The places that dot the coast of Connecticut make for fun destinations with a healthy dose of culture, history, and breathtaking scenery. If you’re looking for a small town getaway that packs a punch, head to Mystic. This quintessential New England seaport town offers plenty to see and do.
It’s hard to find a better location in the area than the Inn at Mystic, just off I-95 and minutes from the historic downtown. Sprawled over 14 acres atop a slight rise with gorgeous water views of the harbor and sound, the Inn has been welcoming guests for more than 50 years. Its centerpiece is the 1904 Haley Mansion, a colonial revival estate surrounded by lovely gardens with a pond and waterfall. Weddings and other special events are held here, and the second floor has five elegant guest suites. The rest of the inn consists of 51 nautical-style guestrooms and the Harbour House restaurant. Rates start at $149 for standard rooms and $199 in the mansion.
Mystic hit the scene with the 1988 movie Mystic Pizza, starring Julia Roberts. The film was inspired by an actual pizza parlor that has been a staple of the town since 1973, and you can still eat at the original Mystic Pizza today, where the walls are lined with memorabilia from the movie and other local happenings. For more upscale offerings, you can’t beat the Oyster Club. This “farm and sea to table” fine dining restaurant changes its menu daily, and has a terrific raw bar. Its sister restaurant and bar, The Engine Room, is situated in the gorgeously restored Lathrop Marine Engine building and offers 16 craft beers on tap, handcrafted cocktails (try the Purple Rain), the largest bourbon selection in the area, and a great burger. Finally, it's worth the drive to head 10 minutes outside of Mystic to Noank for the decadent Lobster Bomb at Ford’s Lobster. This bowl of seafood bliss starts with a buttered and grilled sourdough bowl, which is filled halfway with a creamy lobster bisque, then a half-pound of fresh lobster meat, and topped with even more bisque.
The top attraction in the area is Mystic Seaport, a living history museum that's home to a village of historic buildings and ships across 17 acres of exhibits depicting coastal life in New England in the 19th century. It’s still a working shipyard; the world’s oldest wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, was restored to seaworthiness here. Visitors can climb aboard this and other ships, and even take a pontoon or sailboat tour around the port and Mystic River Drawbridge. Mystic Seaport’s newest exhibit addition, the 14,000-square-foot Thompson Building, opens September 24.
Exploring the historic downtown main street -- filled with independently owned boutiques, art galleries, bookshops, and restaurants -- is the perfect way to pass an afternoon. Don’t miss the opening of the drawbridge, which happens at 40 minutes past every hour. The bascule bridge was built in 1920 and carries foot and vehicle traffic across the river. The best place to watch it open and see the boats pass through is on the side patio at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream, which offers a direct view. Naturally, one of the shop's original homemade flavors is the perfect accompaniment.
Mystic is located between New York City and Boston. The drive along I-95 takes about three hours from New York and one-and-a-half to two hours from Boston. The Northeast Regional Amtrak train also goes to Mystic from both cities and other places along the East Coast.