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Mystic, Connecticut

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Did You Know … ?

  • The Nautilus, in nearby Groton, was the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine (1954).
  • Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall honeymooned at the Inn at Mystic.
  • Mystic Seaport is home to the world’s last wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan.
  • Portions of the 1997 movie, “Armistad,” were shot at Mystic Seaport.
  • American Flyer, maker of model railroads, based its train station on the Mystic Train Depot.

A seafaring tradition

Mystic is a small town, with only a few thousand residents, but it is a disproportionately large dot on the tourist map for several reasons.

First, there is its seaside location — on the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Mystic River. It also has the look and charm of a classic New England town; it is home to small businesses and unsullied by overdevelopment.

These factors alone are enough to lure visitors who want an attractive vacation site by the sea with opportunities to play on or near the water during the day and relax over a seafood dinner in the evening. A historic inn or quaint B&B makes an appealing additional ingredient to that mix.

However, Mystic stands out as the home of the Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport. Appropriate to Mystic’s geography, they are focused, respectively, on marine life and the area’s seafaring traditions. Both establishments offer extensive exhibits that are at once fun and educational for visitors, and both are involved in research and education in more formal ways.

The aquarium is home to beluga whales, seals, sea lions and African penguins — plus, at times, other marine animals in need of temporary care before return to the wild. Visitors are offered opportunities for close encounters with the animals.

Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea encompasses 19 acres of exhibition space. There is so much variety on offer that a short visit is nigh onto impossible.

For starters, the site includes a re-created 19th century whaling village, which contains more than 30 authentic New England trade shops and businesses that have been relocated from various points around New England. The shops accommodate representatives of several old trades, while historians, musicians and storytellers populate the streets.

But, for boat lovers, the historic ships are the centerpiece. Visitors can board tall ships and other historic vessels. In addition, the museum offers regular touristic sailings aboard some of its boats.

For those seeking a richer experience, Mystic Seaport offers classes on topics relevant to life in a 19th century seaport, from boatbuilding to open-hearth cooking.

Things to do for Venturers

  • At Mystic Seaport, take the helm of the schooner Brilliant during a learning experience at sea. Weekend sessions for adults are scheduled in spring and fall, longer sessions in summer for kids.
  • Depending on season, mountain biking and cross-country skiing are options at two area state parks, located between Mystic and Groton: Bluff Point Coastal Reserve and Haley Farm.
  • Charter a fishing boat and go after a big one in the Sound off Connecticut’s 250-mile coastline.
  • Join a cooking class at the Mystic Seaport, during which you will help prepare a 19th century meal the 19th century way — over an open hearth. The activity includes eating the hearth-cooked supper.
  • Or, take a four-day class in boat building at Mystic Seaport museum.
  • Crack those lobsters and chow down at Mystic’s Lobster Days, held in May. Tack on wine tasting at Stonington Vineyards.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Join a regularly scheduled fishing trip. These excursions, available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, operate during much of the year.
  • Plan a day sail from Mystic Seaport on the 33-foot ketch Araminta, with an on-board skipper to advise and instruct — or to back off as appropriate.
    Or, take a half-day or sunset cruise into the Sound aboard a 19th century sailing schooner.
  • Tour the Fort Griswold Battlefield in nearby Groton. It was the scene of a 1781 Revolutionary War battle. Plan for a picnic here, too.
  • Be entertained at the Mystic Seaport’s Sea Music Festival, held in June. If you have the time and interest, also register for the festival’s Music of the Sea Symposium.
  • In addition, for lovers of all things nautical, the Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington is a logical addition to the itinerary. It dates from 1823.
  • Wade into the Arctic Coast exhibit with beluga whales and their trainers, or opt for a personal encounter with an African penguin. These are examples of the Mystic Aquarium’s encounter programs, for which an extra fee applies.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Vegas-style pizzazz is only a few miles away from quaint Mystic. If you like to roll the dice and maybe attend a show, head to the Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun gaming sites.
    Or, stay in Mystic for theater at the Cornerstone Playhouse.
  • It’s an obvious, and irresistible, thing to do — go shopping and have lunch, too, at Olde Mistick Village. Do a little shopping as well in the re-created 19th century village at Mystic Seaport.
  • Make the Inn at Mystic your residence for a few days. Enjoy its walking trails and opportunities for kayaking or other boating activities.
  • Come to town in August for the annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, and buy original art for your home.
  • View Mystic Harbor from the water aboard a sightseeing cruise. Or take a short sailing trip on Mystic River from Mystic Seaport aboard the wooden coal-fired steamboat Sabino.
  • If a fan of the 1988 movie, “Mystic Pizza,” follow the Mystic Pizza Movie Trail in and around the town of Mystic, where the movie was filmed. Eat lunch at the real Mystic Pizza restaurant.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Mystic Country at