If you are looking for a low-stakes, quick trip out of Massachusetts for a weekend — or even a day — look no further than Mystic, Connecticut. Mystic Village is nestled alongside the Mystic River and Mystic Harbor and is host to one of the largest maritime museums in the U.S. This quintessential New England seaport offers a wide variety of activities for families of all ages!
What to do
If heading into Boston to visit the New England Aquarium is too intimidating, the Mystic Aquarium
is your perfect entry point. With free parking and wheelchair accessibility, Mystic Aquarium is extremely family friendly. Several of the exhibits, including the penguins and beluga whales, are outside, so be sure to dress for the weather (and I promise the penguins and whales are worth it)! Timed tickets can be purchased online ahead of time and can be combined with Mystic Seaport Museum
admission tickets. Local moms recommend checking in with AAA for additional discounts if you are a member.
The Mystic Seaport Museum
is truly for kids of all ages. For the littles, the Children’s Museum
includes an activity center, toy boat building (small fee), and a play area. For older kids, transport into the 19th century, wandering in and out of the Seaport Village filled with blacksmiths forging iron and printers placing typeface for local newspapers. Climb on board the Charles W. Morgan
, the last wooden whaleship in the world. Tickets are general admission and can be combined with the aquarium.
For dinosaur-obsessed kiddos, this 60-acre dino-themed park
is complete with a splash pad, life-size mazes, and a climbing tower. Located 20 minutes outside of Mystic, the park has everything you need to enjoy several hours of fun — including food and ice cream. The park also welcomes families to bring their own food, coolers, and wagons, making it super easy to accommodate allergies and budgets.
For slightly older kids with an appreciation for boats and history, the Submarine Force Library and Museum
is home to the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered ship and the first vessel to go to the North Pole. The museum welcomes visitors onto the USS Nautilus for self-guided tours and scavenger hunts for the littles. Admission and parking are free. Strollers are allowed in the museum, but they are not permitted on the submarine.
Where to eat
Enjoy delicious pizza and nostalgia at the Mystic Pizza
location that inspired the 1988 film by the same name.
Head down the road after pizza for an enormous variety of ice cream
. The lines are usually long, but it’s worth the wait.
Sit seaside at Abbott’s Lobster
and have one of the best
lobster rolls. This place has been around since 1947, and you won’t want to miss the steamers, stuffed clams, and clam chowder. This spot is BYOB.
Pro tip from local moms: Head to Engine Room
for a variety of appetizers and drinks — and make it back for bedtime!
A personal family favorite, Dog Watch Cafe
is the place to enjoy delicious seafood while sitting harborside overlooking dozens of beautiful sailboats. Afterward, head down the road to Stonington Point to get a great view of the ocean and see the first lighthouse museum in the U.S.
Where to stay
We like the Hilton Mystic
for its great location — it’s right across the street from the Mystic Aquarium — and for its indoor pool!
Moms recommend the Mystic/Groton Residence Inn
for those who need some extra room or are mindful of the food budget and want to take advantage of the in-room kitchenettes. This hotel has an indoor pool as well!
If you have extra time or want to enjoy some kid-free hours, here are two additional recommendations to add to your beautiful seaside getaway.
Connecticut is home to many wineries, including several very close to Mystic. Saltwater Farm Vineyard
overlooks beautiful acres of grapevines and hosts a variety of events, including food trucks and live music. Stonington Vineyard
is another great location that is kid and dog friendly.
Create a custom spa package day for you (and some friends or significant other) and enjoy some peace and quiet. The spa facility includes a sauna, steam room, whirlpool, and relaxation room, complete with robes and slippers to truly let you relax.