Mystic might be small, but it's packed with more fun activities and sights than most cities three times its size. Wander the charming streets of its Historic Downtown, enjoy some first-class seafood at one of its many fine restaurants, step back into the past at Olde Mystick Village, or grab a slice of pie at the legendary Mystic Pizza. Whatever you do, you’re guaranteed a memorable time. If it’s your first time visiting, don’t miss these 20 best things to do in Mystic.
20. Whittles Willow Spring Farm
Fancy the idea of picking your own fresh produce? Then head on over to Whittles Willow Spring Farm, a terrific little farm easily accessible from the highway that makes a great retreat for a few hours. The setting is idyllic, while the huge variety of fresh fruits and veggies on offer (not to mention the freshly laid hen’s eggs) are a foodie’s dream. If you want to support local business and enjoy some outstandingly fresh produce while you’re in Mystic, Whittles Willow Spring Farm should be on your agenda.
19. Argia Mystic Cruises
Visit Connecticut ranks taking an Argia Mystic Cruise highly on their list of things to do in Mystic, and so do we. Operating from May 1st to mid-October every year, the cruise will take you all around the bay surrounding Mystic, taking in several of its surrounding islands and charming lighthouses along the way. As you sail, the crew will delight you with stories of life on the sea. Bring a picnic, grab a complimentary lemonade, and bask in the sights and sounds of the journey – on a sunny day, there’s no better way to pass an afternoon.
18. Fields Of Fire Adventure Park
If you’ve bought the kids along for the ride, don’t miss the chance to experience some high-octane fun at the thrilling Fields Of Fire Adventure Park. Sprawled over 50 acres of scenic woodland, the park promises to ‘challenge your body, mind and spirit’…. and with 5 courses that go all the way from beginner to expert and no end of heart-stopping opportunities to push the limits of your endurance, it does just that. Just be prepared for some seriously sore muscles at the end of it.
17. Mystic and Noank Library
Mystic and Noank Library is what every library secretly wishes it could be. A peaceful haven of glowing antique wood, colorful stained-glass windows, and sky-high ceilings, you can’t help but be a little awed by the breathtaking architecture. It’s also supremely comfortable, with plenty of deep, comfy chairs and cozy relaxing nooks perfect for curling up with a classic.
16. Denison Homestead Museum
Who doesn’t love a bit of local history? Soak up some true Mystic flavor with a visit to Denison Homestead Museum. Surrounded by daffodils and set in the 17th century former home of Captain George Denison and his second wife ‘Lady Ann’ Borodell Denison (and six further generation of Denison’s), the museum tells the tale of the family and Mystic over the years. Each section of the house is dedicated to a different period, letting you walk through and experience multiple decades in the space of just one visit. The guides, who come kitted out in period garb, are more than happy to answer any questions you have while weaving a fascinating tale about the house’s history. Along with the regular exhibits, the museum also plays frequent host to special events and community activities, so be sure to check the website before you visit to check what’s on.
15. Extra Virgin Oil Store
Vacation Idea recommends the Extra Virgin Oil Store as one of the best places to visit in Mystic. Just one tiny taste of one of their samples should have you in whole-hearted agreement. As you walk through the doors of this elegant little store, you’ll be greeted with the sight of row upon row of olives, oils, and vinegars, all carefully chosen from the best grower’s in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Greece. Take your time to sample the goods before making any purchases – this is a place to linger, not to rush.
14. Oyster Club
The gorgeously inviting little seaside restaurant that is the Oyster Club is one of the highlights of Mystic’s restaurant scene. Set in a charming clapboard house with an interior that somehow manages to combine rustic charm with contemporary chic, the restaurant’s farm-to-table philosophy marks it out from your typical village restaurant. Delivering only the freshest, most sustainable local ingredients and dedicated to introducing its guests to ‘the people, places, and practices involved along the way’, this is a restaurant with an ethos that’s just as worthy as its food. Try the Raw Bar for some of the freshest oysters you’ll ever taste, and don’t miss washing it all down with a big glug of very tasty local craft beer (and if beer’s not your thing, try one of the equally excellent cocktails instead).
13. Barley Head Brewery
If you’re in need of some light refreshment after a day spent trawling the sights, head to Barley Head Brewery. This quirky little nano-brewery in the heart of historic downtown Mystic features an ever-revolving collection of in-house craft beers that promise to leave a serious impression on your taste buds. The hospitality is just as good as the beer, while the quaint, cozy atmosphere will make you feel instantly welcome. Come for the beer, stay for that unmistakable Mystic charm.
12. Elm Grove Cemetery
Before you dismiss a visit to a cemetery as too maudlin to contemplate, hear me out. Or at least hear out the commentators on Trip Advisor who, judging from their enthusiastic comments, can’t get enough of Elm Grove Cemetery. “Serene. Lovely. Peaceful. We were impressed by the whole place. It has the loveliest views in all of Mystic,” says one, while another comments, “I visited mid-morning on the way to the aquarium. I had seen the cemetery from the water the day before and I had to take a drive around the following day. The statues are beautiful and the grounds are well maintained. Read up before you go to get some of the history on how it was developed. Very interesting.” If you still need some convincing that a cemetery ranks as one of the best things to do in Mystic, the only thing left to do is visit and see for yourself.
11. Mystic Art Center
In 1891, Impressionist painter Charles Harold Davis settled in Mystic. More artists soon followed, and soon, the village was home to a thriving art colony. From the colony came the Mystic Art Association, and from the Mystic Art Association came the Mystic Art Center, a thriving center crammed to the gills with a vast collection of pieces from local and regional artists. With regular art classes, seminars, and art camps to take part in, it’s a fun, informative experience that the whole family will enjoy.
10. Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
Set among 350 acres of breathtaking Connecticut scenery and surrounded by over ten miles of intersecting hiking trails, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center is a great place to not only learn about nature but to experience it. Spend a few hours trailing the woods in search of bluebirds, hunting down bullfrogs in the meadows, or admiring the butterflies in the wildflower garden – whatever you do, you’ll come away feeling revived.
9. Historic Downtown
If you want to experience what Mystic is all about, head to Historic Downtown. The vibrant neighborhood might have historic in its name, but there’s nothing old fashioned about this lively epicenter of town life. With more than 80 shops, cafes, and restaurants selling everything from ice cream to souvenirs, it’s a great place to indulge in a little retail therapy. If you’d rather give your wallet a break, simply grab a coffee at an outdoor café and enjoy a few hours of people watching. If you’re lucky, you might even catch one of the regular parades that pass by.
8. The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art Village
If you’re visiting Mystic with kids, put a smile on their faces with a trip to The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art Village. Spread over 40 acres and featuring over 40 life-sized dinosaurs, it promises a fun-packed day of exploring nature, getting lost in mazes, braving ‘SpaceNet’ (a 15 foot tall, three-dimensional, vibrating climbing web), panning for gold, digging for dinosaur bones, and discovering buried treasures. In summer, there’s even the chance to have some fun in New England’s largest SplashPad.
7. Connecticut River Museum
As Visit Connecticut notes, the Connecticut River Museum is as much about doing as it is seeing. Take a stroll around the history exhibits, admire the finery of the model yachts, examine the huge collection of fishing, trapping, and hunting gear (not to mention the very impressive three-floor river mural), and then, when you’re bored of looking, head to the river for the chance to rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard and spend a fun couple of hours exploring the river’s coves at the museum’s doorsteps. If you really want to go to town, hop on board the Onrust, a very accurate facsimile of a 17th-century Dutch sailing ship that takes you on a gentle cruise along the river.
6. The Ivoryton Playhouse
Since it first opened to the public in 1911, The Ivoryton Playhouse has welcomed such iconic actors as Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Groucho Marx and Tallulah Bankhead to its stage. While it's unlikely you’ll catch a performance from any of them these days, it’s still the best place in town to catch a show.
5. Old Mystick Village
If you’re in Mystic at Christmas, don’t miss a visit to the magical Old Mystique Village. With its quaint charm and line up of delightfully old-fashioned stores, it’s the perfect place to pick up some stocking fillers. If you’re lucky, you might even catch one of the two seasonal events that happen each December –The Holiday Carnival and the breathtakingly beautiful Festival of Lights.
4. Mystic River Bascule Bridge
A bridge might not sound like much of a destination, but trust me, once you’ve seen the Mystic River Bascule Bridge up close, you won’t regret the trip. Built in 1922, the 660 ton, 218 ft long bridge with its exposed machinery is a feat of engineering that’s impossible not to be impressed by.
3. Charles W. Morgan
While you’re visiting Mystic Seaport Museum (which you absolutely, 100% should), don’t miss the unforgettable experience of touring the Charles W. Morgan. The majestic tall ship spent two centuries battling the high seas as part of a 2700 strong whaling fleet, and now, nearly 180 years after its maiden voyage, it’s been meticulously restored to serve as the fascinating highlight of an already extraordinary museum.
2. Mystic Aquarium
Mystic Aquarium is an extraordinary aquarium that goes way beyond the usual remit. Along with the standard array of penguins, sea lions, seals, and sharks, there’s a shoal of beluga whales, interactive touch tanks, movie presentations, jellyfish exhibits, and more besides. If you’re looking for a fun experience for the whole family to enjoy, you can’t wrong with the Mystic Aquarium.
1. Mystic Seaport
To see the past bought vividly to life, don’t miss a visit to Mystic’s top museum, Mystic Seaport. The maritime-loving center boasts a full, fabulously faithful recreation of an 18th Century Connecticut coastal village, complete with numerous craftspeople, storytellers, musicians, and historians all ready and willing to transport you back in time. Elsewhere, you’ll find numerous exhibit halls, a huge number of artifacts, a shipyard, and a vast collection of 500 historic ships (including the oldest commercial ship in the US). However old you are, however interested in maritime history you were before visiting, it’s impossible not to be thoroughly enchanted with this fascinating place.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn