A free association with “New England” conjures up summery images of tall sailboats, wooden docks, and lobster rolls. Mystic, CT has all the rigging of a quaint seaside village, minus the transportation hassle of a trip to Cape Cod.
What to Sea
Mystic’s nautical history is apparent in the town’s two main attractions, the seaport and aquarium. Mystic Seaport (75 Greenmanville Ave.; 888.973.2767; mysticseaport.org) is a living maritime museum situated along the banks of the Mystic River that boasts an extensive collection of historic ships and a recreated 19th century coastal village, in addition to its formal exhibit galleries. Arguably the greatest aquarium on the East Coast, Mystic Aquarium (55 Coogan Boulevard; 860.572.5955; mysticaquarium.org) counts among its residents Beluga whales, six different species of jelly, and many adorable African penguins. Mystic Aquarium is located by Olde Mistick Village (860.536.4941; oldemistickvillage.com), a unique shopping center disguised as an early American village. Though the Village is not an attraction high on our list of places to visit in Mystic, if you do go, stop by Munson’s Chocolate (27 Coogan Boulevard; 860.536.4351; munsonschocolates.com) for some fudge.
Where to Chow-da Down
For good eats, we recommend steering clear of the restaurants built into the town’s attractions. The gems of New England eating are the roadside restaurants that entice passerbys with a wafting aroma of fried seafood. These shacks serve up some of the best New England cuisine you’ll find around, including chowder, lobster rolls, and fried clam strips. Our favorite spot is the Sea Swirl (30 Williams Avenue; 860.536.3452; seaswirlofmystic.com). Don’t forget to save room for 100+ year old ice cream store Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream.
The best—and conveniently eco-friendly—way to get around Mystic is to rent a bike through the local bike share. Mystic Community Bikes (mysticcommunitybikes.org) offers used but tuned bikes that can be picked up (and dropped off later) at various distribution centers, all you need is a $10 deposit. (Remember to grab a helmet with your rental!) Quaint as Mystic may be, bike-friendly it is not, especially if you plan on riding over to nearby Stonington.
Nautical and Nice: Mystic’s Summer Arts & Music Events
Fourth of July in Mystic Seaport is choc-full of family-friendly activities. Highlights include a children’s parade through the Museum’s village, and an 1876 Independence Day ceremony and concert. The festivities begin at 9:00am.
Cocktails with the Whales
Head to the Mystic Aquarium’s Arctic Coast exhibit, to the sip a tipple and enjoy live music and hors d’oeuvres at the home to the Aquarium’s three beluga whales.
Every summer, a 24-hour marathon reading of all 135 chapters of Herman Melville’s Great American novel begins on July 31 and continues overnight, concluding by noon on August 1, the author’s birthday. Spend the night aboard the “Charles W. Morgan,” the last wooden whaleship in the world. Museum admission includes the daytime portion of the marathon; overnight stays cost extra.
Mystic Outdoor Art Festival
One of the country’s finest and oldest art shows, this fest highlights over 250 artists in Mystic’s historic downtown area.
How to get there:
Mystic is easily accessible by bus and train from New York City.
By train, take Amtrak out of New York Penn Station. The ride is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, and a round-trip ticket can cost up to $150.
By bus, the Peter Pan Bus Lines offers service to Mystic through its Bonanza Bus Line from New York Port Authority. Tickets are $60/round trip, and the ride is approximately 3 hours.
Photos: Rusty Clark, mragan,