As much as we freshmen love our beautiful and tight-knit campus, we also know, after a month of being students here, how stifling it sometimes feels. Wherever we come from, chances are we all covered a lot more distance back home — because we felt more able to get away for a few hours, and we knew where we wanted to go.
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities open to us, which many of us have yet to discover. The eclectic city of New London exists just a few miles from our campus. While it is known to upperclassmen who are allowed the convenience of cars, New London understandably seems more distant to the freshmen of Conn.
But we have options, too. For one, a phone call to Harry’s Taxi will summon a car within ten minutes, and the ride to the city center only costs about $9 (less than three dollars per person when split among four friends). Plus, all of the drivers at Harry’s will take a student ID card in the place of cash, and charge the ride to your student account. Freshmen who have had a driver’s license for one year without any “incidents” can join Zipcar for $25 a year plus $8.25 per hour of driving, which includes gas and insurance. By logging onto zipcar.com, students can get a special Conn discount. As a third option, New London is cycle-able in less than fifteen minutes via Williams and Huntington Streets.
Once you’ve made the trip into New London, there are many ways to spend your time in the city. The New London Waterfront District, a center full of personality and intrigue, lines the coast of New London Harbor. The district lives up to its name by opening a long boardwalk to the public, complete with seating and an inspiring view. The main streets of downtown — Bank, Water and State — feature go-to spots for dining, shopping and days or nights out with friends. Most of the businesses aimed toward college students participate in “Friday Nights in the District,” by keeping later hours on Friday nights, making for a great evening atmosphere.
There’s something for everyone downtown, and a store to fit every need. Fiddleheads Co-op at 13 Broad St. sells not only locally-grown produce, but natural snacks, craft supplies and organic bath products as well, rather like a smaller version of Whole Foods. One freshman I talked to raved about Mangetout Organic Cafe, located on State Street. “It’s adorable,” she said of the breakfast and lunch spot. “[It’s] worth the trip. It’s homey, comfortable and hospitable…it didn’t feel like I was being served at a restaurant. Plus the menu changes every day, so people always want to come back.” Mangetout sells fresh foods, gluten free and vegan desserts, local coffee and features a fresh-squeezed juice of the day.
A classic favorite on Bank Street is Muddy Waters, a high quality cafe and lunch spot, whose interior is conducive to work, conversation and hanging out at any time of day or night. Down the street is a lesser-known gem called Sweeties, where everything is 100% homemade from scratch. Try it out for fresh soups and sandwiches with homemade bread; grilled cheeses and other comfort foods; and baked goods and ice cream made entirely by hand. For many of us at Conn, this kind of homey, independent business is a new attraction, having been a rarity back home. Now just down the street from campus, they offer an inviting atmosphere and the kind of comforts we all look for, while being a welcome departure from our everyday surroundings.
When going out for dinner, freshmen might feel we have limited options because we can’t get into bars. But for those of us under twenty-one who still want the feeling of a crowded sports bar, Hot Rod Cafe has an all-ages dining area right next to the bar. It’s on the other end of Bank, and prides itself on “wings, beer and atmosphere.” “It is a really nice place,” said Sarah Parker ’17. “The food is great and it has a local vibe, so everyone there is really friendly.” Another student recommended the fresh sushi and tempura served at Little Tokyo, 131 State St. “You can easily get a table long enough for 15 people,” he said. “It’s a great time.”
Students with varying interests have many opportunities to shop in the city. Greenlight on Bank is a great place to look for a birthday present; it caters to men and women, and one freshman said that it “tries really hard to meet the college student’s budget.” Pinc! Boutique on State Street is a unique store that features crafts by local artists and tons of items for dorm rooms and for life in general. The boutique is closing for good on Dec. 7, so hurry and take advantage of their discounts. State Street also boasts one of New England’s largest comic and game stores, Sarge’s Comics. Here, one can find not only a huge selection of comic books, but also board games and party games. Eclectic antique stores are found on every street, and there’s a decently-sized Salvation Army at 170 Bank St.
Finally, for a wide array of film, vocal or orchestral performances, comedy, dance and theater, check out the Garde Arts Center, all the way up State, past the train station. Tickets for students are as low as $10; a full listing of programs can be found at www.gardearts.com.
Whether you are the type to gather everyone you know for a Thursday night out, spend an afternoon meandering through aisles of antiques or simply leave Harris behind to enjoy a sandwich and a chai by the water, you need not feel that New London is out of your grasp. Whatever it is that calls to you about your new city, go to it — exercise your right to explore. •