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Top Attractions in this Historic Connecticut Coastal Village
Mystic, a shipbuilding and whaling hub in the 17th through 19th centuries, is Connecticut’s best-known shoreline spot. Situated on the banks of the Mystic River—the two sides linked by the state’s most photographed and fascinating bridge—it is home to must-see sights that entertain families and enthrall maritime history buffs. Some of the best things to do in Mystic are beloved by state residents and famous far beyond Connecticut’s borders. Others are hidden treats worth discovering.
Here is a look at nine attractions that are "musts" for Mystic, CT, visitors.
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Make Memories at Mystic Aquarium
Far more than a refuge for a vast variety of water creatures including New England’s only captive whales, Mystic Aquarium is a research and rescue facility and a multifaceted attraction that captivates all ages. Allow a full day to experience all the aquarium has to offer including sea lion shows in the Foxwoods Marine Theater, touch tanks and a 4-D theater.
Mystic Aquarium is perhaps best known for its one-of-a-kind encounter programs, which allow visitors to meet a beluga whale or an African penguin up-close. Although the added fee for a close encounter is steep, the experience is one you’ll remember for a lifetime.
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Explore Mystic Seaport
Mystic Seaport, a 17-acre village on the banks of the Mystic River, is Connecticut’s best living history attraction. Climb aboard the Charles W. Morgan—the last wooden whaling ship in existence and the crown jewel of Mystic Seaport’s collection of historic vessels; see a planetarium show; marvel at extensive collections of maritime art and artifacts; chat with coopers, shipsmiths and other village artisans.
One of the most interesting things to do is observing the restoration team at work in the Preservation Shipyard. The Mayflower II, a replica of the Pilgrims’ famous ship usually on view in Plymouth, will be here for several years undergoing extensive restoration in preparation for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in 2020. You’ll want to spend an entire day at Mystic Seaport, and there are several lunch options right on-site.
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Observe Mystic’s Bascule Bridge in Action
The bascule bridge spanning the Mystic River has been in operation since 1922. Never heard of a bascule bridge? “Bascule” is French for “seesaw,” and this unique style of drawbridge was patented by Thomas E. Brown—who also designed the Eiffel Tower’s elevator—in 1918. Much like a seesaw, the bridge is opened by the mechanical lowering of immense counterbalancing weights. When the bridge opens to allow tall boats to pass through, traffic backs up on Route 1. One of the best vantage points for watching Mystic’s bascule bridge in operation is the dock behind the Steamboat Inn.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Sail Aboard the Schooner Argia
You wouldn’t skip the Colosseum in Rome. Don’t miss the chance to set sail out of Mystic: Connecticut’s historic shipbuilding port. From May through mid-October, the two-masted Schooner Argia will take you through the bascule bridge and out dancing on the breezes of Fishers Island Sound. Pack a picnic or snacks and your own beer, wine or non-alcoholic beverages for a daytime or sunset lighthouse- and island-spotting cruise.
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Sip Sweet or Hard Cider Made the Old-Fashioned Way
There’s only one steam-powered cider mill still cranking out sweet apple cider and potent hard cider in all of America. And it’s in Mystic, CT! Each fall, B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill is a family fun destination for apple cider donuts, fresh-pressed cider and apple wine tastings. October and November weekends are the best time to go. That’s when you can see the old press in action, operating just as it has since 1881.
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Dine in a Treehouse
Mystic has so many fun restaurants. When the weather’s sunny and warm, the one not to miss is The Treehouse at Oyster Club. It’s a breezy, grown-up hangout high up in the trees, where happy hour—featuring $1 oysters and drink specials—lasts for three hours every day. As you might imagine, there can be a wait for this popular spot’s tables at meal times. So, go mid-afternoon, ask for a counter seat, and order appetizers, decadent lobster bisque and a local craft brew or two. The Treehouse is open from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.
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Savor a Slice of Heaven at Mystic Pizza
The movie that launched Julia Roberts’ career also put a little pizza spot in Mystic, Connecticut, on the map. Mystic Pizza wasn’t actually filmed at the restaurant: A replica was built inside a nearby warehouse. But three decades later, Mystic visitors still love stopping into Mystic Pizza for “a slice of heaven” and the chance to see movie memorabilia. Try the garlicky Seafood Delight pie topped with shrimp, clams and scallops.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Hunt for Rare Vinyl at Mystic Disc
You thought record stores were as extinct as dinosaurs? Not in Mystic, where Mystic Disc has survived for more than 33-1/3 years thanks to owner Dan Curland’s vast music knowledge and devoted customers. Rock, jazz, country, folk, reggae: If you’re a vinyl collector, you’ll want to spend hours flipping through the bins in this cramped shop. And even if you haven’t owned a turntable since you were a kid, you’ll love the nostalgia. The LPs are in excellent condition: You can try anything before you buy. And Curland is quick to offer discounts: Save 10% just by mentioning his Web site.
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Shop and Dine at Olde Mistick Village
Remember the days before mega-malls and Amazon? Then, you’ll love poking around in all of the cute shops at Olde Mistick Village. With the look and feel of an early 1700s New England village, this retail complex appeals to gift seekers with shops like Irish Eyes, Sofia’s Mystical Christmas and Raining Cats and Dogs. Sports, gardening, tea… whatever excites you or your family and friends, you’ll find shops catering to a variety of specific interests. There’s even an old-fashioned kite shop. When you work up an appetite, treat yourself to homemade ice cream or a meal at restaurants like Steak Loft or Go Fish.