Photo of the exterior of the pequot museum's sunroom and ballroom area with the tower in the background.

Things to Do in Southeastern CT [A Local Guide]

Southeastern CT is best known for its coastal villages and world-renowned seafood. Are you searching for more of what Connecticut has to offer? You’ve come to the right place! Let’s discover all the best things to do in Southeastern Connecticut and why it is such a great place to live!

Living in Southeastern CT

Population: 280,403

Median Household Income: $80,330

Median Home Value: $275,900

Life in Southeastern CT has a community-focused culture, abundant nature, and seaside charm many newcomers look for. This region of Connecticut is best known as a tourist destination. Each year, this corner of the state attracts hundreds of thousands of guests. New London and Middlesex County have a myriad of notable villages and cities in the area: Niantic – East Lyme, New London, Groton, Mystic – Groton & Stonington. The easternmost village, Mystic, was recently featured on USA Today’s “Best Summer Travel Destinations (2023),” making this region an increasingly attractive residential opportunity. There is a misconception that the slow pace of life in Connecticut might be dull, especially for those accustomed to big-city life. However, there is an abundance of free and unique things to do. The events, tourism, and nightlife are not the only appeals to newcomers and tourists. Connecticut is known for its superb public education, low crime rates, and proximity to two of the largest metropolitan hubs in the country, Boston and New York City.

World Acclaimed Museums

Southeastern CT has some of the most unique museums in the country that are fun and interactive for people of all ages.

  • Mashantucket Pequot Museum, Ledyard, CT: This museum is more of an experience than a traditional museum. This 308,000 sq ft facility showcases the history of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, the owners of Foxwoods Casino. The Pequot Museum is the biggest Indigenous history museum in the world, making it a unique experience for locals and tourists alike. It includes an immersive life-size diorama of pre-Columbian life in Connecticut. Modern-day, the Mashantucket Pequot Nation holds many cultural influences over the region. Numerous local village and location names come from the Pequot language, including the village of Mystic. Learn more about Connecticut’s Indigenous history and culture today!
  • The Submarine Force Museum, Groton, CT: This free experience on the Thames River houses the U.S.S. Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine. The Submarine Force Museum is the only museum run by the U.S. Navy. Its military connections endow the attraction with unique primary documents and artifacts.
  • The Connecticut River Museum, Essex, CT: Located by Essex Yacht Club and Thomas A. Stevens Research Library, this museum showcases the unique history and stories of those who resided along the river. They have many artifacts to illustrate the importance of the river and our relationship with natural bodies of water.

Destinations for Those Who Enjoy the Outdoors

Connecticut has an abundance of coastal scenery, rolling hills, and greenery for its residents to enjoy! Here are some ways to get in touch with Southeastern, CT’s nature.

  • Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford, CT: Once owned by a Standard Oil investor, this 230-acre State Park is open to the public. This park has botanical gardens and great views of Long Island Sound. At the park’s center is Eolia Mansion. This 1906 classical revival landmark is also a popular wedding venue.
  • Rocky Neck State Park, Niantic – East Lyme, CT: This park has beaches, marshland trails for hikers, and train viewing areas. The 710-acre State Park exemplifies Niantic, CT’s diverse landscapes and emphasis on community. Better yet, the park is free for state residents!
  • Fort Trumbull State Park and Museum, New London, CT: Visit this State Park for great views of the Thames River. This popular fishing spot is home to an 1800s military research facility, which is also the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Pequot Trails, Mashantucket Pequot Nation Ledyard, CT: Take a break from the buzzing casino nightlife at Foxwoods Casino and enjoy various hiking trails on the land of the Pequot Nation. Some favorite hikes of locals are the Lantern Hill trail and the Museum Train. Take in Southeastern CT’s rugged nature.


Connecticut Locals Love Shopping with Small Businesses

In Southeastern CT, small businesses are well-loved and supported by the local community. Connecticut residents take pride in local business and small-town commonality. Check out our list of popular small businesses and shop like a local.

  • Book Barn, Niantic – East Lyme, CT: This bookstore is in Niantic on W Main St near Pattagansett River Marsh Wildlife Area. The famous bookstore opened its barn doors in 1988. Book Barn specializes in used books, making their selection extensive. Any bibliophile or casual browser is bound to find something they love.
  • Mystic Army Navy Store. Mystic – Groton, CT: Owned and operated by Michelle Gemma and her family since 1993, it is the only military surplus retailer in Southeastern CT. This unique destination offers top-quality customer service and any military surplus item imaginable, from French commando boots to WWII chow kits!

    Two girls shopping for records at Mystic Disc

    Photo By Juan Fernandez

  • Fiddleheads Food Co-op, New London, CT: Discover the ultimate local experience of buying groceries at this New London, CT grocery co-op owned by over 4,000 various households. Fiddleheads specializes in local and organic produce. It also has many health food products that are hard to find and big box grocery stores. Shop locally and support locally through collective ownership alongside your neighbors!
  • Olde Mistick Village, Mystic – Stonington, CT: This 700s colonial town is a shopping center. This unique shopping mall consists of over 25 locally-owned businesses and restaurants. From the Toy Soldier toy store to Mystic Luxury Cinemas, everyone is likely to find something that piques their interest.
  • Past to Present Antiques: Niantic-East Lyme, CT: Looking to decorate your home? Past to Present is the perfect solution! Stop by and browse their extensive antique furniture and décor selection in the heart of Downtown Niantic.
  • Mystic Disc, Mystic – Groton, CT: Music lovers, this is the perfect place to meet your musical needs. The owner, Dan Curland, has served the local community since 1983. Located down a brick alleyway in Historic Downtown Mystic, this little record store has been making its own history. Specializing in used vinyl records, Mystic Disc is every music collector’s dream to find a place as unique as the Mystic Disc.

Southeastern CT is Home to the Best Food in Connecticut

Southeastern CT has some of the best eateries in the country. The region is most famous for its seafood, but that doesn’t stop Connecticut from having diverse options for dining out.

  • Skipper’s Seafood, Niantic-East Lyme, CT: This family-owned seafood restaurant on the water is the perfect place to grab a bite on those hot summer days. If you ever eat at Skipper’s, be sure to try their famous lobster rolls and homemade onion rings.
  • Himalaya Café, Old Saybrook, CT: This eatery serves the finest Indian food in the area. Dishes are cooked in a tandoor, making this location especially authentic and delicious!
  • NV Bakery & Market, Waterford, CT: Opened in 2000, this bakery and restaurant serves Greek dishes and American foods. If you’re craving take-out or a casual dining experience, NV Bakery & Market is the perfect place to grab a bite.
  • Captain Daniel Packer Inne, Mystic – Groton, CT: Known as the “The Packer” or “DPI” by locals, built in 1756, used to house seafarers after long journeys. The inn reopened its restaurant in the 1980s. This historic eatery is perfect for anyone looking to experience Connecticut’s nautical past.
  • Kin D Thai and Sushi, New London, CT: This Asian fusion restaurant is perfect for bringing family or for a night on the town with friends! There are many options here for those with dietary restrictions.
  • Ortega’s Mexican Restaurant, Groton, CT: Grab a bite to eat at Ortega’s! This local family-owned restaurant serves authentic Mexican food.

Connecticut or Las Vegas?

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun Casinos are more than just blackjack and slot machines. Whether you like fine dining, shopping, or live music, the casinos, Southeastern CT has it all!

  • The Tanger Outlets – Foxwoods Casino: Explore this multilevel shopping mall to take a break from the bustling casino atmosphere. This shopping mall includes brands such as Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Spade, and many more!

  • Mohegan Sun Arena: This 10,000-seat live music venue has hosted big names like Taylor Swift. Swift has a star on the Mohegan Sun Walk of Fame alongside Chris Rock, Jimmy Buffett, and many more. The resort casino has over 150 events each year across their venues across the resort property and is perfect for families with diverse tastes in entertainment. You will be sure to find an even fit for everyone!
  • Monza Karting – Foxwoods Casino: These high-powered karts will make anyone feel like a professional driver. Suit up and put that pedal to the metal at this indoor multilevel go-kart track. It is the perfect opportunity to wow friends and family with your impressive driving skills.
  • FanDuel Sportsbook – Mohegan Sun: This legal sports betting salon is the ultimate destination for any sports fan. Have your fantasy sports skills become a real thing at FanDuel Sportsbook.

There are many memories to collect as you start your life in Southeastern CT. With these memories come physical mementos from your explorations. If you ever run out of space to fit these treasured memories, reserve with us online at Rent-A-Space! Whether it’s vinyl records at the Mystic Disc, Books from Book Barn, or clothes from your shopping sprees at the Tanger Outlets Rent-A-Space has your self-storage needs covered. Welcome to Connecticut!

red button that says rent now

Madison-Rose Britto

Madison-Rose Britto

About the Author: Madison-Rose is a Web Coordinator in the self-storage industry. In her free time she likes record collecting, going on her pottery wheel, and traveling.