Start the morning with coffee and baked goods at cozy on Bank Street. You can eat there, at one of the comfortable tables or couches or on the back deck. Or take your breakfast to a pleasantly un-crowded outdoor spot nearby.
, which stretches along the Thames River, is not the typical bland “escape” that its name suggests. Instead, it’s a functional part of the city, a concrete promenade and group of piers constructed to give the public access to the river. It’s a relaxing place to stroll or sit on a bench, watch ducks and swans glide between the docks, and get ready to go shopping.
New London’s walkable downtown, despite a lingering nightlife-only reputation, offers a shop for almost everyone. sells charming gifts made by local artisans, including a unique line of New London-themed items. The narrow is crammed with scarves, bags, and baubles. At , tasteful art, jewelry, and postcards reference the area and the sea. , three rambling stories full of eclectic finds, is reminiscent of the city itself: behind a grand yet worn façade is a wealth of unexpected enjoyment. Most stores are located on Bank and State Streets, but side streets like Golden and Green are worth exploring as well.
As you shop, don’t miss the sidewalk plaques that detail the often fascinating history of the buildings you’re passing. Another minute’s walk will take you to Whale Oil Row, where four matching white Greek Revival buildings recall the glory days of New London’s whaling industry, or Starr Street, a perfectly preserved block of pastel homes. You’ll also see four new murals, the result of a grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, in addition to the well-known whale mural and other, smaller splashes of public art.
Bank and State intersect at the in front of . Here you can people-watch from the amphitheater-like steps or take in the Whale Tail fountain, the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, and an understated little chronology of the city’s past illustrated by boats, from canoe to submarine.
A few minutes from downtown is the former Pequot Colony, one of New London’s many Historic Districts. This roughly 40-acre area between the Thames and Montauk Avenue is now an attractive neighborhood of neat lawns, and architecturally diverse houses. But once it was a summer resort for the elite (including two presidents) which thrived from the 1850s to the 1920s. The Pequot House hotel is gone, but the intricately detailed “cottages,” and other buildings like the Gothic Revival , remain.
Visitors who stick close to the trains and ferries will miss several restaurants in this area. There’s the for breakfast and lunch in a cheery little yellow building, or if you prefer a no-frills seafood shack with outdoor seating right on the water. And , run by nearby , offers ice cream and other frozen treats in a simple, old-fashioned setting.
Another short drive will bring you to the Arboretum, a sprawling secret garden of native plants and trees. Trails circle past a clear blue pond, a bog, and open green space punctuated by boulders. Apart from a few man-made touches, the impression is one of isolated natural beauty.
If you’re not tired yet, here are two other small but meaningful New London sites. Finding the , a restored 1650 grist mill improbably situated under a towering highway bridge, is like traveling back in time. And , in residential Post Hill, provides a poignant glimpse into numerous facets of New London history as well as a memorable hilltop view.
If you go:
42 Bank Street
You can enter the park behind Union Station (27 Water Street) or via the Bank Street Connector
52 State Street
64-66 Bank Street
140 Bank Street
New London Antiques Center
123 Bank Street
Pequot Colony Historic District
Boundaries are the Thames River (Pequot Avenue), Montauk Avenue, Glenwood Avenue, and Gardner Avenue
Broken Yolk Café
825 Montauk Avenue
272 Pequot Avenue
629 Montauk Avenue
Connecticut College Arboretum
Open Sunrise – Sunset
For more information about the Arboretum, including guided tours, click here.
Old Town Mill
8 Mill Street
Ye Antientest Burial Ground
Granite Street and Hempstead Street