Plan Your Perfect Summer Weekend in Mystic, Connecticut
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With its many restaurants, independent shops, top-notch museums, and arts and culture festivals, the seaside town of Mystic, Connecticut, is a popular summer day-trip and weekend destination. Charming details like carved wooden signs, cobblestone walkways, and historic buildings pay tribute to the town’s deep roots, and some of its top attractions help keep alive its maritime past.
Planning a visit? Here are some of our favorite ways to spend a summer weekend in Mystic, Connecticut. For even more travel inspiration, check out episode 3 in season 4 of Weekends with Yankee, in which cohost Richard Wiese becomes a trainer for a day at the Mystic Aquarium.
Plan Your Perfect Summer Weekend in Mystic, Connecticut
History floats at the nation’s leading maritime museum, where no fewer than four ships at its piers have been designated National Historic Landmark vessels (including the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaling ship). Located on 19 acres along the Mystic River, Mystic Seaport also offers visitors the chance to explore a re-created 19th-century seafaring village and a working preservation shipyard.
In 2017 this venerable Mystic attraction notched a weighty honor: It became one of fewer than a dozen institutions worldwide to be certified by the American Humane Conservation, which works to ensure the wellbeing of animals living in aquariums and zoos. The certification won’t surprise anyone who’s been to this rigorously education-and-conservation-focused facility, home to Steller sea lions, beluga whales, penguins, shark, stingrays — more than 300 species in all.
Partially obscured by a rocky outcropping near its entrance off Water Street, this little gem is worth seeking out. Having begun life in 1913 as an artist colony, the MMoA today spotlights the work of prominent American artists, with several Connecticut-associated names. Plus, it has frequently changing exhibits and a full slate of classes for budding artists, from painting and photography to basket-making and other crafts.
The 800-plus acres that make up Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve are home to not only great spots for fishing and wildlife viewing, but also a top-notch coastal walking trail. From the park entrance off Depot Road, you can hike directly south on an old carriage road that leads to Bluff Point itself, about 1½ miles, offering views of distant islands and New London Ledge Light.
Don’t miss your chance to sail out of the fabled port where more than 600 vessels were built during America’s seafaring age. Aboard the two-masted schooner Argia, you’ll motor down the “Missituck” (“wavy river”), as it was christened by native peoples, then the crew will invite you to help hoist the sails. You’re bound for sheltered Fishers Island Sound on a voyage that showcases islands, lighthouses, and local lore. Sunset trips are the most popular of three daily sails: Pack a picnic and a bottle of wine, and leave every care on shore.
For some travelers, it’s all about the water view. If you’re one of them — or if you’re just intrigued by the promise of a one-of-a-kind location — set your course for the Steamboat Inn, Mystic’s only waterfront accommodations. The windows in all but one of the 11 antiques-filled rooms overlook the Mystic River; some rooms also have wood-burning fireplaces and/or whirlpool tubs. Right outside the front door are the restaurants, galleries, and boutiques of downtown Mystic, and attractions such as Mystic Seaport are just a short walk away.
Located about a 10-minute drive from Mystic is the picturesque seaside village of Stonington, which is where you’ll find this equally inviting 18-room inn. Most rooms have fireplaces and Jacuzzis, as well as private balconies and views of the village and Fishers Island Sound. Restaurants, shops, a lighthouse museum, and a secluded little beach are only steps away.
Art lovers will happily bed down at this quirky, comfy B&B in downtown Mystic. Throughout the c. 1843 Victorian Italianate residence, local artist Jennifer Wolcin has left her mark in the form of original artwork featuring the inn’s namesake underwater sprite. Innkeeper Josephine Guarnaccia earns high marks for her hospitality. But visitors also rave about her cooking, spanning fresh-baked cookies to gourmet waffles with fresh berries.
A centrally located boutique hotel that offers some surprisingly reasonable overnight options, the Whaler’s Inn comprises five buildings from different eras. The décor throughout is a mix of traditional and modern, but uniformly classic and comfortable. And here’s a perk: The complimentary continental breakfast includes craft-coffee favorite Dave’s Coffee and pastries from Mystic’s best bakery, Sift (see below).
4 Places to Eat in Mystic, Connecticut (Besides Mystic Pizza)
Loading up a picnic basket for a fun day in Mystic? This family-owned, French-accented bakery is a terrific place to pick up elegant, seasonal sandwiches (think prosciutto on a fresh-baked baguette, with arugula, chèvre, and balsamic glaze), artisanal breads, and buttery quiche slices. But you’ll also love its sweet indulgences like papery-flaky croissants filled with dark chocolate, lemon meringue tarts, and carrot cake roulade
Don’t start your day in Mystic without a visit to this downtown eatery, where breakfast and brunch are served in a café setting that’s as cheery as a bluebird. Choose from eggs Benedict with house-made hollandaise, buttermilk pancakes, seasonal stuffed French toast, and a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches.
Snag a table on the deck at this popular waterfront downtown eatery and you may never want to give it up. Clam chowder, lobster carbonara, crispy fried oysters, and an extensive raw bar keep seafood fans satisfied, while burgers, flatbread pizzas, and salads take care of everyone else. Even better? There’s dock space available if you’re arriving by boat.
Raw-oyster aficionados flock to Oyster Club, wrapped in barn-board chic, for the freshest seafood, pasture-raised beef, local produce, and artisanal cheeses. Beyond oysters, the hot butter-poached lobster roll, Rhode Island-style quahog chowder, and tagliatelle bolognese are not to be missed.