Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Norwich, CT

  • Published 2022/12/02

Norwich in New London County is a quaint city situated on the eastern side of Connecticut, rich in art, culture, and history.

It is known as the “Rose of New England” for its five hills that resemble rose petals when viewed from the banks of the Thames River.

In 1659, settlers from Saybrook led by Major John Mason and Rev. James Fitch founded the city and bought the land from the local Mohegan tribe led by Sachem Uncas.

One of the first five Connecticut cities to be incorporated, Norwich has an estimated population of 40,014 as of the 2021 census.

By the early 20th century, rapid industrial growth transformed Norwich into a modern urban district.

Today, it is a thriving city where you’ll find great business and travel opportunities, a diverse community, and well-preserved roots in its own history.

If you’re planning a trip to the state, save this list of free things to do in Norwich, Connecticut!

See the Yantic Falls

Distant view of Yantic Falls

MidwestInNewEngland /

While in the Uncas Leap Heritage Area, look for the Yantic Falls, also known as the Indian Leap Falls or Uncas Leap Falls.

The falls are wide and high and are squeezed through a narrow gorge.

A favorite encampment of the Mohegan tribe, the Yantic Falls was a part of the historic battle between the Mohegans and Narragansetts in 1643.

Yantic Falls during autumn

Jennifer Yakey-Ault /

Yantic Falls also became an important part of industrial development in Norwich as it was used as a source of hydropower dating back to the 1600s.

Don’t miss out on the chance to see a natural wonder that has played a significant role in the city’s history.

Closer view of Yantic Falls

Dlabajdesign /

Get Information at the Norwich Heritage & Regional Visitors’ Center

Begin your tour of the whole city at the Norwich Heritage & Regional Visitors’ Center.

The center is located in the 1783 building of the Dr. Daniel Lathrop Schoolhouse in Norwichtown Green.

Here you’ll learn more about the best places to visit in the region and about Norwich’s rich heritage through its exhibits, presentations, and activities!

You may go here to pick up self-guided brochures and check the trails in the area.

The Norwich Heritage & Regional Visitors’ Center also houses a display titled “Discover Norwich,” a 10-panel exhibit about Norwich’s history from the 17th to the 20th century.

Get an overview of what the city offers when you visit the center!

Hang Out at Mohegan Park

Pond at Mohegan Park

E.A.Parisek /

The Mohegan Park, located at an elevated area in Norwich, is the city’s largest park that stretches up to 385 acres.

In 1906, six Norwich residents generously gave about 200 acres of their land to build a municipal park.

Two years later, Mohegan Park was named to pay tribute to Uncas, the Sachem or tribe leader of the Mohegan tribe, who deeded the land to the area’s first settlers.

More residents eventually donated their properties to expand the park, and a rose garden was added near the Rockwell Street entrance of the park.

Fountain at Mohegan Park

Cheng Yu /

Feel free to stay here and relax as you take in the natural beauty of the place and the park’s deciduous forest.

Two bodies of water are in the park: the Spaulding Pond, located in the park center, and the Lower Pond, near the Mohegan Park Road entrance.

Pavilions, play areas, and a disc golf course are also available inside the park.

Visit the Mohegan Park & Memorial Rose Garden, where you won’t run out of things to do and corners to explore!

Pay Your Respects at the Mohegan Royal Burial Ground

The Mohegan Royal Burial Ground, located on a 16-acre plateau above the Thames River, is where sachems or chiefs of the Mohegan tribe were buried centuries ago.

The burial ground is supposed to remain in possession of the tribe, but struggles with ownership arose in the past decades, leading to the construction of other buildings on the burial site.

Luckily, the Mohegans eventually prevailed.

Today, a memorial grove occupies the land where 13 granite pillars representing the 13 moons of the Mohegan calendar stand in a circle, while an engraved stone indicates the sanctity of the place.

When you visit the Mohegan Royal Burial Ground, take the time to appreciate the sacred history of the place.

Visit the Uncas Leap Heritage Area

You can’t go to Norwich and not visit one of its most significant historic sites, the Uncas Leap Heritage Area.

Acquired by the city in 2010, the area is an important part of the Norwich community and a sacred part of the Mohegan tribe’s history.

The 1.2-acre area is the site of the culmination of the Battle of Great Plains between the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes, which is known as the last battle in the area that used only indigenous weapons.

Here you’ll learn about stories from the past and the deep connection of the city of Norwich to the Mohegan Nation.

The site, currently open year-round, is being developed as a park to commemorate the significant Native American battle.

Make sure to add the Uncas Leap Heritage Area to your list of places to visit when you go to Norwich!

Get a Glimpse of the Past at Norwichtown Burial Ground

Tombstones lined up at Norwichtown Burial Ground

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Norwichtown Burial Ground, also known as the Colonial Cemetery, was opened in the late 1600s.

Here you’ll find the gravesites of the city’s early European settlers marked by their handcrafted tombstones.

One of the prominent tombs at the Norwichtown Burial Ground is the Huntington family tomb, which you’ll see along the tree line that separates the colonial period from the late 1800s section of the cemetery.

Closeup of a grave stone at Norwichtown Burial Ground

Msact, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here you can see a small granite headstone for Deacon Simon Huntington, one of the city’s founders, whose gravestone is the oldest you will find on the burial grounds.

Feel free to walk around and read the names and epitaphs engraved on the tombstones to get a glimpse of the old Norwich and its people.

Tombstones at Norwichtown Burial Ground

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Admire Local Art at the Norwich Arts Center

The Norwich Arts Center was originally established in 1987 as the Norwich Arts Council to cultivate the region’s appreciation and understanding of the arts.

Today, it is an all-volunteer-run and non-profit organization that provides affordable cultural enrichment to the Norwich community through its diverse visual, literary, and performing arts programs and events.

It houses different facilities, including the Donald L. Oat Theater, Norwich Cinema, Cooperative Gallery, and Gallery II, which serve as venues for performances and art education events.

Learn from the people who are passionate about art or share your own knowledge when you visit this place.

You may also volunteer your talents and skills if you have extra time!

Check the Norwich Arts Center’s galleries and appreciate the local art displays.

Stroll Down the Norwichtown Historic District

Residential house at Norwichtown Historic District

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Allot some time to stroll down the Norwichtown Historic District and appreciate its beauty and history.

Established in the City of Norwich in 1967, the district is made up of the original Green, a triangular area surrounded by mostly built in the 18th century.

You’ll find old buildings like Joseph Carpenter’s Silversmith Shop and Dr. Daniel Lathrop’s School, located on the northern part of the Green.

Church at Norwichtown Historic District

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you walk around, focus on some architectural details, and you’ll find that the patterns and features of the district’s settlement are still apparent in the remaining structures.

Walk around the streets of the Norwichtown Historic District, and take time to appreciate the essence of the city.

Facade of a house at Norwichtown Historic District

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Relax at Little Plain Park

After walking around and visiting different sites, find peace and calm when you stop by Little Plain Park, located in the Little Plain Historic District.

The park, historically known as Everett Lot, is the center of the affluent residential neighborhood developed during the first half of the 19th century.

It may be an unusual park because of its long and narrow triangle shape, bounded by a sidewalk, old trees, and a fence made of metal stiles and stone rails, but you’ll find your stop here worthwhile.

The area’s focal point is a stone obelisk dedicated to the 28th Regiment of the Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

A pink stone fountain honoring Little Plain Park’s founders stands on the southern end of the park.

Wander Around the Little Plain Historic District

Facade of a private residence at Little Plain Historic District

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Little Plain Historic District of Norwich is another area you may explore and appreciate.

You’ll find here 18th- and 19th-century homes that depict the shift in the location of fashionable residential buildings from the older Norwichtown Green to the Broadway and Union Street area.

The housing in the district is a living reminder of Norwich’s acquired prosperity from trade and manufacturing.

Street view of Little Plain Historic District

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you see the post-Revolutionary houses in the area, you’ll be reminded of the city’s opulence, brought by the trade and manufacturing industries.

The buildings stand out because of the architectural style preferred by affluent Americans between 1775 and 1875.

If you’re an architecture enthusiast, you’ll enjoy the small but unique Little Plain Historic District.

View of a house at Little Plain Historic District

CLK Hatcher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See the Blue Lady of Yantic Cemetery

One of the most interesting attractions that you should check out in Norwich is the Blue Lady of Yantic Cemetery.

It is located on Lafayette Street in Yantic Cemetery, the gravesite for many local aristocrats.

You’ll see monuments as tall as 20 feet or even higher throughout the cemetery.

One of its unique fixtures is the Blue Lady, a life-size bronze sculpture of a woman wearing blue and crouching over the grave of a certain Sarah Larned Osgood.

The popular Blue Lady, which has been in the gravesite for 120 years, was stolen in 2010.

Luckily its parts were eventually found in different places, and the sculpture was restored.

Don’t miss out and see the Blue Lady of Yantic Cemetery!

Other Things to Do Nearby

After stopping by these free attractions in Norwich, why not visit nearby sites you may reach within a few minutes of driving?

Walk Around Fort Shantok

Lawn at  Fort Shantok

User:Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Shantok is one of the important historical sites of the Mohegan tribe.

Located near the town of Montville, you may drive to the area in less than 30 minutes from Norwichtown.

It used to be a fortified village created by Sachem Uncas that became a settlement of the tribe.

Memorial at  Fort Shantok

User:Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1993, Fort Shantok was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Visit Fort Shantok and learn its significance in the country’s history.

Discover the Gungywamp

While in the area, you should see the interesting complex of stone structures called the Gungywamp.

Located in the nearby town of Groton, it is an archaeological site that has fascinated many tourists and experts.

There have been many interpretations of the stone structures, but they still remain an enigma.

The archaeological studies and research about the site indicate that the Gungywamp contains paleo and woodland Native American artifacts and colonial and early American structures and artifacts.

If you want to visit the site, you may set an appointment with the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center.

Have a Picnic at Hopeville Pond State Park

Shoreline of Hopeville Pond State Park

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to spend more time outdoors with friends and family, go to Hopeville Pond State Park in the nearby town of Griswold.

Bring your food and blanket, and you may enjoy a picnic in this park overlooking a serene pond.

You may also go fishing, swimming, or boating.

Picnic area at Hopeville Pond State Park

Morrowlong, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The park has good camping spots, so you may even stay for the night and stargaze.

Drive to Hopeville Pond State Park and enjoy outdoor activities before you leave the area.

Tour the Jillson House Museum

Tour the Jillson House Museum and learn about the history and architecture of the town of Windham.

You will surely admire the stone house’s unique architecture from the 1800s.

Banker William Jillson built the house for his family using gneiss stone for its durability and availability.

The design he picked for the house structure made it stand out among the other houses in the city.

Uniform and dressed granite blocks were used to create the distinctive appearance and remarkable strength of the structure that has stood the test of time.

If you’re interested in architecture or local history, visit the Jillson House Museum at no cost!

Final Thoughts

If you want to soak up history and culture while traveling, you should visit the city of Norwich in Connecticut.

You’ll find a variety of things to do here and, in the process, cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of history.

If you’re planning to head out to the state, refer this list of free things to do in Norwich, Connecticut!

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