by Al Valente
Long weekends and extended vacations in Mystic, Connecticut can be quite restful, peaceful and very restorative to your soul. If you love boats, history and the maritime traditions, it is also an area for rumination of such. Unknown to most visitors, however, Mystic also offers many unique and divergent avenues for physicality.
Imagine your body in motion taking you by pastoral country roads, majestic tall ships, nesting ospreys, quaint shops, sidewalk cafes, and a historical drawbridge over a gentle moving river, it adds a whole sensory dimension.
Yes, Mystic is famous for its charm and history, but, if you also enjoy fitness, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a partial list of all the fit and fun things you can do on your next Mystic stay.
Irish 5K Race
This annual certified race takes place in chilly March. Put on your green gear and join this St. Patrick’s themed race.
The race begins at Pearl Street in downtown Mystic, the route goes northerly adjacent to the Mystic River on beautiful River Road, does a turnaround and returns back to downtown.
It’s always scheduled on the Saturday preceding the popular Sunday Mystic Irish Parade, so you can make it a fun weekend.
Mystic Half Marathon and 10K Race
These two races are organized each May by the highly accredited Hartford Marathon Foundation. They start and end at the Mystic Aquarium and pass by sites such as historic downtown Mystic, the historic Bascule drawbridge, scenic River Road, and Old Mystic. There’s even a fun kids race through Olde Mistick Village, so bring the whole family.
The downtown Mystic merchants offer a number of promotions and discounts exclusively to the runners who merely have to show their medallion or running bib to enjoy some great offerings.
Make it a weekend with a memorable view of the Mystic River, stay at the downtown Steamboat Inn, Whaler’s Inn, or Inn at Mystic, but book early because they fill up fast.
2017 will be the 3rd year for this popular race which is held each July. It’s 1,500 meters in length beginning at the historic Mystic Seaport and finishing down river at Red 36, a riverside restaurant.
You don’t have to be a super-jock to enjoy participating in this race, the swim is scheduled on the outgoing tide, so you’ll be assisted by the natural flow. There are many kayaks and patrol boats along the route make it a truly fun and ultra-safe event.
At the conclusion of the race, there’s a celebratory bash on the river deck of the Red 36 where the awards are made.
Kelley’s Pace Running Races
Kelley’s Pace Store
Olde Mistick Village – 15C
John J. Kelley was a famous distance runner from Mystic who won the Boston Marathon in 1957. If you go to downtown Mystic at the intersection of Bank St. and Rt. 1 next to Mystic Pizza you will see a life size statue of John with his sidekick dog.
In tribute to John Kelley, there is a store in Olde Mistick Village expressly focusing on running shoes, clothing and equipment. Additionally, the store runs a couple of races of their own.
Kelley’s Pace Frostbite 5 Miles — January
Kelley’s Pace Hare Hop 5K — March
Tour de Noank 5K
This certified 5K race takes place each June. It starts and ends at Esker Point beach (3.5 miles south of the drawbridge) and follows a course through beautiful country and riverside roads.
Bring your kids for there is a special kids’ fun run with a short loop.
Other Interesting Fitness and Recreation Places in Greater Mystic
In addition to the many organized races and events in greater Mystic, there are a number of places where fitness oriented activities take place in season and, in some cases, year round. Here are just a few.
Mystic Indoor Sports
90 Welles Rd
In additional to a traditional 4 indoor tennis courts, they offer a 22,000 ft 2 all-purpose indoor AstroTurf facility offering: soccer, lacrosse, corn hole, football, batting cages, basketball, plus that contemporary fun program of Knockerball. Open year round.
Fearless Flyers Academy & Trampoline Park
800 Flanders Road
This indoor park offers a spacious building with extreme high ceiling for learning and practicing various trapeze and aerial acrobatics just like circus performers. Have no concern, there are nets and harnesses – very safe. The trainers will soon have you performing aerial feats you never thought you were capable of.
In a separate adjacent area is a ground level trampoline facility complete with world class instructors and all the safety equipment to develop advanced flips and moves.
Fields of Fire Adventure Park and Paint Ball Park
Set on 50 acres of woodland, enjoy an adventure in the treetops, or on the ground avoiding getting pummeled by paint balls.
More than just exhilarating zip lines, the aerial adventure park has different levels of obstacles and hurdles for the entire family.
Esker Point Beach Beach-Volleyball
900 Groton Long Point Road
If Olympians Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings have you inspired to try your hand at beach volleyball, then Esker Point Beach, with its six volleyball courts, is the place for you.
After play, you can cool off in the water. There are restrooms and showers available on premises.
Whether you’re a hard core biker or a soft peddler, greater Mystic is the place for you. For you dirt bikers, there is Haley Farm and Bluff Point state park, you can visit each individually or, they are actually connected to make for a longer jaunt in nature along the beautiful shoreline.
If you would like to tour Mystic while leaving your car behind, there is a community bike service available. The bikes are free with a refundable $10 deposit and come with a helmet and lock. They’re available at numerous pickup points: http://www.mysticcommunitybikes.org/
If there are no free bikes available, don’t fret, you can rent one for as little as $35 a day which includes delivery, pick-up, helmets and locks: Mystic Bike Rentals
Kayaking and Paddle-Boarding
The gentile Mystic River is ideal for both paddle boarding and kayaking. Imagine paddling up river past the seaport with all of its maritime allure, then continue to where few boats travel and enjoy calm flat waters full of waterfowl and ospreys. You can paddle all the way to Old Mystic and back.
If you choose to paddle south, you can land at Six Penny Island or go under the railroad bridge and explore Beebe Cove. Further south you can beach on Ram Island which is at the very mouth of the Mystic River.
For a more detailed description of kayak routes: Kayakers’ Guide
Don’t own a kayak? Here are a couple of rental places.
Blue Heaven Kayak & Paddle Board Rentals
2 Washington St.
15 Holmes St.
100 Essex St
Surfing at Misquamicut Beach
Just a short half hour away over the Rhode Island state line is the Misquamicut Beach area which rivals the surf beaches of Cape Cod, and are much warmer. In addition to its extensive sandy beaches it offers many shops, snack bars, restaurants and beach bars. There’s even a drive-in theater. There’s plenty parking at the state beach which is lifeguarded.
When the surf’s up you can surfboard, boogie board, or just body surf. Or, you can Jet Ski in the lagoon.
Rentals are available for all you favorite activities.
Just Plain Walking
You actually don’t need equipment to move your body while enjoying your Mystic holiday, you can simply walk. The sites are mentally stimulating and pleasurable to the eyes. Choose any route up or down either side of the river — and just enjoy.