Mystic, Connecticut: More Than Just Pizza
You know when you watch a movie and think to yourself, “I wish that place was real!”? Well I’m here to tell you that in the case of a little movie from the 1980s that featured Julia Roberts and some pizza, if you head 3 hours north of Manhattan you can actually have your own real life 'Mystic Pizza' experience!
Yep, you heard that right. Mystic is a real place, and it’s a little seaside town in Connecticut in-between New Haven and Narragansett (which I believe some people only have heard of because of beer).
It’s one of the cutest little seaside towns and the fact that it is so easy to get to from many East Coast cities makes it the perfect getaway for locals, and the perfect add-on to a larger trip you have planned. And what do you know, there is so much more to do there than just eat pizza.
I'm someone that likes to get out of Manhattan any chance they can get, because sometimes you need a little peace and quiet, and while living in NYC I made it my mission to find those perfect, easy getaways.
WHERE TO STAY IN MYSTIC
Well hopefully you are reading this before you are actually in Mystic, and if so then my recommendation would be to stay at The Whaler’s Inn! It’s literally one of the cutest places I have ever stayed and the service was impeccable!
Normally I go the budget route when I travel, but there is nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then.
Technically the Whaler’s Inn is a boutique hotel, but it also happens to be one of the largest I have ever stayed in as it has 5 different buildings (totaling 48 guest rooms).
I had a front facing room in the Hoxie House (which features both deluxe King and Queen guest rooms) that looked out over the river and part of downtown. Without giving too much away all I want to say is the room was amazingggggg! It featured a massive TV, gas fireplace, the most comfortable KING bed I have ever slept in, and an air-jet soaking bathtub. Let me repeat, air jet bathtub!
The view really was the best thing to wake up to in the mornings. Claire and I could not stop raving about everything in our rooms. The best part about the Hoxie House? It’s for adults only!
I'm a sucker for anything nautical and let me tell you the attention to this detail that the staff has put in is impeccable. From the cutest marine knot key ring, to the old-timey decor in the rooms (I'm talking antique rotary phone and vintage alarm clock people!), you can't help but feel at home.
The staff is the nicest they could possibly be and offer fresh cookies in the afternoon that you can enjoy by the lobby fireplace and a decent complimentary breakfast in the adjoining Bravo Bravo restaurant.
In general rooms at The Whaler’s Inn range from $200 - $300 depending on which building you decide to stay in and which days of the week you decide to go. It’s best to check their site for the most up-to-date availability and pricing. Click here for more info, and if you are interested in booking your own experience head over to their website here!
TIP TO NOTE:
If you want to a rundown of The Whaler’s Inn stayed tuned for a full review coming soon!
WHAT TO SEE IN MYSTIC
So the best part about Mystic is probably the fact that it's a super small town so you don’t even need to drive around.
We went mid-week in the winter (the "off-season"), but I can honestly say that it didn’t make a huge difference in terms of what we were able to experience. If you are someone who wants to do all of the outdoor activities (near the water) you'll probably want to save your visit for the warmer months.
If you do stay at The Whaler’s Inn, during the warmer months they have free bikes you can rent, which is a great way to get around and makes it easier way to get to things that may be a little too far to walk to.
Mystic has also recently become more of a foodie destination with well-known chefs opening new restaurants and putting their own unique spin on classic New England cuisine. But more on that later.
Although small the downtown area really does feel like a movie and is super easy to explore. This historic area has some pretty unique shops (including more than 80 independently-owned ones), some awesome restaurants (like that one famous one I mentioned above and below), kayaking on the river, and free concerts in the summer at the park! We found a pretty awesome and well stocked loose leaf tea shop, as well as a liquor store with wine from the local vineyards, the famous Mystic Pizza (which is more about the photo opp than the food), and fun novelty stores. If you get lucky you may even see the drawbridge raising and lowering for a passing boat!
75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, CT 06355
Yes, you unfortunately you will have to pay $30 go "inside" but it is well worth the admission and you could easily spend the entire day there (so money well spent). This is probably the main attraction Mystic is known for, and if you’re a history buff like me (or someone who likes lighthouses) this will be your little slice of paradise.
There are over 60 original historic buildings arranged like a little village so you will feel as though you have stepped back in time to what life was like on the coast in the 19th century. You may even see some pirates walking around if you’re in town during their Pirate Days event.
This is the largest maritime museum in New England (40 acres), and is home to the Charles W. Morgan, the oldest surviving wooden sailing whale ship.
Scroll through the image carousel above to see more photos!
55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, CT 06355
Now I know that aquariums can be hit or miss, and many people do not advocate for them because of the shows and animal cruelty, but they can also be an enjoyable experience, and not every single one treats their animals like crap.
That being said if you do make it to the aquarium then you’ll be able to see New England’s only beluga whale, African penguins, seals, sea lions, jellyfish and more.
Hours can vary according to season and the website is going to be the best place to check for the current prices, but in general the hours below reflect the opening times.
TIP TO NOTE:
If you buy your tickets online you will receive an automatic discount on admission.
WHERE TO SHOP IN MYSTIC
I mean can you really go somewhere, even if you're on a budget, and not do a little shopping?
As I mentioned earlier Mystic amazingly has more than 80 independently-owned shops! Some of the best ones that we found were the Spice & Tea Exchange, Salt boutique shop featuring products from local creatives and artisans, Main Street Soap Emporium (for all those reasonably priced bath bombs), and Marine Consignment of Mystic which is chalked full of an array of random nautical items.
If you want to have your mind blown, I guarantee the consignment store is going to have an astounding amount of random things you probably haven’t seen outside of the movies!
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK IN MYSTIC
When the manager of the Whaler’s Inn told us that Mystic is becoming a foodie town I can easily say both of us were surprised, especially coming from NYC and the fact Mystic has less than 5,000 residents, but was she ever right! Some of the best food I have had to date I had in Mystic and the happy hour deals were literally UNREAL!
The thing is…. there are so many good places to eat in Mystic and we were only there for 48 hours (and I’m a small person) so we literally couldn’t try everything, as much as we wanted to.
So in this post I will tell you about the places we did get to eat at and then all of the other recommendations I will be mentioning came from our lovely hotel manager - who is a millennial female that knows what she’s talking about when it comes to food.
One of the many cool facts about Mystic is that it has the only steam-powered cider mill in the whole of the US! So not only can you go have a taste you can get a tour and see how the cider is actually made! If you're in or near Mystic between August and December definitely add this to the list.
There are a ton of other places to drink in Mystic, so if beer is more your speed then head over to the town's brewery, Barley Head Brewery. They're open on the "weekends" from Thursday to Sunday.
Chapter One literally has the best happy hour deal (in my opinion) in all of Mystic! I can’t really speak to the food because we literally only went in for drinks but I can honestly say it was one of the cheapest happy hours I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if they had a special daily deal going on (outside of their normal happy hour) but we were able to get 2-for-1 drinks, so in total we each were able to have two ciders for about $4. Normal happy hour runs from 5-7pm everyday and includes dollar oysters, bar food, $2 drafts, $5 well drinks and $4 wine and sangria. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays all of their drafts are $2 during happy hour as well. And now that I think about it I think we were there on a Wednesday :)
We had our first dinner at Engine Room, which is literally just down the street from The Whaler's Inn. I meannnnn, the burgers here are to die for, and in reality this is what they are known for. But even more than that the Engine Room also specializes in craft beers and bourbon! How much do they specialize? How about featuring sixteen craft beers on tap and the area’s largest bourbon selection?
If you can't get enough of Engine Room and need more don’t go back! I know, that seems counterproductive if you're craving it, but I would recommend trying something new and checking out their sister restaurant Oyster Club. If you really can't go without one additional taste stop by for happy hour before a meal somewhere else (which Engine Room has every day from 4:00pm – 6:00pm).
Remember that movie I mentioned earlier? Mystic Pizza is just one of those things you have to do when visiting Mystic, Connecticut. I’m not going to lie the pizza is not that great. But that being said you know that going into it, so just get the smallest pizza they have to share and you can say that you came, saw, photographed and did Mystic Pizza.
Ok so now we get to the good stuff...
This is literally my TOP choice of where you need to both eat and drink during your visit. The food here is literally unreal, the staff feels like family, and the sunset views you are going to get from both inside and outside the restaurant will blow your mind. Red36 will give you all of the nautical New England feels and is about a 5 to 10-minute walk (depending on how many photos you take along the way) from the drawbridge.
It was probably one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life in the US (and this is coming from someone who was living in NYC)! Red36 sources everything locally and specializes in seafood. They do change up their menu but they also feature burgers and some pretty awesome cocktails.
One of the best things about Red36 is it's literally right on the water and has an outdoor patio with the cutest seating and fire pits! We each had a drink, main meal and we shared two desserts, which brought our bill to just over $100, which when you think about the insane quality is surprisingly a decent price.
If you don’t come here for the lobster pasta (shame on you) then at least come for a drink and a sunset view. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
**Full disclosure, we were welcomed guests of the restaurant, but nonetheless it was our choice to go and I recommend it 100%**
Below are some of my other recommendations of places to eat and drink, and if you want to get a full list head on over to This Is Mystic.
- Grass & Bone: Also owned by Dan Meiser (of Engine Room and Oyster Club), Grass & Bone is a butcher shop and restaurant on East Main Street serving locally sourced meats and farm fresh ingredients. Open daily 9am to 9pm.
- Oyster Club: I mentioned this above a couple of times but this is another one of Dan Meiser’s restaurants. It’s another "Farm and Sea to Table" kind of restaurant with the star of the show being the oysters, obviously. They have a daily happy hour (woohoo) in the bar and patio from 4-6 PM, and in the summer/warmer months they have a pop up “Treehouse” which allows you to sit among the trees with views of the river, cocktails and beverages, and more delicious eats!
- Deviant Donuts: If you’re looking for an Instagrammable food item (which you all know I always do) then this is your spot! I mean the fact that they have a unicorn donut should tempt you enough (which unfortunately was not being sold while we were in town). Located in the Olde Mystic Village they have very limited hours, we’re talking only Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, so you have to be quick if you want to get those coveted donuts.
- MBar: Saltwater Farm Vineyard had a little baby! Meaning, they came in and restored an old gas station into the cutest wine bar. The bar is open air seasonally serving wine, spirits, coffee and small plates from 5pm-10pm. Just beyond the bar they have a dining space which also serves breakfast.
- Harbour House: Don’t fret brunch lovers, Mystic has got you covered with this gem! Like many of the other restaurants in town Harbour House serves locally sourced seasonal cuisine and seafood. But what sets this place apart is the fact it’s a four-diamond restaurant with water-view deck dining and an insanely delicious brunch on Saturdays and Sundays! Oh and I can’t forget to mention that they also have happy hour Tuesday – Friday from 3-6PM, and Saturday & Sunday from 2-4PM.
IF YOU HAVE EXTRA TIME IN MYSTIC...
Go wine tasting through the vineyards
If you're the festival type, go to Jonathan Edwards Winery which hosts multiple events throughout the year and largest festivals in the Spring and Fall.
74 Chester Maine Rd., North Stonington, CT
If you love history and reclaimed spaces hit up Saltwater Farm. The 100 acre vineyard features a renovated WWII hangar which opens out onto terraces and their coastal property!
349 Elm Street, Stonington, CT 06378
If you don't want to venture out too far hit up Maugle Sierra Vineyards. They're 2,050 sq. ft. tasting room allows them to be open year round, and they host Vineyard Nights and live music regularly.
825 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard CT 06339
If you don't care about size and want to be around the founding members of the Connecticut Wine Trail Stonington Vineyards' 58 acres has got your covered. Starting May 1st they serve their well-known Chardonnay and proprietary blends (Seaport White and Triad Rose) 7 days a week, and you can even bring a picnic to have during your visit.
523 Taugwonk Rd, Stonington, CT
Soar through the trees at Fields of Fire Aerial Adventure Park.
We drove by this place and wanted to stop but unfortunately didn’t have enough time! It’s right outside of town and looks super fun!
715 Noank Ledyard Rd. Mystic, CT
Get out on the water three different ways
Want to see Mystic from the cutest 1947 classic wooden motorboat? Look no further than Mystic River Cruises! Captain Erick’s cruises last 90 minutes and take you all around the Mystic River and Long Island Sound. Seaport Marine: 2 Washington St. Mystic Connecticut, 06355
TIP TO NOTE:
The tour also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner cruises and they encourage you to bring your own beverages! Now that is my kind of cruise!
Don’t want to have someone else drive you around on the water to explore? Mystic Boat Adventures lets all us independent travelers take matters into our own hands. From the end of May to mid-October you can drive your own little boat for 1 to 3 hours (even without a boating license!) on a scenic 20-30 mile tour along the shoreline!
FUN FACTS (ABOUT THE BOATS):
Each boat can hold 2-people and you can get up to speeds of 30 mph! 145 Pearl Street, Noank, CT (at Noank Shipyard behind Costello’s)
Unleash your inner pirate on a 81 ft traditional Schooner with ARGIA Schooner Cruises. If you are in town from May to October take advantage of those nicer, sunny days and take in the islands, lighthouses, and amazing nature views from the deck of a US Coast Guard certified and inspected sailing ship. Keep in mind that the ship only sails on weekends. 12 Steamboat Wharf Mystic, CT
HOW TO GET TO MYSTIC
Don’t fret! Car or no car, there are plenty of options for you to get to Mystic…
Mystic is in the southeast corner of Connecticut, off the I-95 highway. In terms of time it’s located about an hour from Hartford, 3 hours from NYC and 2 hours from Boston.
BY TRAIN (go green!)
If you don’t have a car, lucky you! Amtrak also runs to Mystic and stops right in town, which is super convenient. You can come directly from NYC, Boston, and many other Amtrak stations in the northeast (just search on their site).
TIP TO NOTE:
If you do decide to take the train, make sure you book your tickets in ADVANCE! The ticket price can fluctuate in price dramatically! No joke, you could look one week and RT it could be about $85, and the next week have increased to almost $200!
BY PLANE (yes it's possible)
But also may be slightly more of a pain. So in my opinion it’s best to add Mystic onto another trip you already have planned. If you do decide to do Mystic on its own and fly, you can fly into the Providence International Airport (which is the closest airport to Mystic, about 45 minutes away), and then decide to either rent a car or take Amtrak.
TIP TO NOTE:
Other airports that you can also fly into (which is why I’m saying Mystic would be great to add onto a larger trip) are Boston, JFK, and LaGuardia.
LIKE THIS POST?
DON'T FORGET TO PIN ONE OF THE IMAGES BELOW!
Big thank you to The Whaler's Inn for hosting us (and giving us the cutest and most comfortable rooms), to the Mystic Seaport Museum for hooking us up with admission, and to Red36 for the best meal of our lives!