Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in New London, CT

  • Published 2022/07/20

Perched at the mouth of the lovely Thames River, New London is a seaport city in Connecticut.

It is also the port of entry to the country’s northeast coast.

This lovely city brims with history, nature, and culture and attracts travelers from all over the world.

Being a seaport city, New London has terrific beaches and gorgeous seaside parks for you to enjoy perfect sunny days.

Home to various museums, art centers, arboretums, chapels, and more, the city has countless remarkable works of architecture that will win over your heart.

New London’s food scene is also delightful, and you will find the freshest and most delicious seafood in the waterfront restaurants offering sweeping views of the city and the splendid Thames River.

Whether you want to enjoy the beauty of nature, bask in a vibrant culture, learn about rich maritime history, or admire magnificent architecture, New London Has it all and will not disappoint you.

This city is a delight to visit and deserves a spot on your bucket list.

These are the best things to do in New London, Connecticut:

Have a Fun-Filled Day at Ocean Beach Park

People enjoying the sun at Ocean Beach Park

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Ocean Beach Park is the city’s most popular attraction, with boardwalk attractions and the finest beaches.

The beautiful park features water slides, a mini-golf course, a kiddie spray park, rides, a cafe with a restaurant, a picnic area, and an Olympic-size freshwater pool, among many other amenities.

It covers an area of 18 acres and offers sweeping views of the beach and the freshwater pool.

A snack bar at Ocean Beach Park

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

You can enjoy many activities in the park while basking in the sun and enjoying the water.

After enjoying golfing, rides, slides, and other amenities, you can grab delicious bites from the cafe and the restaurant.

Ocean Beach Park is very well-maintained and is a delight to visit.

Learn about the Coast Guard at the National Coast Guard Museum

The ship of The United States Coast Guard Museum

PhotoItaliaStudio /

This museum, located on Mohegan Avenue, is operated and run by the National Coast Guard Museum Association.

It honors the Coast Guard’s history and heritage through exhibits and displays.

The shows and displays feature cannons, figureheads, models, paintings, medals, uniforms, rescue equipment, ceremonial swords, and more artifacts and memorabilia that showcase the Coast Gaurd’s history.

It also offers interactive exhibits and educational programs.

Visit the National Coast Guard Museum to learn about the significance and history of the Coast Guard through its fascinating, well-done displays.

Take in Splendid New London Views with Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises

Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises offers sightseeing tours of the waters in comfortable, climate-controlled ferries.

The cruise ferry was named the best coastal cruise in 2016.

Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises provides incredible views of the everlasting waters while educating tourists about the rich history of Southern New England and Long Island.

You can enjoy different cruises, including the Lighthouse Cruise, during which you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and see nine lighthouses and some forts along your way.

There’s also the Lights & Sights Cruise, which allows you to see incredible architecture and a few other lighthouses.

The knowledgeable and enthusiastic narrator Ted Webb will tell you all about the lighthouses, forts, and buildings you’ll pass by during the cruise.

He will also share stories about ghosts, historical events, tales of pirates, and more.

You are also most likely to spot the lovely nesting common terns and sunbathing gray seals.

Make to cruise the waters with Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises to witness splendid views and learn about the area’s history and culture.

Go for a Stroll around Fort Trumbull State Park

Exterior of Fort Trumbull State Park


Fort Trumbull State Park is a popular park located near the mouth of the River Thames,

Fort Trumball was built in 1777, and the fortification was built in 1852 as a line of defense on the eastern seaboard.

In 2000, the fort and the park were opened for the public to visit and explore for themselves.

Canons on Fort Trumbull State Park grounds

Roddy Pfeiffer, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can view the cannons and artillery of the fortification from the grounds.

The estate also has a visitor center where tourists can learn more about the history of the fort and New London.

The environment of the park and its surroundings are very peaceful, with a view of the River Thames.

The best way to enjoy it is simply by taking a stroll and appreciating the park’s history and beauty.

A pier in front of Fort Trumbull State Park


Check Out the Historical Sites at Thames River Heritage Park

Located along the River Thames, Thames River Heritage Park is home to almost 20 historical and contemporary sites linked by a seasonal water taxi.

It was Connecticut’s first heritage park without any boundaries.

You can tour the area on the water taxi and see and experience everything yourself.

You will get to know all about the park’s historical spots and the significance behind each one of them.

The Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, Shaw Mansion, Fort Trumbull, the Historic Waterfront District, Custom House Maritime Museum, and the Hempsted Houses are some great sites to check out at the park.

The water taxi is seasonal, so make sure to visit in the summer to see all the splendid historical places and the impressive views of the sparkling water.

Catch a Movie or a Live Performance at the Garde Arts Center

Side view of Garde Arts Center's exterior

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Garde Arts Center is a non-profit professional performing arts center that opened in 1985.

The building dates back to 1926, with restored interior and lobbies with an old vintage look.

Front view of Garde Arts Center's exterior

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It is Middle Eastern-themed and has Morrocan interiors and murals.

You can watch movies and live performances at this historic theater.

Bask in the Beauty of Nature at the Connecticut College Arboretum

Scenic view of Connecticut College Arboretum

Romiana Lee /

Found in 1932, the Connecticut College Arboretum is a 750-acre arboretum and botanical garden on the Connecticut College campus.

The arboretum and botanical gardens feature several types of trees, plants, flowers, bedrocks, and more.

It is open every day of the week from dawn until dusk for visitors to enjoy the stunning plant life and serene environment.

Grass pathway at Connecticut College Arboretum

GK tramrunner at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also take a guided tour to learn more about the arboretum and the plant life flourishing in it.

Visit the Connecticut College Arboretum to enjoy the beauty of nature and sweeping views.

Admire the Fascinating Displays at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum

Exterior of Lyman Allyn Art Museum

LymanAllyn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1926, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum was created by Harriet Allyn, the daughter of Lyman Allyn, to honor her seafaring father.

The unique neoclassical building is lovely to look at and is located near the National Coast Guard Museum and Connecticut College.

The two-floor museum opened to the public in 1932, and it houses more than 170,000 artifacts and memorabilia.

It contains permanent and rotating exhibitions that are very well-curated, with lots of information about each piece.

A visit to this museum is undoubtedly going to fascinate you and teach you a good lesson on history.

Catch a Glimpse of New London Harbor Light

Scenic view of New London Harbor Light

Iv Art /

New London Harbor Light is the seventh-oldest lighthouse in the United States.

This 90-foot-tall lighthouse sits on the Long Island Sound and is the oldest and tallest in Connecticut.

Daytime view of New London Harbor Light

WoodysPhotos /

It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Unfortunately, direct access to the lighthouse is not permitted, but you can see it in all its glory from Pequot Avenue.

Learn about Local Maritime History at the Custom House Maritime Museum

Located on Bank Street in Downtown New London, the Custom House Maritime Museum was designed by the country’s first formally trained architect, Robert Mills, in 1840.

The house is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Custom House Maritime Museum contains various artifacts showcasing the local maritime history.

There is a souvenir shop on the premises where you can buy gifts and books to commemorate your visit to this historic house and city.

Take a Tour of the New London Ledge Lighthouse

New London Ledge Lighthouse surrounded by waters

Rosa Creanza /

The New London Ledge Lighthouse is another lighthouse that sits at the mouth of New London Harbor.

It is a part of the National Register of Historic Places and is maintained by the New London Maritime Society.

The lighthouse is still active, and you can take a tour of the lighthouse, but only in the summer.

Aerial view of New London Ledge Lighthouse

Photo_n_travels /

Make Your Way to the Historic Old Town Mill

Located on Mill Street, the Old Town Mill is one of the city’s historic landmarks.

This mill house is often referred to as the Winthrop Mill and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can visit the grounds of this grist mill any day of the week.

However, you need to make an appointment to see the actual mill.

Join a Guided Tour of the Monte Cristo Cottage

Exterior of Monte Cristo Cottage

Staib, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on Pequot Avenue, Monte Cristo Cottage is the former summer home of the American playwright and Nobel laureate Eugene O’Neill.

It is one of the city’s most historical landmarks and where the legendary playwright wrote his first two plays.

You can take private tours of the cottage to know more about the 19th-century cottage and the life of Eugene O’Neil.

Support Local Artists at Hygienic Art

Hygienic Art is the most famous year-round art gallery in New London.

The gallery hosts several cultural and musical events to inspire and showcase the local community’s talent and artists.

Visit Hygienic Art to support the works of terrific local artists.

Go Back in Time at the Hempsted Houses

Exterior of Nathaniel Hempsted House

CTLandmarks, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hempsted Houses are located on Hempstead Street.

Both houses are stunning, and their architecture is splendid as well.

The houses showcase the area’s history and are among New England’s best-documented dwellings.

One of the houses comprises a museum with various artifacts and exhibitions.

You can take guided tours of the Hempsted Houses to explore them and learn more about their history and significance.

Book an Overnight Stay at Red Roof Inn Mystic

Red Roof Inn Mystic provides comfortable amenities to make your stay worthwhile.

The hotel rooms are cozy and clean, and the staff is accommodating and friendly.

It is also pet-friendly, so you can bring your dogs with you on your New London adventure.

Dig into Mouth-Watering Seafood at Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock

This eatery has been named the best seafood shack in the city.

Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock serves mouth-watering seafood and is very popular among the locals for serving the freshest seafood, which is always prepared perfectly.

Do not forget to try the butter-splashed lobster roll and flaky fried fish.

Plus points: The food here will not burn a hole in your pocket~

Try the Delectable Food at Muddy Waters Cafe

Muddy Waters Cafe is a coffeehouse located in the city’s downtown area.

It serves fresh and delicious baked goods along with hearty sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, coffee, and much more.

Make sure to try their famous Love Salad and various delectable sandwiches.

Relive History at the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse

Tourists frequently include the famous Nathan Hale Schoolhouse in their list of sights to see in New London.

The Nathan Hale Schoolhouse was constructed in 1773.

The state hero Nathan Hale, who was 18 years old when he graduated from Yale, taught in the schoolhouse from 1774 to 1775.

Following this, Hale participated in the American Revolution and swiftly rose to the rank of Captain.

He was renowned for being the only soldier to volunteer to spy on the British who occupied Long Island and for being hanged as punishment for his actions.

Presently, the schoolhouse is open for tours and excursions, and instructors work to preserve it in good condition and impart knowledge to visitors.

Take a Walk through the Richard Douglass House

The renowned Richard Douglass House was constructed somewhere between 1750 and 1820.

The National Register of Historic Places officially includes the Richard Douglass House as a historic site.

New London was a port city when it was being built, and Richard Douglass and his family were well-known personalities in the Revolutionary War era.

The Douglass House has experienced renovations, but it continues to resemble the way it looked when it was first built.

The house was briefly deserted after an unsuccessful attempt at modernization, but the renovation succeeded in overcoming this and uncovered a .50-caliber musket ball.

Have a Few Moments of Quiet at Pequot Chapel

This non-sectarian chapel was built in the Victorian era.

Since it first appeared in the region around 150 years ago, Pequot Chapel has offered peace and beauty in a sacred space.

The chapel is accessible for Sunday services and organizes special occasions.

The chapel’s façade may be viewed at any time, and you can arrange a trip to see the inside as well.

You can reserve the chapel for religious occasions like weddings and baptisms.

From May through October, it serves as a picture-perfect backdrop for weddings.

Pay Tribute to Civil War Heroes at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Daytime view of Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Paul Todsaporn /

The 50-foot obelisk-topped Soldiers and Sailors Monument, built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s Civil War veterans, is located in central New London.

Based on the inscription on the monument, it was given on May 6, 1896, by the children of Joseph Lawrence, a prosperous whaler in New London.

A bronze plaque with the seals of New London and Connecticut is also attached to the obelisk.

The first fort built by the soldiers and sailors of New London is now the monument’s location.

A statue of a Union soldier with a rifle can be found on one side of the monument.

Order the Delicious Menu Items at On The Waterfront

Are you looking for an excellent setting for a meal?

Stash Schiavone and Chef Anthony Schiavone operate the family business On The Waterfront, which features excellent cuisine and breathtaking views of the River Thames.

With a blend of timeless elegance and magnificent scenery, they are committed to providing customers with the best of what New London has to offer.

On The Waterfront has a sizable dining area with outlooks of the lake, a complete bar, and an outside patio in the warmer months.

They provide a wide selection of seafood, pasta, steak, and chicken dishes on their lunch and supper menus.

Final Thoughts

There is undoubtedly more to New London than one would anticipate in terms of well-known tourist sites, dining establishments, museums, and lighthouses.

It’s an excellent destination for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike.

With so much to offer its visitors, this vibrant city is the perfect place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Bookmark this list of things to do in New London, Connecticut and start planning your trip to this city filled with adventure and enjoyment.

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