A beloved aquarium, an adorable village, historic ships and a pizza place made famous by one of Julia Roberts’ earliest movies are all part of the charm of Mystic. It’s a home-run destination for a quick day of family fun.
Driving time from Poughkeepsie: 2 hours 30 minutes
Start the day at the area’s biggest draw, Mystic Aquarium, where you’ll be blown away by the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the US. Next up: African penguins, seals, sea lions, jellyfish, sharks, and sea turtles. Adding to the fun are interactive displays, like a stingray touch pool and a live sea-lion show in the marine theater.
Head across the street to the quaint Olde Mistick Village to eat and browse the independent shops. We love Go Fish for its large menu (even picky toddlers will find something they like) highlighting fresh seafood. For a quick lunch, try Bleu Squid, known for its gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and 60+ types of cupcakes. You can also satisfy a sweets craving at Mango’s Homemade Ice Cream.
A five-minute drive brings you to Mystic Seaport, a combo maritime museum/historic seaport and village right on the Mystic River. Climb aboard ships like the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaling boat from 1841; cruise on the 1908 steamboat Sabino (back this summer after a two-year restoration); watch live reenactments and demonstrations by history interpreters; and check out the recreated 19th-century seafaring village. There’s also a children’s museum and nautically themed playground perfect for the under-7 set.
Finish your day in picturesque Downtown Mystic. Be sure to get an Instagram-worthy shot of the Mystic Pizza sign (where the movie Mystic Pizza is set), but opt for dinner at Oyster Club: a “boat-to-table” restaurant with a daily-changing menu. In summer months, try Oyster Club’s Treehouse — a literal treehouse, with $1 drinks and oyster specials. Another downtown favorite is S&P Oyster Club, a traditional New England seafood restaurant boasting dreamy river and drawbridge views.
Stop by Bartleby’s Café, a cozy java joint on the main drag, to pick up some caffeine for the ride home.
Purchase the Mystic Pass to snag 15 percent off admission to both Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium. This discounted twofer — available at www.mystic.org — includes special offers from local merchants, hotels, and restaurants.