welcome to check out the barns from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (even on holidays and weekends) to see horses, sheep, and dairy and beef cows. Cow admirers can also see the dairy cows being milked from 1 to 4 p.m. every day at the Kellogg Dairy Center.

Even better: visit at sunset to take in the stunning mosaic of colors from the top of the hill.


Indulge in Homemade Bliss at the Dairy Bar

Laura, Kat, and I savored three different flavors for our Dairy Bar cones. I tried the Senior Scoop S'mores, while Laura went with her 'go to,' Banana Chocolate Chip, and Kat chose Mint Chocolate Chip.  (Abby Mace/UConn Photo)
Laura, Kat, and I savored three different flavors for our Dairy Bar cones. I tried the Senior Scoop S’mores, while Laura went with her ‘go to,’ Banana Chocolate Chip, and Kat chose Mint Chocolate Chip.

No visit to UConn is complete without a stop at the Dairy Bar – even Ben and Jerry themselves would say so! It’s rumored that the famous ice cream-making duo made an undercover stop here this past spring and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Staff of the animal science department spend two to three days making each batch of the ice cream that is routinely voted best in Connecticut. There is one flavor, though, that takes an entire week to make: peach. The fruits for this summer limited-edition flavor are soaked in a sugar syrup and hand-picked to ensure only the best quality ones make it into the ice cream. As I’m not a fan of fruity flavors, I was skeptical about trying it, but the sample was so refreshing yet creamy that I almost ordered it. In the end, I chose the 2015 Senior Scoop, S’mores, over the peach and the No. 1 seller Husky Tracks, vanilla ice cream with a fudge swirl and peanut butter cups. While Senior Scoop is no longer available, be sure to try Blueberry Cheesecake when it debuts June 26.