What are the five best things to see and do in Mystic?

Melanie Nayer

Being in Mystic is like stepping back in time – drawbridges, sailboats, cobblestone roads, and antique charm set this Connecticut village apart from its nearby tony towns. While you're here, Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that you don't miss the following five best things to see and do in Mystic.
 
1. Mystic Seaport Museum Store. The seaport store is home base for all things Mystic. You'll find a full report on maritime history, centuries-old sailing maps and plenty of unique gifts to occupy your time. This isn't just any tourist stop. This boutique sells the best the town has to offer if you're looking for local gifts, books and handmade jewelry.
 
2. Mystic River Bridge. One of the most iconic sites in Mystic is the Mystic River Bascule Bridge, a drawbridge with counterweights that spans the Mystic River. The bridge was built in 1920 and allows both vehicle and foot traffic to pass through. When you first arrive Mystic, you’ll likely drive over the bridge, but make a point to walk back over it during your tour of the town to take some photos. It’s one of the oldest drawbridges in the nation.
 
3. Connecticut Casinos. Only about 30 minutes from Mystic are the Connecticut casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Both casinos offer hotel accommodations, theaters, nightly entertainment, dozens of restaurants and of course, plenty of gambling.
 
4. Steamboat Sabino. One of the oldest steamboats still in operation is located in Mystic, and worth a ride. The coal-fired steamboat Sabino cruises from mid-May to Columbus Day.  Sabino was officially declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992, and the 90-minute rides are filled with history and great photo opps.
 
5. Mystic Pizza. If the only thing you know about Mystic is its pizza (thanks to the 1988 movie starring a then unknown Julia Roberts), then you shouldn’t miss a stop in for a slice of pie. Mystic Pizza, known locally as Pizzetta, sits right in the middle of town and serves up a variety of pizzas for lunch and dinner. While you’re here, you can also grab a few Mystic Pizza souvenirs, including t-shirts, mugs, cast photos and a slice to go.

  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are the best side day trips from Mystic?

    We love Mystic for its come-as-you-are attitude and historical highlights, but there’s also plenty to see around the city, as well. Plan a day trip to nearby Newport, Watch Hill or Providence, while you’re here. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the best day trips while in Mystic.
     
    In Watch Hill, just 25 minutes from Mystic, stop by the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Ocean House for a fine dining experience at the resort’s farm-to-table restaurant Seasons. While you’re in Watch Hill, take a drive to the lighthouse for some great views of the picturesque Rhode Island landscape, and make sure to take a stroll on the resort’s private beach for jaw-dropping views of the Atlantic Ocean.
     
    Newport is just about 30 minutes south of Mystic, and home to some of the best beaches in Rhode Island, as well ocean-side restaurants and iconic Newport mansions. Take a tour of the mansions and be sure to hike the famous Cliff Walk, which is the best way to see the Rhode Island coast.
     
    If you’re visiting during the summer months, make sure to spend a night or two in Providence, where you can catch the city’s famous Waterfire display, a stunning parade of floats and riverboats that light up along the fire-lined river through the city.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What is the best thing to bring home from Mystic?

    Mystic is known for being one of the oldest seaport districts in New England, but movie fans know it as the name of the pizza joint, where they first were introduced to Julia Roberts. If you’re going to bring home one thing from Mystic, we suggest you make it a handmade sterling silver sailboat or a photo from the famous film (which you can purchase in the pizza shop). You can buy “Mystic Pizza” dough and sauce straight from the restaurant to make at home, or hit up the restaurant’s shop for some t-shirts, mugs, posters and other movie souvenirs.
     
    If you’re looking for something a little more historical and cultural, head into the silversmith shops in Olde Mystic Village and find a piece of jewelry or replica of a tall ship, typically found in Mystic.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    Which casinos are close to Mystic?

    If you’re looking forward to playing the slots or taking your chances at the tables, you’re in luck—Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos are just minutes from Mystic, Connecticut. A huge draw to the area, these two casinos offer travelers everything from luxury accommodations to late-night entertainment. Here’s a basic rundown from our Forbes Travel Guide editors on what you’ll find at these casinos minutes from Mystic.
     
    The Foxwoods complex is home to six casinos, fine-dining restaurants, hotels, spas and state-of-the-art theaters and entertainment complexes. The Grand Pequot Tower is the main lodging option, and the Paragon gourmet restaurant is located on the 24th floor of the tower. If you want to stay as close to the casino floor as possible, Foxwoods’ Great Cedar Hotel sits atop one of the resorts’ gaming rooms. For a more quiet place to retreat to at the end of the evening, head to the Two Trees Inn at Foxwoods located just across the street. For a more luxury experience, check in at MGM at Foxwoods, the resort’s most high-end accommodations. The casino-resort has dozens of restaurant options, ranging from fine dining and gourmet steakhouses, to more casual spots such as California Pizza Kitchen. There are nine different nightlife venues including bars, dance clubs and theaters, and Foxwoods’ eight entertainment venues, which have hosted everyone from Maroon 5 to Bill Maher. You can buy tickets to the shows at Foxwoods online, or when you arrive the resort. For the larger acts, we suggest you book your seats in advance.
     
    Mohegan Sun is located just across the street from Foxwoods. It is the newer of the two casinos, built in 1996 by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut. Here you’ll find three casinos, a 1,200-room luxury hotel, 20,000-square-foot spa by Elemis, over 40 restaurants and three entertainment venues, including a cabaret theater. Poker players can hone their craft in the casino’s Poker Room, while kids take advantage of the massive property in the Kids Quest/Cyber Quest family entertainment room. Connecticut’s WNBA team, the Connecticut Sun, play here, as well as major headlining acts, including the American Idol Live 2012 Tour. You can take a break from the tables and soak up the sun on the 17,500-square-foot outdoor sun terrace or get a quick workout in at the resort’s Olympic-sized indoor pool.
     
    The biggest difference between Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun is the size. Foxwoods is a larger complex, with more hotel and dining options, but Mohegan Sun offers more accommodating options for families and nighttime events that cater to all ages.
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  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    Where is the best nightlife in Mystic?

    When it comes to nightlife in Mystic, there’s no better place to see-and-be-seen than in Mystic Country, where you’ll find the casinos and live entertainment venues. Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and MGM Grand at Foxwoods host dozens of restaurants and bars, shopping venues and plenty of gambling spaces. The entertainment venues (including the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena) feature live world-renown musicians such as Maroon 5 and Florence and the Machine and Billy Joel, along with top-notch stand-ups such as Chris Tucker. There are comedy clubs, dance clubs and casino clubs to enjoy, or you can just take to the tables and press your luck.

    In Olde Mystic Village, some restaurants have bars with live entertainment as well, such as the Flood Tide Restaurant. Hang here for drinks and lite bites in a more casual setting with tunes from nightly pianists, guitarists and jazz trios in the background.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What is the best way to see Mystic in one day?

    One of the best things about sightseeing in Mystic is the city’s size. Once you drive over the drawbridge into the center of town, it’s simple to park the car and set out for an exploration on foot. To see the best of Mystic, Connecticut in one day, start in Olde Mystic Village, the center of town where you’ll find many of the shops, restaurants and boutiques. Famous spots like Pizzetta’s (otherwise known as “Mystic Pizza”) and the dry docks, where you can board a boat for scenic tours of the bay, are located here, too. If you plan to visit the aquarium or any of the nearby amusement parks or casinos, you’ll need a car to get there.
     
    We suggest you start your day in Mystic with a boat ride and historical tour of the town. After the 90 minutes on the water, regain your footing on land with a walk around town for some souvenir shopping. We particularly love the old silversmith stores, where you can buy charms for bracelets, estate jewelry and sterling silver pieces for your jewelry collection. For lunch, head to Pizzetta (otherwise known as “Mystic Pizza”) and share a pie. After lunch, hop back into the car and head to the outskirts of Mystic toward Watch Hill. Once you arrive in Watch Hill, you’ll have fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean and find another small village where you can buy more local goods. In Watch Hill, we suggest you seek out some one-of-a-kind paintings by local artists, which you’ll find at the galleries in the town village. Don’t forget to make a reservation at Seasons, the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star restaurant at the Four-Star Ocean House. An evening of fine dining will likely put you in the mood for a night out, and some casino time at nearby Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    Where is the best shopping in Mystic?

    Olde Mystic Village is where you’ll easily find Mystic’s best shopping, including Mystic-specific and handmade souvenirs. Steeped in history and still retaining much of its 18th century charm, Olde Mystic Village is the heartbeat of the town, flanked by dozens of local boutiques, quaint shops and traditional New England charm. You’ll find everything from sterling silver charms to local artists’ paintings and handcrafted pottery and home items. Stroll the streets of Olde Mystic Village (in the center of town) and pop into the various stores.
     
    If you’re looking for something that says luxury, try the shops at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, located about 25 minutes from Mystic. The retail concourses at these casinos feature everything from Bvlgari and Swarovski crystal stores.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Mystic?

    Mystic might seem like a sleepy small town, but it also plays host to some great activities for kids. If you’re staying in Newport or Watch Hill, take a day trip to Mystic and entertain the kids with some of these Forbes Travel Guide editors’ favorites:
     
    1. Mystic Aquarium. Join the sea lions, jellyfish and Beluga whales for a day at the aquarium. There are live shows throughout the day and plenty of exhibits to keep kids of all ages entertained. The 90-minute "Beluga Encounter" program puts you right in the water with the whales so you can learn about them hands on. 
     
    2. ARGIA Mystic Cruises. Mystic is a seaport town, so it’s only fitting that there are a few cruise ships to show you the sites. The sailing ship ARGIA is one of the most popular, and offers a leisurely cruise down the Mystic River so you can take in lighthouses, nearby islands and historic homes. Lemonade and snacks are included in your tour, or you can bring your own picnic basket.
     
    3. Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. Located just 30 minutes from Mystic in Essex is the famous steam train and riverboat ride. Hop on board the coal-fired restored railroad cars for a trip back in time when trains were the popular means for travel and import or export transactions. Buy a connecting ticket so that after your train ride, you can transfer to the riverboat to take a tour of the Connecticut River Valley.
     
    4. Dinosaur Place. If Jurassic Park had a New England home, it would likely be Dinosaur Place, located just 25 minutes from Mystic in New London. Bring the kids to explore the 60-acre dinosaur-themed park filled with 30 life-sized dinosaurs. You’ll also find New England's largest self-standing maze; Monty's Playground and Space Net; and the Splashpad, a zero-depth aquatic park complete with dinosaur-themed water cannons. On the inside you’ll find plenty of activities to entertain the kids, including treasure hunts, dinosaur fossil digs and educational activities around minerals, crystals and fossils.
     
    5. Casinos. You wouldn’t think a casino would be the appropriate place for a child, but in Connecticut, the casinos have an entire wing just for the kids. Kids Quest at Mohegan Sun offers activities for kids up to 12 years old, including a Barbieland, Construction Quarry and Cyber Quest space. At both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, there are live shows that are rated family-friendly so kids and parents can enjoy.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are the five best things to see and do in Mystic?

    Being in Mystic is like stepping back in time – drawbridges, sailboats, cobblestone roads, and antique charm set this Connecticut village apart from its nearby tony towns. While you're here, Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that you don't miss the following five best things to see and do in Mystic.
     
    1. Mystic Seaport Museum Store. The seaport store is home base for all things Mystic. You'll find a full report on maritime history, centuries-old sailing maps and plenty of unique gifts to occupy your time. This isn't just any tourist stop. This boutique sells the best the town has to offer if you're looking for local gifts, books and handmade jewelry.
     
    2. Mystic River Bridge. One of the most iconic sites in Mystic is the Mystic River Bascule Bridge, a drawbridge with counterweights that spans the Mystic River. The bridge was built in 1920 and allows both vehicle and foot traffic to pass through. When you first arrive Mystic, you’ll likely drive over the bridge, but make a point to walk back over it during your tour of the town to take some photos. It’s one of the oldest drawbridges in the nation.
     
    3. Connecticut Casinos. Only about 30 minutes from Mystic are the Connecticut casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Both casinos offer hotel accommodations, theaters, nightly entertainment, dozens of restaurants and of course, plenty of gambling.
     
    4. Steamboat Sabino. One of the oldest steamboats still in operation is located in Mystic, and worth a ride. The coal-fired steamboat Sabino cruises from mid-May to Columbus Day.  Sabino was officially declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992, and the 90-minute rides are filled with history and great photo opps.
     
    5. Mystic Pizza. If the only thing you know about Mystic is its pizza (thanks to the 1988 movie starring a then unknown Julia Roberts), then you shouldn’t miss a stop in for a slice of pie. Mystic Pizza, known locally as Pizzetta, sits right in the middle of town and serves up a variety of pizzas for lunch and dinner. While you’re here, you can also grab a few Mystic Pizza souvenirs, including t-shirts, mugs, cast photos and a slice to go.
  • On July 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Mystic?

    Mystic is known for more than its pizza (though the pie is certainly a big draw). Fresh seafood and casual atmosphere rule the restaurants in this charming New England town. While you’re here, don’t miss a chance to taste test our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ list of the best places to eat in Mystic. 
     
    1. Mystic Pizza, Pizzetta. There’s no point in leaving Mystic without some pizza. Pizzetta, otherwise known to pop culture fans as Mystic Pizza, is Mystic’s big claim to fame. Stop here for a serious slice. The ordering is simple: choose red (with sauce) or white (without sauce) and then pile on your toppings. Pizzetta has eat-in and take-out areas, and you can also buy t-shirts, mugs and posters from the restaurant’s souvenir shop. 
     
    2. Flood Tide Restaurant. A local favorite for fine dining, the Flood Tide Restaurant sits on Mystic Harbor and overlooks Fisher Island Sound. Come here for breakfast, afternoon tea or dinner, or for a more casual dining experience head to the restaurant’s lounge and enjoy a cocktail and some live music. This spot, famous for their lobster crepe and fresh seafood specials, is open every night of the week except Tuesday.
     
    3. Seasons at Ocean House, Watch Hill. The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star restaurant is located in Watch Hill at the Ocean House Resort, and is known for its fresh farm-to-table food concepts. Grab a seat at the chef’s table to watch the dishes on the menu come to life. We love the sage-roasted lobster and the lavender honey glazed duck breast.
     
    4. Stonington Borough. Local seafood is what “the Borough” is known for. Come here for the fresh-from-the-docks catch of the day and harborside dining. The mood is casual, the atmosphere is family-friendly, and the menu features a wide range of classic American dishes.
     
    5. Essex Clipper Dinner Train. For something a bit more eclectic, take a ride on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. The 2.5-hour journey includes a 4-course mail served in a 1920’s Pullman Diner car.
  • On July 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Mystic?

    Though small in size, Mystic and its surrounding areas have grand stature. Luxury comes in the form of old-world charm, so when you’re visiting Mystic our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend the following hotels as the best places to stay.
     
    1. Ocean House, Watch Hill. This historic but recently renovated Forbes Travel Guide Four Star hotel is located about 30 minutes from Mystic. The hotel is located at the top of Watch Hill, and is home to 13 acres of land and a private white sand beach. You’ll also find the Forbes star-rated OH! Spa and Seasons, the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant. 
     
    2. Whitehall Mansion Inn. For something a bit more historic, try the Whitehall Mansion Inn in Mystic country. This quaint bed-and-breakfast has five guestrooms, each with a working fireplace and Jacuzzi tubs. You’ll receive a complimentary bottle of wine and cheese platter when you arrive, and if you choose to leave you’re only minutes from the casinos, Mystic Seaport, Olde Mystic Village and the restaurants and boutiques that line Mystic County.
     
    3. MGM Grand at Foxwoods. The MGM Grand at Foxwoods is the casino’s luxury boutique space. While the entire casino area has hundreds of guestrooms for you to choose from, the MGM Grand steps it up a notch with Monaco-imported linens, fine art, and the 24-hour concierge service you’d expect from luxury accommodations.
     
    4. Chanler at Cliff Walk. Situated on the ocean in a historic “summer cottage”, the 20-room Chanler at Cliff Walk is located about 35 minutes from Mystic in charming Newport, and offers fine and casual dining on-site. Taking its queue from the Golden Age, when the Newport mansions were the pinnacle of luxury living, the Chanler at Cliff Walk still retains that old world feel with all the luxuries of the modern world.
     
    5. Vanderbilt Grace. One of the original Newport mansions, the Vanderbilt Grace is located about 35 minutes from Mystic. Originally the Vanderbilt Hall, today the Vanderbilt Grace mansion includes 33 rooms and suites, a spa and fitness center with indoor and outdoor pools, and two restaurants. The luxury hotel sits along the famous Newport Mansion walk along the water, so you’ll have great views of the ocean and be within walking distance from many of Newport’s top attractions.