15 Best Things to Do in New London (CT)

New London is a city with a long history of navigation. Just before the Thames River flows into the Long Island Strait, it is located in the natural port of the Thames River.

200 years ago, New London was one of the world’s top whaling ports, and in 1839 it was the landing point of The Amistad.

In a nautical town like this, you have no choice but to take a boat, take a boat to explore the famous local lighthouse, or take a day trip to the idyllic Block Island at the tip of Long Island.

New London is also a hotbed of art in southeastern Connecticut, with galleries, gorgeous theaters, the acclaimed Lyman Alling Museum of Art, and six jaw-dropping murals.

Let’s explore the best activities in New London:

1. Ocean Beach Park

Ocean Beach Park

Ocean Beach Park is a place built for those eternal summer afternoons and is hailed by National Geographic as one of the best beaches in the country.

Although you may not want to leave the long, wide crescent-shaped soft and pale sandy beach, there are plenty of places for families to play in the park behind.

You have an arcade with retro games, rides, triple waterslides and an 18-hole mini golf course. If you want to play a few laps there, there is an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and smaller beach visitors can enjoy it once Whale time in the children’s spray park.

To relax, you can stroll along the boardwalk, have a bite at a restaurant in May, and then enjoy a delicious meal at the Boardwalk Creamery.

2. Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Tour

Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Tour

Off the coast of New London, the waters of the Long Island Sound can be difficult to navigate, which explains why there are so many lighthouses within a few miles of town.

These include the historic Meidao Lighthouse, believed to be the scene of the first amphibious assault by the US Army in 1775, or the New London Port Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in the state (1760). The best way to approach these landmarks is to take the Cross Sound Ferry lighthouse tour, which departs from the harbor from May to October.

In July and August and the second half of June, you can choose Classic or Lights & Sights itineraries.

Each route passes through ten lighthouses, as well as Fort Griswold, Fort Trumbull, General Dynamics’ electric boat division and New London’s historic waterfront.

3. Fort Trumbull State Park

Fort Trumbull State Park

Since 1777, there has been a fort on this hillside protruding from the west bank into the Thames. The first line of defense was broken by Benedict Arnold’s army in a raid in the Revolutionary War in 1781.

The fortress was restored in the early 19th century and adopted the current design between 1839 and 1852. Fort Trumbull has five sides and four forts. In addition to the howitzers used for close combat, it can also accommodate 52 artillery.

It is part of the Third System, a network of 42 forts that protects American ports and became the seat of the Navy’s Underwater Sound Laboratory in the 20th century.

Recently refurbished, Fort Trumbull has eye-catching information signs, armed turrets and cannons that can be touched.

Inside, you can visit living quarters, offices and simulation laboratories, reminiscent of the war research conducted here from World War II to 1970.

4. New London Waterfront

St. James Episcopal Church

The city’s vibrant creative community is located in this 26-block National Registered Historic District.

Among the gorgeous buildings of the early 19th century, there are one-off boutiques, quirky restaurants, performing arts venues and galleries, some of which we will introduce below.

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Walking on these streets, you will follow the footsteps of ocean-going whalers, as well as respected and insulted historical figures such as playwright Eugene O’Neill and traitor Benedict Arnold.

Be sure to check out the New London County Courthouse at 70 Huntington Street.

It dates back to 1786 and is the oldest courthouse in Connecticut.

St. James Episcopal Church (1850) at 76 Federal Street was given beautiful stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

When the weather is good, you can enjoy your time in the waterfront park in front of the customs house and watch the ferry go along the Thames.

5. Lehman Irene Art Museum

Lyman Alling Museum of Art

The Lyman Allyn Art Museum is located in a stately neoclassical building, built of local granite, covering 12 acres, built in 1930. The collection here is more than 10,000 pieces from Europe, America, Africa and Asia, dating from the 16th century to the present.

There are works by Ingres, Poussin, Tipole, and Charles LeBron, but the real highlight of the museum lies in its collection of American art, which represents the Hudson River School, the Aesthetic Movement, and Impressionism.

Outstanding works include John F. Kensett’s Bash Bish Falls (1851) and Thomas Cole’s Taormina’s Mount Etna (1844). In the permanent exhibition, Louis Comfort Tiffany of New London delves into the famous designer’s connection with New London, while American Perspectives showcases continental European art from the colonial era to the 20th century.

For young children, the toys of the past allowed children to access toys, games, books, and dolls from hundreds of years.

6. Garder Arts Center

Gard Art Center

At the center of the Garde Art Center is the Garde Theatre, a gorgeous place to watch performances. It opened as a movie palace in 1926. In order to bring a sense of magic and exoticism to the venue, the theater adopts Moroccan-style interiors, with spectacular 3D bas-relief murals painted by Vera Leeper (1899-1969) lined up on both sides of the auditorium. It depicts Bedouins, elephants, sand dunes, mountains and sky.

The theater was in danger of being demolished in the 1980s and was rescued on the basis of the Garde Art Center, which consists of several buildings, one of which has a compact 120 performance space.

The Garde Theatre’s calendar features famous classical music artists, famous comedians, touring dance troupes, celebrity speeches and a series of tribute performances.

7. Submarine Force Library and Museum

Submarine Force Library and Museum

The US Navy’s main submarine base on the east coast is located on the opposite bank of the Thames in Groton.

It is only minutes away from the first-class museum managed by the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The main attraction of the Submarine Force Library and Museum is the USS Nautilus aircraft carrier moored in front.

It was launched in 1954 as the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine, and you will be able to visit the front of the ship.

Back on land, there is a series of eye-catching small submarines ahead, as well as the sail part from the USS George Washington (1959), the first nuclear submarine capable of ballistic missiles.

There are many things that need to be studied carefully, from the submarine model, the attack center of the Sturgeon-class submarine, the replica of Bushnell’s turtle (1776), the submarine arsenal, and the artefacts related to the Nautilus.

8. Customs Maritime Museum

Customs Maritime Museum

The New London Maritime Association is responsible for the management of New London Ledge Lights, Saiyan Lights and New London Harbor Lights. Its headquarters are located in the solemn Customs House, which is a neoclassical building built in 1833. The building is made of granite in different tones, with rustic blocks as the main material. The Doric columns on the porch and the pilasters on both sides of the main facade are made of smooth, light-toned stones.

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At the same time, the door was carved from wood that once belonged to the U.S. Constitution.

In 1839, the customs building in New London was the landing site of La Amistad. This famous Spanish slave ship was captured in an uprising, leading to court cases that brought the United States closer to abolition.

Inside, you can learn more about the whaling industry in New London, learn more about La Amistad, view model ships and read about the many lighthouses in the area.

9. Block Island Express Ferry

Block Island Fast Ferry

Choose a sunny day, there is no better place to spend a few hours than Block Island, which is located at the tip of Long Island and the southern part of Rhode Island.

At this time of the year, the Block Island Express ferry departs from Xindao up to five times a day, with a crossing time of 1 hour and 20 minutes.

After arriving at the Old Port, you can spend a day cycling and hiking, and looking for natural and man-made landmarks.

On the south coast of the island, the Moxigan Cliffs are more than 60 meters above sea level, and you will be stunned by the distant view of the southeast lighthouse from here.

You can also park yourself in Long Island Bay and do as little as possible; Block Island has 17 miles of beaches! One way to experience the island is to return at night.

From the end of June, ferries depart from New London at around 15:00 every Thursday. You can enjoy a relaxing dinner on the island, and then return to watch the sunset over the Long Island Sound.

10. Asaya

Twist house

One of the oldest surviving houses in Connecticut is located in New London.

Joshua Hempsted House was built around 1678 when it was the birthplace of Joshua Hempsted II.

His diary will prove to be one of the most reliable documents of life in colonial New England, detailing the life of his slave Adam Jackson, who has lived in this land for more than 30 years.

The unique feature of this clapboard building is the left gable of the main facade, which protrudes from the main block to form an anteroom.

Next to the Joshua Hempsted House is the Nathanial Hempsted House built in 1759 with stone. Both buildings survived the extensive destruction of the Battle of Groton Heights in 1780, allegedly because the Hempsteds was preparing to celebrate the family reunion with a feast, but were confiscated and attacked by the British.

You can visit it on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from May to October.

11. New London wall shelf light

New London ledge lights

This extraordinary lighthouse is more than 100 years old, but it is still not as old as it looks.

The New London Lighthouse was actually one of the last lighthouses built in New England in 1909. Strangely, it looks like a mansion stranded at the entrance of the New London Port, and thanks to its elegant French Second Empire architecture and polyline roof to meet the needs of local wealthy residents, they hope this building will reflect their presence on the coast On the property.

Although Ledge Lighthouse looks far away, you can take the Project Oceanology vessel Envirolab II to the UConn campus at Avery Point in Groton.

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After watching the directional video in the air-conditioned theater, you can freely explore the interior in your own time, check the caretaker’s room and enjoy the view of the lighthouse at the top.

12. New London Mural Walk

New London Mural Walk

It’s fitting that Connecticut’s art capital should also be the site of New England’s largest mural trail.

This spans six blocks in the center of New London, has works by famous international artists, and also gives you a better understanding of the city.

At the time of writing this article in 2019, there are two dozen murals in six blocks. With the help of the CamelTours app, the app will provide you with self-guided tours by scanning a QR code with your smartphone.

The mural trail is designed to showcase the best of New London, with shops, galleries and eclectic restaurants that will distract you during your journey.

13. Whaling Wall

Whaling wall

The anchor point for the mural walk is the Whaling Wall, created by the prolific whale muralist Robert Wyland, located at 23 Eugene O’Neill Drive.

New London is an obvious location for one of Wyland’s “Whaling Walls”, which has 100 walls around the world and has been painted to increase environmental awareness.

In the first decades of the 19th century, the city was one of the three busiest whaling ports in the world, second only to New Bedford in the United States.

The main hunted species is the sperm whale, which Wyland chose for his huge paintings, which are more than 50 meters long and 12 meters high.

14. University of Connecticut Botanical Garden

University of Connecticut Botanic Garden

The Connecticut College Botanical Garden covers an area of ​​750 acres and was first planted in 1931, including the verdant campus itself, with 223 species of trees and shrubs, including witch hazel and Japanese pagoda trees.

In other places, you can explore beautiful management landscapes, such as Caroline Black Garden, planting mature trees, shrubs and grasses from all over the world, as well as 187 woody taxa, such as sour wood, Japanese vines, weeping cherry, etc. .

The 280-square-meter greenhouse has tropical and desert plants, and you can learn about the native species of the area in the Native Plant Collection. It covers an area of ​​20 acres and has 288 taxa especially found in North America and New London.

In this space there is a charming personal garden, planted with mountain laurels, rhododendrons, conifers and regional wildflowers.

15. United States Coast Guard Museum

U.S. Coast Guard Museum

New London is the home of the United States Coast Guard Academy, which dates back to 1876 and moved to the city in the 1930s.

The Coast Guard is the smallest of the five service departments in the country. It was established in 1790 and was called the Maritime Safety Administration, but as of today, it is the only department that does not have a large dedicated museum.

It is expected that this situation will change in the next few years as the project progresses, but at the same time, the academy on Mohegan Avenue Parkway exhibited a series of weapons, puppets, uniforms, medals, flight suits and paintings.

You can learn about early income reducers, enforcing tariffs, fighting piracy, rescuing sailors in distress, and even acting as a temporary navy.

To visit the museum, American tourists need a government-issued photo ID, while overseas tourists need to get in touch with the curator.