15 Best Things to Do in Norwich (CT)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

The city of Norwich grew up in the 17th century where the Yantic and Shetucket Rivers converge at the head of the Thames.

This spot was primed for a port and by the 18th century Norwich had lively shipping and shipbuilding trades. Nowadays there’s a picturesque riverside park where the docks used to be.

The Native American Mohegan Tribe, present long before, has a reservation by the Thames just outside Norwich where there’s an ultra-modern casino resort.

An obelisk marks the approximate resting place of the Mohegan sachem Uncas, from whom the land for Norwich was bought in the 17th century.

He led the Mohegans to dominance over rival tribes in the region by joining forces with the English colonists.

Elsewhere, Norwich has a classy art museum, and a compelling history that I enjoyed uncovering. There’s a tempting array of pick-your-own fruit farms, wineries and craft breweries all in easy reach of the downtown area.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Norwich:

1. Slater Memorial Museum

Slater Memorial MuseumSource: The Slater Memorial Museum / facebook
Slater Memorial Museum

Norwich has the kind of local museum that any city would envy. The Slater Memorial Museum is in a beguiling Richardsonian Romanesque building. Dating to 1886 this was the career pinnacle of architect Stephen C. Earle.

On the grounds of the Norwich Free Academy, the museum is famed for its plaster casts of some of the great works of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Renaissance sculpture.

That superlative collection is joined by high-quality permanent exhibitions of 20th-century American art, Asian art, African art, and European decorative arts.

I was transfixed by the display recounting the round-the-world voyage made by the museum founder William Slater and his family in 1894-95. The airy Converse Art Gallery stages six temporary exhibitions a year, including the annual Connecticut Artists Juried Exhibition.

When I was here there was a retrospective for author and illustrator Lynn Curlee (b. 1947), noted for his children’s books.

2. Mohegan Sun

Mohegan SunSource: Raymond Deleon / shutterstock
Mohegan Sun

Towering over the Thames River from the west bank is an ever-expanding casino resort run by the Mohegan tribe on their reservation.

Mohegan Sun has 1,563 rooms, two casinos with hundreds of slots, a 10,000-seater arena and a series of entertainment venues. One is the Wolf Den classic acts like Ludacris, Blue Öyster Cult, Warrant, and Salt-N-Pepa.

The Mohegan Sun Arena is home court for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, and stages NCAA Division 1 games and WWE events.

The lineup of major recording artists to play here is amazing. On the list are names like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran and Fleetwood Mac. The Dave Matthews Band and Tool were in town when I was here. 

The resort has 46 dining options, eight clubs, a luxury spa and golf course. The complex also plays host to major events in summer like the New England Food Truck Festival at the end of August.

3. Casino of the Sky

Casino of the SkySource: jjbers / Flickr
Casino Of The Sky

The centerpiece of Mohegan Sun since 2001, the Casino of the Sky has 180,000 square feet of gaming. There are 600+ slot machines here, and blackjack and roulette tables, all drenched in opulence.

High above the casino floor are the sun, moon and stars on the largest functional planetarium dome in the world. I was also dazzled by the 55-foot Taughannock Falls, representing a key feature of the tribe’s historic migration. 

Wombi Rock meanwhile is three storeys high and made up of 12,000 pieces of onyx gathered from quarries in Mexico, Iran and Pakistan. These were then shipped to Carrara, Italy to be fused into kaleidoscopic panes of glass.

Wombi Rock holds the Vista Lounge club, looking over the entire gaming floor, and set up with a cocktail bar, dance floor and plush nooks to hang out in.

4. Leffingwell House Museum

Leffingwell House MuseumSource: Leffingwell House Museum / facebook
Leffingwell House Museum

The oldest parts of this Colonial-era house, one of the most complete in New England, date back to 1675. 

The Leffingwell House grew over the next century, and its present layout is a rough square. There are two main facades, giving a configuration that looks like two saltbox houses have been attached at a corner.

A clue to the building’s hodgepodge evolution lies in the unusual number of kitchen hearths. As a tavern, the Leffingwell House was an important meeting place in the run-up to the Revolutionary War, and had become a spacious home to a patriot by 1776. 

April through October you can visit the house on weekends for a tour. I was absorbed by the artifacts going back to Norwich’s foundation in 1659, and the local crafts at the accompanying Joseph Carpenter Silversmith Shop (1772).

5. The Spa at Norwich Inn

The Spa At Norwich InnSource: The Spa at Norwich Inn / facebook
The Spa At Norwich Inn

On the way to Mohegan Sun is a spa often hailed as the best in the state by several publications or their readers. 

A few of these include YANKEE Magazine, New England Travel & Life, Connecticut Magazine, and Hartford Magazine. You can find out for yourself why The Spa at Norwich Inn is held in such high esteem. 

Whether you’re here for beauty treatments, detox, or rejuvenation, I love how you can mix and match experiences at this spot. Indeed, rather than being restricted to a package, you can customize your entire spa day to suit your needs. 

On hand are 37 treatment rooms, a fitness center, indoor pool, salon, sauna and a lot more besides. This is all in 40+ blissful acres of ornamental gardens.

6. Mohegan Park

Mohegan ParkSource: E.A.Parisek / shutterstock
Mohegan Park

The largest park in Norwich is a generous sweep of woodland enclosing Spaulding Pond. There are formal spaces next to the water, where you’ll come across a square, pavilion and fountain.

One of the prettiest parts is the path across the pond’s earthwork dam, through pergolas and beds of flowering plants. Keep an eye on the water, because I saw quite a few turtles when I was here. 

Mohegan Park’s gardens are a real treat in June and July, and the rose garden is rented out at this time for wedding ceremonies.

For outdoor recreation there’s a swimming area, a disc golf course, nature trails, playgrounds for kids and a multi-use ballfield.

7. Dodd Stadium

Dodd StadiumSource: Ben+Sam / Flickr
Dodd Stadium

Does it get more American than a hot dog, beer and a ballgame on a warm summer’s evening? A few Minor League franchises have come and gone in the 30+ years since the Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium was completed.

When I put this list together the main tenants were the Norwich Sea Unicorns. They are members of the wood-bat Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

There’s a lot to love, starting with the reasonable admission and concession prices (the dogs and cheeseburgers are great). You get giveaways, kids’ fun, raffles, and weekly post-game fireworks on Friday nights, as well as the joy of seeing some real prospects in action.

8. Yantic Falls

Yantic FallsSource: Jennifer Yakey-Ault / shutterstock
Yantic Falls

Something I did not expect in Norwich is a roaring waterfall almost in the middle of the city. Yantic Falls is the birthplace of Norwich’s industry, going back to a grist mill that cropped up here in the 17th century.

Earlier the waterfall is believed to have been the site of a cataclysmic event for the Narragansett tribe. Numerous members fell into the chasm after being chased by Uncas’ Mohegans following a battle in 1643. 

A footbridge takes you over the 39-foot drop and its forbidding rocks. When the sun is low the falls’ mist will make a rainbow, and it’s a sight I won’t soon forget.

9. Howard T. Brown Memorial Park

Howard T. Brown Memorial ParkSource: photo by Gail Ann Kuster / facebook
Howard T. Brown Memorial Park

This scenic park is in the Norwich Harbor District and has a romantic location where the Yantic and Shetucket meet at the head of the Thames River.

There’s a path to enjoy this large expanse of water, and a bandstand encircled by manicured hedges.

As the information boards told me, this was the scene of heaving wharves and shipyards 300 years ago. Chelsea Landing as it was known was a mass of schooners, brigs and sloops unloading goods from the Caribbean and Europe.

By 1774, at the dawn of the Revolutionary War, Norwich was the 12th largest in the colonies due to this brisk trade.

Try to be here for the Rock the Docks concert series in summer. Shows take place every Wednesday night, mid-July through August.

10. Epicure Brewing

Epicure BrewingSource: Epicure Brewing / facebook
Epicure Brewing

A couple of streets in from the old harbor you can sit down with a pint, half-pint or flight of craft beer from Wednesday to Sunday.

With exposed pipes overhead, Epicure Brewing has a neatly designed 75-seat taproom pouring a range of beers brewed onsite in a 15BBL system.

When I stopped by recently, some of the options included Stay Prettier (Blonde IPA), Czech Freak (Czech Pilsner), B.D.E. (IPA), and, my pick, Porter Party (Porter).

Epicure Brewing prides itself as a “Bring Your Own Food/Make Yourself at Home” kind of place. There are Indian, Chinese, sandwich, and pizza joints within a minute or two on foot.

11. Mashantucket Pequot Museum

Mashantucket Pequot MuseumSource: North woodsman / shutterstock
Mashantucket Pequot Museum

To get a deeper sense of the area’s Native American past you can make the short trip to this museum in Mashantucket. This informative attraction is run by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

On display are artifacts from all nine of the Native American peoples of eastern United States, with pieces dating from the 1500s to the 1900s.

Complementing these collections are ambient sound, interactive stations, life-size dioramas, photography and footage.

To illustrate, “Glacial Crevasse & A World of Ice” took me to the depths of an Ice Age glacier and “Arrival of the People” explores Native American creation stories.

You can get a sense of how the warming climate changed life in the Northeast 6,000 years ago. Meanwhile at “Pequot Village” you’ll see the various skills practiced by the Peqout tribe in the 16th century.

From there you’ll learn about colonization, the Pequot War of 1637 and the dramatic changes experienced by the tribe from the end of the 17th century to the present.

12. Holmberg Orchards & Winery

Holmberg Orchards & WinerySource: Holmberg Orchards & Winery / facebook
Holmberg Orchards & Winery

Now in its fourth generation, the Holmberg Orchards farm was first purchased by a newly immigrated Swedish couple in 1896. 

The sons of the founders planted fruit trees in the 1930s, and by the 1960s Holmberg Orchards was one of New England’s foremost fruit-growers.

My main reason to come is for U-Pick fruit. This can be done from June to October, starting with blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

Peach and nectarine season begins in late July, while the farm’s many apple varieties are ready from mid-August to October. This partly coincides with the pumpkin patch in fall.

The farm market is open all year for seasonal fruit and vegetables, some grown here and some sourced locally. There’s also baked treats, hard cider, local homemade sauces and cider-scented candles.

Since the 2000s the family has broadened its scope to include winemaking, growing Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc, which go into four varietal wines. Come to try these, and a range of fruit wines on weekend afternoons at the farm’s Wine Barn.

13. Old Norwichtown Cemetery

Norwichtown Historic CemeterySource: Tony Fischer Photography / Flickr
Old Norwichtown Cemetery

If you need any more proof of Norwich’s historical significance you’ll find it at this cemetery dating back to 1715. 

Charged with atmosphere, the Old Norwichtown Cemetery is in two portions linked by a little footbridge. At the parking lot on Old Cemetery Lane I found a box with leaflets telling the site’s story.

Among the more important burials is the mother of Benedict Arnold, who was born in Norwich and famously switched sides in the Revolutionary War.

Another is Samuel Huntingdon, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence and the President of the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1781. In the build-up to Halloween the town puts on ghost tours in this rather spooky place.

14. Preston Ridge Vineyard

Preston Ridge VineyardSource: Preston Ridge Vineyard / facebook
Preston Ridge Vineyard

Tended by two families, this vineyard is in the pastoral hills across the Thames from Norwich. The location could hardly be prettier, on a ridge where you can watch the Connecticut countryside unfold for 20 miles.

Preston Ridge grows mostly white grapes like Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Cayuga, and Chardonnay. But there are also reds like Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in its 60 acres.

The Vidal Blanc, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wines have picked up Amenti del Vino and CT Specialty Food Association awards in recent years.

The tasting room, open Friday to Sunday, is adorable and has a deck so you can marvel at the vine-laden hillside and rolling woodland behind. My tip is to be here for some live music, happening every Friday and Sunday and accompanied by food trucks.

15. RoseGarden Ice Arena

RoseGarden Ice ArenaSource: Norwich RoseGarden Ice Arena / facebook
RoseGarden Ice Arena

For affordable family fun, Norwich has a well-liked ice rink hosting Public Skate sessions every day of the week.

You can get on the ice for a small fee, and skate rental is also reasonable here ($7 when I was in town). On Friday nights the lights go down for a special Laser Skate event.

The RoseGarden is a local hockey facility hosting youth and AHL (Adult Hockey League) games. You can join in the action at pick-up games provided you’ve got all the right gear.

If your form needs a little work, or you have children who need to learn how to skate, the rink’s Ice Academy offers lessons for skaters of all standards aged three and up.

15 Best Things to Do in Norwich (CT):

  • Slater Memorial Museum
  • Mohegan Sun
  • Casino of the Sky
  • Leffingwell House Museum
  • The Spa at Norwich Inn
  • Mohegan Park
  • Dodd Stadium
  • Yantic Falls
  • Howard T. Brown Memorial Park
  • Epicure Brewing
  • Mashantucket Pequot Museum
  • Holmberg Orchards & Winery
  • Old Norwichtown Cemetery
  • Preston Ridge Vineyard
  • RoseGarden Ice Arena