From state parks and historic sites to colleges and museums, New London, CT offers many things to see and do that fit a range of interests. There is something for everyone, whether you prefer adventure or relaxation.
1.Fort Trumbull State Park
Fort Trumbull State Park in Connecticut is a great place for a stroll while learning about history. You can get a nice view of the area’s Thames River from the ramparts or fort or head into the visitor’s center to learn about the area’s history, complete with interactive exhibits. Guests are welcome to walk along the boardwalk or go fishing on the pier. You can also take tours of the historic fort or take a water taxi. The pier itself is available 24 hours a day and has more than 500 feet of shore-based access to fishing on the Long Island Sound.
79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT, Phone: 860-424-3000
2.Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises
Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises gives you the chance to enjoy the water while learning and viewing the history of Long Island and Southern New England. These are sightseeing tours in the water, which you get to enjoy on climate-controlled vessels of a high-speed, complete with comfort. There is the Classic Lighthouse Cruise, which shows you nine lighthouses in addition to forts and more or you can take a Lights & Sights Cruise for some amazing architecture in addition to the lighthouses. Or you can leave from Orient Point in NY for the Long Island Lights Cruise. There are free rewards memberships to let you earn points for discounts as well.
2 Ferry St., New London, CT, Phone: 860-443-5281
3.Mystic Whaler Cruises
© Mystic Whaler Cruises
Mystic Whaler Cruises gives you adventures on tall ships. The company’s specialty is their three-hour cruises, although you can also go on a sailing vacation that is several days long if you prefer. There are several types of cruises to choose from, including lobster dinners, Sunday brunches, sunset cruises, and luncheon dates. The cruises that include a meal have plentiful dishes with several courses and all cruises have at least hors d’oeuvres plus beverages like lemonade, water, hot cocoa, coffee, and tea. You always get amazing views as well as the food and drinks, but keep in mind that the cruises do not allow children under five years old.
City Pier, New London, CT, 800-697-8420
4.Wheeling City Tours
Wheeling City Tours takes you on tours of the city on Segways. There is the choice of a Downtown tour or the Beaches tour. The downtown Tour takes you around Downtown New London as well as Fort Trumbull and the waterfront, while learning about the architecture and history plus local tips for entertainment. The Beaches tour takes you around the beaches, lighthouses, and Pequot Colony. Wheeling City Tours also offers Segway Polo, a fun take on the traditional sport of Polo. You do not need any experience to join and anyone over 16 years old is welcome to do so.
36 Bank St, New London, CT, 877-474-1117
5.Ocean Beach Park
© Sved Oliver/stock.adobe.com
Ocean Beach Park delivers public access to the Atlantic Ocean from a stunning beach. There is also an Olympic-size pool with freshwater, event staging, and lockers. Enjoy the Game Room, Nature Walk, Bird Watching Observation Deck, Work Out World Health Club, triple water slide, carousel, spray park, or playgrounds throughout. The park has 50 acres of land in total, including attractions like the 18-hole miniature golf course. There are multiple event spaces, including the 8,000-square-foot Port ‘N Starboard and catering. While there, you can get a bite from the snack or ice cream stands or the Boardwalk Café Food Court.
98 Neptune Avenue, New London, CT, Phone: 860-447-3031
6.Garde Arts Center
© Garde Arts Center
The Garde Arts Center has been in New London since 1985 and is a non-profit performing arts center of a professional level. The building itself, the Garde, dates back to 1926, making it a historic movie palace and you can admire the restored Moroccan interior with expanded lobbies. The space added a state-of-the-art digital cinema plus surround-sound system a few years ago, making it a great destination for both live performances and cinema. Attend events like the World Live Cinema Series, kids’ performances, musical performances, theatrical performances, musicals, and more. You an also rent the Garde for special events or attend a special event there.
325 State St., New London, CT, Phone: 860-444-7373
7.United States Coast Guard Museum
The United States Coast Guard Museum is run by the National Coast Guard Museum Association and honors the heritage of the Coast Guard while letting the public gain insights into the life of the Coast Guard. The museum features STEM-based educational programs, leadership training, interactive exhibits, programs, and both private and public partnerships. There are three different themes across the museum, focusing on Safety, Security, and Stewardship. These are divided into five story lines, including Protectors of the Environment, Champions of Commerce, Lifesavers Around the Globe, Defenders of the Nation, and Enforcers of the Seas. The museum is divided into exhibits, renderings, and the STEM Discovery Center, with something for all ages.
78 Howard St, Suite A, New London, CT, Phone: 860-443-4200
8.Connecticut College Arboretum
© Antonella Fulli/stock.adobe.com
The Connecticut College Arboretum is open to the public every single day of the week between dawn and dusk, so anyone can enjoy this gorgeous space. The Arboretum lets visitors connect with the natural world and provides the chance for recreation, conservation, teaching, and research. You can also become a member to help support the Arboretum. The Arboretum covers 750 acres with various plant collections and every trail works well for either casual strolling or hiking. There are also some areas where you can go run. You can choose to explore the Arboretum on your own or join one of the free guided tours during the summer months.
270 Mohegan Avenue, New London, CT, Phone: 860-447-1911
© Connecticut College
Connecticut College is a private college that is a liberal arts school and has about 1,815 students. The college’s founding occurred in 1911 under the name Connecticut College for Women, which became Connecticut College and began accepting men in 1969. There are 41 majors to choose from as well as the option of a self-designed major. The campus has three residential areas as well as two main libraries, including one that is recently renovated. There are also multiple performance spaces on campus as well as the college’s arboretum, which is open to the public to visit for connecting with nature.
270 Mohegan Avenue, New London, CT, Phone: 860-447-1911
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10.Thames River Heritage Park & Water Taxi
© Thames River Heritage Park & Water Taxi
The Thames River Heritage Park was Connecticut’s first heritage park. As a heritage park, it combines contemporary and historical sites, including institutions and communities on either side of the river. The Thames River Heritage Water Taxi takes you across the water and lets you learn about the area’s history while seeing historic spots, such as where Benedict Arnold stormed Fort Griswold in 1781. There are multiple great sites in and by the heritage park, including the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, the Historic Waterfront District, Shaw Mansion, Hempsted Houses, Fort Trumbull, and Custom House Maritime Museum. Just remember that the water taxi is seasonal and does not operate in the winter.
P.O. Box 851, New London, CT
11.Lyman Allyn Art Museum
© Lyman Allyn Art Museum
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum was created thanks to a gift from Harriet Allyn, who wanted to honor of seafaring father and has been open since 1932. Today, the museum holds more than 17,000 objects throughout history and modern times and from around the world. There is a vast permanent collection as well as rotating exhibitions. You can visit the museum to browse the exhibits or can attend special programs like educational opportunities, lectures, exhibition openings, or musical events. Or explore the grounds, with the Sculpture Trail, 12 acres of land, and McCourt 9/11 Memorial Garden. Enjoy self-exploration or go on a guided tour.
625 Williams Street, New London, CT, Phone: 860-443-2545
12.Nathan Hale Schoolhouse
© Nathan Hale Schoolhouse
The Nathan Hale Schoolhouse in New London is where Nathan Hale, the state hero, taught between 1774 and 1775, just a few years after his graduation from Yale at age 18. After this, Hale enlisted in the American Revolution and quickly became a Captain and was famous as the only soldier who volunteered to spy on the British who controlled Long Island, being hung for his efforts. The Nathan Hale Schoolhouse was built in 1773 and was called the Union School. Today, you can visit and go on a tour of the schoolhouse, where docents help keep it in good shape and share information with visitors.
Atlantic St, New London, CT, Phone: 860-873-3399
13.New London Harbor Light
© Laura Stone/stock.adobe.com
The New London Harbor Light is one of the lighthouses in New London. It is also the fifth oldest light station in the country as well as the seventh oldest lighthouse. This lighthouse holds the title of being the tallest and the oldest lighthouse within Connecticut and sitting on Long Island Sound. It reaches 90 feet high and you can see it for 15 miles on a clear day. It has been part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1990. Renovations took place in 2014. Unfortunately, the general public cannot access the ground without prior arrangement. You can do so, however, by contacting the New London Maritime Society.
810 Pequot Ave, New London, CT
14.New London Ledge Light
© Laura Stone/stock.adobe.com
The Ledge Lighthouse Foundation takes care of the New London Ledge Light and is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that works to publicize the history of the lighthouse and help it remain a tourist attraction. Construction of the lighthouse took place between 1906 and 1909 and it is three stories tall with elven rooms. It has a granite and brick design of a unique nature. The lighthouse is still active today, helping to guide those on the water and it has undergone massive restoration by the Ledge Lighthouse Foundation. The foundation also offers seasonal tours of the lighthouse, both individual or public tours.
New London, CT
© Pequot Chapel
Pequot Chapel has been in the area for nearly 150 years, providing tranquility and beauty in a religious setting. The chapel is open for Sunday services during part of the year and also hosts special events. You can also visit the chapel to admire its exterior at any point or schedule a chapel tour to see the inside as well. You can reserve the chapel for religious events, such as baptisms and weddings, but there is no need to plan an event there in order to go on a tour of the building and grounds. The chapel dates back to the Victorian area and is non-sectarian.
857 Montauk Avenue, New London, CT, Phone: 860-442-0812
The Whaling Wall is an impressive mural along Eugene O’Neill Drive. This mural was completed by Wyland, a world-famous whale artist, who spent a week completing it. Wyland was from California and was painting life-size whale murals on building walls in all 15 states lining the United States’ east coast. New London was the logical choice for the mural in Connecticut since it was known as a “Whaling City”. The mural features a Sperm Whale and the mural is 40 feet tall and 170 feet long. Upon completion, the Connecticut Governor dedicated the mural and it officially became a city landmark.
23 Eugene O’Neill Drive, New London, CT
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17.The Hempsted Houses
© The Hempsted Houses
There are two Hempsted Houses, both of which show off the area’s history and architecture. The 1678 Joshua Hempsted House is among the best-documented and oldest dwellings in New England. The 1759 National Hempsted House was built by stone by Acadian exiles. Both of these structures help show off the daily life of the centuries in which they were built. Visitors can admire the homes from the outside or go on an in-depth house tour, which includes viewing colonial artifacts. There is also a walking tour available that dives into the history of the neighborhood, including its rich African-American heritage.
59 South Prospect Street, Hartford, CT, Phone: 860-247-8996
18.The Custom House Maritime Museum
© The Custom House Maritime Museum
The Custom House is open all year round and right in downtown New London for convenient access. The museum tells visitors the stories of the waterfront in the city. It also offers boat trips and tours of lighthouses and hosts special events, such as an annual chowda’fest. In the museum itself, you will find artifacts related to the local lighthouses plus US Customs and the Amistad. There are also rotating exhibits as well. You can schedule a tour or an architectural tour of the museum or just wander on your own. There is also a museum shop for souvenirs like gifts and books.
150 Bank Street, New London, CT, Phone: 860-447-2501
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19.Old Town Mill
Old Town Mill, also known as Winthrop Mill, is a grist mill that sits by Briggs Brook. The mill dates back to 1650 and it amazingly still has some elements of the original structure. This site is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been since 1982. The city currently owns Old Town Mill and you can visit the grounds any day that you want. If you want to see the actual mill, you will need to make a special appointment to do so. The mill is one and a half stories and 36 feet by 30, facing southward and with a 24x30-foot courtyard with cobblestones.
8 Mill Street, New London, CT
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20.Monte Cristo Cottage
Monte Cristo Cottage is one of the area’s National Historic Landmarks. You may also hear it called the Eugene O’Neill Summer House as it was the summer home of Eugene O’Neill and his father, the American actor James O’Neill. The cottage was built during the 1840s and was later expanded. Today, the building is a two-story home that sits three bays wide. There is a picturesque porch wrapping around the north side in the front. There is also a tower featuring a pyramidal roof. This is likely the location where O’Neill wrote the first two of his plays, since it is set there.
Monte Cristo Cottage, 325 Pequot Avenue, New London, CT
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21.Hygienic Art Gallery
© Hygienic Art Gallery
Hygienic Art is a key part of the New England entertainment, economic, tourism, and arts. In just the last year alone, the attraction has hosted over 100 cultural and musical events, 70 exhibits, collaborations where it worked with the City of New London, and the Artist Academy Jr. program. The gallery is a non-profit with the mission or inspiring, instilling a sense of community, and enriching, with a free and public art forum. When you visit, you will find residential artist studios, two public galleries, and the Hygienic Ark. The latter of these is an outdoor garden oasis where you will find the Frank Palmer Loomis Amphitheater.
79 Bank Street, New London, CT, Phone: 860-443-8001
22.Ye Antientist Burial Ground
Ye Antientist Burial Ground is among the oldest graveyards within New England as well as the oldest colonial cemetery within New London County. The lot sits on a hillside and holds 1.5 acres of line, adjoining the first meeting house in the settlement. Visitors of the cemetery get broad views of Groton and the Thames River. The burial ground was legally set apart in 1653, with the first decedent interred in 1652. Some of the notable people who were buried in this cemetery include Thomas Short, Gurdon Saltonstall, Sarah Kemble Knight, and Lucretia Harris Shaw. The property also has a beautiful weeping European beech tree.
New London, CT
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23.Shaw Mansion - New London County Historical Society
© Shaw Mansion – New London County Historical Society
Captain Nathaniel Shaw started building Shaw Mansion in 1756. Twenty years later, Captain Shaw hosted General George Washington here. Soon after, Nathaniel Shaw, Jr became Naval Agent for Connecticut with the house turning into the naval headquarters for the state. The Shaw family owned the home for five generations. Lucretia Shaw Woodbridge, the builder’s great-granddaughter, inherited it in 1795 and it became Perkins house due to her marriage. Jane Perkins sold it to the New London County Historical Society in 1907. There are tours on Thursday afternoons or by appointment and you can also conduct research by with the New London County Historical Society by appointment.
11 Blinman Street, New London, CT, Phone: 860-443-1209
24.Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument
The 1896 Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument features a 50-foot obelisk and sits in downtown New London where it honors the Civil War veterans of the city. The dedication on the monument indicates it was presented by the sons of Joseph Lawrence, a successful whaler in New London, on May 6, 1896. The obelisk also has a bronze plaque with seals of both New London and Connecticut. The monument sits at the site of the first fort of the soldiers and sailors of New London, which lasted from 1691 to 1777. On one face of the monument, you will find a statue of a Union soldier with a rifle.
46 State St., New London, CT
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25.Richard Douglass House
© Richard Douglass House
The Richard Douglass House was built at some point from 1750 to 1820. At its construction, New London was a maritime town and Richard Douglass as well as his family were figures during the Revolutionary War period. The home is now on the Register of Historic Places for the state as well as the National Register of Historic Places. The Douglass House has undergone renovation, but it still looks very similar as it did during its initial construction around 1801. For a brief period, the home was abandoned following failed modernization, but the restoration overcame this and uncovered a .50 caliber musket ball.
77 Green St., New London, CT
25 Best Things to Do in New London, Connecticut
- Fort Trumbull State Park, Photo: demerzel21/stock.adobe.com
- Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises, Photo: Ernest/stock.adobe.com
- Mystic Whaler Cruises, Photo: Mystic Whaler Cruises
- Wheeling City Tours, Photo: yra1111/stock.adobe.com
- Ocean Beach Park, Photo: Sved Oliver/stock.adobe.com
- Garde Arts Center, Photo: Garde Arts Center
- United States Coast Guard Museum, Photo: Ernest/stock.adobe.com
- Connecticut College Arboretum, Photo: Antonella Fulli/stock.adobe.com
- Connecticut College, Photo: Connecticut College
- Thames River Heritage Park & Water Taxi, Photo: Thames River Heritage Park & Water Taxi
- Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Photo: Lyman Allyn Art Museum
- Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, Photo: Nathan Hale Schoolhouse
- New London Harbor Light, Photo: Laura Stone/stock.adobe.com
- New London Ledge Light, Photo: Laura Stone/stock.adobe.com
- Pequot Chapel, Photo: Pequot Chapel
- Whaling Wall, Photo: tuomaslehtinen/stock.adobe.com
- The Hempsted Houses, Photo: The Hempsted Houses
- The Custom House Maritime Museum, Photo: The Custom House Maritime Museum
- Old Town Mill, Photo: eugenesergeev/stock.adobe.com
- Monte Cristo Cottage, Photo: pingpao/stock.adobe.com
- Hygienic Art Gallery, Photo: Hygienic Art Gallery
- Ye Antientist Burial Ground, Photo: rootstocks/stock.adobe.com
- Shaw Mansion - New London County Historical Society, Photo: Shaw Mansion – New London County Historical Society
- Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, Photo: Tim/stock.adobe.com
- Richard Douglass House, Photo: Richard Douglass House
- Cover Photo: demerzel21/stock.adobe.com