The historic seaport city of New London (population 28,000) has a rich and illustrious maritime heritage, and it today perhaps best known for being home of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, as well as both Connecticut College and Mitchell College. It's also the New England terminus of ferries that run regularly from eastern Long Island, in New York, across the Sound, and the largest community near the famed maritime living history museum, Mystic Seaport, which is just 10 miles east. Finally, New London is a good base for visiting New England's two largest and swankiest casino gaming resorts, nearby Mohegan Sun (13 miles north) and Foxwoods (15 miles northeast). With so many attractions nearby, and with New London being just a one-hour drive from Providence and a two-hour drive from Boston, the area draws a good share of LGBT visitors. Mystic Country is the region's tourism organization.
Whatever your reason for visiting the area, if you're angling to get out for a little gay clubbing, one of your best bets is Frank's Place Bar & Kitchen (9 Tilley St., 860-442-2782), a friendly and attractive little lounge and dance bar, with a nice patio as well, right in the heart of downtown New London. Serving the area's LGBT community for more than three decades, long before anybody in these parts had ever given much thought to casino development, Frank's keeps both regulars and visitors coming back with daily happy hours, Sunday T-Dances (which follow afternoon "Bear Trap Beer Busts"), karaoke midweek, and fun dancing on Fridays and Saturdays.
Another New London spot very popular with gays and lesbians is O'Neill's Brass Rail (52 Bank St., 860-443-6203), another downtown hangout with a welcoming staff and a cozy, inviting interior. Weekly parties like Martini Madness on Mondays, Thursday "all-request" Dance Parties, and Saturday Latin drag shows rank among the favorite offerings. Both of these bars receive a fair share of straight clients, too - New London is small and generally liberal enough that nightspots tend to be fairly mixed.
New London also has some inviting restaurants, including beautiful designed 2 Wives Brick Oven Pizza (45 Huntington St., 860-447-9337), an ardent ally of the local LGBT community that serves fantastic thin-crust pies; and a cool and friendly artisan coffeehouse, the Bean & Leaf (463 Bank St., 860-701-0000), which is also a good option for smoothies, light snacks, and watching live music in the evenings.
Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods
The impressively huge and expansive casinos a short drive north of New London are huge draws to this part of the state, and even if you're not a big gambler, they present big-name concerts, have a number of great restaurants, and have beautiful hotels. Both resorts are extremely gay-welcoming and have had events geared specifically to the LGBT community, and Mohegan Sun offers its employees same-sex partner benefits.
Due north of New London, Mohegan Sun (888-226-7711) comprises a glam 34-story hotel tower with spacious and sophisticated rooms; a 22,000-square-foot Elemis Spa; plenty of shopping (Coach, Tiffany, Sephora, and so on); three huge casinos; a concert hall drawing major acts; and a slew of notable restaurants: Frank Pepe Pizzeria, Jasper White's Summer Shack, Michael Jordan's Steak House, Bobby Flay's Bar Americain, Todd English's Tuscany, and several more. There are also several bars and dance clubs, including Ultra 88 Nightclub, which occasionally has gay events.
About 10 miles east of Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods Resort Casino (800-369-9663) is another impressive, beautifully designed resort, and this company also provides benefits to same-sex partners of employees and is a reliable friend of the gay community. The resort books big-name concerts, including gay music acts and comedians from time to time. It's home to several different hotels, including the ritzy MGM Grand at Foxwoods; a wide range of retail options; plenty of gaming, of course; two lavish spas; a renowned golf course; and such dining and nightlife notables as Paragon, Craftsteak, David Burke Prime, Alta Strada, California Pizza Kitchen, and Shrine Asian Kitchen Lounge & Nightclub.
Mystic and Stonington Village
Venture a bit farther east along the coast from New London, and you'll come to the village of Mystic, with its famed Mystic Aquarium and historic Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea, plus several outstanding dining options. Don't miss the exceptional outdoor seafood spot, Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (117 Pearl St., Noank, 860-536-7719), for outstanding shellfish meals (it's open only spring through fall); and, right in the heart of downtown Mystic, the dapper Oyster Club (13 Water St., 860-415-9266), a more elegant choice for seafood, with a menu that emphasizes local produce and sustainable ingredients.
It's another 5 miles east to reach tiny and charming Stonington Village, which occupies a narrow peninsula on the border with Rhode Island. If it's a peaceful, historic, seaside getaway you're seeking, yet still with proximity to gay nightlife in New London, the casinos, and Mystic Seaport, this little gem of a town is perfect (and it's home to a fantastic, gay-friendly boutique hotel, the Stonington Inn). Even if you don't stay here, it's worth popping over here to walk around this charming village and grab a bite to eat at one of the superb and inviting restaurants, such as the Water Street Cafe (143 Water St., 860-535-2122), serving creative seafood; and the cozy and contemporary Mexican restaurant Milagro (142 Water St., 860-535-8178).