When you think of Mystic, CT, what comes to mind? Boating? Fishing? Summer?
Sure, Mystic is a fantastic place for your summer vacation, but did you know that a visit to Mystic during the winter can be just as much fun? I know, you’re probably thinking – “Don’t a lot of things shut down for the winter?” Well, the answer is yes and no. There are a few shops and restaurants that only open for the summer in Mystic, but for the most part, everything stays open year round. Not only is it a great place for a romantic getaway, Mystic has some really fun, family friendly attractions as well. My husband, Chris, and I spent this past weekend in Mystic and today I am going to share five things that you can do in Mystic during the winter.
1. The Mystic Seaport
The Mystic Seaport is known as the Museum of America and the Sea. It includes three major components for people who visit: a re-created 19th -century coastal village with historic ships, a working preservation shipyard, and formal exhibit galleries. The Mystic Seaport is located across 19 acres of land along Connecticut’s Mystic River. There is definitely something for everyone at the Mystic Seaport.
The preservation shipyard is something to see. My husband and I got to spend a few minutes watching a really skilled craftsman use 19th century tools and techniques to preserve this historic wooden ship. It was fascinating to watch.
My favorite part of the day was visiting the re-created 19th century seafaring village. The buildings at the Seaport aren’t replications, they are actually trade shops and businesses from the 1800s that were transported to Mystic Seaport from locations around New England. Isn’t that amazing?
As you walk through the village, you will come across dozens of buildings, most of which are staffed with historians, storytellers, craftspeople and even a few musicians, who are very knowledgeable and really do bring the past to life.
We got a chance to spend some time with several of the craftsmen working in the village while we were there and learned a lot about their specific trades. The blacksmith showed us how he fixed broken tools and the printer showed us how books & newspapers were printed letter by letter back in 1876! It was fascinating.
At the Mystic Seaport, you can also board the Charles W. Morgan, which is the world’s last surviving wooden whaleship. It was built and launched in 1841. The Morgan is now America’s oldest commercial ship still afloat (only the USS Constitution, which is docked in Boston, is older than the Morgan).
While you’re visiting the Mystic Seaport, you will also get the chance to see the world’s largest collections of boat and maritime photographs, which includes more than 500 different vessels and more than a million historic maritime images.
And if you’re wondering about the little ones, there is a Children’s Museum and Planetarium at the Seaport that the kiddos are sure to love.
The Mystic Seaport is located at 75 Greenmanville Ave in Mystic, CT and it’s open year-round (seasonal hours apply). There are several parking lots across the street in which you can park for free. The Mystic Seaport is less than two hours from Boston and New York and less than an hour from Hartford!
2. The Mystic Aquarium
If you are a fan of aquariums, the Mystic Aquarium is one attraction in Mystic that you can not miss. There are indoor and outdoor exhibits at this aquarium and you should plan on spending at least several hours there to make sure you get a chance to see everything.
Some of the indoor exhibits include a ray and shark touch pool, a crab and star fish touch tank (don’t worry, they offer hand sanitizer), tons of different species of fish, eels, sharks, an octopus, stingrays swimming around in Stingray Bay and even a jellyfish gallery.
I love that this aquarium is super hands-on. As you already read above, you will find a few touch tanks located within the main gallery indoors, but there is also a large Ray touch tank located outside.
One of the things that really impressed me at the aquarium was that the staff at each exhibit were all very informative and willing to tell you all about the marine animals and even share some fun facts, too.
When you’re at the Mystic Aquarium, be sure that you get a chance to watch one of the sea lion shows. They do shows at least three times a day and during the show you will get to see the sea lions do tricks and learn all about them.
The aquarium also has some great outdoor exhibits, too. There are African Penguins and three Beluga Whales, which happen to be my favorite. If you spend some time near the observation window where the Belugas are swimming, they will come right up to the glass. Also, depending on the time, you can watch them get fed and interact with their trainers. It’s very cool.
While you’re at the aquarium, you can also take in a 4D movie and visit Birds of the Outback, which is a big tent where the birds are freely flying around. Both of those cost extra, though, so if you want to do either of those just be mindful that neither are included in your admission price.
Outside food is not allowed in to the aquarium, but you can get your hand stamped when you leave for re-entry later in the day, so if you don’t want to eat at their food court, you can go out to one of the many restaurants in the area and then just go back later.
The Mystic Aquarium is located at 55 Coogan Blvd in Mystic, CT and parking is free.
3. Mystic Pizza
If you are a child of the 80’s, you probably saw the movie Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts, but did you know it was based on an actual place? Mystic Pizza has phenomenal pizza, sandwiches and apps – but they get busy, so be prepared to wait if you go there at peak meal times.
The inside the restaurant was decorated with all sorts of movie memorabilia and of course, the movie is playing on constant rotation throughout the restaurant as you eat.
If you want to try a “A Slice of Heaven” for yourself, Mystic Pizza is located at 56 West Main St in Mystic, CT.
4. Historic Downtown Mystic
If you have some time, I highly suggest taking a stroll through historic downtown Mystic. There are all kinds of shops, eateries and galleries to explore. Some of the shops and boutiques are a bit more touristy than others, so it would make a great spot to pick up some souvenirs. There is also an Army/Navy store, a bookstore, a linen store, a candy shop, an ice cream shop, several clothing stores (including one children’s clothing store), a few art galleries, and many places to grab a quick bite along the way.
There are also some benches, so you can sit along the water and watch the boats pass by.
One of the coolest things you will see in downtown Mystic is the Mystic River Bascule Bridge. A bascule bridge is basically a drawbridge, but it has these massive concrete counterweights, which is what helps hold the bridge open. It takes about 5 minutes for the bridge to open and traffic gets all backed up when it does, but it’s really cool to see.
5. Stonington Borough
Ok, you got me, this one isn’t actually in Mystic – but it’s only about 10 minutes away and absolutely worth visiting. Historic Stonington Borough is a charming seaside village with many unique galleries, antique stores, bistros, boutiques, fantastic restaurants and historic homes.
One thing you can not skip if you do visit Stonington Borough, is a visit to “The Point”. From there you can view three states at once: Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York!
A little birdie also told me that sometimes seals hang out on these rocks, but there were none out there the day I was there. Hopefully next time!
Another great thing you can do in Stonington Borough is visit The Old Lighthouse Museum, which is the oldest museum lighthouse in the country. It’s only open in the summer, though, so I didn’t get a chance to go inside.
Where to stay?
So, now that you are ready to visit Mystic for yourself, you’re probably wondering where to stay. I stayed at the Hilton Mystic and was extremely happy with my accommodations.
Chris and I spent two nights at the Hilton Mystic. Anyone that knows us in real life, knows that we both get giddy when we check into a hotel for a weekend away without the kids and find out that we scored a room with two beds. Hey, he’s a bed hog and we both like our space….
Anyhow, we were both very impressed with how comfortable the beds were and with the overall convenience of the amenities in the room.
Amenities such as:
- High-speed Internet access
- Two-line phones with voicemail
- Comfortable work desks
- In-room coffeemaker
- In-room dining available
- Hair dryer
- Iron / ironing board
- Hilton HHonors, frequent guest program
- Check in time is at 3:00 pm daily
- Check out time is at 12:00 pm daily
The Hilton Mystic also has a game room, a heated indoor pool, and a state-of-the-art Precor fitness facility.
Some of the services at the Hilton Mystic include:
- The Mooring, a comfortable restaurant serving classic breakfast cuisine.
- Soundings Lounge, the ideal setting to unwind after a busy day, with a casual atmosphere and crackling fireplace, ideal for cocktails and conversations, great for families and friends.
- In-room dining, available from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- Heated indoor swimming pool, with outside pool deck.
- New Precor fitness center, with state-of-the-art cardiovascular and weight-lifting equipment.
- Hilton HHonors, frequent guest program.
Located at 20 Coogan Boulevard in Mystic, CT. It’s right off of the highway (I-95, exit 90) and it’s literally right across the street from the Mystic Aquarium. You can’t beat it.
Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Mystic and are looking forward to going back again this spring, hopefully with the kids.
Which one of these attractions would you like to visit first?
**The above was a sponsored press trip, but all opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way**