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Mystic’s Winter Charm
Mystic residents and visitors alike find it easy to enjoy Mystic’s nautical charm during quiet winter months. A few favorite options include hiking, shopping, dining, water views, tourist attractions, and miscellaneous. Whether you visit often or haven’t visited yet, you’ve probably missed some fabulous fun.
photo: Hernan Ramirez @hdrvisuals
Barn Island Wildlife Management Area (Stonington) boasts a 5 mile easy hike through saltwater marshes and woods on a 1000 acre waterfront. Best tackled in waterproof boots with minimal snow coverage. Beautiful and peaceful with Connecticut’s best free boat launch (plan ahead for your kayak or motor boat). The free parking area is not always plowed. 249 Palmer Neck Rd. Pawcatuck (a section of Stonington), CT.
Bluff Point State Park (Groton) is an 800 acre nature preserve with a 4-mile easy hike and stunning cliff top views of Long Island Sound at the halfway mark. Best tackled in waterproof boots when the trails and parking lot have minimal snow. Bring a camera to capture marsh vistas and birds. 55 Depot Rd. Groton.
River Road offers a scenic 3-mile unhurried curvy view from the Groton side of the Mystic River stretching from downtown Mystic to the Old Mystic Post Office. Enjoy gorgeous views of the river, restored historic homes and spectacular views of Mystic Seaport Museum. Pro Tip: Plan ahead to take sunset photos of Mystic Seaport from River Rd.
photo: This is Mystic
Downtown Mystic has an iconic bascule-style drawbridge, historic buildings, unique shopping, and diverse food. The Spice and Tea Exchange is the place to enjoy food and beverage samples plus tips for meals and entertaining. Both of Mystic Knotwork’s downtown locations are packed with affordable handmade nautical treasures. Warm up with take-out or relax-in coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate. Pro Tip: finding free parking on main roads and side streets is easier in winter.
Olde Mistick Village is the place to go whether you seek flavored olive oil, award-winning cupcakes, angel bracelets, Scandanavian linens, quilting materials, fine jewelry, garden tools, women’s clothing, kitchen accessories, pet gifts, handbags, sunglasses, jewelry, homemade fudge, Christmas ornaments, tea, or children’s clothing and toys. Individual businesses are nested into cottages in a walkable village. Walkways and ample free parking areas are kept clear and you’ll find it pleasant to while away the hours. There’s always something new to discover.
photo: Hannah Tomsett @hannahtomsett
Stonington Borough juts out into Fisher’s Island sound in a 1-mile long peninsula packed with restored mid 1800’s homes, shops, and eateries. It also has a beautiful stone lighthouse that is only open in summer. Most of the eclectic shops are within a pleasant half-mile walk in this pedestrian-friendly area that has been featured in movies. Street parking is supplemented by ample parking at nearby Stonington Town Dock. Nearby Velvet Mill (22 Bayview Ave. Stonington) is packed with artisan shops and unique treasures. Don’t miss it!
Dining… all day!
photo: Laura Claas
Mystic Depot Roasters was crowned “Best Breakfast” in 2018 by readers of Connecticut Magazine. Lounge in comfy chairs near a wood stove in the beautiful old train station. Free paperback books are available for train passengers and diners to read and take with them but this darling place has so many fun items for sale that you won’t mind waiting a few minutes for freshly-prepared food.
photo: This is Mystic
Mid-day I’m ready for a steaming bowl of freshly made ramen at Samurai Noodle … possibly with a side of sushi. Or maybe some deeply-satisfying French onion soup from Chapter One. Or clam chowder from The Mariner.
For late afternoon, Friar Tuck’s Scotch Eggs or Sea Scallops are great appetizers. I’ll have a difficult time deciding where to get a great hamburger because Mystic is packed with good options. I could follow the intoxicating scent of grilled meat to a hand-held delectable meal. If I can’t decide on a burger then maybe just a cheese slice from Pizzetta to hold me over. Or maybe sashimi from Johnny’s Peking Tokyo across from Mystic Aquarium.
I’m a devoted fan of Bravo Bravo’s fresh tomato pasta with lobster chunks, sea scallops, mussels, and asparagus with lobster cream sauce which is served with fresh focaccia. Nearby S&P Oyster makes every meal special with fantastic seafood, steaks and a spectacular 180 degree view of the Mystic River. On a chilly date night I’ll cozy up to the fireplace at The Captain Daniel Packer Inne.
photo: This is Mystic
By now I’ve been eating all day but will pick up dessert to-go from the award-winning SIFT bakery. SIFT’s owner Adam won Food Network’s Best Baker in America contest 2018! Individual desserts are creative, affordable, delectable works of art suitable for any occasion! Bleu Squid, in Olde Mistick Village, has divine cupcakes in assorted flavors and won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. Do you see a delicious pattern here? COME TO MYSTIC FOR FABULOUS FOOD! Stay long enough to enjoy several meals and you’ll thank me… and the restaurant chefs.
Water Views are easier to find with bare trees. Here are a few of my favorites…
Esker Point Beach (Groton) photo: This is Mystic
Mystic River Park in downtown Mystic is serenely beautiful and perfect for sipping coffee or cocoa but hopping with activity during warm weather when boats travel through the open bridge. A classic playground is one block away on Washington St.
photo: Justin Laing
Stonington Town Dock at Stonington Harbor hosts Connecticut’s remaining commercial fishing fleet. Mountains of lobster pots and gear are piled near the hard-working boats and the scent of fish permeates the air. Free parking and a nautical-themed playgrounds are adjacent to a popular non-motorized boat launch. Locals store personal kayaks and dinghies there. Pro Tip: Bring your kayak, a hat & some gloves to enjoy a quick paddle tour of Stonington Harbor.
Stonington Point at the tip of Stonington Borough boasts a 180 degree view of Fisher’s Island Sound and three states (CT, RI, NY) with free parking. This is a good place to enjoy a freshly-made sandwich from Mystic Market in your car but keep the motor running.
River Road (Mystic) – extends from downtown Mystic to the Old Mystic Post Office and is great for walking, biking, or driving. Beautiful sunset views of Mystic Seaport plus a small free parking area near the highway overpass which doubles as a favorite kayak launch area.
Williams Beach (Mystic) at the newly-renovated YMCA has a lovely 180 degree view of the mouth of the Mystic River. Free parking with a playground on site.
Haley Farm (Groton) photo: This is Mystic
Additional beach, river, cove, and ocean views include Haley Farm (Groton), Esker Point Beach (Groton), Avery Point at UConn (Groton), Noank Town Dock (Groton), Enders Island (Stonington), and Barn Island Boat Launch (Stonington) but there are many more. Pro Tip: pick up a map from Bank Square Books to identify public access boat launches and to scout out summer picnic and beach spots.
Major Tourist Attractions: Yes, locals love them too!
photo: This is Mystic
Mystic Seaport Museum has so many tremendous indoor displays and special programs that you’ll have more time to ask questions when visitor numbers dwindle. As the largest maritime museum in the world it contains a research library and incredible art work with access through the delightful gift shop. Enjoy a planetarium presentation or deep dive into an interesting topic with historian storytellers; many of whom volunteer. Winter Hours: Thursday-Sunday 10-4.
photo: This is Mystic
Mystic Aquarium has changing exhibits and a colorful array of sea creatures. Warm up watching a featured movie or pet a sand shark. Visit with beluga whales, sea lions, and penguins in outdoor habitats. Enjoy all the colorful indoor exhibits where enthusiastic staff love to share marine science with guests of all ages. Open daily 10-5.
More Things to Do for Winter
Call a day ahead to reserve high tea at Alice in the Village in Olde Mistick Village. This “Alice in Wonderland” inspired tea room is a delightful stop for a hot cup of tea and a scone. They sell whimsical tea sets too.
photo: This is Mystic
Mystic Luxury Cinemas has plush seating with adult beverages, hot food, and tables so you can really enjoy that blockbuster movie. Perfect stop with kids, friends or for a date night.
Mystified Escape Room Adventures provides hours of live action team-building fun so you must escape together by solving clues.
The Stonington Village Farmers’ Market is at the Velvet Mill October-May, Saturdays 10-1.
Find live music and happy hours year-round at local venues.
FIRST, stop at the Mystic & Shoreline Visitor Information Center at Olde Mistick Village for brochures, discounted tickets to local attractions, free maps of the area, and helpful information. Open Mon.-Sat. 10-6. Sun. 11-6.
Mystic is a scenic drive from anywhere in New England or an easy train ride from New York or Boston. If you’re able, stay over at least one night because there is so much here to enjoy. Several hotels are walking distance from the train station. January, February, and March are perfect for visiting when local hotels and restaurants have cozy fireplaces and reduced rates. Well worth a special trip even when the weather is frightful. Bundle up and venture out with someone special. Adventure, entertainment, fabulous food, and maybe even romance await you in Mystic, Connecticut.
This Post Has 7 Comments
Somebody’s been busy!! Love the article!! Thank you for all that information. Will have to run down some of these locations/restaurants next time we are visiting!!
There’s certainly something fun to do year ’round and you’re always welcome.
Great ideas Elizabeth and amazing photos. A good day to pick something from your list and GO. Thanks so much.
So much to do and so many more things not even mentioned. What do YOU like to do?
Wow! Mystic looks like a great destination for weekenders. Those of us that don’t have the time and/or finances to take a full week during the winter , but would like to get away to somewhere on the weekend or during the week if time permits. Mystic is a close destination I had never thought of for a mini vacation. Thank you for all the information. What a hidden gem!
Thank you, Cindy. I hope you’ll schedule that mini vacation in romantic Mystic.
Don’t forget to make the short drive to the alpaca farm!