Even before we arrived, my family knew that Mystic, Connecticut was the right mini-vacation spot because of the way people spoke of it. “I used to love going to Mystic as a child,” person after person sighed when we told them of our upcoming trip. “It’s such a charming little place!” Mystic has many fans, and we soon learned why.
Mystic is a New England seaport village with just 4,205 inhabitants and 3.4 square miles. In fact, it is not an actual town, just a “census-designated place” with no government of its own. This fact will come in handy when Google Maps asks you, “Do you mean Stonington or Groton, CT?” (You do! Mystic lies within both.)
Mystic is steeped in history, from the powerful Pequot Native Americans who ruled before the 17th century, to the 1630s war and treaty in which the English seized control of the area, to Mystic’s 1800s ascension as seaport leader.
What is remarkable about Mystic is how it has kept its economy vibrant by transitioning from seaport industry to tourism. And what a good job they do at tourism! This little village has some of the top attractions in New England, while maintaining its relaxed, old-fashioned vibe. This makes it an ideal weekend getaway for families.
So what are its famed attractions? First and foremost, any visitor to Mystic must mosey over to Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, which is known as the leading maritime museum in the United States. Even if you aren’t a ship groupie, there is something for everyone there. (This spot made my list of 21 cool museums in the USA.)
You’ll find heart-stoppingly majestic ships to view and climb aboard, then lots of smaller buildings to dive into the ins and outs of seaport history and ship-building. My favorite spot was a dark room with a diorama of what the seaport looked like back in the day, with a song piped in of hearty sailors singing. You should have seen baby Devi’s face in this room! Who knew my toddler loved sea shanties?
Of course, the next thing anyone of a certain generation will ask you is, “Are you going to visit Mystic Pizza?” This homey restaurant was the namesake of the 1988 movie “Mystic Pizza” starring an incandescent Julia Roberts. You better bet that Devi and I made our way to the restaurant and had a glistening veggie pizza all to ourselves, admiring the movie memorabilia lining the wood walls as we scarfed.
Besides these two hallmark attractions, Mystic also features a famous Aquarium (we didn’t leave enough time for it, but word is that it’s great), and numerous yummy eateries and ice cream stores, cafes, and shopping opportunities. Personally, I just enjoyed strolling by the water, admiring the drawbridge and soaking in the village’s old-fashioned ease.
So, where to stay in Mystic? Well, we enjoyed our time at the Inn at Mystic (click for availability and rates), which sits on a hill with wonderful water views across Long Island Sound. I must add that our room not only had a working wood fireplace, but also the most epic mirrored Jacuzzi I have ever seen.
The whole inn is undergoing a facelift this year, and I eagerly await what the refurbished Mansion and Gate House will look like. Did you know that Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart honeymooned there in 1945? Colin and I loved our Belize Honeymoon, but a celebrity connection would have been thrilling, too!
A major perk of staying at the Inn at Mystic is that Harbour House Restaurant is attached. The article I published about eating there, “The Best Food in Mystic, CT” has already had over 3,300 reads in two weeks, and if you click and take a look at that succulent roast duck and lavender creme brûlée, you’ll see why.
As a young family with an eager-to-explore wee one, we are busy compiling a list of fun New England destinations for short getaways, and Mystic now makes the list! It’s right up there with the Martha’s Vineyard alpaca farm, of course. Now if we could only get a ship full of alpacas…
So what do YOU think? Are you one of the many people we met who have fond childhood memories of Mystic? Have you been there recently? What do you have to add? Do share!
If you’re searching for a great place to stay around Mystic, click here for Mystic hotel deals and here for here for Mystic vacation rentals. A small commission helps support this site at no cost to you, so thanks in advance, and happy travels!
We were invited to stay by the Inn at Mystic, but all opinions and psychedelic jacuzzi photos are my own.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!