Mention Mystic Connecticut and most people will immediately think of Mystic Pizza, the 1988 film starring a relatively unknown Julia Roberts. But Mystic CT offers so many great things for families – it’s a perfect spot for a New England family road trip.
From Boston, it was easy for us to visit for a two-night Mystic Connecticut vacation to explore some of the most popular things to do in Mystic CT with kids.
Disclosure: We received complimentary admission to Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium, and paid for lodging and all meals. All opinions are my own.
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Things to Do in Mystic CT with Kids
About Mystic CT
Mystic CT, officially a village in Connecticut, is located right over the Rhode Island border. It’s about an hour and a half from Boston and is located on the Amtrak Northeast Corridor route.
Technically part of Groton and Stonington Connecticut (in New London County), there are many chain hotels conveniently located within a small radius. Mystic is also a short distance away from the two Connecticut casinos – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.
Because of its proximity to so many other places in the Northeast, it’s a popular destination for both a weekend getaway and a day trip. Depending on what you’d like to do, I’d probably recommend spending at least one night, however.
While some of the popular things to do in Mystic CT are at least partially outside, it’s really a year-round destination. We have visited in the winter and still really enjoyed our time there.
Upon arriving at our hotel, we immediately headed out to Olde Mistick Village, an outdoor shopping complex with quaint independent shops and restaurants. There’s also a small independent cinema. We spent most of the afternoon shopping in the village and walking through the beautiful grounds.
We had dinner at Go Fish, a restaurant located within the village. Although the service was slow, the food was excellent. Note that this restaurant is temporarily closed as it moves to a new location.
The next day, we dined at Mango’s Pizza, a small but quaint pizza shop that is a must-visit. The food and service were both fabulous. It’s a sort of hidden gem that you may miss out on if just walking around, but it’s definitely worth visiting. See more restaurants in Mystic Village here.
Olde Mistick Village is definitely a fun place to walk around, so I’d recommend visiting at least for a short time during your trip to Mystic CT. There’s no entrance fee or cost to walk around.
Directly across the street from Olde Mistick Village is the Mystic Aquarium, home to New England’s only beluga whales. Featuring a large outdoor area in addition to indoor exhibits, the Mystic Aquarium is a fabulous place to visit with kids.
We arrived right when they opened for the day. We were staying directly across the street at the Mystic Hilton, so we were able to walk from our hotel, rather than drive.
If you are driving, plenty of free parking is available. Upon entering the aquarium, we were directed towards the day’s schedule. Since the first sea lion show of the day didn’t start for a few hours, we decided to explore the museum first.
Being December, it was chilly outside, and the aquarium offered complimentary cups of hot chocolate, which my kids happily enjoyed. We first looked at the beluga whale exhibit, where my daughter was surprised by a beluga who opened his mouth wide right at her face. We were told by a staff member that this particular beluga loves playing with children.
I would recommend visiting the Mystic Aquarium just for the beluga exhibit. However, there’s much more than that to enjoy.
We also checked out the sea lions and the penguins (my son’s favorite), before heading to the indoor exhibits. We saw everything indoors, including the touch tank.
During our walk through all of the exhibits, I was most impressed with the staff at the aquarium. They were so helpful in answering questions and helping us have a great experience.
The Mystic Aquarium also offers several sea lion shows, a 4D theater, a cafe, and a gift shop. Our visit took a few hours, and that’s probably what you should plan for.
Mystic Seaport Museum chronicles America’s relationship with the sea through interactive exhibits. It’s considered the nation’s leading maritime museum and focuses on the maritime history of the country.
We visited in the afternoon, during their Holiday Magic event. In addition to the interactive exhibits, there were several special activities happening, including a 19th-century magic show presented by “E. A. Davis” which was the highlight of my kids’ visit. Both of my kids had the opportunity to assist “E. A. Davis” with his magic tricks, and they were both completely fascinated.
The special holiday event also featured a magic workshop, a Family-At-Sea tour aboard the Charles W. Morgan ship, and holiday storytime/crafts (for younger kids).
In addition to the special activities, we also enjoyed visiting the authentic sea village to learn about life during the 19th century. We toured a variety of different buildings, including the pub, the apothecary, the cooper, and the print shop.
Many of the buildings had costumed employees on hand to explain what life was like back in the old sea village. At the print shop, both of my kids were able to make a holiday card using the authentic press.
As we toured all of the buildings as well as the ships, I was most impressed with how dedicated the staff was. They appear to enjoy their jobs and are so helpful and great with children. Although it was cold out, we also enjoyed exploring the ships – my kids really liked seeing how small the bunks were.
Tickets for Mystic Seaport currently range from $19-$29. Kids 5 and under are free. If you get your ticket validated before you leave, you can return a second day for free within seven days. There’s also a Mystic Pass which includes tickets to both the Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium.
After the holiday event, the Mystic Seaport Museum operates on a reduced schedule. Indoor exhibits, the Charles W. Morgan whaleship, the Planetarium, and the Children’s Museum and activity center stay open at this time.
A short distance from Mystic Seaport is downtown Mystic, home of many shops and restaurants including Mystic Pizza. We didn’t spend much time in downtown Mystic, but there are definitely lots of shops that appeal to families. It’s another spot where you may want to walk around.
Other Things To Do in Mystic
There are lots of other fun things to do in Mystic CT (and the surrounding area) including historical landmarks and other family activities. These include:
- Bluff Point State Park in Groton, CT
- Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Stonington, CT
- The Mystic Museum of Art
BF Clyde’s Cider Mill
If your visit takes place in the fall between September and December, you may consider visiting BF Clyde’s Cider Mill. It’s located in Old Mystic and is the oldest steam-powered cider mill in the United States.
In season, you can attend a cider-making demonstration which takes place on the weekends. The mill makes cider, hard cider, and apple wine.
Visit the individual websites for specific information on each attraction.
Mystic CT Hotels
There are several hotels in the area that you may consider for your vacation to Mystic CT. During our visit, we stayed at the Hilton Mystic, a conveniently located hotel across the street from the Mystic Aquarium and the Olde Mistick Village.
Other hotel options include:
Restaurants in Mystic CT
During our stay, we enjoyed meals at a few local Mystic CT restaurants. These included:
- Engine Room
- Go Fish
- Mango’s Wood-Fired Pizza
There are lots of other delicious restaurants, but we didn’t have the chance to try them all.