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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.