Mystic Country spans the Connecticut coastline from the Pawcatuck River on the border with Rhode Island, to Old Lyme on the mouth of the Connecticut River, and northward to the Massachusetts border. Along the shoreline, the town of Stonington offers up Mystic, a sweet little village, home to Mystic Pizza (“A Slice of Heaven”) made famous by the movie of the same name, launching Julia Roberts to stardom. Also here is the Mystic Seaport Museum, a recreated 19th century seaport and seaside village, and Olde Mystic Village, a charming outdoor shopping center capitalizing (in a good way) on its proximity to star attractions.
Stonington Borough, the town’s center, is also well worth visiting, stretching out to sea with its close streets of old seafaring homes, the Stonington lighthouse museum and Stonington Point.
Further along is New London on the mouth of the Thames River. Once a major whaling port that funded much of the city’s architecture, it is home to the United States Coast Guard Academy and the New London Coast Guard Station, the home port for Coast Guard Cutter Eagle tall ship. Enjoy a lighthouse or whaler cruise, get steeped in history at Fort Trumbull State Park, the Thames River Heritage Park or the United States Coast Guard Academy Museum.
Last along the shoreline of the region is Old Lyme, with its art community centered on the Florence Griswold Museum. Take a drive along pretty Lyme Street and surrounding roads with their Federal and Colonial homes, and take in all the art venues.
Further inland, the city of Norwich, birthplace of Benedict Arnold (don’t hold that against them), was a manufacturing center for textiles and armaments in the 19th century. The Yantic and Shetucket Rivers converge into the Thames River, which flows from the city to the coast. Be sure to visit the Slater Memorial Museum displaying fine and decorative art from a range of world cultures.
Other places to visit in the region include the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center in Ledyard, the colonial Leffingwell House Museum in Norwichtown, the gothic revival Roseland Cottage in Woodstock and the numerous state parks and riverways. And of course, if you’re a casino buff, you won’t want to miss out on Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
New Yorkers might consider this part of Connecticut as the end of the world, but there’s clearly much worth doing here.