In 1938, "The Long Island Expressway"—a vicious hurricane—plowed through John Hoenig's property in Thompson, Connecticut. His farm was destroyed, but when he decided to rebuild, he didn't rebuild the farm. Instead, he began clearing his land for the area's first 5/8-mile, high-banked racetrack. As soon as it opened, it was heralded as "the Indianapolis of the East." It was a destination for racecar drivers across the country.
In the more than 70 years since then, the track has blossomed into Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Today, it's one of the country's oldest tracks, besides that one high-banked crop circle from 1910. It plays host to three iconic racing events, including the World Series of Speedway Racing, and its modernized 5/8-mile oval now shares its space with a 1.7-mile road course. Even more exciting, neither track is just for pros. Civilians can try out the speedster lifestyle during driving school, or as part of the Driver's Club, which offers 30 days of members-only access to the track each year.
Situated inside Mohegan Bowl, All Star Pub invites patrons to kick up their feet after a few rounds of bowling to indulge in appetizers, burgers, and beer. Draft and bottled brews wet whistles in time for hand-tossed taco pizzas to appear draped in pico de gallo and housemade tortilla chips. Shareable appetizers such as spicy jalapeño bottle caps preheat maws before diners chow down on half-pound burgers, stacked pastrami grinders, and salads tossed with grilled chicken. Before venturing back to the lanes or to the arcade, patrons can dig into chocolate-fudge brownies or a Candle-Pin Strike—fried balls of dough served with ice cream and drizzled with raspberry sauce.
Cafe 55 cultivates a relaxing atmosphere by cushioning guests in plush white booths and turning the lights low. Towering hookahs filled with fragrant tobacco invite patrons to take a puff of rich flavors such as mango and vanilla before expelling smoke into the air to make swirling patterns or 3D Rorschach tests. Appetizers and drinks, including beer, sangria, and nonalcoholic smoothies, pair with the hookah action.
The 32 taps give Pub 32 its name, with the stocky pint shape of the Guinness tap and the crimson oval of Stella Artois set off against the backlit rows of bottle. The rotating selection of brews has included options from Magic Hat, Magners, Opa Opa, and Dogfish Head. Seven high-definition televisions blast sporting events such as Monday-night football, UConn games, and beard-growing contests. During events, karaoke singers launch the strains of pop anthems up toward the caramel-hued whorls of the wooden ceiling. During open-mic nights, live music fills the bar with the sounds of jangling guitars.
Bar 101 satisfies hungry patrons with a revamped menu of affordable American fare and invites leisurely sipping with lively weekly entertainment. Frenemies can make peace over a basket of frings, a hybrid of spiced onion rings and crispy french fries ($5), before moving onto heartier fare, such as a buffalo-chicken toasted Torpedo sandwich ($7) or 8-ounce 101 burger with cheddar cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, onion rings, and special sauce ($8). Herbivores can snack on an array of salads ($4–$8) or caprese pizza, loaded with melted mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and fresh basil ($7).
Modeled after a cozy English pub, Ciro's Tavern maintains a menu packed with upscale pub fare, pizza, and delectable seafood, chicken, and steak entrees. Traditional tavern victuals take a posh spin with such options as the baked lobster macaroni and cheese ($12), the Ashworth burger—loaded with caramelized honey-dijon onions and gorgonzola ($8)—and lobster sliders ($3 each). Ciro's chefs smack the finishing topping-touches on eleven varieties of grilled pizzas, including the Lobster Mobster, with freshly cracked lobster meat nestled amid asparagus and tomatoes, reclining atop a molten bed of cheese and alfredo sauce ($13). Stab a fork into the lobster risotto ($18), the house specialty, or give steaks the deep-sea treatment with a coat of lobster cream sauce ($4), enhancing such cuts as the 16-ounce rib eye and 12-ounce sirloin ($18 each).