I spent last week in Norwich, Connecticut visiting my sister, niece, and nephew. I soon learned that Norwich often lives in the shadow of its more glamorous neighbor, Mystic, about 30 minutes to the south. And though my two-year-old niece adores the belugas at the Mystic Aquarium, my sister and I were hoping for activities a little closer to home.
Norwich, long known as the “Rose of New England,” has its own unique history to offer the visitor. Here is where the Yantic and Shetucket rivers combine to form the Thames (locals pronounce it Thaymes). Most people might know the town for its proximity to the Mohegan Sun casino. But even if you’re just in town to play the slots, a visit isn’t complete without delving a little deeper into Norwich’s rich Native American and Colonial history: Two notable tribal chiefs are buried here, and Benedict Arnold was born in town.
Yantic Falls, also known as Indian Leap, was a favorite camping ground of the Mohegans. It was here, in 1643, that Mohegan Chief Uncas battled the Narragansett tribe. According to the dramatic legend on the sign next to the falls:
A band of Narragansetts, unfamiliar with the territory, unknowingly reached the high treacherous escarpment of the Falls. The Narragensetts, rather than surrender, attempted to leap the chasm. Unsuccessful, they plunged to their death into the abyss below.
The falls went on to make the town into a major Colonial industrial power. Norwich also showcases gorgeous Victorian architecture (in varying degrees of upkeep) spanning 300 years of architectural history from Colonial to neo-Colonial. For an educational promenade, stop into the Tourism Office for walking tour maps of the Victorian homes on Washington and Broadway, the burial grounds, or follow the Heritage Walkway from the Falls south along the Yantic River past Christ Church and down to the Norwich Marina.
Or, if it’s that small-town spirit you’re after, attend a community event
like the annual rose show (June), antique auto show (September), or Grecian Festival (September). I was lucky enough to catch one of the most elaborate and festive local holiday parades I have ever seen.
- Nat Geo Expeditions