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De-mystifying Mystic...

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Have you ever been to one of those places that sort of hits you by surprise? It's as if you thought to yourself originally "This'll be okay," but then it ends up blowing your socks off? That is exactly how Mystic was for me!


I'll be 100% honest here: Connecticut was not my favorite state. All of that reasoning stems from the numerous drives going back and forth from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania on the wonderfully hit or miss (and mostly miss) Route 15...and I'll tell you: I HATE that frickin' road! It's a two lane road most of the way, the on-ramps are just stop signs with no room to merge. What does that do? Well it all that leads to people going 75MPH in the left lane, cars struggling to get up to high speed in the right lane with the constant threat of someone cutting you off. Not really a drive free from making your nerves dance as if there had been cowboys shooting bullets at your feet.


Now, despite all that I am sure there is a lot to like about Connecticut, but I just had never experienced it. My narrow mindedness led me to believe that this trip to Mystic was going to be 'just okay.' Well, lucky for me, I didn't have to drive on Route 15 to get there coming from Boston. This already made the trip a lot better than expected!


Arriving there it became abundantly clear; this is not what I was expecting. Spoiler alert: It was so much better!


First, I'll say we stayed a little inn aptly named 'The Inn at Mystic' on the outskirts of the town. While it was nothing to rave about it was clean, staff was friendly and the prices were beyond fair considering the inflated cost of other accommodations in the area. Saving some money for just an extra 5-ish minute walk? Sounds good in my book! Keep in mind, we were going in beginning of July over the holiday break and got a room for $200ish dollars a night. Meanwhile others closer to town that I saw were easily north of $300.


One thing you will note when you get to the town is that there is a drawbridge which goes up quite frequently. So don't be hasty Mr. Baggins, it'll come back down and traffic will resume soon enough.


Second, the aura of the town is definitely unique. If you have ever been to a New Hope, Pennsylvania or Cape May, New Jersey, that is what it felt like. While it is close the ocean, it actually sits on the Mystic River. That is why it sort of has a coastal vibe mixed with a bit of river town. Pretty cool, in my opinion. While there are beaches nearby - and you will see plenty of beach stuff around, just not as much as a beach town - I don't think that is the main point to come here. The charm is in the small town atmosphere it exudes.


We arrived just before July 4th holiday and there was a local band in the park playing to a wonderful crowd that was enjoying the sun and the heat (likely because the sun hasn't shown itself for several days at that point!) even with the threat of a thunderstorm to roll through. Luckily, Mother Nature gave us some reprieve and let that storm arrive overnight.


The town itself has very little square mileage, so walking is undoubtedly the best way to go. There are some points of interest to see that are worth a drive (which I will get into later because one of them you DO NOT want to miss) but I suppose you could also Uber/Lyft to them as needed. Most of the action is right downtown near the drawbridge.


There are a plethora of shops, restaurants and boutiques littered around that area. While many of them are worth your time one in particular drew my attention that I'll give a special shoutout here: that is Trove. It's a gift shop: for MEN!


That's right; books with nothing but Dad Jokes? You got it. Want to know about cigars? Got that too. Magnets? Heck yeah. Clocks made from aviation equipment? Sure...why not? Want to smell like a man? Dr. Squatch...no, but they had other stuff just as good! Totally worth your time to visit. In a sea of other gift shops for woman, this one stands out.


Thirdly, food. I love my food and Mystic definitely had it's fair share. It might most famously be known for that little film starring a then unknown Julia Roberts called 'Mystic Pizza' but there is a lot more and a lot better food than that.


I'll diverge here slightly: if you want to get Mystic Pizza, by all means do so, it's a local place and always good to support local but do not expect it to blow your socks off. I would rank it above the cardboard piece of 'pizza' I had at a food truck outside Washington DC and worth it just to say you had it. In a pinch, it'll do, but there is a much better place outside of the town called Mango's Wood Fired Pizza that is much tastier and in another unique area of the town called 'Old Mistick Village.'


I know what you're probably thinking but no, I did not spell that wrong. My guess is that is the way it used to be spelled until it was decided to charge by the letter for printing, so in cost saving measures they knocked off a letter and changed the first 'i' to a 'y'. Maybe 'y's needed to sell more so they got them at a deal...purely speculation though but I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be the truth.


The 'Old Mistick Village' is one thing you should see while you are in the area. It's a bunch of neat little shops all made to look like an old-timey village: just with a big parking lot. About a mile from the Mystic Historic area it's definitely worth your time to walk around here, enter the shops, get some food (we also had breakfast at The Bleu Squid which was quite good) and enjoy the atmosphere.


The aforementioned Mango's Wood Fired Pizza is located in the Old Mistick Village.

'Old Mistick Village' is definitely worth a visit!


Since you are up this way there is another point of interest you should check out. That is the Mystic Seaport Musuem.


I don't want to understate this, if you visit Mystic you have to 100%, full on, no-doubt, "never give up, never surrender," get your hiney to this place. It's not just a museum it's a life changing experience...


Okay, that might have oversold it, but seriously this blew me away. The only other museum experience I can compare this to is the World War II Museum in New Orleans which is another one you have to go see. This place is the largest maritime museum in the United States. It looks like a seaport village, because they literally moved buildings from other nearby ports to this spot. Actually, now that I think of it, it also reminds me a bit of the Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth. They have volunteers that are very knowledgeable and can provide you information on various tasks and shops that would have been available to travelers at a typical seaport. They also have the last wooden whaling ship that you can explore (and a very good exhibit on the history of whaling).


The grounds are very large and you will have to walk around a bit. The good thing is, there is a lot to do and there is some small stuff for kids. So much stuff to do and see we actually couldn't see it all in a day. We ended up going back on the following weekend for a day trip to finish it (they re-validate tickets up to 7 days after your first visit but you have to check with them on details for that).

The Mystic Seaport Museum is a must see when visiting Mystic!


I could go on and on about this place, but I'll just leave it at that: go see it and you will not regret it.


So, lastly, there was a lot to like about this small town and it's hard to narrow it down to everything I'd want to mention; especially since there is a lot. I feel like I hit the overall highlights, but keep in mind we were only there for two days. There are other nearby towns that make up the general area of 'Mystic' including Stonington and Groton which may also be worth exploring. For what it's worth we went to a coffee shop in Groton called Muddy Waters Cafe which had a darn good latte and we sat by a small beach in Stonington where I got this awesome photo below. While I am sure there is more to do in those areas our time was a bit limited so maybe for another trip in the future?



Overall, this one trip to Connecticut completely blew away my expectations and left me wondering why I hated that state so much anyway.


Well, that lasted until I drove through Route 15 two weeks later and got stuck in traffic again. Really Connecticut, you got to work on that road! I guess I need another trip to Mystic to bring back that good feeling now.


Honestly, though, jokes aside, this is an area you have to visit if you are in New England and I am so glad I went.


Thank you for reading this far and also consider adding me on Instagram and Youtube for more updates on my travels!


Cheers,

Mike










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