Mystic, Connecticut, may be best known for its historic seaport museum, expansive aquarium, and Mystic Pizza, made famous in a Julia Roberts film, but you can fill a day in this charming waterfront town with adventures and good eats beyond those three icons — and the experience is only a short leaf-peeping ride from Boston, less than two hours by train.
Once you alight from the train you should immediately walk 10 minutes in the opposite direction of downtown to ensure you don’t miss fried-to-order sourdough doughnuts at Nana’s Bakery & Pizza. It’s hard not to order one of each since coatings run the gamut from classic, like cinnamon sugar, to savory, such as cacio e pepe, but try to leave room for Nana’s crave-worthy sourdough pizza. Local cornmeal from New England’s oldest continually active farm, Davis Farm in nearby Pawcatuck, Connecticut, gives the flavorful, chewy crust an extra crunch, while koji amplifies the tomato’s natural umami in the red sauce.
After you make your way to the center of town, rent bikes from Adventure Mystic, cross the famous Mystic River Bascule Bridge, and cycle north along relatively quiet River Road, past scenic views of the Mystic River, an osprey nest, and an antique store or two. Before long, you’ll land at B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, where you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with boozy cider slushies and a firsthand look at the state’s oldest steam-powered cider mill, which still presses apples during the fall season.
After the ride back, refuel with a Green Medley cold-pressed juice from Karma Kitchen or a gooey espresso brownie from Lis Bake Shop before browsing Mystic Nautical Marine Consignment for maritime treasures of yore.
Around the corner at Grass & Bone, try the spicy roast beef melt alongside smoked cabbage with Moromi miso apple vinaigrette, or the succulent rotisserie chicken with garlic mayo dipping sauce paired with cornbread made with cornmeal from the aforementioned Davis Farm and topped with maple butter.
You can also cross the bridge again for a steaming bowl of spicy garlic ramen and fluffy bao at Samurai Noodle Bar & Grill, or for a brunch of massive pancakes and perfectly runny yolks at Rise. Take some time to shop along Main Street, stopping for a sweet treat at Sift Bake Shop or Mystic River Chocolate Cafe, and visit Mystic Museum of Art for the current Michael Melford nature photography exhibition, paying homage to the “artful trees” of New England and beyond.
Once you start to get thirsty, find Block & Bottle tucked up above Water Street for a well-curated cheese and charcuterie board paired with a glass of wine — during high season this is also the perfect place to pick up snacks and a bottle before boarding an Argia sunset cruise. Alternatively you can take a velvet seat at the bar at the Shipwright’s Daughter for half-priced happy hour oysters and lobster toast topped with crispy swordfish pancetta alongside a selection from the Negroni menu.
For dinner, enjoy waterfront views, a lobster Cobb salad, and plump Stonington scallops at Red36, or try the cozy yet modern Oyster Club — which has founders and quality in common with the aforementioned Nana’s, Grass & Bone, and Moromi — for a meal of warming quahog chowder, transcendent sauteed calamari, and inventive cocktails.
Finish the day at Taquerio, a hip refurbished gas station with an outdoor fireplace just steps from the train station so you can savor frozen margaritas and fried plantain tacos ‘til the very last minute.