The Book Barn in the coastal Connecticut town of Niantic is truly a one-of-a-kind bookstore. Five historic buildings and a maze of outdoor book stalls span over an acre and a half,complete with gardens, two resident goats, more than a dozen cats, and hundreds of thousands of used books. Whimsical surprises are around every corner, like fairy houses in the garden and a haunted book shop on the edge of the property.
If you’re looking to run in and grab the latest bestseller, this is not the place for you. You can probably find it… somewhere. But you’re likely to get lost and stumble upon a few unexpected titles along the way. There is a sort of organizational system – with sections labeled “New Arrivals,” “Classic Must Haves,” and “Dolla’ Dolla’ Books, Y’all.” But you’ll have to discover for yourself what kind of titles are shelved in “Hades.”
Sure, it’s a self-proclaimed bibliophile’s bliss, but there are plenty of things to do for non-literary folks too. Read on to discover how you could easily spend an entire day at The Book Barn in Niantic, CT and still leave wanting more.
About The Book Barn
“It all started with a couch and three bookcases.”
The story of The Book Barn’s inception has become such a legend that they now sell t-shirts sporting the slogan. In April 1988, owner Randi White opened The Book Barn in the basement of what is now the “Main Barn” and filled the space with less than a thousand titles and furnishings from a yard sale.
The collection has catapulted in size since, with over a half million used books spilling over from the five buildings onto the outdoor shelves scattered throughout the grounds. And as big as it’s become and as much notoriety as it’s gained (it’s been named one of 12 Bookstores in the World Worth Traveling To), The Book Barn still maintains the ramshackle charm of its humble beginnings.
Today The Book Barn has three locations scattered throughout the seaside town of Niantic, CT. The Main Barn is home to its largest selection of genres in several themed buildings. Chapter Three is a mere three hundred feet from the Main Barn. And there’s a Downtown store in the heart of Niantic Village. All three shops are within a mile of each other and can easily be visited in a single day.
Things to Do at The Book Barn
Browse over 500,000 used Books
Of course the main draw of The Book Barn is its vast collection of used books. People come from near and far to sift through stacks filled with titles on every subject you can imagine. With new arrivals coming in constantly, you’re sure to find something new to fall in love with each time you visit. If you start to feel famished, the Main Barn offers complimentary coffee, tea, cocoa, cookies, and crackers.
Sell your books at Ellis Island
Owner Randi White regularly adds to his collection in a mission to bring the best finds to his customers. He and his team acquire and sort new arrivals at a book stall aptly named “Ellis Island.” It’s open seven days a week, 363 days a year, rain or shine. During the peak summer months, they take in nearly ten to fourteen thousand books a week.
See how many cats you can spot…
Not only can you hunt for something great to read at The Book Barn, you can also find some feline friends. This activity is so popular, The Book Barn has created a Cat Spotting guide on their website. My go-to spot: the second floor of Chapter Three, just down the road from the Main Barn, where a trio of cats can be found lounging on a tattered red couch.
The Book Barn is not only home to their famous cats, but also the two resident goats, Fili and Teddy.
Take a stroll in the gardens
In the warmer months, The Book Barn’s lush and peaceful gardens are perfect for an easy stroll. Plenty of benches are scattered throughout to sit and linger over a good book.
Bring your dog
Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome to explore the property. They can even join you in the store at the Main Barn location.
Getting to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT
The Book Barn is located in the small coastal town of Niantic, CT just south of New London. Niantic is 45 minutes from New Haven and two hours from Boston by car. There’s ample parking at all of the Book Barn’s locations. You could also take the train from Boston or New York City to New London, then Uber or catch a bus to Niantic.