New England Day Trips Part IV: Niantic, Connecticut

New England Day Trips Part IV: Niantic, Connecticut

Patrick Sweeney, News Editor

This is the fourth in a series of articles highlighting one town in each New England state. You will find tips on how to enjoy yourself for the day without the fear of spreading the coronavirus. This article will focus on the town of Niantic, Connecticut. For more information on the area, community events and to view COVID-19 updates and information, please visit

The United States has been in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year. Because of this, many in the country have been forced to stay at home. People had to come up with new ways to enjoy themselves and make the most of their time spent at home. This proved very successful in the long winter months when going outside was not an option. However, we are now getting into the warmer months and can spend more time enjoying the outdoors. One great option families have is going on day trips around the region. The Connecticut shore is a beautiful place to visit for both adults and children alike. There are many wonderful shopping and dining options to choose from that are guaranteed to satisfy. 

Families with young children will enjoy the ride from Holyoke to Niantic, Connecticut, which is a small coastal town located very close to the popular destination of Mystic. Families can hop on Interstate 91 South and follow it through Hartford. They can then get onto Interstate 84 and follow until they reach Route 2. They will then follow Route 11 to Route 85, which leads to Niantic. Families will enjoy the fact that the route to Niantic does not involve all highway driving. There are many back roads to follow and families will drive through many small towns. They will enjoy looking at the various attractions, such as the Dinosaur Place in Oakdale, which includes life-sized dinosaurs and a miniature golf course on-site.There are many restaurants for families to stop at for bathroom breaks and to stretch their legs after the long ride. Families should plan on leaving a bit early in the morning for this day trip since it involves a good amount of sightseeing. Young children might not agree with the initial idea of getting up early, but they will be satisfied when they enjoy a day by the sea with their parents.  

Once arriving in Niantic, families will be charmed by the beautiful small-town feel. There is a sense of calm and peace around town and there is always a nice breeze blowing off the ocean. Just off the main roads, families will spot the Book Barn Main Barn, which has been an integral part of Niantic’s shopping scene for many years. Grab a parking spot in the dirt parking lot before things begin to fill up. Put on some zip up sweatshirts and go explore the Book Barn! The Main Barn consists of many nooks and crannies filled with books, 75% of which are outside, for families to explore. When you begin walking, you will realize that there is an area to drop off books. Customers who visit the Book Barn have the opportunity to give books to the Barn to be sold. Employees will give customers a check or store credit for the books they return. Keep in mind that the Book Barn has a systematic operation for customers returning books, so be sure to ask employees for guidance on what to do. If you decide to cash books in for a store credit, you will not be disappointed. The Book Barn has over 600,000 books for sale distributed throughout their three locations in Niantic. Families with young children will enjoy hunting for books outside at the Book Barn. There are various “book trails” and paths to follow as well as small covered areas dedicated to genres of books. There are also various areas set up with $1 books, which is a perfect way to try a new author or genre. Once families have finished browsing outside, they can make their way into the main barn building. The entire front porch is dedicated to children’s books. Adults might be interested in venturing inside for various sections featuring topics such as history and fiction. There is also an option to go in the basement of the Main Barn for an even wider selection of books. Be on the lookout for a few furry friends that might want to cuddle up as you enjoy a book of your choice. All books sold within the Book Barn’s three locations cost $3 or less, perfect for families with many young children. Once families are done shopping at the Book Barn, they can travel down the street to various other shopping destinations. 

Just down the street from the Main Barn is another Book Barn location called Chapter Three. This location also features a wide variety of books along with a great selection of hardcovers that sell for as little as $3. Depending on the stock, this location might also feature audio books that sell for much lower than the retail price. This location also features some outdoor shopping to the left of the store, so be sure to check it out. After doing some heavy book shopping, families might be interested in stopping for a small lunch break. The town of Niantic has many wonderful options to choose from. A good place to look first is Skipper’s, which is located just past the downtown area across from the water. Families will enjoy the fresh seafood offered here and the wonderful family-friendly atmosphere. Be sure to try the shoestring onion rings with fish of your choice. The restaurant also offers outdoor seating and makes homemade tartar and cocktail sauce in-house daily. Another cost-effective option for families is Family Pizza, which is located on the same side of the street as Skipper’s but is more centrally located in downtown Niantic. Families can choose from a variety of pizza toppings as well as grinders, salads and soups. No matter where you choose to eat in Niantic, you are guaranteed to have a pleasurable experience and meal with your family.

There are various shops in Niantic for families to explore. There are gift shops that house local treasures as well as another Book Barn centrally located downtown. This location puts heavy emphasis on children’s books and cookbooks, so be sure to stop by. Another wonderful place to shop is Azalea, which features coastal inspired items as well as various home products. Families should also be on the lookout for various antique stores scattered throughout Niantic. These shops house wonderful finds, from antique furniture to books and magazines. Another popular store in Niantic is Anna Pearl’s Curiosities, which is also centrally located in the heart of downtown. Shoppers will delight at the wide variety of jewelry and trinkets housed in this store and there is something for everyone. The owners bring in new finds regularly, so do not expect to see the same stock. One last store to check out is called Bayberries, which is located near some restaurants in a strip mall in Niantic. Homeowners will enjoy perusing the shelves for wonderful coastal finds for their homes as well as other items like pocketbooks. Overall, Niantic has many fantastic shops to explore that families will enjoy. 

Niantic has many beautiful walking areas, including the Hole in the Wall Beach and Boardwalk. Not known to many, this boardwalk begins right by the water and can only be accessed by walking under an elevated set of train tracks. Be aware that trains come rushing by  multiple times a day, which can provide quite a scare since they are so close to the boardwalk and travel at such a high rate of speed. One train reportedly travels faster than the others at speeds upwards of 100 mph. The walk is nicely constructed and takes tourists past downtown and into the next town over from Niantic. Walkers will be amazed that they are so close to the water, with the only border being a small rail between you and the sea. There is also a small beach available to walk on as well as various trails to the left of the boardwalk that follow the water. There are various large trees to explore as well as nicely manicured grass near the trails, which make for a very pleasant walking experience. Tired after the long walk? Be sure to stop at Gumdrops and Lollipops for some delicious candy and chocolates. They carry a variety of chocolates, such as blueberry creams, as well as ice cream and an array of fruit slices in flavors like grapefruit. Be sure to be on the lookout for open seating on the deck, which overlooks the parking lot of Hole in the Wall Beach. This restaurant fills up quickly in the summer with families and young children who want to grab some food after participating in an array of fun activities. 

The coastal town of Niantic, Connecticut is very beautiful and fun to explore. Families will enjoy traveling the back roads to Niantic and exploring attractions before reaching the town. Niantic has many wonderful shops to explore, including the three Book Barn locations, which are a dream come true for readers and browsers alike. Once in downtown Niantic, families will enjoy the small-town atmosphere as well as taking advantage of shops such as Azalea. If families are not interested in shopping, they can walk on the wonderful Hole in the Wall Beach and boardwalk and take in the beautiful scenery and views. Lastly, families can enjoy the wide variety of restaurants in Niantic, from pizza restaurants to seafood joints with seating on the water. A day trip to Niantic will provide a break from the stress of everyday life and will deliver a great experience for families on a warm summer day.