New London and adjacent Groton were one city until 1705. They're nearly midway between New York City and Boston, along the Thames River (pronounced as it looks, not like the river in England) and Long Island Sound. Both cities have been known for shipbuilding: The world's first atomic-powered submarine was built in Groton by General Dynamics. You can learn about submarines at the USS Nautilus Memorial (where the first nuclear-powered sub is open for tours) and the adjacent Submarine Force Museum.
While in New London, take time to visit some of the impressive old homes and stroll along the beautiful coastline. Visit the Shaw-Perkins Mansion; the Joshua Hempstead House (1648); the Nathaniel Hempstead House (1759); Monte Cristo Cottage (the home in which playwright Eugene O'Neill spent summers as a child); and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Ocean Beach Park is a major recreation area, good for ocean swimming. The Yale-Harvard Regatta, a classic Ivy League rowing competition, takes place in June in New London.
In Groton, you can visit Fort Griswold State Park, which commemorates the Revolutionary War battle during which Benedict Arnold directed British forces to burn New London and Groton. Also in the park is the Ebenezer Avery House, a restored home from the 1700s. Learn about oceanography and marine biology by taking a cruise on EnviroLab, a working research vessel that lets passengers participate in studies of the sea. Subfest, a family-friendly festival, takes place in July.
Nearby Ledyard is home to Foxwoods, a resort-casino run by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians that is said to be one of the highest-grossing casinos in the world. This upscale resort offers the usual casino attractions (slots, roulette, poker, blackjack and baccarat) as well as shows by such top-name entertainers as Bill Cosby, B. B. King and Tom Jones. The income the tribe has received from the casino has financed the lavish Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. It includes a simulated glacier, a 2-acre/1-hectare indoor re-creation of a Pequot village in the 1500s (complete with the smell of burning wood), film and video programs and a restaurant serving Native American cuisine. Uncasville also has a casino, the Mohegan Sun.
Other possible side trips include Old Lyme and Essex. Old Lyme is a small town west of New London with beautiful beaches and lovely old homes. It has been a favorite summer retreat for artists since the early 1900s, when it was a center of the American impressionism movement. Essex looks the way most people think a quaint New England town should look. It has beautiful colonial homes and two blocks of shops, as well as a first-rate marina and a maritime museum. The Valley Railroad operates a vintage steam train along the scenic route to Deep River Station, and visitors can also take a riverboat cruise. The Ivoryton Playhouse (just east of Essex) stages theatrical performances. New London is 45 mi/75 km southeast of Hartford.
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