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10 great and fun things to do in Mystic Connecticut

1650 Hartford-New London Tpke. (Rt. 85) Oakdale, CT, 06370 Phone: 860-443-4367

Big fun at The Dinosaur Place!

The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art Village offers a 60 acre outdoor adventure park with over 40 life-sized dinosaurs spread among a mile and a half of pristine nature trails. Children will love getting lost in a”MAZE”asaurus dinosaur-themed maze and playing on Monty’s playground featuring the custom-made SpaceNet, a 15 foot tall three-dimensional swinging, vibrating, climbing web. During the summer, cool off in New England’s largest SplashPad, a unique zero-depth water park. Indoor adventures await in Discovery Depot at Nature’s Art Village where guests can dig for gems, pan for “gold” and unearth dinosaur bones – each adventure comes with its own unique souvenir! Bring a picnic or enjoy great food at the Cobalt Café and locations throughout the village. There are special events, educational programs and amazing shopping. Plan an indoor or outdoor birthday party, scout, school or recreational group outing. Check out the new Cooper Creek Mini Golf Course open Summer 2017 for ages 8+!

1225 Ocean Avenue New London, CT, 06320 Phone: 860-447-3031 Toll-Free: 800-510-7263

Oh, the fun things you can do at this seaside park

Some things you can do at Ocean Beach Park (and this is just for starters): Enjoy a pristine sugar-sand beach. Take the kids to an old-fashioned amusement park on the boardwalk with a carousel and tiny trains (and the Scrambler for older “kids”). Play mini-golf. Swim in an Olympic-size pool. Work out in a health club. Go down a triple waterslide. Grab ice cream, a burger, clam fritters – or a cocktail. Play Skee-Ball in the arcade. Watch a free beach-blanket movie, catch a band or a magic show. Go on a nature walk. You can even have a wedding ceremony and reception overlooking Long Island Sound, in a gourmet banquet facility – or right on the beach.

Parking fees (includes park admission for everyone in the car): Weekends $23, Weekdays $17, Weeknights after 6pm $8, Monday cruise nights are FREE after 5pm; Fireworks Evenings $10. Seasonal parking passes available. Walk-in Admission $6. See our website for additional information & fees for rides/attractions.

607 West Thames Street Norwich, CT, 06360 Phone: 860-425-3500 Toll-Free: 800-275-4772

Pampering as high art

Get away for the day, overnight or to celebrate something festive. This shrine to relaxation is set in a historic Inn in bucolic surroundings. 42 country acres hold perennial gardens, spring-fed ponds, century-old oak trees, a reflecting pool and an oversized deck welcome you to the spa and inspires a sigh. Thirty-seven treatment rooms offer sauna, steam, hot tub, salon, plus signature services from facials and massage to hand and foot therapies, and even tarot card readings. There’s a fitness center and indoor pool and activities to enhance your health and stimulate the senses. Enjoy special packages including Day Spa and Overnight Spa to Rejuvenation and Personal Escape Packages available on Sunday nights of holiday weekends at a small upcharge.

55 Coogan Boulevard Mystic, CT, 06355 Phone: 860-572-5955

Be among the greats at the Mystic Aquarium

This extraordinary destination offers much to explore and never to forget. Indoor and outdoor exhibits get you up close to amazing sea creatures including beluga whales, African penguins, rescued seals, colorful fish, over 30 different species of frogs and a 6’ alligator. Reach out and touch a shark, stingray or an exotic reptile while the sea lions will keep you smiling with their unique behaviors in the Foxwoods Marine Theater. Step into Exploration: Wild to experience the most extreme environments on earth. Take a virtual ride at the 4-D Theater or immerse your mind at the National Geographic Theater. Year round there are exciting events and appearances by special guests of the human and animal variety. Sea more at MysticAquarium.org.

Sailing from the Niantic Bay Marina Niantic, CT, 06357 Phone: 860-448-3662 Toll-Free: 800-382-2824

Spend a special day or evening on the water

Board a great party boat with an experienced skipper and fish for striped bass, bluefish, porgies, sea bass, blackfish and other delicious food from the sea. Serious fisherman sail on the "Captain's Choice," trips scheduled for the best fishing time and circumstances. Enjoy a night bass trip with no crowds or tangles or a special seal watch, sunset, fireworks and/or nature cruise with science field trips also on the menu. Plan a private day charter of 15 or more and night charters of 12 for your next party or celebration. You can bring your own gear or rent rod and reel. New to fishing? The experienced crew will ensure you have a great day on the water. But do bring your lunch. Then catch your dinner. Reservations are not required and the parking is free.

Travel the coast on a discovery of great wines

Connecticut’s winemakers work microclimates along the coast to grow the best grapes and make the finest wines. One of the fastest growing wine regions in the country is also a great way to spend an afternoon, day or several visiting the vineyards and wineries along Connecticut’s Wine Trail. Explore the farms and fields as well as the historic homes, churches and shops around them while sampling reds, whites, fruit wines and others among an almost limitless range of varietals statewide. Set in scenic towns and rural havens inland and along the southern shore you can visit a variety of wineries and discover the distinct differences of each locale. Look for the Wine Trail’s blue signs. The wineries also remind you to please drink and drive responsibly.

One Railroad Avenue Essex, CT, 06426 Phone: 860-767-0103 Toll-Free: 800-377-3987

A Connecticut River adventure by train and boat

Gather family and friends for a sightseeing adventure aboard the only steam train and riverboat connection in the United States! This 2½-hour narrated journey explores the nature and beauty of the Connecticut River Valley, designated as one of “the last great places on Earth” by The Nature Conservancy. View historic sites such as Gillette Castle and the Goodspeed Opera House. Excursions begin and end at the historic 1892 Essex station. Rain or shine.

103 Main Street Ivoryton, CT, 06442 Phone: 860-767-7318

A full roster for great theater for 2017

The Ivoryton Playhouse is a unique theatre with a rich cultural history. Built in 1911, the Ivoryton Playhouse is the oldest, continuously running, self-supporting summer theater in the nation. Some of the great names of from the stage and screen have appeared at Ivoryton Playhouse including Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Groucho Marx and Tallulah Bankhead. Today, the Ivoryton Playhouse produces a year-round, professional season of award winning musicals, comedies and dramas as well as summer children’s theatre and many special events. The Ivoryton Playhouse roster of productions for the 2017 Season includes My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Biloxi Blues, Million Dollar Quartet, West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever: The Musical, I Hate Musicals: The Musical, and Ken Ludwig's The Game's Afoot!

63 South Main Street Essex, CT, 06426 Phone: 860-767-7796

Royal pampering washes aches away

You will be treated like royalty from the moment you enter the Spa at Essex, where experts perform seemingly magical therapies and treatments on sore muscles, tired skin, and drooping spirits. From the moment you enter the property, you are greeted with warmth and bundled into comfortable robes and overstuffed chairs (including chairs for two) while you wait for treatments like massage, facials, luscious manicures and pedicures, makeup and more. Innovation treatments bright aging or troubled skin. Couples, mothers-to-be, and gentlemen can enjoy refreshing and energizing treatments for their particular needs. Customers exclaim over the cleanliness of the indoor and outdoor spaces, which include a sunny patio with a fountain. Specials like the flower facial and the South Seas body treatment with tan will bring you back over and over.

12 Steamboat Wharf Mystic, CT, 06355 Phone: 860-536-0416

Explore New England's coast aboard a romantic sailing ship

Return to the romantic Age of Sail aboard the 81-foot schooner Argia. She is a US Coast Guard-inspected vessel and one of the last sailing ships in New England. We're docked in Mystic, Conn., and sail in Fishers Island Sound, a calm, protected body of water, from May 1st to mid-October. Bask in the sun on our spacious wooden deck while we explore the seafaring village of Mystic, the surrounding islands, and historic lighthouses. Pass through the Mystic River Drawbridge, which opens for the Argia with every cruise. We offer complimentary snacks and lemonade, but feel free to bring your own picnic and beverages as well. Wine and beer are permitted. Enjoy a half-day cruise, or experience the romance of the sea at twilight with a sunset cruise.

Cider Milled by the Sixth Generation

A visit to B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill at 1129 North Stonington Road in Mystic is like stepping back in time. This cider mill, built in 1881, is now being operated by the sixth generation of the Clyde family. It calls itself the only steam-powered cider mill in the United States. The season starts in September with hard ciders and apple wines, jams, jellies, local honey, maple syrup, and fudge. Also available in the fall are apples, apple pies, pumpkin bread, gourds, Indian corn, pumpkins, candy apples, kettle corn and apple cider donuts. Cider-making demonstrations are held weekends, 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Open daily, September through late December. Phone: 860-536-3354.

A Paradise for Serious Cooks

One fine way to soothe and encourage the gourmet cook in your family is through a gift-buying trip to Weekend Kitchen at 6 North Main Street in Essex. Founders David and Nancy Smith have created a shopping environment that is beautiful, eclectic, and old worldly. The cookware and kitchenware is a mix of traditionally styled and often hand crafted items along with more contemporary design oriented products. The shop’s faux finished walls, serene mural, and antique fixtures create an inviting setting in which to shop for yourself or a special gift. Come find everything from sculpted copper coffee scoops to panini pans. Phone: 860-767-1010.

Meet the Outdoors at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center at 109 Pequotsepos Road in Mystic is a nature preserve and learning center with lots of hiking trails and a delightful nature store. Bring your favorite someone or the whole famil for a day of walking, birdwatching, nature photography and a picnic. On the 10 miles of hiking trails through woodlands, wetlands, and meadow, you can search for bluebirds, painted turtles or bullfrogs, admire a summer wildflower garden or simply enjoy a peaceful walk in the woods. Several hawks and owls that cannot be released live in outdoor flight enclosures on the sanctuary. Wander the Butterfly House and enjoy the tree house. ” are available for your enjoyment. See “Night in the Meadow” in the small theater. Open daily, year-round Trail map. 860-536-1216

Corn Maze Adventure 2017 at Fort Hill Farm

Fort Hill Farms on Quaddick Road in Thompson celebrates local farms in 2017 with a corn maze called Tree of Life, celebrating sustainable farming. As always, when you enter the maze you’ll be given a game sheet, and as you walk the paths you can look for interesting facts about local farms. By working together you will solve the Maize Quest Challenge. Call ahead for maze hours of operation. 860-923-3439

Concerts in the Garden Surrounded by Art

Coastal Connecticut’s history as a hub of American Impressionist painters (a la the Florence Griswold Museum) is alive and active at Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery at 1 Spring Street in Chester. In addition to its artwork on display the studio hosts a monthly concert series called Concerts in the Garden. Musicians and singers performing every style from cool jazz to blue grass and beyond entertain for listeners seating outside in the garden amphitheatre (or inside the gallery, in colder weather). It’s a BYOB and picnicking scene. Monthly concerts happen year-round; check the schedule! 860-526-2077.

Griswold’s Maritime Art Shows Its History on Every Wall

The history of the Griswold Inn in the riverside town of Essex starts in the auspicious year of 1776, when a local ship builder began work on the Oliver Cromwell, Connecticut’s first warship in the Revolution. Essex became a hub of lodging and hospitality for shipyard workers, continuing through an era of steamboat traffic on the Connecticut River, followed by pleasure boating today. You can see all the history through the Inn’s displays of marine art and artifacts: prints by Currier & Ives and Endicott & Co.; ship’s portraits; and illustrations by Samuel Ward Stanton and Norman Rockwell cover the walls. There is a collection of firearms from the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War, and weapons made by Samuel Colt of Connecticut. And – let’s remember – the food, drink, and hospitality are still going strong.

Old Press Still Churns Out Fine Cider

Devon Point Farm at 54 Joy Road in Woodstock is home to a 120-year-old fully refurbished antique apple cider press. The press was built in 1898 in Syracuse, NY, at the Boomer and Boschert factory. Dozens of men hand-cut and hand-cast machined iron parts to construct the massive apple cider press, measuring 13 by 19 feet. Apple cider donuts and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch complete the fall experience. The farm also sells grass-fed beef, natural pork and chicken, organic apples, unpasteurized cider. Open daily late September to late December. 860-974-9004.

Come and Stomp to the Music

The town of Putnam is in Connecticut’s northeastern “Quiet Corner,” but if you are itching to hear or make some sound on a trip there, visit the Stomping Ground, at 132 Main Street in Putnam, a young restaurant-bar with live music five nights a week. It was opened by an artist and a musician who decided to more their frequent living room-based musical evenings into a business establishment. Crafts beers, good food, made from scratch in a tiny kitchen, loads of music. Phone: 860-928-7900

Home of “Impulsive Necessities”

Winner of numerous bests-in-Connecticut and readers’ choice awards, the Bowerbird gift shop at 46 Halls Road in Old Lyme declares itself a prime source for “impulsive necessities.” With 4,500 square feet of impulsive necessities from 2,000 vendors, the vast selection of great gifts here just has to satisfy the majority of any gift-giving list. The merchandise, all of it fun, trendy, and useful, includes decorative home and garden accessories, toys, baby gifts, stationery, jewelry, gourmet food. This is a great browsing and shopping stop during a trip to this lovely seaside town, an area with numerous things to do. Phone: 860-434-3562.

Beaver Brook Farm Makes Cool Cheeses, Warm Sweaters

Beaver Brook Farm at 139 Beaver Brook Road in Lyme, originally a dairy farm, has been home to the Sankow family since 1917. Starting in the 1980s, the family converted it to a sheep and cow dairy farm, now producing wool, yarn, woolen clothes, cheeses and dairy products of the highest quality, sold at a farm store on the property and at nearby farmers markets. Looking for tasty activities and things to do? People are invited to the farm store for its many cheeses, yogurt, gelato, and raw milk. People who knit will love the woolen yarns and people who love to keep warm will go for the farm’s blankets, sweaters, and warm hospitality. The farm owners welcome visitors and invite you to phone ahead with questions. Pride in quality workmanship is an element in all of their products. Phone: 860-434-2843.

It’s a National Park – Under Water

What is a marine national monument? It is a national park – think Yellowstone or Acadia – under water. Mystic Aquarium opened in mid-2017 the new Our Blue Park exhibit that is a photographic journey of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic, off the coast of New England. With three underwater canyons and four seamounts, the monument is a biodiversity hot spot. Most of us will never see this national park face-to-face, but the Aquarium offers the next-best option in glorious giant photos.

Tons of Books Along a Beautiful Shore

At three different but nearby locations in the lovely seaside town of Niantic, the Book Barn runs with the motto Because More is Better. This used book emporium, located at 41 West Main Street with two other locations, is stuffed with books (the main building, is, indeed, a barn). Fortunately, books are grouped by genres, so you don't need to shuffle through 350,000 volumes to find something for your taste. The Barn buys and sells books, and it is open daily. 860 739-5715

Winery Offers the Best of California and Connecticut

Located in the beautiful small town of North Stonington, Jonathan Edwards Winery, at 74 Chester Main Road, is situated on a 48-acre hilltop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Jonathan Edwards creates premium California and Connecticut wines to highlight each coast’s climate. The two diverse product lines complement each other and allow guests to sample delicious wines that showcase what each area is known for. Wine lovers are welcome to stop in, taste the wines, tour the winery and vineyards, enjoy a picnic, and browse the gift shop for wine items and local treats. Each season in the vineyard has its own unique charm. Phone: 860-535-0202.

First Light Offers Chance for First Bite

You don’t need to own a boat or even know what you‘re doing to try sportfishing. You can start by finding an experienced outfit like First Light out of Noank. First Light is a fully equipped bass boat that was designed to fish New England waters safely and comfortably. She is outfitted with the latest electronic gear and tackle to provide a productive and exciting fishing trip. First Light leaves her slip at the Noank Shipyard most nights and early mornings in search of trophy stripers. She also stands ready to steam offshore of Block Island or Montauk Point for shark and tuna when feasible. The mission of our Sportfishing at First Light is catch fish and have a good time. For more resources on sportfishing rentals and charters, contact the Connecticut Charter Party Boat Association . Phone: 860 344-1698.

Knotted Imagery from the Sea

For a sea-themed memento or a gift to take home from your Mystic vacation, a fun choice is the nautical decorations and doo-dads at Mystic Knotwork , with two locations in town, at 25 Cottrell Street and 2 Holmes Street. The origins of the store go back two generations, when the current owner’s grandfather opened Beaudoin's Rope Locker, an artisan shop he started after he won the first Mystic Art Show, and before “artisan” was even a word. Browse and buy neat gifts made of knotted cotton rope: sailor bracelets, nautical hair ties and jewelry, nuatical décor accents and Christmas decorations, nautical notions for weddings. Unusual stuff, and proof that you’re not vacationing in Kansas anymore. 860-889-3793.

Artistic Works in a Stone-Walled Landmark

Connecticut River Artisans, at 4 Water Street in Chester, is inside a 1909 stone building so delightful looking from the outside that you itch to go inside, regardless of what you might find there. In fact, what you find there is original, artist-made pottery, stained glass, fine art, jewelry, handbags, and cards are among the beautiful items we carry. There is always something new from the workshops of local and regional artists. It’s an adventure in beauty and gift shopping. Open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. 860-526-5575

Moo-sey Around the Farm With Us

The Farmer’s Cow is a group of six family-owned dairy farms in Lebanon, Coventry, Hebron, Thompson, North Franklin and Woodstock that welcome people to visit the farms for fun farm tours. During the tours, which run almost year-round, visitors may walk the farms, meet the farmers and cows, learn about farming, and sample local products. Some tours in 2017 are: Summer on the Farm (June 24), Ice Cream Day Bluegrass Bash (July 16), Corn Roast in the Hayfield and Farm Tour (August 5), Celebrating Agriculture with Fairview Farms Wagon Ride Tour (September 23), Autumn Fields & Cow Walk (October 9), More Than Moos Ice Cream Social (October 21).