Knowing the best and most fun things to do in New London is a great way to begin your vacation. If you’re going to make the best of your vacation this summer, then these 27 things to do in New London will make your desires come to life.
New London, perched at the mouth of the beautiful River Thames, is a port city in Connecticut.
It is also the port of entry to the country’s northeast coast. Bursting with history, nature, and culture, this beautiful city attracts travelers worldwide.
As a port city, New London has fantastic beaches and wonderful seaside parks to enjoy perfect sunny days.
Home to various museums, art centers, arboretums, and chapels, the city has countless remarkable pieces of architecture that will win your heart.
The food scene in New London is also fantastic, and the freshest and tastiest seafood can be found in waterfront restaurants with stunning views of the city and the beautiful River Thames.
Whether you want to enjoy the natural beauty, bask in the vibrant culture, learn about the rich maritime history or admire the magnificent architecture, New London has it all and will not disappoint.
This city is a delight to visit and deserves a place on your bucket list.
The following make it to the gallery of “best things to do in New London, Connecticut.”
Fun Things to Do in New London
1. Take a Walk in Fort Trumbull State ParkFort
Trumbull State Park is a popular park located near the mouth of the Thames River. Fort Trumball was built in 1777, and the fortifications were built in 1852 as a line of defense on the east coast.
In 2000, the fort and park were opened to the public to visit and explore. You can view the cannons and artillery of the fortifications from the area.
The mansion also has a visitor center where tourists can learn more about the history of the fort and New London.
The park and its surroundings are very peaceful, with a view of the River Thames.
The best mode to enjoy it is to walk around and appreciate the history and beauty of the park.
2. Learn About the Coast Guard at the National Coast Guard Museum
Located on Mohegan Avenue, this museum is owned and operated by the National Coast Guard Museum Association.
It honors the history and heritage of the Coast Guard through exhibits and displays.
Displays and exhibits feature cannons, mannequins, models, paintings, medals, uniforms, lifesaving equipment, ceremonial swords, and other artifacts and memorabilia that showcase the history of the Coast Guard.
It also offers interactive exhibits and educational programs.
Visit the National Coast Guard Museum to learn about the importance and history of the Coast Guard through its fascinating and well-executed exhibits.
3. Enjoy the Beauty of Nature at the Connecticut College Arboretum
The Connecticut College Arboretum, established in 1932, is a 750-acre arboretum and botanical garden on the campus of Connecticut College.
The arboretum and botanical garden have several types of trees, plants, flowers, soil, and more.
It is accessible every day of the week from dawn to dusk for visitors to enjoy the unique plant life and peaceful surroundings.
You can also take a guided tour to learn more about the conservatory and the plants that bloom in it.
Visit the Connecticut College Arboretum and enjoy the beauty of nature and incredible views.
Things to Do in New London at Night
1. Enjoy Spectacular Views of New London with Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises.
Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises offers tours of the waters on comfortable, air-conditioned ferries.
The excursion ferry was named the best coastal cruise in 2016.
Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises provide incredible views of the eternal waters while educating tourists about the rich history of southern New England and Long Island.
You can enjoy a variety of sightseeing cruises, including the Lighthouse Cruise, during which you can enjoy the beautiful nature and see nine lighthouses and several forts along your way.
A Lights & Sights Cruise lets you see some incredible architecture and a few more lighthouses.
Knowledgeable and enthusiastic narrator Ted Webb will tell you about the lighthouses, forts, and buildings you’ll pass during your cruise.
He will also share ghost stories, historical events, and pirate stories.
You will also most likely spot beautiful nesting terns and sunbathing gray seals.
Cruise the waters with Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises to witness the spectacular views and learn about the history and culture of the area.
2. See a Film or Live Performance at Garde Arts Center
Garde Arts Center is a non-profit professional arts center that opened in 1985.
The building dates back to 1926, with a restored interior and lobby with an old vintage look.
It has a Middle Eastern focus and has Moroccan interiors and murals.
You can watch movies and live shows in this historic theater.
3. Book an Overnight Stay at the Red Roof Inn Mystic
Red Roof Inn Mystic provides convenient amenities to make your stay worthwhile.
The hotel rooms are cozy and clean, and the staff is helpful and friendly.
It’s also pet-friendly, so you can bring your dogs along on your New London adventure.
Red Roof Inn Mystic is one of New London, CT’s best non-smoking budget hotels, right off I-95. We are also close to Connecticut College, Harkness Memorial State Park, and Mohegan Sun Casino.
They offer guests free Wi-Fi, an extended cable package with HBO, free coffee in the lobby, and coin-operated guest laundry. Red Roof Inn Mystic – New London is a pet-friendly hotel.
Note: They also require a valid credit card and a $100 cash deposit upon check-in.
Things to Do in New London for Couples
1. Step Back in Time at Hempsted Houses
Hempstead Houses are located on Hempstead Street. Both houses are stunning, and their architecture is also beautiful.
The homes represent the area’s history and are among the best-documented dwellings in New England. There is a museum in one of the houses with various artifacts and exhibits.
You can take a guided tour of Hempsted Houses to learn more about their history and significance as it is open for tours from May to October on the 2nd to 4th weekend of each month by prior reservation.
If you’ve got a school group and special curriculum-based programming, you can reserve tours for groups of 10 or more, and rent facilities. Simply call Hempsted Houses at 860.443.7949 or email.
Visit the Joshua and Nathaniel Hempsted Houses for a glimpse into urban colonial-era life in New London.
Meet Journalist Joshua Hempstead and his family and Adam Jackson, who Joshua Hempstead enslaved on the property.
2. Enjoy a fun-filled day at Ocean Beach Park.
Ocean Beach Park is the city’s most popular attraction, with boardwalk attractions and the best beaches.
The beautiful park features water slides, a miniature golf course, a children’s spray park, attractions, a cafe and restaurant, a picnic area, an Olympic-sized freshwater pool, and much more.
It is spread over 18 acres and offers stunning views of the beach and freshwater pool. You can enjoy many activities in the park while basking in the sun and enjoying the water.
After enjoying the golf, rides, slides, and other amenities, you can have delicious meals in the cafe and restaurant.
Ocean Beach Park is very well maintained and a pleasure to visit.
3. See the Historic Sites at the Thames River Heritage Park
Thames River Heritage Park, located along the River Thames, is home to nearly 20 historical and contemporary sites linked by a seasonal water taxi.
It was the first conservation park in Connecticut without any boundaries. You can tour the area by water taxi and see and experience everything for yourself.
Learn all about the park’s historic sites and the significance of each one. Nathan Hale School, Shaw Mansion, Fort Trumbull, Historic Waterfront District, Custom House Maritime Museum, and Hempsted Houses are great places to see in the park.
The water taxi is seasonal, so be sure to visit in the summer to see all the excellent historical sites and impressive sparkling water views.
Things to Do in New London For Kids
1. Custom House Maritime Museum
The Custom House is open year-round and is located right in the center of New London for quick access.
The museum recounts to visitors the stories of the city’s waterfront. It also offers boat trips and lighthouse tours and hosts special events such as the annual chowda’fest.
In the museum, you will find artifacts related to the local lighthouses, US Customs, and the Amistad. There are also rotating exhibits.
You can schedule a tour or architectural tour of the museum or wander around. There is also a museum shop with souvenirs such as gifts and books.
2. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, New London, CT
The 1896 Soldiers and Sailors Memorial features a 50-foot obelisk in downtown New London, honoring the city’s Civil War veterans.
The dedication on the monument indicates that it was donated by the sons of Joseph Lawrence, a successful New London whaler, on May 6, 1896.
The obelisk comes with a bronze plaque with New London and Connecticut seals. The monument stands on the site of the first soldiers’ and sailors’ fort in New London, which lasted from 1691 to 1777. On one side of the monument, you will find a statue of a Union soldier with a rifle.
3. Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, New London, Connecticut
The Nathan Hale Schoolhouse in New London, CT, is Nathan Hale, a national hero, who taught from 1774 to 1775, just a few years after graduating from Yale at 18.
Hale then enlisted in the American Revolution and quickly became a captain. He was known as the only soldier who volunteered to spy on the British who controlled Long Island and was hanged for his efforts.
The Nathan Hale School was built in 1773 and was called the Union School. Today you can visit the school and take a tour.
There are good people who help keep it in good shape and share information with visitors.
Indoor Activities to Do in New London
1. Garde Arts Center, New London, Connecticut
Garde Arts Center has been in New London since 1985 and is a non-profit professional performing arts center.
The building itself, the Garde, dates back to 1926, making it a historic movie palace, and you can admire a restored Moroccan interior with extended entrance halls.
The venue added a state-of-the-art digital cinema plus surround sound system a few years ago, making it a great venue for both live performances and cinema.
Attend events like the World Live Cinema Series, children’s shows, music shows, theater shows, musicals, and more.
You can also hire Garde for special events or attend a special event there.
2. Enjoy a few quiet moments at the Pequot Chapel
This non-sectarian chapel was built in the Victorian era. The Pequot Chapel first appeared in the region about 150 years ago and offers peace and beauty in a sacred space.
The chapel is open for Sunday services and hosts special occasions. The facade of the chapel can be viewed at any time and a trip inside can also be arranged.
The chapel can be booked for religious occasions such as weddings and christenings from May to October, it serves as the perfect backdrop for weddings.
2. Dive into mouth-watering seafood at Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock
This restaurant has been voted the best seafood shack in town. Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock serves delicious seafood and is very popular with locals for serving the freshest seafood that is always perfectly prepared.
Don’t forget to try the buttered lobster roll and fried fish. The food here won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Also, try the delicious food at the Muddy Waters Cafe.
Muddy Waters Cafe is a coffee shop located in the center of town. It serves fresh and delicious baked goods along with hearty sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, coffee, and much more.
Don’t forget to try their famous love salad and various delectable sandwiches.
Romantic Things to Do in New London
1. Take a Tour of the Richard Douglass House.
The famous Richard Douglass House was built 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 at the time of its construction, and Richard Douglass and his family were prominent figures during the Revolutionary War.
The Douglass House has been renovated, but it still looks much like it did when it was first built.
The house was briefly abandoned after a failed attempt to modernize it, but renovations managed to overcome that, revealing a .50 caliber musket ball.
2. Pay Tribute to Civil War Heroes at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.
Built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s Civil War veterans, the 50-foot Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Obelisk Monument is located in downtown 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 bearing the seals of New London and Connecticut is also attached to the obelisk.
The first fort built by soldiers and sailors from New London is now the site of a monument. On one side of the monument is a statue of a Union soldier with a rifle.
3. Order Delicious items from the On The Waterfront menu
Looking for a great dining environment? Stash Schiavone and Chef Anthony Schiavone run On The Waterfront, a family business that offers fine dining and breathtaking views of the River Thames.
With a blend of timeless elegance and gorgeous scenery, they are committed to providing customers with the best that New London offers.
The Waterfront has a large dining room overlooking the lake, a full bar, and an outdoor patio in the warmer months.
They offer a wide selection of seafood, pasta, steak, and chicken dishes for lunch and dinner.
Cheap Things to Do in New London
1. Join a Guided tour of the Monte Cristo Lodge
Located on Pequot Avenue, Monte Cristo Cottage is the former summer home of American playwright and Nobel Prize winner Eugene O’Neill.
It is one special historical monument of the city, and the legendary playwright wrote his first two plays here.
You can take private tours of the cottage to learn more about the 19th-century cottage and the life of Eugene O’Neil.
2. Support Local Artists at Hygienic Art
Hygienic Art is New London’s most celebrated year-round art gallery. The gallery hosts several cultural and musical events that inspire and showcase the talent and artists of the local community.
Visit Hygienic Art and support the works of great local artists.
3. Fort Trumbull State Park, New London, CT
Connecticut’s Fort Trumbull State Park is a great place to walk while learning about history.
You can catch an amazing view of the River Thames in the area from the walls or fort or head to the visitor center to learn about the history of the area, complete with interactive exhibits.
Guests can stroll along the boardwalk or fish from 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 over 500 feet of fishing access on Long Island Sound.
Free Things to Do in New London
1. Learn About Local Maritime History at the Custom House Maritime Museum
The Custom House Maritime Museum, located on Bank Street in downtown New London, 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 representing local maritime history.
There is a gift shop on site where you can purchase gifts and books to commemorate your visit to this historic home and town.
2. Take a Tour of the New London Ledge Lighthouse.
New London Ledge Lighthouse is another lighthouse located at the mouth of New London Harbor. It is one of the National Register of Historic Places and is managed by the New London Maritime Society.
The lighthouse is still active, and you can see it, but only in the summer.
3. Head to the Historic Old Town Mill
The Old Town Mill is located on Mill Street and 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 mill site any day of the week. However, you must make an appointment to tour the actual mill.
You can also take your journey to the United States coast guard Museum. The United States Coast Guard Museum is operated by the National Association of Coast Guard Museums and honors the legacy of the Coast Guard while giving the public a glimpse into Coast Guard life.
The museum offers STEM-based educational programs, leadership training, interactive exhibits, programs, and private and public partnerships.
The museum has three different themes focusing on safety, security, and stewardship. These are divided into five storylines: Defenders of the Environment, Champions of Trade, Lifesavers Around the Globe, Defenders of the Nation, and Enforcers of the Seas.
The museum is divided into exhibits, visualizations, and a STEM Discovery Center with something for all ages.
Cool Places to Visit in New London
1. Ye Antientist Burial Ground, New London, Connecticut
Ye Antientist Burial spot is among the oldest cemeteries in New England, as well as the oldest colonial cemetery in New London County.
The site is on a slope and occupies a 1.5-acre line, and is adjacent to the first meeting place in the settlement.
Visitors to the cemetery enjoy sweeping views of Groton and the River Thames. The burial ground was legally set aside in 1653, with the first deceased being buried in 1652.
Some of the notable people six feet beneath this cemetery include Thomas Short, Gurdon Saltonstall, Sarah Knight, and Lucretia Harris Shaw.
There is also a beautiful European weeping beech on the property.
2. New London County Historical Society.
Captain Nathaniel Shaw began building the Shaw Mansion in 1756. In 1776, Captain Shaw hosted General George Washington here. Soon after, Nathaniel Shaw, Jr. became the naval agent for Connecticut, and the house became the state’s naval headquarters.
The Shaw family owned the house for five generations. Lucretia Shaw Woodbridge, the builder’s great-granddaughter, became its new owner in 1795, and through her marriage, it became the Perkins House.
In 1907 Jane Perkins sold it to the New London County Historical Society.
Tours are available on Thursday afternoons or by appointment, and you can also do research with the New London County Historical Society by appointment.
3. Connecticut College
This institution is a private college that is a liberal arts school with about 1,815 students.
The college began in 1911 as Connecticut College for Women, which later became Connecticut College and began admitting men in 1969.
There are over 35 majors to choose from, as well as the option of custom majoring. The campus has three living areas and two main libraries, including one that was recently renovated.
There are also several performance areas within the campus, as well as the Connecticut college arboretum, which is open to the public to connect with nature.
4. Thames River Heritage Park and Water Taxi
Thames River Heritage Park was Connecticut’s first heritage park. As a heritage park, it combines contemporary and historical monuments, including institutions and communities on both sides of the river.
The Thames River Heritage Water Taxi takes you across the water and lets you learn about the history of the area and see historical sites, such as where Benedict Arnold stormed Fort Griswold in 1781.
There are some great spots in and around the historic park, including the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, Historic Waterfront District, Shaw Mansion, Hempsted Houses, Fort Trumbull, and the Custom House Maritime Museum.
Remember that the water taxi is seasonal and does not run in winter.
If you aren’t screaming already from the realization that Connecticut has more fun than you can handle, then you’ve probably not read everything in this article.
We advise that you don’t spend too much time deciding where to begin your vacation, as Connecticut is just perfect for you.