Downtown New London is often a pretty-low key place, with the greatest amount of activity coming from people passing through town via the ferry terminal or Amtrak trains. But July 12-14, the town becomes a top-notch destination in its own right with Sailfest.
Sailfest is arguably Southeastern Connecticut’s premier summertime event, and has been voted a Reader’s Choice favorite as Top Event for a number of years running by the readers of the area’s biggest paper – The Day. Throughout New London’s Waterfront Park and on nearby streets you’ll find multiple entertainment stages featuring everything from New Orleans’ Big Sam’s Funky Nation (a horns band), known local talent (including Franc Grams and New London Burnouts from Outer Space), and kid fun like free hula hoop lessons. (If you make a weekend of it, the world famous Harlem Gospel Choir closes out the event on the Custom House stage on Sunday). One of Sailfest’s main attractions are the over 200 vendors selling handmade crafts, art, clothing and jewelry. And of course, a variety of food is for sale everywhere.
The event is largely free and when you do pay, prices are reasonable (for example, a full day of amusement park rides – yes, the fair has those, too – is just $20.) You won’t want to miss the Beer Garden (5-11 on Friday) or the water taxi rides to tour Fort Trumbull ( 9am-5pm). Note that this is a full weekend event, with some of the big highlights occurring Saturday and Sunday. (Saturday: Dinner and Fireworks on Fisherman Pier – 6-11pm; $85 per ticket gets you a mouthwatering dinner, and front row seats for the fireworks—did we mention the Saturday night fireworks --plus private bathrooms!; Sunday is Family Funday with highlights that include a Pirate Invasion at the Custom House Pier , 12:30; and an attempt at creating a world record for the largest fist-bump chain, 2 pm.) Despite the precise address we give above, events occur all over downtown – best bet is either to arrive by ferry or train; if you drive, best garages are Water Street (160 Water Street) or Governor Wintrop Garage (70 Union Street). The Saturday fireworks show is both very good and very popular, so arrive extra early for that (fireworks go off at 9 pm). Hours for the entire weekend: Friday, 3-11 pm; Saturday 10 am- 11 pm; Sunday 9 am- 6 pm.