State 17: Connecticut | Mystic

Growing up in Westchester, New York, Connecticut was always only a hop, skip and a jump away. We could easily venture on a quick drive or short Metro North train ride to Greenwich to go to dinner or a boutique. I even interned at a media agency in Stamford for two summers in college, and spent an overnight at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk as a girl scout. There are also several Connecticut museums I’ve explored, generally when my grandma would visit, including the Bruce Museum and the Bush Holley House. When we would drive up to meet my aunt half way to Boston for lunch at Rein’s Deli in Vernon (matzoh ball soup recommended!), a couple times we stopped at the Pez Vistor Center in Orange where you can learn the candy’s history and see where it is made.

Mystic Waterfront
Mystic Waterfront

The rest of this post will focus on an adorable town called Mystic. I’ve been to Mystic several times growing up, vacationing here in the summer for long weekends with my family. My boyfriend and I also spent a long weekend here for my twenty-first birthday. Most recently, my friend and I explored the area over Labor Day weekend.

Since hotels were booked or very pricey over Labor Day, we opted for an Airbnb. The location was perfect being in walking distance of the Mystic Seaport Museum and many restaurants. The space itself left some to be desired as we quickly realized it was a basement turned into Airbnb apartment with no windows or natural light. It was also decorated in a very eclectic manner and each room, including the bathroom, was very tight. Good thing we both aren’t very tall!

When we first arrived in Mystic our number one stop was the Mystic Aquarium. Although we purchased tickets in advance, there was still a sizable line to enter since the weather was beautiful and it was a holiday weekend. My very favorite exhibit is by far the beluga whales. The exhibit is outdoor and provides several viewing areas to admire the beautiful creatures. I love seeing these whales as they are not always staples at other aquariums. My friend’s favorite aspect were several different touch tanks including sting rays and star fish. Another highlight was the amusing and mirthful sea lion show.

After a few hours at the aquarium, we walked across to Olde Mystick Village for some lunch. There was an arts and crafts festival on the lawn and we browsed through the local vendors’ treasures. For lunch we settled on Mango’s Wood Fired Pizza Co. The wait wasn’t too long and aside from pizza (which I can’t have unless it’s dairy-free), they had a robust selection of salads and sandwiches. I settled on a sandwich and loved that the bread was made from pizza dough. The portions were plentiful and the price point was certainly reasonable. After lunch, we perused the dessert selection at Deviant Donuts. It was a quaint donut and coffee shop with a variety of changing flavors. Since it was summertime, I went with the lemonade donut. It was sweet and delicious, but really what donut isn’t?

After our bellies were content, we ventured inside some of the shops, including a tea shop, souvenir shop, jewelry store and sunglass boutique. The village had an old-timey feel. After we felt like we had seen everything of interest there, we walked back to our car and headed for the Airbnb. We had a few more stops on our list for the day, including the Mystic Museum of Art and Barley Head Brewery. The Museum of Art is quite small, and probably only takes about twenty minutes to look through. The art ranges from landscapes to modern art and even some nautical pieces. The museum does display over 250 pieces of art. Admission is free, as is parking in an adjacent lot for under half an hour, which should be just enough time to see all the works on display. The brewery was nearby the museum. We both tried the flight with four beers each. I’m not a huge beer aficionado, so only two out of the four beers were for me, but my friend loves sampling different brews. There were a few tables inside which we were lucky to grab as there was a bachelor party there at the same time.

Barley Head Brewery

In the evening, we walked back into town, strolled along the waterfront and found a spot for dinner at The Mariner. This was our splurge dinner. It was a more elegant restaurant with prices to match, but we wanted to treat ourselves on our first night of our trip. We chatted away over a bottle of rose (the perfect choice when someone is a crisp white wine lover and the other partial to more full bodied reds). We were in Mystic after all so why not indulge in the fresh seafood. I ordered the lobster salad and my friend had a shellfish starter, followed by a seafood pasta dish. It was a great way to end the packed day with girl talk, wine and fresh seafood!

The next morning we walked over to the Mystic Seaport Museum. Aside from learning about mariners, whalers and seafarers, the museum also replicates a 19th century seaport town. One of the biggest draws is the Charles W. Morgan, which is the last of the whaling fleets from 1841. The Seaport village gives a glimpse into life centuries ago from a schoolhouse, general store, doctor’s office, shipsmith, bank, printing office and family home. Many of the locations had someone in character inside who was very knowledgeable about their craft or trade. The manager of the general store knew many fun facts about all the items inside. Inside a home, someone was cooking as they would in the 1800s and a barrel maker was inside his shop actively making barrel casks as he would to carry whale oil and other items. This museum is certainly not only for children. I enjoyed it just as much in my late twenties as I did in my elementary school years. You can spend hours soaking in all the history this museum offers in an intriguing and interactive setting. Throughout the year, there are also several special exhibits, including one about keeping our oceans clean, which was on display this summer.

Later on we grabbed a quick dinner in town and sat at the bar before we departed Mystic. We booked our Airbnb for two nights but as it was pretty disappointing, we ended up heading out late the second night rather than staying over and heading back first thing the next morning since we hit all our must-see Mystic locations. I actually haven’t had the best luck with Mystic accommodations. The last time I was there for my twenty-first birthday, the first hotel we booked was not so clean nor up to standard and we had to leave and find other accommodations for the night. Since it’s such a popular summer destination, vet the accommodations fully by reading all reviews before booking.

From Mystic, we drove about an hour to Newport, Rhode Island to explore another state. Rhode Island post coming next!

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