Older fans of the Weekender may remember a column we used to run, Day Tripper. The concept was simple: We’d travel around the Northeast, find great road-trip destinations and tell you about them.
Well, we decided to bring it back. We all like going on trips, and want to share our experiences with you to help you explore the region more.
When this column surfaces, it will likely be a different writer taking the reins and rambling about their adventures. I thought I would kick things off.
This past weekend, I ventured on my first Lawrence Family Vacation as a Lawrence to Mystic, Conn. If you are not familiar with the 1988 romantic comedy that launched Julia Roberts’ career, the name “Mystic Pizza” might not mean much to you. But, if you are familiar, it’s the same Mystic in which the film was set. And yes, we ate pizza.
Admittedly, this was more of a weekend getaway than a day trip, but still doable in the car.
Speaking of, the drive is not bad at all. From our apartment in Dunmore, it took about four hours of scenic interstate-highway driving.
Anyway, we made it into town around 1 p.m., and I just find Connecticut charming. I’ve been to New Haven before, and my experience with the state is one of quaint towns and good food, which is all I need for a good time.
The first thing we did was eat. There was a bevy of places to eat, but we decided on the Mystic Diner, which was great. Any place that serves breakfast all day is an establishment I will support. The diner was clean; the staff was friendly and the food was tasty.
From there, we went down to the Mystic Seaport Museum, which is noted as the “colonial Willamsburg” of New England. The museum is a Smithsonian affiliate. It has a shipyard with different ships from the period (and one Viking ship from Sweden, but more on that later).
There is also Seaport Village, which showcases what life was like at ports during that time, from the blacksmith to the printing press and “druggist.” Like colonial Williamsburg, it offers an interactive way to learn history without feeling like you’re learning.
The real treat for me here was the Vikings exhibit. Uppsala University, Sweden’s first university, partnered with the museum to make the exhibit possible, providing artifacts from Viking life, including weapons, helmets, ships and burial materials. If you are a fan of Vikings, I would highly suggest heading to Mystic before the exhibit closes Sept. 30.
There is also the Olde Mistick Village, with over 40 shops and diners, including the best coffee and doughnut combination I have ever had. Vault Coffee, located inside the village, also houses Deviant Donuts, which sell handcrafted doughnuts in the shop on weekends.
I need to first tell you that I have a gluten intolerance so I can then tell you that it didn’t matter and I ate two doughnuts anyway.
Blueberry lavender and raspberry lemonade were my flavors of choice (I like fruity donuts), but they carried Twix donuts, s’mores, samoa. It was fabulous. The doughnuts were fresh and massive and the coffee was iced and also lavender-flavored.
Another shop that we visited in the village was Sofia’s Mystical Christmas, which is an ornament shop. This may not sound super interesting, but the walls of this store were lined with thousands of Christmas ornaments. It was pretty neat.
The real show-stealers for us were Extra Virgin, an oil and vinegar taproom, and Sticky Situations, a honey shop. The two stores are connected, and offer a wide variety of olive oils, vinegars and types of honey. The staff is well versed in what products pair well together and helps you make informed purchases. Mikey and I always seem to find these types of stores when we travel, so we dropped decent money to expand our collection.
We visited the Msytic Aquarium, which has, as my brother-in-law reminded us, the largest beluga whale exhibit in the country.
It’s a really nice aquarium, and offers a lot of activities for the whole family that educate on the status of the ocean and the animals that inhabit it.
We watched a sea lion show, which always gets me to see how intelligent these animals are, and learned about how the ones at the aquarium were rescued in California, which makes me feel a little better about watching them in that environment.
Now, if you are looking for some nightlife, and don’t mind traveling a little out of town, there is a Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, which is a short 15-minute ride from Mystic. The casino sits on 240 acres of reservation land along the Thames River, and houses three separate casino areas, a performance hall, restaurants and shopping. After dinner Saturday, we took a drive up to do a little gambling, and the venue is truly beautiful inside. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but my in-laws said it rivals some of the casinos out there.
Now, as I said earlier, we did eat some famous, movie-inspired pizza while away. Downtown Mystic is home to Mystic Pizza, and while the allure of the movie may draw you to that section of town, the downtown stretch is a beautifully quaint area with no shortage of clothing shops, pubs and even an independently-owned bookstore (my favorite kind).
The first thing we did was settle in for some food.
Honestly, the pizza was great. They had gluten-free options, and I ate some of the best gluten-free pizza I have had, but to assure you of how great the regular pizza was, I also tried a slice of that. There was a great sauce-to-cheese ratio, and a slight crisp to the top layer of cheese, which is one of my favorite qualities of pizza.
Overall, Mystic offers a charming weekend getaway with a little something for everyone in its food, shops and entertainment.