PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2016, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it is also possible that it may contain some outdated information. Please check their website for the most current information, especially about things like hours and pricing.
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For the past few years, Mandy and I have had so much fun putting together our annual Summer Bucket List filled with all the places we love to visit during that season. But one place has been on our personal summer bucket lists for several years now: Ocean Beach Park in New London, CT. And this summer, I finally paid a visit to this quintessential summer destination!
Now, I’m going to be totally upfront with you. This visit was more of a “scouting” visit for a future visit than it was an actual visit (wait, what?). Basically, we were in the general vicinity of New London for other reasons, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to finally check out this storied destination–even if we didn’t get there until late afternoon and even if we only had a couple hours to spare. But we got lots of great pictures and a general sense of the lay of the land, so now all of us will have the information we need to plan our next beach day at Ocean Beach Park 🙂
As I mentioned, we arrived later in the afternoon, around 3:30 or so. It was actually a Monday afternoon, and that’s significant because every Monday is “Cruise Night” and starting at 5:00pm, you can purchase a discounted bracelet for unlimited kids rides from 5:00pm-8:00pm for just $11. (Find out more about Cruise Night and other special events here.)
There is a large parking lot, and the entrance to the boardwalk is just a straight shot from anywhere. You do have to pay to park (there’s a little hut at the entrance to the parking lot). The fee is $17/car on weekdays and $23/car on weekends. But that is the only admission fee. I know that may seem like a lot at first, but if you’re a family of 4 that’s only a few dollars per person– and just wait until you see what you get for those dollars! Also, if you visit for Cruise Night, there’s no parking fee at all!
Right near the entrance is a giant park map, so you can see where everything is before you even enter.
Since everything is connected by the boardwalk, it’s pretty easy to find all the activities. Here are a few that will be of particular interest to those of us with small kids:
There is also a swimming pool, an arcade, a restaurant, and I’m sure other things that I have not even discovered yet!
We started off at the kiddie rides, of course. It’s kind of hard not to since that’s the first thing you’ll see as you walk in from the parking lot.
As you can see, Kiddie Land opens at noon. The rides take tokens, and you have to purchase the tokens. You get them here, in this little shed. It’s actually a fully self-service process as there are token machines. But if you need change, you can ask one of the ride attendants. The machines do not give change, so if you put a $20 bill in there, you are going to get $20 worth of tokens. If you don’t want $20 worth of tokens, you need to use a smaller bill 🙂 The machines only take cash, but there is an ATM machine inside the shed.
The Kiddie Land area has a wide variety of rides for kids of many different ages. For little little ones (or six year olds who like to act like little little ones occasionally), there are things like these mechanical characters/vehicles.
There is a carousel.
I love that this carousel has these itty bitty mini animals to ride on (sorry for the blurry picture; it’s the only one I had!). Perfect for first-timer tots.
There are a variety of other revolving rides. Like vehicles.
Flying bumble bees.
The kids loved this little train.
And my big guy braved the kiddie ferris wheel (still in shock over that!).
Each ride had a ruler indicating what height you could be to ride it. Some had maximum and minimum heights. Some had heights below which an adult had to accompany the child. Everything was very clearly marked though. And most rides my 3 and 6 year olds could do on their own.
Overall, there is a nice variety of rides that would keep younger children of different ages busy and happy. The one thing that was a little bit of a challenge is that there were only two ride operators there during the day to operate more than a dozen rides (additional staff was set to arrive in the evening, but I’m not sure if that was just for the Cruise Night event or if that’s every evening). So they had to go back and forth between all the rides, operating them for visitors. Which meant that, although there were not any lines, there was a fair amount of waiting involved.
Next to the Kiddie Land area is this humungous water slide!
I didn’t get close enough to see the height restriction on that one (oops!). That has its own pricing structure. (See Momsense for pricing details.)
After we spent our 30 tokens (which probably took us the better part of an hour), we decided to stroll down the 1/2-mile boardwalk to see what else we could find. Actually, walking on the boardwalk was kind of a fun activity in and of itself!
If you head right (facing the ocean), you’ll find the Olympic sized swimming pool and also a new park addition: a spray park just for children ages 8 and under! There is an additional fee for the pool, but the spray park is FREE.
A little further down we found this playground.
The main playscape is actually modeled after a boat. How fun is that?!
The kids especially loved that this playground is situated in sand because they got to run around barefoot. Something they always wish they could do at regular playgrounds. Actually, something they always wish they could do. I swear, if I gave them a choice my kids would go everywhere barefoot 🙂
After all that climbing, the kids were ready for a cold treat, so we headed back to the center of the boardwalk where there is an ice cream stand (as well as several places to eat).
The Boardwalk Creamery is just a take-out window and they only accept cash.
You can take your ice cream and sit at any of these covered picnic tables.
Inside there is a self-service cafeteria and also a full-service cafe.
After snack time (which was really more like dinner time at that point–the schedule was definitely shot that day; sometimes you just gotta do that in the summer, right?!), we headed down the boardwalk in the opposite direction (left if you are facing the water). We passed the arcade that we did not go into because I was afraid I would never get my kids back out of it and the miniature golf course that we unfortunately did not have time to try out that day (like I said, just scouting for the return trip!).
There is a $7 per person per day charge for unlimited mini golf. Or if you go on Monday Cruise Night, it’s just $2 per person per round!
So after amusement park rides, the playground, ice cream, and scoping out some of the other attractions (like the spray park and mini golf), it seemed only right that we check out the most important feature of Ocean Beach Park–the beach!
And this is a beautiful beach! It was clean and the sand was gorgeous. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for a dip, but the kids had a great time jumping around in the surf.
Despite all the other attractions, I think the kids were most disappointed that we had to leave the beach. And I have to say, I love that their favorite activity wasn’t one of the bells & whistles, but good ol’ sand and surf.
And that’s really the beauty of Ocean Beach Park. First and foremost, it’s a gorgeous beach destination. But it has all those fabulous bells & whistles too 🙂
A perfect summertime adventure that will surely show up on many a summer bucket list to come.
Phone: (860) 447-3031
Ocean Beach Park opens on Memorial Day weekend and operates through Labor Day.
Park open daily from 8:00am-8:10pm.
Kiddie Land opens daily at 12:00pm.
Arcade opens daily at 11:00am.
Waterslide open from 11:00am-5:00pm (also open Cruise Night from 5:30pm-8:00pm).
See here for more info.
General parking fees are $17/car weekdays and $23/car weekends.
$7/car evenings after 6:00pm (except for Cruise Night on Mondays when parking is FREE after 5:00pm).
Check out this page for pricing for season parking passes, group rates, individual activities, etc.
Stroller Friendly: YES. The boardwalk is very stroller-friendly.
Coffee Mug Friendly: YES
Baby Changing Station: YES
Food for Sale: YES. Several options for food and snacks on the boardwalk and also a snack bar on the beach.
Outside Food Allowed: YES, but no glass is allowed on the beach.
Cash Required: YES. You need cash for the kiddie rides as well as the ice cream stand. There are ATMs available. I cannot remember if the parking fee is cash only (sorry!). I paid cash. You might want to play it safe and bring extra cash for that.
Dress Code: Beach attire.
Age Recommendations: All ages!
Evening/Weekend Hours: YES
Discounts: Monday is “Cruise Night” with special discounts on kiddie rides, mini golf, waterslide. Also, parking is FREE after 5:00pm. Check out their events page for more info on Cruise Night.
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