New England Road Trip, State 49: Connecticut

After visiting Maine and Rhode Island to begin wrapping up my 50 by 50 quest, my mom and I headed into Connecticut — my second to last US state!

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We stayed in the quaint seaside town of Mystic — known for its historic seaport (and also the 1980s movie, Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts.)

We stayed at the Inn at Mystic, a very comfortable hotel with a gorgeous event venue mansion and a restaurant with a lovely view overlooking Mystic harbor.

IMG_0843The Mystic Seaport is even more wonderful than it sounds…a living history museum consisting of a village, ships and 17 acres of exhibits depicting coastal life in New England in the 19th century. But it’s not a fake, touristy place at all — in fact, it’s still very much an actual working shipyard. They offer summer camps, sailing certification courses, youth and college programs, workshops and much more.

As you stroll through the seaport, you can watch shipbuilders at work, and see demonstrations of 19th century life. There are a lot of hands-on activities as well, from a children’s museum and workshops to sailing jaunts, boat tours and horse-and-carriage rides. One of the prized exhibits at Mystic Seaport is the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last remaining wooden whaleship — and also the oldest commercial ship still afloat in the US. The shipbuilders here restored the ship to seaworthiness over five years, and it took an unprecedented voyage around New England in 2014, making history.

Other fun things to do in the Mystic area include exploring the cute downtown strip full of unique shops (and the actual Mystic Pizza restaurant that inspired the movie), getting a scoop at Drawbridge Ice Cream, and riding the historic steam train in nearby Essex.

20160801_134833-800x450.jpgFor places to eat, I recommend lunch at Ford’s Lobster, just a few minutes away in Groton. A simple, seaside setting at a marina offering fresh lobster, the hugely decadent dish here (and one of their most famous) is the Lobster Bomb. They take a hot buttered sourdough bowl, pour in lobster bisque, put in a half-pound of fresh lobster, then top it off with more bisque. It’s pretty incredible! Here’s a video to see it in action.

IMG_0866For a more upscale evening experience, start with drinks and appetizers at The Engine Room, located in the beautifully restored Lathrop Marine Engine building with views of the Mystic River. They have sixteen craft beers on tap, the area’s largest bourbon selection, craft cocktails, a full wine list and a menu of locally sourced, creative dishes. Dine in style at their sister restaurant, Oyster Club, a “farm and sea to table” casual fine dining establishment with a raw bar and a menu that changes daily.

Check out a video of the Mystic drawbridge in action, from a sailboat:

To read about the rest of our New England adventure, check out my posts on Maine and Rhode Island.

In just three weeks I’m off for my last state: Alaska!

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