Mystic, Connecticut continues to be one of the top spots to go for a relaxing day out or even a weekend away and we will tell you why. There are so many things you can do that are free or very cheap in Mystic, Connecticut. Just visiting this historic town is a treat in itself. We have lived in this area for 30 years and we still visit Mystic on a regular basis because it is so beautiful and relaxing. You don’t come to Mystic, Connecticut necessarily to be entertained, you come for the history and the scenery. Shopping and dining are added bonuses, but if you really want to enjoy the day with your family then you should visit the Dolly parton family theme park for a great time.
Here are some ideas for a cheap day trip to Mystic, Connecticut. There are places you can go and restaurants that you can eat at that will cost you a lot and we thought it might be nice to tell you about some of the things you can do for free or very cheap.
- Olde Mystic Village
- Mystic Seaport
- Mystic Aquarium
- Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and Hiking Trails
- Cheap Eats in Mystic
- Abbots Lobster in the Rough
- Kayaking and Canoeing
- Free Concerts
- Mystic Market
First stop off I-95 exit 90 (Route 27) is the Old Mystic Village. This village is so quaint and has distinctive buildings designed to represent a New England Village of about 1720s with its collection of shops and restaurants. There is even a movie theater in the village that plays first-run movies and foreign films.
The duck pond is a wonderful place for families to gather and feed the ducks, sit a watch the ducks and birds, watch the working waterwheel and the village Meeting House is right there in the background. At Christmastime carolers sing near the pond and the church has family activities and there are many events through the year.
Check the schedule for upcoming festivals and events that take place out on the lawn near the main road. When we visited there was an art show going on. They also have special events for kids like an Easter egg hunt in the spring.
My favorite time to visit the Old Mystic Village is just at dusk when less people are walking around and it is peaceful. We like to sit by the duck pond and just take in the evening. There are many benches and rest areas to catch your breath, unwind, enjoy the beautiful surroundings and let your mind slip pleasantly back to another era. The kids will also enjoy the water pump and stockade.
Visiting the Old Mystic Village is something you must do if you are visiting Mystic, Connecticut and the stroll through the village is free and that is perfect for your cheap day trip to Mystic.
The Mystic Seaport can be a very fun event for the family but then again it can get quite expensive too. You can get ticket information here. We have been to the Seaport several times throughout the years with our kids on field trips or for special occasions and it is a great place to visit. Parking is always free at Mystic Seaport.
The Seaport has a lot to offer though if you do decide to pay the ticket price. Mystic Seaport is replica of a 19th Century village. The costumed characters that roam throughout the village will make you feel like they have lived there all of their lives. You will visit the Blacksmith, the Cooperage, the drugstore, and also go on working sailing ships. Take a horse and carriage ride around the village and spend a little extra and take a trip down the river on the Sabino.
If ou don’t want to pay to go into the Seaport you can walk aside of the gates and view the Seaport village, the ship, the river and houses along the shore. Make sure you walk into the gift shop and browse the full bookstore upstairs, grab something from the bakery and some coffee or drink and sit on aside when the weather is good. All it costs you is your time and maybe a few dollars for a snack. If you live in the area you can get free or discounted passes for the Seaport from your local library.
Discover fish and invertebrates from around the world, view African penguins, beluga whales, jelly fish, sharks, stingrays, and take in a sea lion show all at the Mystic Aquarium. Experience an interactive 4-D movie and check out art made from trash that washes ashore to teach your kids about being responsible.
Mystic Aquarium is one of the nation’s leading aquariums and home of famed ocean explorer Dr. Robert Ballard and his Institute for Exploration. To get a discount for the Mystic Aquarium you may want to purchase a Mystic Pass card. The Mystic Pass card gets you admission to BOTH Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium, one free fountain drink at Penguins Café at Mystic Aquarium, one free planetarium show at Mystic Seaport and discounts at area hotels and restaurants. If you live in Connecticut, Rhode Island or Massachusetts, ask your local library if they participate in the Mystic Aquarium program and then check out the Library Pass to Mystic Aquarium to save $5 off your admission for up to four people. Visit the Aquarium website for more discount offers. Parking is always free at Mystic Aquarium.
The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center is a small nature center that is located just around the corner, about a mile or so, from the Mystic Aquarium. This is not a large nature center but you can visit most of what they offer for free. This is a small nature center and the cost is very low to view the exhibits. They have a great gift shop that is full of wildlife-type items and gifts to purchase. The walking trails are completely free and there is a lot to see outside. They have live butterfly and owl exhibits during the warmer months, and walking on the well-groomed and wide trails you may see turtles, snacks, chipmunks, a variety of birds, owls, and ducks in the pond. There are signs all around the property that will tell you what kind of wildlife may be near and what flowers and trees you are viewing. The Nature Center has 1/2 mile, 1 mile and 2 or 5 mile hikes through their extensive property. Walking on the trails you will go over small bridges and through woods and fields of goldenrod. Parking is free.
If you are spending the day in Mystic you will eventually want to eat. Here are a few places we can suggest that are very reasonable and what we even consider cheap.
One of our favorite places to eat on the run is Sea Swirl. Follow Route 27 to the end and take a left. The Sea Swirl is the first place you see on the right. We have been coming here for years. This is a Summertime place to eat and only open from May to mid September. You can eat outside on picnic tables or in your car. They also have a covered area with picnic tables that you are eat in and look out over the water.
The food is just great and very reasonably priced. They have a great menu. I love their cheeseburgers with fries. It make me feel like I was a kid at a drive-in. You must try their clam strips and top it off with soft ice cream dipped in your choice of 25 flavors. My favorite – chocolate!
Kitchen Little is a very, very, tiny restaurant on Route 27 between the Old Mystic Village and the Mystic Seaport. You can’t miss it. The building is blue. The food is good and the prices are reasonable. We have never eaten there for lunch or dinner, only for breakfast and it was great.
UPDATE: Kitchen Little has moved after 30 years and is now located on Mason’s Island, which is still closeby. Visit their website for directions to their new location. The new restaurant features bistro style indoor dining and an outdoor patio deck. Our guests enjoy spectacular panoramic maritime views of The Mystic River and Marina.
Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream is not to be missed. Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream is just across the bridge from S&P Oyster House. Make sure you come back in the Fall and try their pumpkin ice cream – delish for sure. Even at night you will see the line out the door at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream. It’s a great place to get ice cream and hang out on the bridge looking at the beautiful Mystic Harbor views. That’s how good they are. Expect to pay about $4.75 for a medium dish of their ice cream though. If you want cheaper ice cream go to Sea Swirl however, it won’t be homemade like the ice cream made by Mystic Drawbridge.
If you are visiting Mystic for a day trip and have never been to Mystic Pizza it is something we highly suggest. Julia Robert’s became famous after filming Mystic Pizza and also made Mystic Pizza famous. The movie was actually filmed in part at the actual Mystic Pizza location and locals were cast as extras. Mystic Pizza was smart and capitalized on Julia Robert’s fame and kept the theme going within the restaurant. Pictures of the filming of the movie, the cast, Julia Robert’s and other now-famous actresses and actors from the movie line all of the walls. It is very nostalgic and attracts tourists year-round. Another plus is that the food is terrific. Our favorite is the Gorgonzola cheese pizza with chicken and artichokes. Just superb! Ask for your $1.50 coupon good for their frozen pizza, which is found in many grocery stores nationwide. The frozen pizza is almost as good as the pizza in their restaurant.
One great thing to do while you are in Mystic is to see the Drawbridge down in the old part of town. The shops downtown near the drawbridge are at the total opposite end from the Old Mystic Village. Just continue all of the way down Route 27 to the end and take a right.
Every hour you will see the raising of the bridge and it’s quite something to see. The road is closed so be prepared to wait as the boats, canoes, and kayaks, go floating by. You might catch a glimpse of the Elise, one of the Historic Harbor tour boats, go by. You can pick that up at the pier right at the foot of the drawbridge and it costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. Or, you may see the Sabino, Mystic Seaport’s, the United State’s last remaining operational wooden, coal-fired steamboat.
The Sabino operates Wednesday through Monday from May through October. (There is no Tuesday operation.)
check the website for prices
- 30-Minute Daytime Cruises 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm
Adult $5.50 / Youth (ages 6-17) $4.50 / Children 5 and under: free
- 90-Minute Downriver Evening Cruise – 5:30-7 pm
Adult $13 / Youth (ages 6-17) $11 / Children 5 and under: free
Museum admission is required for the half-hour cruise. Admission is not required for the 90-minute cruise; however, you may not enter the Museum grounds until 20 minutes before departure. Senior, AAA, active duty military, college student, and member discounts are not available for Sabino cruise
We often like to bring food in and eat it on the walking pier that runs the length of the river. These are benches all along the walk and a nice lawn to stretch out on if you bring a blanket or want to bring your kids or dog. It’s such a great place to just sit and enjoy the day.
Stay for dinner at the S&P Oyster House, another place at the foot of the drawbridge, or just sit along the water on one of the benches. We have eaten at S&P sit outside to take in the view while we eat. They have music piped into the outside speakers. The S&P Oyster House is even better at night. They have lights outside and music playing in the background. You can sit close to the water and look out of the Harbor. Such a wonderful place to dine.
During the summer months, you can attend a free concert at the Mystic River Park. Sit and listen to music, let the kids play, sit on benches along the boardwalk, and watch the drawbridge go up and down.
Do you own a canoe or kayak? Getting out on the Mystic river is one of the best ways to experience the Mystic! There are many places in the Mystic River for boating and canoeing. There are numerous official and unofficial places to “put-in,” including in Arlington, Chelsea, Charlestown, Malden, Medford, Somerville, Cambridge, Winchester and Woburn. Don’t forget the life jacket and sunscreen!
There are all kinds of stores to wander in and out. Some more touristy than others. There is the Army/Navy store with authentic military gear and clothing, a bookstore, linen store, several clothing stores and high-end boutiques, children’s clothing store, several art galleries, jewelry stores, and a lingerie store. Most stores close early, about 5 pm, but several stay open until 9.
Just a few miles from the center of Mystic is the village of Noank, Connecticut where you will find Abbotts Lobster in the Rough. This is a place you should definitely stop, have a bite to eat (crab cakes, chowder and lobster are the hot foods here along with ice cream), and sit by the water and watch the boats go by. The Sabino makes it way past Abbotts so you will see an upclose glimpse of it. You can also bring your own food and use their picnic tables. There are a lot of picnic tables, some are under a large, permanent cover in case it rains. The kids will get a kick out of the striped bass. You are allowed to feed them Oyster crackers and nothing else. When you throw a cracker into the water they jump up and grab it. Free entertainment and a great view!
Mystic Market is more than a place to get something to eat. It is a friendly place to meet locals and see just what Mystic is all about. Mystic Market offers two locations, one at 73 Williams Avenue and the other closer to Noank at 375 Noank Road (grab some food on the way to Noank). Mystic Market makes all kinds of fresh salads, hot foods and bakery items. My favorite thing to grab is a fresh Ginger Snap cookie and a wrap to take with me to the beach.
With so many cheap or free things to do in Mystic, Connecticut, you can have a great time and not pay a lot.