American legends abound, from seafaring forebears to pizza-flipping celebs.
Katharine Hepburn grew up in Old Saybrook. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall honeymooned in Mystic. Julia Roberts had her big-screen breakthrough role in 1988’s Mystic Pizza.
But long before any of them came America’s seafaring heritage. Mystic, Connecticut, wraps visitors in memories, romance, charm, great food and a living museum. (And maybe a wager or two …)
Mystic is America. The postcard-perfect town midway along the northern edge of the Long Island Sound refused to blink, determined to hold on to its seafaring past. Today, the charming town offers the uninitiated an opportunity to learn about that past while savoring modern-day luxury.
Where To Stay
Commanding a beautiful location on the Point, where the Connecticut River flows into the Long Island Sound, Saybrook Point offers very personalized service. Be pampered in the full-service Sanno Spa, which includes aromatherapy, reflexology, waxing and makeup services. Feed your inner gourmet at the resort’s award-winning restaurant, Fresh Salt, with sushi, cioppino, unique grill items and fresh vegan choices. The Marina Bar offers generous libations, a killer view and light fare, from an icy raw bar to the sizzling tempura platter. The Point also boasts a “green marina capable of accommodating mega-yachts.”
Some rooms are pet-friendly. There are 82 rooms in the main inn, plus more luxury in Tall Tales or the expansive Three Stories guesthouses.
Guests can enjoy sunset cruises aboard the Real Escape, a 56-foot Hatteras Motor Yacht docked at Saybrook Point Marina, as well as fishing trips aboard the Sea Sprite, with renowned Capt. Pete Wheeler. // 2 Bridge St., Old Saybrook, CT; 860-395-2000; two-night stay: $480-$850
Visitors choose the Inn for the panoramic views from its hilltop location on 14 acres at the highest point in Mystic. The Haley Mansion, built in 1904 and listed on the National Registry of Historical Places in America, offers five 18th-century-styled suites. The building is surrounded by beautiful gardens and accented by a waterfall. Even more private is the guesthouse, with four intimate suites, one of which, in 1945, was the Bogart/Bacall honeymoon getaway. Today there are many more rooms (60) and amenities both delicious and decadent.
The on-site Harbour House Restaurant features all the usual seaside suspects—a raw bar, lobster crepes, bacon-wrapped scallops—but also unexpected treats like a prosciutto-arugula-fig jam flatbread and French dip sliders. Brunch is stellar and takes place in a glorious setting.
Enjoy the serene pool, tennis court, kayaking access, fragrant gardens and getaway seclusion. Sorry, not for pets, nor probably for those who must be plugged in 24/7. // 3 Williams Ave., Mystic, CT; 860-536-9604; two-night stay: $200-$520
A small boutique property in the heart of Mystic, The Whaler’s Inn claims many returning patrons and loyal, low-turnover staff. Of the five buildings providing approximately 60 accommodations, each has a focus. The Stonington House at the back of the property pleases guests seeking quiet getaways and has newly renovated baths. The 1865 House is perfect for history buffs. Built as the residence of shipbuilder George W. Mallory in 1865, it has maintained its cozy Victorian decor. Hoxie House, with whirlpool tubs, gas fireplaces, and views of the river, pleases romance-seekers. The Main Inn and Noank House, newly renovated with clean lines and a nautical feel, appeal to those wanting to be in the hub of all things Mystic.
Everybody likes the complimentary parking, free Wi-Fi and complimentary continental breakfast. // 20 E. Main St., Mystic, CT; 860-536-1506; two-night stay: $280-$520
Not for everyone, but perhaps perfect for that landmark birthday, unforgettable engagement or triumph over adversity, the eight-room Spicer Mansion is the ultimate in small luxury. Consider a private helicopter tour of the New England coast or just rely on Mansion pampering: free breakfast, complimentary laundry and pressing, gym membership and cordials in your room. Dinner in the dining room is a tasting affair to remember. Sunday brunch might be lobster hash or duck cassoulet. And the rooms offer luxury amenities at their most pampering.
Be prepared: There is a dress code. // 15 Elm St., Mystic, CT; 860-245-4621; for two-night stay: $700-$1,600
13 Water St.
Named one of the Best 100 Restaurants in America last year by The Daily Meal, Oyster Club features farm- and-sea-to-table freshness. Oysters and seafood rule, but veggie-lovers will be in their glory, too.
2 Washington St.
Glam clam shack Red 36 is smack on the water, offering up novel lobster rolls, lobster grilled cheese, salmon burgers and sought-after fried Brussels sprouts in a fun, open ambiance.
14 Holmes St.
Named one of the best craft beer havens in Connecticut by Connecticut Magazine, the Engine Room is also a haven for Sunday brunch. Try beermosas or maybe build your own bloody marys at the trademark Proper Boozy Brunch, featuring many Benedicts, burgers and big salads, like Cobb.
Captain Daniel Packer Inne
32 Water St.
The stately Captain Daniel Packer Inne has stood for 250 years, a tribute to the square-rigger captain who built it. English pub below, fine dining above, the DPI, as it’s known among locals, delivers unexpected treats from lobster pierogies to wild boar sausage.
20 E. Main St.
Upscale Italian flair with a seacoast accent can be found at Bravo Bravo. Lobster ravioli gets rave reviews, as does the uniquely creamy tomato fettuccine.
27 Coogan Blvd.
Breakfast, bakery and altogether yummy, Bleu Squid in Olde Mistick Village features one-of-a-kind housemade secret cupcakes and “grown up” grilled cheese (think four cheeses on sourdough), blue cheese with tomato and bacon and lobster grilled cheese, plus whimsical egg “bennies,” like polenta with pulled pork or Yorkshire pudding with lobster.
56 W. Main St.
Most people don’t realize that Mystic Pizza launched its secret recipe with family hard work in 1973, long before the iconic film that launched Julia Roberts and her co-stars into the big time. But Hollywood came to town, and the “slice of heaven” became famous. Today, almost 30 years after the flick, folks still ask directions to Mystic Pizza. The place shows the movie on a nonstop loop. Add your name to modern history: Stop in for your own “slice of heaven!”
19 Coogan Blvd.
A must-visit in Olde Mistick Village, Sticky has a gaggle of returning fans crazy for its organic honeys, infused syrups and flavored vinegars
Peppergrass and Tulip
30 W. Main St.; 860-536-1516
This truly unique boutique—think show-offy derby hats and Victorian flair—has been called by one shopping lover “the ultimate classy girly treat.”
Mine in Mystic
16 Stonington Road
Mine in Mystic is “not just a shop but a peaceful, charming environment.” Imagine it in your head, then look here—and there it is!
Mystic Army Navy Store
37 W. Main St.
Not your father’s Army Navy store. Motto: “It’s Not Just a Store – It’s an Adventure!” It’s family-owned since 1993.
Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea
75 Greenmanville Ave.
Mystic has successfully embraced new life as an old seafaring town, as evidenced by this display. The largest maritime museum in the U.S., Mystic Seaport is a 17-acre complex on the banks of the Mystic River. Charming and picturesque, it simulates a 19th-century New England coastal village. Some buildings are authentic, moved to the Seaport from other locations. Others are realistic reproductions. Immerse yourself in a sail-maker’s life at Mallory Sail Loft, named for Charles Mallory. Enjoy the exhibition vessels docked alongside the village, including the Charles W. Morgan. Built in 1841, this National Historic Landmark is the last wooden whaleship in the world.
Olde Mistick Village
27 Coogan Blvd.
If coastal Connecticut had a shopping mall with movies in 1720, this would have been the place. Some may find the quirky re-created village kitschy, but the majority of returning fans praise their outing here as a tradition. They use words like “quaint,” “charming,” “friendly” and “special” to describe the village’s unique shops. Fifty small stores and eateries, many of them mom-and-pop undertakings, have a loyal following. Parents praise the easy parking, stroller-managing and walking. Kids like the ducks and gardens. Everyone seems happy with the proximity to the Aquarium.
Schooner Argia Mystic Cruises
12 Steamboat Wharf
An 81-foot replica of a 19th-century trading schooner, the kind that once delivered goods up and down the New England coast, the four-sailed Argia, made of mahogany and white oak, takes up to 47 people on sailing trips. Enjoy two- or three-hour sails out into Fishers Island Sound, with fabulous views of the coastline, lighthouses and some imaginary glimpses into nautical life long ago. The schooner also can be chartered for groups.
55 Coogan Blvd.
One of Connecticut’s premier tourist attractions with indoor/outdoor exhibits features everything from white beluga whales to poison dart frogs. “It is the stories behind the story that make Mystic Aquarium a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike,” says Dale Wolbrink, director of public relations for the Aquarium. “From the amazing rescue and rehab of residents Astro, Ziggy Star and Charlotte to our colony of endangered African penguins to our bustling Animal Rescue Clinic, these stories and more bring to life Mystic Aquarium’s mission to inspire others to care for and protect our ocean planet.” Animal-care professionals, researchers, educators and docents are ocean stewards engaging in everything from field work to beach clean-ups to in-house preschool and distance learning.
Connecticut Wine Trail
433 S. Main St., Suite 309, West Hartford
The Connecticut Wine Trail map encompasses 25 different wineries with individual qualities and distinctions. Check their website then, when visiting the Mystic area, consider a visit to these local gems.
Saltwater Farm Vineyards
349 Elm St., Stonington
A preservationist’s hand holds the successful reins of this beautiful venue, birthplace of award-winning wines. Commitment to the prestige of the past while cultivating the best of wine futures guides things forward.
523 Taugwonk Road, Stonington
Celebrating 30 years and a founding member of the Connecticut Wine Trail, Stonington is known for its barrel-fermented chardonnay and proprietary blends Seaport White and Triad Rose.
While the casino scene isn’t for everyone, the casinos near Mystic are another draw for the area, providing lively nightlife, entertainment and the spa experience. There are two world-renowned casinos near Mystic, featuring a number of great restaurants as well as exceptional shops to explore and, of course, the opportunity to gamble.
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville
Created in 1996 by Connecticut’s Mohegan tribe, Mohegan Sun is one of the casinos near Mystic offering dining, shopping and live entertainment year-round, as well as world-class casinos. They also have a luxurious 20,000-square-foot day spa, and the Kids Quest family entertainment facility will keep the kids busy during a rainy day on the coast.
Mohegan Sun has three casinos covering more than 300,000 square feet of gaming and has numerous smoke-free areas. There are 36 shops on the premises from designer stores like Coach to fine import stores, as well as 40 different restaurants.
Foxwoods Resort Casino
350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket
The largest resort casino in North America, Foxwoods is definitely worth checking out when you are visiting the Mystic area. With six separate casinos, numerous restaurants offering everything from fine-dining experiences to gourmet takeout, multiple luxury spas, state-of-the-art theaters, an impressive list of shops and challenging golf courses, there is no shortage of entertainment here.
This casino was built by the Mashantucket Pequots, an Algonquin tribe from southeastern Connecticut whose story is revealed at the on-site museum and research center. After centuries of oppression and persecution, the tribe survived to their economic prosperity of today. Since opening Foxwoods in 1986, the tribe has continued in multiple successful business ventures.