Mystic Connecticut is a little over a two hour drive from the Bronx. Located in New London County, Mystic is a beautiful seaside town perfect for a weekend family getaway this summer. With an aquarium, seaport filled with history, and other fun attractions nearby, there’s plenty of options to fill your itinerary with. We recently had the chance to visit this historic seaside town and couldn’t wait to share our trip.
First Stop: The Aquarium
Our first stop in Mystic was the Mystic Aquarium. With one of the largest Beluga whale exhibits in the United States, a ray and shark touch pool, an awesome jelly fish gallery, and even an awesome 4D movie theater- it was the perfect first place to see in Mystic.
The first thing we did upon arrival was check out the ray touch pool and then over to the belugas. We then headed inside to the Main Gallery. This is where the shark touch pool and other hands on activities are located. An awesome jellyfish gallery, lots of fish to explore, and plenty of educational activities are located here. There was even a part where kids can use a claw to fish garbage out of the water- a great lesson about taking care of our environment.
We headed back outdoors to the Birds of the Outback, the Marsh Trek, and the Penguin Pavilion. The girls paid $1 to drive little speedboats inside the pond, had fun spotting frogs camouflaged inside the marsh, and see penguins and seals.
The kids really enjoyed their time at the aquarium- the exhibits were great, and there were lots of hands on activities for them to experience. Each activity was educational and our oldest was able to stop and read the information while our youngest enjoyed the many places to play, climb under, or touch parts of the exhibits.
We headed to the Foxwoods Marine Theater for the 2 pm Sea Lion show where we learned just how smart sea lions are. After, we headed to the 4-D Theater for a cool Ice Age experience. The exit doors of the theater lead you to the Ocean Exploration Center, which was our last stop for the day.
It was the perfect first stop to get us in the aquatic mood. For more information on the Mystic Aquarium, visit www.mysticaquarium.org.
We then headed down to the seaport, but first- I’ll share where we stayed.
The Hilton Mystic is located directly across the street from the aquarium, making it the perfect location for families to stay during their time in Mystic. Having undergone renovations in 2015, the hotel has transformed into a modern hotel with a great seaport vibe.
The common rooms and guest rooms have all been updated, and guests can enjoy the onsite restaurant The Irons, an indoor heated pool, and both a fitness and business center.
Upon entering the hotel, we were completely surprised by the modern vibe inside considering the classic look of the exterior. Immediately you get a glimpse of the patio area of The Irons, furnished with comfy outdoor couches and firepits- the perfect place to grab a cocktail, or gather around the fire with family after your meal.
Check in is at 4pm, so we decided to hit the seaport before we got to the hotel.
Mystic Seaport is located just a few minutes away from the Hilton Mystic. Parking is available across the street, and is free. The seaport is known for being the nation’s leading maritime museum. The seaport takes up 19 acres on the Mystic River, complete with a recreated 19th century coastal village. Since the seaport is a museum, there is an admission price to enter. Adults are $26, youth are $17 and children 5 and under are free- and the best part is this includes free second day admission to return the next day.
An entire day can be spent at the seaport, making the experience well worth the price. Tip: Those with little ones who might not last as long or those who are trying to pack multiple activities into one day, last hour admission is 50% off. You’ll definitely want to come back again to see everything- but it’s a great way to experience some of it during a shorter stay.
Located on the seaport before the admission area, guests can stop in the Seaport Stores and check out lots of great nautical goodies or grab something from the cafe area- there’s an insane selection of fudges to choose from and other yummy treats.
For more information, visit www.mysticseaport.org
Pool Then Dinner
After exploring the seaport, we checked in to the hotel and then went to enjoy some pool time before our dinner reservations at 6. The indoor pool was nice- but on such a nice day it would have been awesome to have an outdoor pool to jump into also. There’s a large patio area in the courtyard of the hotel- I wonder if this is a future possibility!? Either way, we had a great time in the pool as a family and waited until the last minute to run upstairs to change for dinner.
The Irons continues the seaport feel in this modern restaurant and bar. We were greeted by a very friendly waitress who told us to sit wherever we’d like. The girls immediately started coloring their sea-themed menus while the husband and I decided which signature cocktail to try. We opted for the namesake Irontini and the Blueberry Basil Lemonade. Delish!
After ordering the kid’s choices from the menu, we opted for the firecracker shrimp and crispy point judith calamari for appetizers. As a spicy food lover, the shrimp were excellent. Accompanied by thai slaw and asian zing sauce, I found myself clearing the plate. The calamari came with banana peppers and a delicious lemon aioli.
For dinner, Briana had wings with fries and Gia went for the pizza. Luis chose the Steak Frites: a NY strip with gorilla fries, broccoli rabe, and roasted garlic butter. I chose the pan roasted salmon with a spinach and green onion puree and heirloom potato hash. The salmon dish was nice and light after devouring our appetizers.
After dinner, we took a moment to sit outside on the patio by the fire. It was the perfect way to unwind after a fulfilling day- and meal! We vowed to bring grandma next time so we could stay downstairs and enjoy a few more drinks while the kids went to sleep in the room. But, it was Father’s Day and the last game of the finals were on- so we headed upstairs to watch Game 7 of the NBA playoffs from our comfortable beds.
The rooms are simple with clean lines- white linen, a large work desk, refrigerator, coffee maker, and available room service. Our room overlooked the courtyard area. There are also five Jacuzzi suites available in the hotel. Our room was on the 4th floor- there is only one elevator, so our route to our room was a long hallway and then a turn down another hall. We like to be away from the lobby and foot traffic, but for folks who don’t want the longer walk- ask to stay near the elevators. Before bed we looked at the map of the town of Mystic and pointed out some more places to explore in the morning.
For more information on Hilton Mystic, visit hiltonmystic.com
Olde Mistick Village
In the morning we headed over to Olde Mistick Village. Designed to look like a New England Village around the 1720s, shopkeepers here keep their stores filled with unique items and yummy treats to enjoy.There’s also restaurants and even a multi theatre arts & movie cinema. Located right down the street from the Hilton Mystic, this is another must visit place during your stay.
For more info, visit www.oldemistickvillage.com
After the village, it was time for lunch so we headed over to the famous Mystic Pizza, which is only a few more minutes away from the hotel. It was well known locally long before it’s claim to fame, but thanks to the 1988 movie of the same name starring Julia Roberts, it is a must see destination for tourists as well. For diners looking to just have a slice, Mystic Pizza offers cheese, pepperoni, or their slice of the day options.
We went on a Monday so I opted to try the Spaghetti and Meatball slice special. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was actually pretty good! Spaghetti on a slice of pizza definitely left me full from one slice. The girls’ pepperoni slice was great, completely different from a classic New York slice, but still held it’s own. Luis opted for wings, which he said were good also.
Before heading out, we stopped to look at the memorabilia and souvenirs, and left with a yo-yo and a post card that the girls picked out.
For more info on Mystic Pizza, visit here.
Mystic Pizza is located in downtown mystic, so there are lots of other little shops and places to stroll in the area. You’ll spot trendy restaurants and bars to hit up for those traveling without kids (or with grandma!) and plenty of photo opps along the water’s edge.
Ocean Beach Park
We had originally planned to visit a Rhode Island beach recommended to us, but decided we should make another trip to explore there separately and stay closer to Mystic. When asking around about family friendly beaches, our oldest’s eyes lit up when she heard about Ocean Beach Park. A beach complete with water slides, a pool, and rides for the little ones, we figured we would check it out.
The ride to the beach gave us the chance to pass by some pretty amazing homes on the water, and see some of the private beach clubs- which reminded us of ones here in the Bronx along the Long Island Sound. Parking is $17, but most of the attractions were additional. Ten bucks for three hours of water slides, $7 per person for the pool, and around $2 per ride for the small kid’s rides. There was a sprinkler area and park that were free, and a few other activities that we didn’t get to check out.
We Wouldn’t Go Back, During the Day That Is..
The kids had a blast- Briana loved the unlimited water slides- especially on a Monday with no crowds. While the kids left happy and we were glad we checked it out, I don’t think we’d return to Ocean Beach Park for daytime fun due to the cost. However, if you’re looking for an evening activity to do during your stay- the beach hosts movie nights, fireworks, and cruise nights where parking is $7 on weeknights, $10 for fireworks, and free on Mondays. The waterslide also has night rates on Monday nights for $10- when parking is free, making it well worth the visit and giving you an evening activity to do with the family.
For more info, visit www.ocean-beach-park.com
There is so much to see and do in Mystic, you’ll definitely find reasons to come back each time you go. We covered many of the tourist-y basics during our stay, but still have a list of things to come back and experience in the area. We’d love to go back and visit the B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, the oldest steam powered cider mill in the U.S. There are also nearby breweries and wineries that await on our child-free visit. There’s also the Old Lighthouse Museum and other museums in the area to explore. And of course, plenty of seafood restaurants to cross of our list each time we visit.
And just around 30 minutes away is The Dinosaur Place, an outdoor adventure with over 40 life sized dinosaurs and New England’s largest splashpad.
There’s also Fields of Fire Adventure Park, an outdoor course set on 50 acres of land. There’s even a BYOB night climbing option on Friday and Saturday nights- another fun adult outing to cross off your list.
For more information on the Mystic area, visit thisismystic.com. There you’ll find more info about attractions, restaurants, museums, and more. And remember, it’s always exciting to connect with locals and see the non-tourist places to hang out and see. This time around we played tourist and had fun experiencing the basics. But we can’t wait to return to see even more of Mystic- for both the family and an adult only perspective.
Have you been to Mystic? Share your adventures with us!
Special thanks to Hilton Mystic, Mystic Pizza, and The Mystic Aquarium for hosting us during out stay. As always, all opinions are our own.