New London in Connecticut is one of the oldest seaport city on Thames River. A city filled with art, music, eateries, history and many more! When I moved to Connecticut, I lived in Groton so I hopped over to New London several times to enjoy the many things it had to offer.
There are festivals and events occurring throughout the year. My favorite is Sailfest which happens in July - they host the best fireworks show too! It’s a huge festival that takes up the whole waterfront with many vendors, rides, food, concerts, etc. Many people come from all over to attend. Another event that is a favorite of mine is the food stroll. The food stroll used to happen twice a year in spring and fall. I’m not sure if it will continue to be a bi-annual event as 2019 only had a spring food stroll. Several restaurants will offer up sample food (drinks too) for the event. This is a good event to find new restaurants!
During the 19th century, New London was one of the three busiest whaling port. I recommend that you visit the Custom House Maritime Museum to learn about the city’s history. The Custom House is my favorite museum located in the heart of New London on the main street (Bank Street). The building itself is amazing, a historical gem! It was built in 1833 made with granite. It used to be the Customs Office which is why it’s called the Custom House. There are several museums all over New London. The Lyman Allyn Art Museum is a good art museum to visit. It is not in Downtown New London so it’s a bit of a drive, but they have interesting art exhibits in a beautiful building.
New London is well known for the art community. Driving or walking through the city, you can see many murals. It’s fun to explore the city for them! There are many art galleries too. Hygienic Arts and The Gallery at Firehouse Square both located on Bank Street are my favorites. They display a lot artwork with local scenery such as the Ledge Light lighthouse, Thames River, waterfront, etc. The Garde Arts Center is one of the most fascinating venue to visit. It used to be a movie theater during 1920’s - it is currently used as multi space for performing shows, musicals, education, events and many more. I attended for several musicals and a book signing event. Garde Arts also offers movie viewings too! The arts community is very impressive and the residents do take pride in reserving the art culture in New London.
Preserving history is important in the City of New London. There are many buildings filled of history. Every time I find myself outside of The Garde Arts Center, I’m blown away by the oldest courthouse across the street at 70 Huntington Street. It is the oldest courthouse in Connecticut State, built in 1784. The wood framed structure with wooden clapboards, gambrel roof and cupola is a beautiful sight. The Starr Street Historical District is another worthy sight to see! A block of homes that were built during the 1800’s. Each home have unique details, it’s fun to walk up and down the street. I bumped into a few residents, they were so friendly! If you type in Starr Street Historical District on Google, there are several websites with facts about each home and map of the walking route. The famous playwright, Eugene O’Neill was raised in New London - you can see his childhood home (Monte Cristo Cottage) today. There are plenty of sights around the city to take in and learn about the fun tidbits!
The waterfront is beautiful! There is a pier with a boardwalk that people can walk on to enjoy the views of Thames River. Fort Trumbull is located in New London on the waterfront, built in 1839 originally to protect New London Harbor from British attacks. Today, Fort Trumbull is a state park that people can enjoy. The pier in front of Fort Trumbull has a lot of fishing activity. There are benches and walking trail around the grounds with water views. The fort is open to the public for a fee during certain times (9am-5pm on Wednesdays-Sundays starting Memorial Day weekend until Labor day weekend). The fort is a group of 42 forts. The climb to the top of the fort is worth it to see the panoramic view of Thames River. In 1915, the fort was the first United States Coast Guard Academy, the cadets would do their training at Fort Trumbull. Today, there is an U.S. Coast Guard station next to the Fort Trumbull. Once in while they will have visiting ships that are open to the public for tours. This is also, often the port for the majestic sailing ship, the Coast Guard Eagle.
Another fun activity to do on the water are the lighthouse cruises offered by Cross Sound Ferry. The lighthouse cruise leaves from New London. The 2 hours long cruise will take you around to see 8 lighthouses, Fort Trumbull from the water and more beautiful sights. I did the cruise one summer and it was very fun! It was relaxing too, the ferry was spacious. If you don’t want to be outside in the open air, you can enjoy it from the A/C controlled cabin. New London has two lighthouses - the Ledge Light that is located in the Thames River and the Harbor Light located next to Ocean Beach Park. The Ledge Light has plenty of haunted stories!
Ocean Beach Park is a nice Connecticut beach to go visit. It has a half mile long boardwalk! There is a daily fee to get into the beach but there are plenty activities such as mini golf course, a swimming pool, gym, arcade and a snack stand. Ocean Beach Park hosts events during summers such as the classic car cruise and movies on the beach. The movies on the beach is deaf friendly! I struggled with another beach to provide captioning for me so I turned to Ocean Beach Park. It wasn’t difficult at all, they were very willing to accommodate me. It was a great feeling to participate in that event without feeling out of place! I will be forever grateful for that experience.
New London is full with many different eateries, in a variety of styles. It’s almost impossible to pick one sometimes! That’s why I love the food stroll when you can sample the variety of food New London has to offer. My long time New London favorite has been the Hot Rod Cafe. Coming from Upstate NY, not too far from Buffalo (birthplace of chicken wings), I found that Hot Rod Cafe has the best wings in CT! It is a fun eclectic wings and beer atmosphere with enclosed patio and rooftop bar to enjoy the Thames River views. Muddy Waters Cafe is a good breakfast/lunch spot to go to! I’m obsessed with their grilled blueberry muffin and s’mores latte. The Muddy Waters decor is so fun with many movie posters, nautical pictures, making it the best Instagramable spot! If you’re in the mood for pizza, be sure to stop by 2Wives Brick Oven. Their Thanksgiving pizza around November is a favorite! You can count on New London to have a hot dog eatery or as they described themselves, “A fine New England Weinery” - Kamp Dog is known for the dogs! Their ‘Kamp Dog’ is a popular choice - footlong grilled hot dog with homemade dynamite sauce with toppings (onions, cheese, etc). You will definitely come in here hungry and leave feeling full! A new favorite that I discovered this summer, Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock has the most amazing seafood! It is a hidden gem - located in a marina with outdoor dining area. The lines can be long but it’s worth it for the delicious lobster roll, clam chowder or anything really! Their clam fritters are SO good.
The sweets are a weakness of mine, cupcakes to name one. The Cake Lady LLC is my favorite cupcake in New London COUNTY! Their cupcakes from chocolate oreo, boston cream, banana cream, strawberry supreme, coconut to chocolate fudge are just amazing. They have so many more flavors, I can’t list them all here. I sampled their mini cupcakes years ago at one of the very first food stroll I attended. I’ve loved them ever since! Another worthy mention is NoRA Cupcakes. They are new to New London, recently opened a shop on Bank Street offering themed gourmet cupcakes. I got a fun Harry Potter themed cupcake on Harry Potter’s birthday - a butterbeer cupcake decorated with Gryffindor colors and lighting bolt! NoRA used to come to my town’s farmer market with their cupcake truck so I was excited for them when they opened a storefront in New London.
Whenever my parents come to visit me in Connecticut from Upstate NY, I am dragged to Mike’s Famous Harley Davidson store in New London (and even their old store in Groton before they expanded!). My dad loves motorcycles! The store is fun to visit through, as it is in the 1938 Coca-Cola factory that has been transformed into a Harley Davidson storefront. I love how they mixed in a lot of Coca-Cola memorabilia around the store. This is the perfect store for motorcycle enthusiasts - they have one of the largest selection in New England region. Groton/New London area is also a huge military based area with the United States Coast Guard Academy, New London Sub Base, Electric Boat, etc. so Mike’s Famous HD store is a huge supporter of the military. The fundraising event, Toys for Tots is headquartered at the store. There’s a car - a 1956 Ford Thunderbird on display at Mike’s. The Thunderbird is an artistic tribute for the military so it is covered in patriotic artwork. Definitely worth the stop to check it out! Mike’s Famous HD store is always fun even for someone like me who isn’t typically into motorcycles! If you’re lucky, you can witness the bell-ringing when someone is a new proud owner of a bike! The staff are super friendly and always welcoming everyone to the store to have a good experience.
New London is filled with so many activities to do - I couldn’t cover everything that the city has to offer. It’s definitely recommended to do research online so your trip there can be tailored to your interests! Be sure to follow New London Main Street on Facebook as they regularly post the events that occurs through out the year. I’ve been in Southeastern CT for 8 years but I’m always still learning new places or things to do in New London - it’s the city that continues to always have something for everyone!
This blog is not sponsored. All opinions in this blog are my own.