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After taking in so much history over my time in Massachusetts (Salem and Concord), I thought I was just going to visit Mystic, CT because I am a fan of the crazy 80’s movie, Mystic Pizza. Boy, was I wrong!
After my (shorter) day in Concord, I was only about two-ish hours from Mystic, so I got there in the very early evening. I apparently arrived at the end of some street/art festival, so the downtown area was nuts. I also got to drive along the fancy drawbridge a few times until I could find a parking place, but that’s ok since I like to enjoy the scenery.
Once I was parked, I walked around and enjoyed some of the quaint little shops that line the downtown streets. However, as it was a Sunday evening, many were closing down very shortly so my visits were quick. That said, I love spice stores. I love the smells, the samples, and seeing what kind of tasty combinations that people come with. When I walked into The Spice & Tea Exchange, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed.
When I walked in I was overwhelmed by the smell of tasty things. There were samples of dips and sauces through the store for you to try as you considered your purchases. The tea wall was pretty fantastic, but I’m not a huge tea drinker, but I enjoyed looking and smelling. A plethora of Himalayan salt blocks, to crafted sugars, to tasty mints up at the register – there’s a little something for everyone. I made sure to come out with at least a couple of small things to try – like the World Festival Seasoning, specifically made for meals paired with red wines, and the Popcorn Seasoning Spice Blend, which is obviously for popcorn. Both have been very good choices so far!
I also made sure to go into the Mystic Knotwork shop – I had to get one of these traditional New England sailor bracelets! Green for my summer at Forest Acres, obviously!
After wandering around a bit, I was starving, so I was the best tourist ever and went to the restaurant that actually drew me to Mystic – Mystic Pizza.
When you walk inside, it’s nothing like the movie because they used a studio for the restaurant. The walls are covered in photos and memorabilia and the movie plays on a big screen in the dining room. I sat on the bar side where I got to chat with some of the locals and restaurant staff who helped me make my plans for the next day. There were some local beers on tap, so I was quite pleased with that. I also tried the Chicken Gorgonzola pizza which was pretty incredible. I would like to compare it to a type of pizza we have here in Indiana that I eat more often, but I can’t seem to. It was quite unique. I HAD to buy some merchandise – I’m the proud owner of a new Mystic Pizza T-shirt!
After dinner, it was time to meet up with my Couchsurfing host! I was so glad that someone who lived in Mystic was willing to host me during my stay. What was even cooler about my particular host was that she was born & raised in Bloomington, IN! We had lots to discuss during my short stay. Thanks to Couchsurfing I was able to connect with another Hoosier who now has roots in Mystic, CT. What a world! My host, Kathy, gave me MORE suggestions on things I should do while I was exploring the next day. She told me about the USS Nautilus Museum where I could get on an actual submarine, so I quickly made that the first item on my agenda for the day. Who knew that building submarines and the Coast Guard Academy were big deals in the surrounding areas? Not me!
First Stop: Nautilus Memorial
I never thought I’d be starting my day on a submarine. A retired submarine, but nonetheless, I was going on a submarine. The facility they have here is quite neat. There are pieces of sea machinery from the moment you park your car. I also had fun exploring the small exhibits within the museum – particularly this periscope to the parking lot!
However, the real selling point and my whole reason for coming here was to get on the actual submarine. First things first, whoever worked on these submarines had to be tiny people – tiny as in height. The portholes that we had to squeeze through were TINY. The beds and seating areas were also tiny. Who were these tiny servicemen? I thoroughly enjoyed watching very tall people squeeze through the tiny portholes, even when they were holding up the line of traffic. I also enjoyed hitting up all of the rooms on the submarine – from the mess hall, to captain’s quarters, to the kitchen, to the navigation room – there was a lot to see and learn about life on a submarine. They even had these mannequins throughout the submarine that would freak me out each time I saw one. Definitely a fun stop – particularly if you have kids with you! They’d adore the submarine and hands-on museum pieces.
To visit: One Crystal Lake Road, Groton, CT 06340 – Cost: FREE – Website
Next Stop: Mystic Seaport
From submarines to seaports, I always have to do it all. This is another one of those spots that will show up on a “must-see list” if you Google the town of Mystic, CT. I’m so glad that every local I talked with said that I should go as well – apparently, it’s that good. From the second I walked through the door I was SOLD on this place.
First, the property of the Mystic Seaport is ginormous. You might walk in the main door and see the main building of exhibits, but it’s actually a whole village with boats and other stuff to do! There was so much to see.
I managed to arrive right on time for some of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night adapted for their SeaChange exhibit. Great museum interpretation makes me so happy and doing Twelfth Night in this setup could be quite the challenge, I’m sure.
After checking out that first exhibit, I ventured out into the “village” area. There were so many little shops and buildings that were open to explore. FUN FACT: These aren’t recreated buildings – these are buildings that were relocated to the Mystic Seaport from places all over New England. I loved so many of these little buildings – a schoolhouse, a church, a drugstore/doctor’s office, where they would catch and store lobster, but one I really enjoyed was the Nautical Instruments shop. There were watches, watch pieces, sextants, and telescopes. It was really cool to see how ships would navigate in the past compared to the technology we use today.
I also really enjoyed stepping on to the Training Ship Joseph Conrad and the Whaleship Charles Morgan. Getting to climb up on to the ship to explore the top deck and the bottom deck (again, difficult for tall people) was a brand new experience.
The seaport also has some historic homes to explore, which is something I always like to do. It’s also worth noting that the Mystic Seaport has a planetarium – which was also a filming location for the Mystic Pizza movie! *wink, wink*
I also enjoyed checking out the Mystic Seaport’s actual working shipyard! Yes, an actual working shipyard! There was lots of machinery out and about on the day I was there, so I remember dodging a few large pieces just to take some closer looks.
For example, check out the work being done on the Mayflower II!
Can’t forget all of the waterfront and related views that you can take in…
Holy cannoli, this place was just super cool. I never thought I would have been so into maritime history, but I’ll take it!
To visit: 75 Greenmanville Ave. Mystic, CT 06355 – Cost: Adults – $28.95 – Website
LAST STOP: Ford’s Lobsters
After finishing up at the Mystic Seaport, and I was literally there until almost closing time and I still didn’t get to see everything, it was time for food. After consulting with my fabulous Couchsurfing host about places to eat dinner, she suggested that we head to this place…right on the water and I had no idea what to expect. Literally wedged between some cute beach houses and a little marina, there was this quaint restaurant.
This place was a treat! When she said this place was right on the water, she really meant it! If one of my shoes had fallen off, it would have fallen right into the water. It was laid back and casual, but the Lobster Scampi was pretty freaking fantastic! Another fun fact, this was another filming location for Mystic Pizza – I didn’t realize until AFTER we’d already left!
To visit: 15 Riverview Avenue, Noank, CT – Website
BONUS STOP: Stonington Lighthouse Point
Again, another place I would never have made it to without some local guidance. Driving through Stonington borough is just one of the most quaint and adorable things that I’ve ever experienced. The little village is very compact and historic, but there’s the lighthouse point at the end that was definitely worth checking out.
Right at sunset, we got some great views of Rhode Island and New York as well – including Montauk at the farthest point of my view. Historically, this was the point where a few residents of Stonington defeated a ship from His Royal Highness in 1814 with a cannon, so I guess it’s a big deal. The cannon still sits in the middle of the borough, so I think it’s important.
It’s safe to say that my time in Connecticut was pretty darn awesome. I’d absolutely hit up Mystic, CT again if my journey ever takes me there!
Thus concludes my series on my great New England summer. NYC > Home for a night > Ohio > Pennsylvania > Upstate New York > Vermont > New Hampshire > Maine > Massachusetts > Rhode Island > Connecticut > New Jersey > New York > Pennsylvania > Ohio > Home to Indiana. Summer 2017 was quite the journey and in many more ways than I ever could have planned. Again, I really am the luckiest.