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A Tank Away

Spend a little time in fair territory

Baseball, the arts, good eats — this town’s got game

A Rock Cats mascot welcomes fans to New Britain Stadium. A Rock Cats mascot welcomes fans to New Britain Stadium. (Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe)
By Ellen Albanese
Globe Correspondent / June 22, 2011

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NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- They love baseball in this central Connecticut city. On summer evenings the Rock Cats, Double A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, regularly pack the 6,000-seat stadium, where numerous mascots sign countless hats and programs for children. Besides the Cats, families will find a surprising number of arts activities and venues for a city of 70,000 people. And if the kids like pierogis and potato pancakes, this is the place to be.

STAY

New Britain is not generally known for quaint inns. Families, however, will find fine options. La Quinta Inn & Suites (65 Columbus Blvd., 860-348-1463, www.lq.com/lq/properties/propertyProfile.do?propId= 2038, $75-$95) is the only lodging in the city itself. Breakfast is free, there’s a fitness center on site, and the hotel is close to downtown attractions. Lodgings just beyond the city limits include a Courtyard Marriott in Farmington (1583 Southeast Road, 860-521-7100, www.mar riott.com/hotels/travel/bdlhf-courtyard-hartford-farmington, $99-$196) and Fairfield Inn & Suites in Plainville (400 New Britain Ave., 860-747-1188, www.marriott.com/hotels/trav el/bdlpv-fairfield-inn-and-suites-plainville, $89-$159). If you have active kids in tow, it’s worth noting that both the Courtyard Marriott and Fairfield Inn have pools.

DINE

The variety of cuisines available here is impressive. At Capitol Lunch (510 Main St., 860-229-8237, www.capitollunch.com, $1.75-$2.40), the menu is short, and the lines are long. The eatery is famous for hot dogs, served with a chili-like sauce that has remained a trade secret since 1929. Art Ververis, grandson of the founder, told us he wouldn’t dare tinker with the time-tested recipe. Along Broad Street in the city’s Polish neighborhood, you’ll find restaurants, butchers, bakeries, and delis. Cracovia (60 Broad St., 860-223-4443, $3-$17.65) is known for its homemade soups and golabkis (stuffed cabbage with ground meat and rice). Staropolska (252 Broad St., 860-612-1711, www.staropol ska.net, $3.75-$17) prints its menu in English and Polish. Try the Polish platter for a taste of the restaurant’s most popular items. Vito’s Tavern & Pizzeria (136 Main St., 860-801-6800, www.vitosct.com, lunch $8-$13, dinner $9-$20) is the newest location in the popular Connecticut chain, featuring Italian specialties and exotic pizzas, such as ricotta and clams casino, and Chicago deep-dish stuffed pies. Bring your appetite to East Side Restaurant (131 Dwight St., 860-223-1188, www.eastsiderestaurant.com, lunch $12-$16, dinner $28-$34), specializing in German food, where all dinners are served as “full-course’’ meals, including an appetizer, salad, and dessert. A mural in the main dining room makes you feel as if you’re overlooking the German city of Heidelberg with its famous castle. Or you can enjoy some German beer in the rooftop beer garden, with hops drying in the rafters.

DURING THE DAY

The New Britain Museum of American Art (56 Lexington St., 860-229-0257, www.nbmaa.org, $10 adults, $8 students, free for children under 12, free to all 10 a.m.-noon Saturdays) has an astonishing range of pieces, from the Hudson River School to American Impressionists, to modern installations such as the 20,000-piece collage made from paper and plastic cups that wraps around a stair landing. We liked the introductory gallery with representative pieces from each collection so you can decide what you like best, then head off to see more of it. The museum overlooks the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Walnut Hill Park (184 West Main St.), with tennis courts, ballfields, a playground, and walking trails. Latino culture is the focus of the current exhibit at the New Britain Youth Museum (30 High St., 860-225-3020, www.newbritainyouthmu seum.org, free). There’s also a dinosaur-themed room and an indoor playground for preschoolers. The museum has an outdoor center in Kensington, 2 miles away.

AFTER DARK

The New Britain Rock Cats play under the lights at New Britain Stadium (230 John Karbonic Way, 860-224-8383, www.rockcats.com) through Labor Day. Ticket prices range from $5 to $18, but check the website for family-friendly promotions, such as the Wednesday night Family Four Pack — four reserved seats, hot dogs, popcorn, and bottled water for $30. The stadium will host the Hollywood Hits Tour Aug. 30 with the Boston Pops and Kenny Loggins. Pay what you choose at the Hole in the Wall Theater (116 Main St., 860-229-3049, www.hitw.org), which suggests a donation of $20-$25 per ticket but will allow anyone who walks through the door to “enjoy theater at whatever level he or she desires,’’ according to the website. “Rough Crossing’’ by Tom Stoppard continues through Saturday. Trinity-on-Main (69 Main St., 860-229-2072, www.trinityonmain.org) is a former United Methodist Church turned performance space. The striking Gothic structure, capped by a 108-foot tower, hosts everything from rock concerts and stand-up comedy to opera and civic events. “The Who’s Tommy’’ runs through Saturday.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at ellen.albanese@gmail.com.