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Destination: East Lyme, a small town that's big on fun

By Kristina Dorsey

Publication: The Day

Published July 05. 2013 4:00AM
Tim Cook/The Day
Views of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk and Main Street in downtown Niantic on June 28.

During the summer, Niantic is, ahem, a shore thing. The village is a great hot-weather destination, with access to Long Island Sound and the Niantic River. Beaches! Water views! A quaint Main Street! And a collection of big events and festivals that take advantage of all those things.

If you want to spend some time indoors, though, you can watch movies at Niantic Cinemas, and shop at locales ranging from the Ardonn Boutique to Book Barn to Northern Light Gems.

Where to walk: If you want to stroll along the shore, hit the Niantic Bay Boardwalk. Some of it is still being rebuilt due to storm damage, but you can go to Cini Park, which is located under the Niantic River bridge, and saunter under the Amtrak bridge to an expansive Long Island Sound view and a long stretch of boardwalk.

If you're more of a woodsy-hiking person, try the trails at the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve, whose main entrance is at Veterans' Memorial Park, off Pennsylvania Avenue.

Where to bring the kids: Why, the Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, of course. The museum is at 409 Main St.

Where to eat: Want to nosh while you soak in the sun? Niantic has its share of restaurants with outdoor, waterview seating, including Main Street Grille, The Black Sheep and Family Pizza. If you want to tuck inside to eat, try the delicious food at The Spice Club or La Belle Aurore.

What special events to hit: This week marks the start of a rush of Niantic-centric festivities that are worth your while. The annual Niantic Arts & Craft Show and LobsterFest happens July 6 and 7 on Town Hall grounds off Pennsylvania Avenue. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July 6 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. July 7.

On those same days, zip down to the historic Thomas Lee House grounds, just east of Rocky Neck State Park, for the East Lyme Historical Society's flea market - and you can tour the Lee House (c. 1660) and the Little Boston School House. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. July 6 and 7.

On July 12, more than 10 homes in Black Point open up for the Black Point House & Garden Tour. Hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; tickets are $25 in advance, $30 that day at 6 Sunset Ave., Niantic.

The annual carnival lights up St. John's Green on Main Street. Hours: 6-10 p.m. July 18 and 19 and 3-10 p.m. July 20.

On July 20, Celebrate East Lyme floods Main Street with all sorts of entertainment and food and fun and, to wrap up the day, sends fireworks over the Long Island Sound. Hours: 3-9 p.m.

For more details on any of these events, visit discovereastlyme.com.

Where to beach it: If you plan ahead, you can loll at McCook Point Park or Hole-in-the-Wall beaches. You have to buy passes ahead of time ($5 resident walk-in, $20 non-resident walk-in) through the town's park and recreation offices. If you happen into town and want sand access right then, try Rocky Neck State Park; admission is $13 resident, $22 non-residents on weekends and holidays and $9 and $15 on weekdays.

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