Looking for a laid back but sensational weekend getaway from New York City? Head to Mystic, Connecticut for maritime history, fresh seafood, and windswept beaches you can enjoy any time of year.
Perched on the state’s southern shore, the town overlooks Long Island Sound, giving it a beach community feel with hints of 18th century splendor. Cozy eateries, small businesses and historic landmarks dot this pocket of Connecticut, meaning you’ll have plenty to do at a small-town pace.
If staying in town, you’ll also be within reach of state parks, urban areas and the best of the Connecticut waterfront.
Ready to visit? Here are 29 things to do in Mystic CT that you’re not going to want to miss!
MYSTIC SEAPORT MUSEUM & VILLAGE
Set on 19 acres of historic grounds, the Mystic Seaport Museum and Village sits on the west bank of the Mystic River in the heart of town. Great for kids and adults alike, the museum features rotating gallery exhibits, an operational shipyard, original 19th century ship cabin and more.
Catch a full-dome movie at the museum’s Planetarium, then head over to the Village to walk through original shops and other structures brought to Mystic from around New England. Immerse yourself in the era and learn about the various businesses that helped make Mystic a crucial Northeastern port in the 18th and 19th centuries.
If the exhibits make you want to feel like a sailor yourself, the museum even offers boat rides on the Mystic River. Charter a vessel, sail one yourself or take a guided tour on the Liberty — winter tours are also available. Some of the offered boat rides are seasonal, so be sure to check up on the schedule before you go.
The Mystic Seaport Museum’s favorite historic steamboat, the Sabino steamboat dates back to the early 20th century. Ride options range from short 30 minute tours, longer evening cruises, and charters aboard the wooden vessel.
The boat launches from the museum, and can even host a private event for up to 75 guests. Booking a trip on the Sabino Steamboat is your chance to experience one of New England’s most crucial waterways from the deck of a designated National Historic Landmark. Keep an eye on the Seaport Museum website for updates to the upcoming season schedule.
Wrap up your museum day with an outdoor meal at Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern, located in the village and overlooking the majestic Charles W. Morgan. Built in 1841, the Morgan is the oldest commercial ship still out on American waters and a sight to see as you reflect on your visit.
ARGIA SHIP CRUISES
As one of the most visited attractions in Mystic, Argia Ship Cruises offers sailing experiences aboard an elegant, 19th century inspired ship of the same name. Morning, afternoon and sunset sails are available, and children ages 10 and up are welcome.
Gliding along Fishers Island Sound, you’ll be able to sit back and relax while enjoying calm waters and stories from the crew. All seating is outside, and there’s even space onboard to have your own picnic.
Craving an uninterrupted afternoon on the water? The ARGIA can be booked for private charters from May to October for trips lasting one to four hours. This year’s season begins in April and booking ahead of time is recommended, as sails fill up fast.
MYSTIC BOAT ADVENTURES
If you’re feeling up for a speed boost, check out Mystic Boat Adventures’ guided mini power boat tours and book one of four daily departures. Choose from a one or three hour tour and take the wheel as you drive the power boat; as long as you’re over 18, all you need is a valid driver’s license.
Your guide will accompany you in a separate boat and draw your attention to the historic sites you’ll pass along the way. Sunset is the most popular time to book a tour, and rightfully so; watching the sky change color over the Mystic River will be an unforgettable experience.
If you’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to pilot a boat, Mystic Boat Adventures has you covered. Booking in advance is recommended to secure your dream tour.
HISTORIC DOWNTOWN MYSTIC
If you’re planning a morning out in town, Mystic’s downtown is both walkable and inviting enough to keep you out and about all day. Wake up with a fresh coffee or hot chocolate from Mystic River Chocolate Cafe, then head over to one of the 80 independent shops lining the town’s quaint streets.
You’ll find uniquely Mystic products, handicrafts, foods, and nautical souvenirs in every direction. Have a gourmet lunch at Main Street’s Grass & Bone before heading over to Mystic Park Ice Cream for a sweet snack overlooking the river.
Hit some more shops, then warm up with drinks at The Harp and Hound or craft beers at Barley Head Brewery. You probably won’t have time to stop by all the places that catch your eye, so do it all over again tomorrow and get to know downtown Mystic, one street at a time.
When it comes to a place like Mystic, it’s no wonder that the area’s sea life is as celebrated as its maritime culture. The Mystic Aquarium is your gateway to exhibits, animal encounters, touch pools and even an undersea VR experience that puts you in the midst of the action.
Get to know penguins, sea lions, and reptiles in person, or feel a shark gracefully glide under your hands at the SHARKS touch habitat. Learn about beluga whales, or dip your fingertips into the ray pool. At the Discover Long Island Sound exhibit, you’ll get to know the region like a marine biologist and interact with invertebrates like local lobster species.
Get your tickets online in advance; group visits can also be scheduled if you’re visiting with a group counting more than 10 guests.
POET’S LOUNGE SAILING CHARTERS
Open for events, groups, families, couples, and even adventurous individuals, Poet’s Lounge Sailing offers a number of tailored experiences on Fishers Island Sound. Private rentals, daysails, sunset cruises, moonlight tours and even overnight sailing trips are available to introduce you to life out on the waves. You can even learn to sail and navigate with the help of your boat’s captain.
Poet’s Lounge has two vessels departing from both Mystic and New London, Connecticut. On the Ericson 39’ departing out of Mystic, you can customize your charter to include swimming, beach or waterfront dining stops. If you book between May and October, you might even spot local seals frolicking in the waters.
Get in touch with Poet’s Lounge for more information and to book your next adventure.
B.F. CLYDE’S CIDER MILL
Open seasonally just in time for a New England autumn, B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill has been owned and operated by a single family since 1888. The mill’s cider-making expertise has been handed down from generation to generation, bringing you a glass of fresh cider with a side of history.
Both sweet and hard ciders are offered, along with wine, donuts, and other locally produced food products, like kettle corn and honey. Check the mill’s calendar for tastings and other events to learn more about the B.F. Clyde story.
B.F. Clyde’s is considered to be the final steam-powered cider mill still operating in the United States, making this an ideal addition to your New England bucket list. You’ll find the mill just north of Old Mystic, a short drive from downtown.
ESSEX STEAM TRAIN & RIVERBOAT
Only a short drive west from Mystic lies Essex, Connecticut, the home of the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat tour. This two and a half hour journey takes passengers from the Essex Train Station (1892), through twelve miles of New England countryside, Selden Neck State Park and neighboring wetlands.
You’ll start the trip on a historic steam locomotive and then transition to the vintage Becky Thatcher Riverboat through parkland that is only accessible via water. Small towns, serene Connecticut River Valley panoramas, and wildlife accompany you as your guide points out notable sights like Gillette Castle and Goodspeed Opera House.
For a unique train car dining experience, book a ride on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train and travel through the valley like a socialite. The Clipper offers four course meals, served throughout a two hour meander through pristine country. Book in advance to guarantee your spot on either tour.
SIFT BAKE SHOP
Overlooking the Mystic River, Sift Bake Shop is open early for all your morning needs, including pastries, desserts, gourmet coffee and breads. Pastry Chef Adam Young’s French-inspired vision has become a Mystic mainstay, serving staples as well as seasonal goodies.
Settle into a chair on the outdoor terrace and sip your morning brew while enjoying the view. Or, order one of the shop’s famous dessert cakes to go and sweeten up the rest of your day.
Looking for a gift for the foodie in your life? Purchase one of Chef Young’s cookbooks for a selection of hand-picked recipes to remind you of mornings in Mystic.
MYSTIC DRAWBRIDGE ICE CREAM
On a hot summer day, there’s no better way to cool off than with a scoop from Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream, located in the center of town. Handmade batches incorporating fresh flavors are sure to brighten up your day as you stroll the rest of downtown.
At Mystic Drawbridge, ice cream is a craft, and the shop prides itself on decreasing overrun, or the amount of air that is whipped into a tub of freshly prepared ice cream. With less overrun and a keen attention to detail, Mystic Drawbridge has perfected a creamier, more decadent scoop.
Fruit, nuts and candies are added to spice up each batch, and you can even order online to speed up the process.
MYSTIC RIVER BASCULE BRIDGE
A quintessential part of Mystic, the Mystic River Bascule Bridge is hard to miss; running through the center of town, it connects the east and west banks of the river. This drawbridge was built in 1922, and is raised periodically to accommodate boats traversing the river.
You’ll undoubtedly find yourself driving over the bridge to get to either side of town, and you can walk across it while exploring downtown. Well preserved and recognizable, this bascule bridge is an industrial icon, especially when raised above the river.
MYSTIC MUSEUM OF ART
Mystic’s Museum of Art is one of the town’s cultural centers, bringing exhibitions and studio art classes to Southern Connecticut. Along with rotating art showcases, the museum houses a permanent collection with over 250 works to share with the public.
The institution itself was originally an artists’ colony founded by Charles Harold Davis, and has been collecting American artworks for over a century. The permanent collection includes work from the first decades of the twentieth century to more recent years. You’ll find work that is local to New England as well as from around the country.
The museum also acts as a platform for several elected artists a year, bringing the ideas of emerging and established makers into view. The Mystic Museum of Art is open Monday to Sunday and admission is free of charge.
THE DENISON HOMESTEAD MUSEUM
Located slightly north of town, the Denison Homestead Museum invites visitors into a home dating back to 1717, when it served the family of Captain George Denison and his wife, Ann Borodell. The manor and grounds have a long history spanning several generations that has been preserved along with the structures themselves. The Denison burial grounds further preserves the Denison family’s names and stories.
The Homestead Gardens are a beautiful addition to the property, and a weekly farmers market draws visitors from around the region. (The farmers market runs seasonally, beginning in June.) The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center is adjacent to the manor, and the homestead holds occasional events such as Daffodil Day and a 17th Century Encampment.
SALTWATER FARM VINEYARD
A short drive from Mystic, Stonington’s Saltwater Farm Vineyard features a tasting room, live music and a fully local wine experience in the heart of Connecticut’s Wequetequock Cove. The vineyard rests on a former airfield, owned and operated as a community airport by William J. Foster in the 1930’s.
The hangar has been restored and turned into a cozy, yet spacious, winery without compromising its original design. The vineyards’ preservation efforts extend to the land around the hangar as well; the unique coastal landscape has a history as farmland, which the vineyard continues to uphold.
Open seasonally, the farm and vineyard periodically offers food trucks and live music to complement your glass or bottle of Connecticut’s best. The venue is also open to wedding rentals.
Stonington, Connecticut’s vineyards are proud to mark the beginning of the Connecticut Wine Trail. If you had no idea this region of New England was known for fine local wines, stop by Stonington Vineyards seven days a week to taste the magic for yourself.
Tours, tastings and group reservations are available to enhance your experience, and you can even bring your own picnic. The one of a kind ocean climate of Southeastern Connecticut is one of the elements that give Stonington wines their flavor profile; the rest comes from the founder’s dedication to the craft of wine.
Known for its Chardonnay and Seaport White proprietary blend, Stonington Vineyards beckons wine lovers from around the Northeast; don’t miss a tasting on your next trip to the Mystic area.
OLDE MISTICK VILLAGE
For a truly New England take on the mall experience, drop by Olde Mistick Village for all your shopping, dining and entertainment needs. Modeled on an 18th century village, this “mall” is an outdoor network of unique structures meant to channel the bustle of early American town centers.
The village even has its own “town green,” duck pond, and gazebo, along with an entire community of small businesses, eateries and other curiosities. Olde Mistick is a town favorite among locals and visitors, and is an all day destination for the whole family.
Catch a movie at Mystic Luxury Cinema, then step back out into colonial Connecticut with a loop around the village.
Known for having inspired the 1988 rom-com of the same name, Mystic Pizza is even better in person. Founded in 1973, the pizzeria is a homegrown treasure that grew extremely popular after the release of the movie, Mystic Pizza. Today, the original pizzeria and its second location in Stonington stay humble, sticking to their Connecticut roots and classic recipes.
The menu includes specialty pies, appetizers, sandwiches and other tasty snacks to satisfy your carbs cravings after a day out in town or on the water. If you’re a fan of the 1988 film, visiting this mainstay is a no brainer. If you’ve never heard of the movie and had no idea this gem even existed, stop by simply to take in the atmosphere and enjoy a slice to remember.
THE DINOSAUR PLACE AT NATURE’S ART VILLAGE
Located slightly off the beaten path between New London and Hartford, Connecticut, Nature’s Art Village has been celebrating the natural world for over 20 years. What started out as a fossil and mineral shop has developed into a full- fledged interactive learning environment, complete with gift shops, mini golf, and dinosaur- themed activities at The Dinosaur Place.
Opening in Spring, The Dinosaur Place engages both you and the little ones, featuring a splash pad, expansive playground and over 50 life-sized dinosaurs to gaze upon. Try your hand at navigating the A- Maze-asaurus, or catch the Dino Egg Hunt around Easter. After you’ve climbed the T-Rex Tower, head over to the Geode Center to learn about geology before putting your skills to the test at the Jackpot Mine.
Nature’s Art Village attractions are open on weekends and holidays, while shops are open six days a week.
CONNECTICUT RIVER MUSEUM
When in neighboring Essex, stop by the Connecticut River Museum to learn more about the region’s shipbuilding past and compare it to what you discovered in Mystic. Set on the idyllic Connecticut River, the museum is housed in a historic Steamboat Warehouse dating back to the late 19th century.
The art, artifacts and literature that make up the museum’s collections paint a centuries-long history of Essex and surrounding areas, making the museum a crucial local resource. Permanent exhibits include displays on colonial customs, riverine science, and a three- floor tall vertical mural.
Steve Cryan’s Holiday Train Show comes to town annually, and there are a number of public events happening throughout the year. Cruises and charters are also available through the museum, allowing you to get to know the Connecticut River firsthand.
BLUFF POINT STATE PARK
Overlooking Long Island Sound and the Pocqueonnock River, Bluff Point State Park preserves a unique coastal habitat just west of Mystic. Known as the last large undeveloped parcel of land on Connecticut’s southern shore, the park sits on a peninsula measuring over 800 acres. Hiking, saltwater and shell fishing and mountain biking are a few of the activities that keep locals coming back to Bluff Point to enjoy nature.
Bluff Point Beach is only accessible on foot, making it all the more rewarding for avid hikers. This long and narrow beach forms the tip of the peninsula and is dotted with native shore roses and beach plum, among other flora.
A pristine example of Connecticut’s most natural state, the park makes a worthwhile morning, afternoon or day trip from Mystic. The drive is only about fifteen minutes, meaning you can easily combine this with other same day activities in the area.
MASHANTUCKET PEQUOT MUSEUM
If you’re venturing north of Mystic in the direction of Norwich, visit the Mashantucket Pequot Museum to learn more about the region’s Native American heritage. The museum is tribally owned and operated, and celebrates the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s presence on ancestral lands, as well as that of neighboring tribes.
Gallery spaces, an on-site restaurant and shop bring you a traditional museum experience through a fascinating lens. The space also acts as a research center, continuing to broaden out understanding of Native American culture, customs, and history.
Built to merge with the landscape around it, the building is an experience in itself. The museum is currently open on Wednesdays only, so plan ahead.
HALEY FARM STATE PARK
Feeling like a lazy afternoon? Pack a picnic and head to Haley Farm State Park, located between Mystic and New London. Cruise down a mile long bike trail among the trees or walk the farm grounds. If you’re up for it, the bike trail connects to a longer bike path the links Mystic and the town of Groton.
Quiet and uncrowded, Esker Point Beach is nearby and offers swimming, volleyball and picnic areas overlooking the shoreline. Haley Farm State Park is just to the right of Bluff Point, so you can start your day on the trails and end it by watching the sunset from Bluff Point.
BARN ISLAND WILDLIFE AREA
Spanning over 1,000 acres, Barn Island Wildlife Management Area is perfect for birdwatchers, animal lovers and dog owners alike. Southern Connecticut’s coastal wetlands are home to a variety of migrating birds, shorebirds, small mammals and native plants.
With the windblown shoreline in sight, you can walk or bike on any of the wildflower-lined trails. A boat launch is also available on-site.
Separated from major roads by marshes and woodland, Barn Island allows you to see some of the state’s most beautiful fauna and flora in their natural habitat. Visit at dawn to increase your chances of seeing wildlife and enjoy the island at sunrise.
A large residential area located directly south of Mystic, Mason’s Island is worth a visit if you are spending an entire day out in Mystic. Driving into the island will feel like entering a tiny town, and the community is indeed tight-knit. A short drive will treat you to views of the sound. Stop at Kitchen Little and have a late breakfast overlooking the marina before heading back to the mainland.
On your way back, make sure to stop at Enders Island, a small parcel of land connected to the rest of Mason’s Island by a causeway. Enders Island is home to a chapel, gift shop and spiritual retreat honoring a former resident of the island, Alys Enders. Despite the island’s secluded feel, the gardens, gift shop and chapel are open to visitors
SEASIDE SHADOWS HAUNTED TOURS OF MYSTIC
Feeling inspired by New England’s Victorian homes, seafaring tales and local lore? Book a haunted tour of Mystic with Seaside Shadows and get ready to get spooked! Tour locations include Downtown Mystic, the local graveyard, and even Salem, Massachusetts if you’re willing to take the drive.
Departing from New London, Seaside Shadows’ Ghost Boat Tours are another highlight, treating you to a haunting evening on the Thames. Keep an eye on the company’s Special Events Calendar, as they often feature some of the spirit world’s best known figures.
Check out Seaside Shadows’ online gift shop for merchandise and souvenirs to remind you of your paranormal adventure.
WILLIAMS BEACH PARK
While wandering Mystic, stroll down to Williams Beach Park, located on the east side of town. This small park has a swimming beach, along with a playground to keep the kids busy. Sports fields are also available for friendly competition.
If driving, you’ll find parking at the nearby community center, which also has indoor recreation.
Grab a meal to go from one of Downtown Mystic’s lunch spots and enjoy it at Williams Beach Park with the whole family.
HARKNESS MEMORIAL STATE PARK
Meticulously preserved and manicured, Harkness Memorial State Park invites you to experience one of Waterford, Connecticut’s historic sites up close. The park’s crown jewel is Eolia, the summer mansion belonging to the Harkness family. Built in 1906, the home transports you to early 20th century New England, when elite families summered on the shores of Long Island Sound.
Enjoy the sweeping garden scenery before meeting your tour guide for a walkthrough of the opulent mansion. Harkness Memorial State Park opens at 8am every morning and require a parking fee for out of state visitors, so plan ahead accordingly.
FORD’S LOBSTER RESTAURANT
Fresh seafood, a waterfront patio, and maritime decor make Ford’s Lobsters your quintessential New England lobster shack. Hidden in plain sight on the eastern shore of Noank, Ford’s is a stone’s throw from Mystic, meaning you can head over any time of day for a bite. Try the Noank Clam Chowder, Clams Casino, or Bisque Bomb. Better yet, order all three!
Family-owned and beloved by Noank residents, Ford’s is the place to go to hear local tales, bring your own beer and learn what goes into preparing the perfect lobster roll. Located right off of Riverview Avenue in Noank, Ford’s Lobsters is open Thursday through Sunday and easily accessible from Downtown Mystic.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CONNECTICUT
WHERE TO STAY IN MYSTIC CT
New England Charm. Taber Inn is just an 8 minute walk to the beach and 1 mile from Mystic Seaport. Some rooms feature a spa bath and fireplace while select rooms have access to a balcony. This quaint little inn has New England written all over it.
Best Romantic View. Harbor View Landing We picked this one for the amazing harbor view and breathtaking grounds. Take a look at these photos! It’s 1.8 miles of Mystic Seaport. Couples love it.
Best for Families. Hampton Inn & Suites Mystic is right in Mystic and 1.7 miles from city center. It’s got a great looking indoor pool for the kiddos and is central to many of the great thing to do in this beautiful city.
We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We are not responsible for content on external web sites linked from ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites. We only write about places we love in an attempt to help you in your adventures, but we can’t guarantee you will love them, too.
Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you – opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. United States Copyright, 365 Atlanta Family, LLC
- SKI TRIP PACKING LIST: 47 THINGS YOU NEED TO BRING (+SNOWBOARDING, TOO!) - 08/11/2022
- 50+ ABSOLUTE BEST CHRISTMAS TOWNS IN USA - 08/05/2022
- GLAMPING UTAH: 18 BEST SPOTS FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURE - 07/26/2022