- 1 Where to Stay for One Day in Mystic
- 2 Traveling to Mystic, Connecticut
- 3 What to do in Mystic in One Day
- 3.1 Start your day exploring downtown Mystic
- 3.2 Walk along the Mystic River Bascule Bridge
- 3.3 Pick One: The Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum or the Mystic Aquarium
- 3.4 Go shopping at Olde Mistick Village
- 3.5 If you have time, head outside the city to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and Coogan Farm
- 3.6 End your one day in Mystic on a cruise with Argia Mystic Cruises
- 4 My Favorite Restaurants in Mystic
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If you’re interested in finding some truly unique things to do on the Connecticut shoreline, Mystic is a perfect city to spend a day. This beautiful coastal town is only a 15-minute drive from the border of Rhode Island–perfect if you’re looking for more places to add to your New England itinerary.
Originating from the Pequot word “missi-tuk,” which refers to a river whose waters are blown into waves by the wind, Mystic, Connecticut, evolved from a small coastal village to a central seaport town in the late 1700s. Today, it’s a traditional New England seaside village, complete with lovely shops, delicious seafood, and beautiful ocean views.
Since I grew up in Connecticut, visiting Mystic for the day was always a great excursion down the shoreline. Then as I got older, it was one of my favorite nearby mother-daughter overnight getaways.
This is your perfect itinerary if you plan to spend one day in Mystic, CT.
Where to Stay for One Day in Mystic
Inn at Mystic: When visiting Mystic, I always stay at the Inn at Mystic! It’s situated on the river, and the guest rooms are divided between two manor buildings, so each one has its own unique features and details. During the summer, they offer an outdoor pool for visitors, have a fantastic on-site restaurant called Harbor House, and your stay includes breakfast each morning.
Spicer Mansion: The Spicer Mansion is a tiny boutique inn located in an 1853 historic mansion. The structure, which was once Captain Elihu Spicer’s vacation home, has been meticulously restored. The hotel includes a rooftop patio, an on-site spa, and a beach shuttle. You can also book a seat for their evening dinner for an extra fee.
The Whaler’s Inn: The Whaler’s Inn (Booking | Hotels) is a historic hotel in downtown Mystic, a short walk from the city’s landmarks like the Mystic River Bascule Bridge and Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream, and all of the shops on East and West Main Street. This strategically situated hotel comprises five structures, each with its own Mystic history.
Traveling to Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic is the easiest to reach by car from other Connecticut shoreline towns like New Haven since it’s right off I-95 and Route 1.
You can also take the Connecticut shoreline train into New London and order a rideshare car service like Uber or Lyft to bring you into Mystic.
Although Mystic’s downtown area is walkable, you’ll need a car to reach some of the attractions on this list that are not in the downtown area–like the Nature Center and Olde Mistick Village.
What to do in Mystic in One Day
There are so many things to do in Mystic, you won’t be able to fit it all into one day!
Start your day exploring downtown Mystic
Mystic has so many different shops and restaurants, starting in its historic downtown! Along with lovely boutiques and tiny local businesses, there are numerous noteworthy sights to see on your one day in Mystic.
Another famous place in downtown Mystic? Mystic Pizza. Even if you don’t know a lot about this coastal village, there’s no way you haven’t heard of the 1988 movie Mystic Pizza starring a young Julia Roberts in her breakout role.
When you’re roaming the city’s downtown, stop in a booth for lunch and examine the memorabilia adorning the restaurant’s walls.
While you’re in the heart of downtown, you can’t miss the city’s bridge.
Walk along the Mystic River Bascule Bridge
While spending one day in Mystic CT, you’ll definitely walk along the Mystic River Bascule Drawbridge.
This historic bridge spans the Mystic River and links U.S. Route 1. The Otis Elevator Company created it in 1922, and it’s exciting to see it in motion because the mechanical pieces are visible.
When the picturesque drawbridge rises, it halts traffic on both sides of this beautiful town for around 5 minutes before being lowered again.
Because they open the bridge more than 2,000 times yearly—once an hour during daylight hours during the summer season—you’ll almost certainly see it opening and closing while wandering around.
Suppose you end up getting stuck on the side of the bridge. In that case, that’s a great opportunity to pop into Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream and grab an “ice cream excellence” cone!
Pick One: The Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum or the Mystic Aquarium
Although it would be amazing to explore both the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum and the Mystic Aquarium, if you only have one day in Mystic CT, it’s better to focus on just one of these museums for a few hours.
Don’t stress too much about it though–you can always come back to Mystic in the future and visit the one you missed!
Learn about the seaport’s history at the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum
Since 1929, the Mystic Seaport Museum has been the premier maritime museum in the United States. It’s a living history museum, which includes a recreation of a 19th-century naval community typical of the Connecticut shoreline of the period.
The 19-acre grounds include a working shipyard, a settlement, four historic ships on the National Historic Landmark Registry, and the last wooden whaleship, Charles W. Morgan.
Wander through several buildings, encountering historical reenactors along the route who will teach you more about the area’s maritime history.
You can buy tickets to the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum in person or online at their website.
Learn about marine life at the Mystic Aquarium
The Mystic Aquarium, founded in 1973, is well-known for its marine life study and protection. Throughout the year, they offer an Animal Rescue program and laboratory research initiatives to sustain the health and biodiversity of our seas.
The aquarium has activities for all age groups, including indoor and outdoor exhibits, interactive encounters like Jurassic Giants: A Dinosaur Adventure, and a 4-D theater.
Go shopping at Olde Mistick Village
Once you’ve explored the nautical village or visited the marine life, pop over to the Olde Mistick Village for some shopping.
Located near the Mystic Aquarium, it’s a shopping mall created in the 1970s to seem like a historic 1720s-style colonial village with excellent shopping options.
While walking along the cobblestone lanes, visitors may browse more than 40 unique shops, including Alice in the Village, Munson’s Chocolates, and Gineva Murano Glass Jewelry–with authentic Venetian handmade glass.
There’s also a duck pond with a waterwheel, a gazebo, a bungalow-style structure with colorful facades, colonial-style shop signs, restaurants, and even a movie theater on the premises.
If you have time, head outside the city to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and Coogan Farm
Just a few minutes from downtown, the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center has worked to keep Connecticut animals safe through conservation and education since 1946. The nature sanctuary has nearly ten miles of pathways through woodlands and marshes and 17th-century stone walls dispersed across the property.
The Nature Center is divided into two areas. Animals, paths, and the Visitor’s Center may be found on Pequotsepos Road. It also looks after the Peace Sanctuary, where the Peace Union used to meet to campaign for women’s suffrage and nonviolence. The grounds were then used as a girls’ sleepaway camp before becoming a public nature reserve.
The Coogan Farm part of the Center was added in 2013 and features ecology, history, and the newest Meditation Walking Path. Throughout the summer, the Center also provides several nature camps for children.
End your one day in Mystic on a cruise with Argia Mystic Cruises
If you’re spending one day in Mystic CT during the warmer months, you need to make sure part of your day is on the water!
From May until mid-October, the Schooner Argia cruises around Fishers Island Sound from the Steamboat Wharf in downtown Mystic. Even though it is currently the last commercial sailing ship in Mystic, these sailboats formerly crowded the Harbor.
There are four different options throughout the day–morning, noon, afternoon, and sunset sails. Although none of these tours focus on lighthouses, there are numerous beautiful ones along the route.
End your 1 day in Mystic with a cruise along the water at sunset enjoying the view before stopping for an excellent seafood dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.
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My Favorite Restaurants in Mystic
If you want to try some of the great seafood dishes that this part of New England is known for, you should go to one of Mystic’s many excellent restaurants or breweries.
Pro Tip: If there is a restaurant in Mystic that you know you want to visit, book a reservation online or by calling ahead. While the cuisine is worth the wait, there may be large lines to get in, particularly during the summer.
There are beautiful seaside towns all over Connecticut, but the maritime town of Mystic is one of the best! How will you spend your one day in Mystic CT?