Mystic is a charming seaside community in southeastern Connecticut. The town is quaint with a surprising number of family friendly attractions. You can spend the day learning about sea life, get educated about the ship-building industry or just sit back and people watch. These are five fun things to do in Mystic.

Mystic, Connecticut is a wonderful New England vacation destination for your family

5 Reasons to Visit Mystic, Connecticut. Photo: Robin Ruehrwein – New England TravelingMom

If you are looking for a family-friendly New England vacation, look no further than Mystic, CT.  A visit to Mystic, Connecticut will be full of fun, adventure, great food and history. Whether you like to go non-stop or take it slow, there are plenty of things to do in this quintessential small town.

5 Reasons Why Mystic, Connecticut Should Be Your Next New England Vacation Destination

Mystic, Connecticut is a popular weekend getaway destination for families. This charming coastal town has plenty of shopping, dining, and lots of history. Mystic is located just off of Interstate 95 in southeastern Connecticut. It is easy an easy day trip from New York City and Boston. Here are five things to do when you visit Mystic.

1. Explore the Sea Life at the Mystic Aquarium

The Mystic Aquarium is a world class marine exploration center. Gaze upon thousands of colorful fish and exotic marine animals in their underwater habitats. Or be a little bit more daring and touch the back of a docile shark at the Shark Encounters touch pool. Speaking of touch pools, see and touch stingrays at the Ray Touch Pool. Have you ever felt a stingray glide below your fingers?  They are very squishy. Some of them will eat right from your hand, too.

new england aquarium in south eastern connecticut

Explore many species of Marine life on your trip to Mystic. Photo: Robin Ruehrwein – New England TravelingMom

At the Mystic Aquarium you can see many different species of sea life–from California sea lions to penguins to jellyfish, to sea stars.

The Mystic Aquarium also has the only beluga whales in New England! We watched the beluga whales explore their 750,000-gallon exhibit from above and below the water. There are three 20-foot-long underwater viewing windows so you can see them up close. Depending on the timing, you might even get to see one of trainers during a feeding session.

2. Wander Around Downtown Mystic

We spent an afternoon exploring everything that historic Downtown Mystic has to offer. There are more 80 boutiques that sell clothing, books, jewelry and more in downtown Mystic. If you get hungry while you’re shopping, dine at one of the restaurants sprinkled in among the shops. If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, there are bakeries, candy shops and ice cream shops. You can even rent a kayak in the downtown area and take a ride along the Mystic River.

Boutiques and restaurants when visiting Mystic, Connecticut

Spend time exploring the shops and boutiques in Mystic. Photo: Robin Ruehrwein – New England TravelingMom

In the summer there is a free summer concert series at Mystic River Park.

3. Have a Slice of Pizza at Mystic Pizza

Do you remember the movie “Mystic Pizza” from the 80s staring Julia Roberts? Mystic Pizza was a coming-of-age film about two sisters who are working as waitresses at Mystic Pizza. That movie was based on this pizza shop. It was partly filmed on location and to this day, customers line the sidewalk, waiting to taste “A Slice of Heaven.” If you choose to dine in, you will be able to watch the movie which plays on a loop inside the restaurant.

This Pizza shop is a must visit on your trip to New England

Try a slice of Mystic Pizza on a visit to Mystic, Connecticut. Photo: Robin Ruehrwein – New England TravelingMom

Mystic Pizza has a full menu of pizza, deli sandwiches, appetizers and yes, you can purchase some Mystic Pizza swag while you’re there. Located in downtown Mystic, definitely worth checking out!

4. Learn about Mystic’s Maritime History at the Mystic Seaport

Mystic Seaport is one of the largest maritime museums in the country. The museum was founded in 1929 to collect and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past. Today the Mystic Seaport’s grounds cover 19 acres along the Mystic River in Mystic, CT.  The museum includes a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard and several exhibit buildings. The Museum is home to the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship still in existence.  Guests can board the Charles W. Morgan as well as other ships docked there.

See Boats and learn about history at the seaport in Mystic, Connecticut

Spend the day at the Mystic Seaport and learn about Mystic’s history. Photo: Robin Ruehrwein – New England TravelingMom

A visit to the recreated historic village allows visitors to talk with skilled craftsmen about what life was like in the 19th century. You might find a cooper, a cobbler, musician or pharmacist working in their respective shops. All of the “storytellers” are well versed in their craft. The buildings you will see in the village aren’t replications, they are actual shops from the 1800’s that were transported to Mystic Seaport from locations around New England

In the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, watch a working preservation shipyard in action. There is even a planetarium that runs shows daily at the Seaport. Learning about Mystic’s maritime history is one of the best activities in Mystic!

5. Watch the Mystic River Bascule Bridge in Action

The bascule bridge is a must see in Mystic!

The Bascule bridge in Mystic, Connecticut is the last of its kind. Photo: Robin Ruehrwein – New England TravelingMom

The Mystic River Bascule Bridge is a bascule bridge, a type of drawbridge with counterweights. The bridge spans the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut. The upward swing of the counter weights is what moves the bridge to provide clearance for boat traffic. Unlike most bridges, its mechanical parts are out in the open. It’s really fun to watch the bridge in action.  From May 1 to October 31 the bridge opens every hour at 40 minutes past the hour during the day.  This provides ample opportunity to see the bridge go up and down all summer long.

There are benches along the river that make it easy to way the bridge. We sat back and emjoyed the parade of boats going by after the bridge went up. This bascule bridge is actually one of the last ones in the country, so don’t miss it!

Mystic is a perfect New England Vacation destination

Have you been to Mystic, Connecticut? What was your favorite part?