There's so much more to Ocean Beach Park than sand and saltwater. This half-mile stretch of shore on Long Island Sound in New London, Connecticut, has an impressive array of on-site activities for families to enjoy, and the boardwalk is a lively setting for a busy schedule of summertime events that will whisk you back to simpler times.
Don't balk at the cost of admission: $17 on weekdays, $23 on weekends for a carload of up to five people. It's a small price for access to play-all-day fun with a view of soothing, shimmering water and, in the distance, New London Ledge Light: one of the prettiest lighthouses in New England. Keep in mind, too, that admission is free in the off-season, when a walk on the beach can still be energizing and restorative.
Top Things To Do at Ocean Beach Park
One thing's for "shore": You will never be bored at Ocean Beach Park. Swimming in buoyant water and building castles of sugary sand are, of course, the beach's chief attractions. But there is much more here to occupy families with kids of all ages.
As you pull into the parking lot, you'll see the towering Triple Waterslides and the petite Kiddie Land amusement park, where tots love the carousel, train, and other nostalgic rides, and teens head straight for the Scrambler.
One of the unique things about this beach is that it is also home to an Olympic-size outdoor pool. For a small additional admission fee, you can enjoy a pool day at the beach. It's the best of all worlds if some members of your family don't relish swimming in saltwater. Children eight years old and younger can also cool off at the free Spray Park.
Don't worry, grown-ups: There is plenty for you here, too. More than a dozen volleyball nets stand along the sand. And there's even a Renegade health club at the beach, where a $12 day pass allows you to work out with a sea view.
An 18-hole, nautical-themed miniature golf course with a water-spouting whale is entertaining for all ages, as is the arcade, with a wild variety of antique and state-of-the-art games to play. Collect tickets to redeem for prizes.
Once summer is rocking and rolling, Ocean Beach Park also hosts special events almost every night of the week. Mondays are Classic Car Cruise Nights when you might spot a dreamy Corvette or intriguing DeLorean. Tuesdays are Beach Blanket Movie Nights. There are concerts, children's shows, dances, and fireworks displays on the calendar, too.
Dining at and Near Ocean Beach Park
You don't have to leave the beach for tasty eats. For a quick bite, head to Denny's Sand Castle: a cash-only snack bar right on the sand. Their burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and fries will tide you over until you're ready for a sit-down meal.
The indoor-outdoor Sandbar Cafe is located on a high deck overlooking splendid beach scenes: Claim an umbrella table if you can (but guard your food carefully, or ravenous seagulls will freeload). The cafe cooks up a diverse menu of apps, salads, sandwiches, and seafood entrees (try the scallop and bacon pizza), and the full bar offers a line-up of frozen concoctions and a beer list that includes a few Connecticut-brewed selections on tap.
Ocean Beach Park is also home to the Boardwalk Creamery, where you can treat the kids to carnival-style treats like popcorn and cotton candy, although ice cream is, of course, their specialty.
If you find you're still starving (and salty air will do that!) once you leave the beach, New London is home to one of Connecticut's best lobster shacks: Captain Scott's Lobster Dock. Located waterside on the Thames River just 3 miles from Ocean Beach Park, it's your place for local favorites like clam fritters and hot buttered lobster rolls.
More Attractions Near Ocean Beach Park
First settled by English colonists in 1646 and chartered as a city in 1784, New London is a place to explore centuries of history at sights like the Custom House Maritime Museum and Fort Trumbull State Park, where you can tour the 19th-century fortifications and learn about Connecticut's military innovations. New London is also a destination for lighthouse lovers, who can see eight historic beacons aboard Cross Sound Ferry's excellent Classic Lighthouse Cruise.