A short drive from New York City is the charming town of Mystic, Connecticut. It is home to a world class aquarium, historic seaport, quaint downtown, as well as outstanding outlet shopping.

Originally inhabited by the Pequot people, the first English settlements began in Mystic in the 1640’s. Today there are three historic districts: the Mystic Bridge District, Rossie Velvet Historic District, and the Mystic River Historic District. Each one is worth exploring when in the area.

The world-renown Mystic Aquarium is one of only two US facilities holding Steller sea lions and it has the only beluga whales in New England. The aquarium opened in 1973 and features many permanent and rotating attractions. Currently there are ten thousand animals housed there.

Mystic Seaport Museum is a recreation of a 19th-centrury seafaring village. There are over 60 historic buildings that were brought there and restored. Established in 1929, it was the first living history museum in the US with reenactors performing and describing the day-to-day tasks of the period.

The museum also houses a number of historic seagoing vessels, including the Emma Berry, LA Dunton, and, of course, the Charles W. Morgan, a whaling ship that was active for more than 80 years. The Morgan has been in Mystic since 1941 as is a designated National Historic Landmark.

Downtown Mystic is a charming and quaint shopping area with ice cream shops, restaurants, art galleries and, of course, Mystic Pizza, made famous by the movie starring Julia Roberts. It’s fun to just take a lazy stroll through along the sidewalks surrounded by historic buildings and hearing the rush of the Mystic River go by.

Outside of downtown there is an outlet mall that, while modern, retains the historic flavor of Mystic. All manner of shops can be found there. Also, not far is the Steak Loft, which features some outstanding and hearty New England fare.

A short drive from Mystic is the the USS Nautilus in nearby Groton, Connecticut. This was the world’s first operating nuclear-powered submarine. It is now a museum and you can actually walk through the sub itself. It’s a perfect outing for a military or history buff.

Mystic’s location, just off I-95, makes it a conveniently accessed outing that can be incorporated into any vacation along the East Coast.