Tag Archives: familyfriendly

Travel Today — Mystic, CT (and the surrounding areas)

mystic bridge

Mystic, Connecticut is the perfect spot for an overnight or a weekend getaway — it’s great any time of the year, but keep in mind that many of the attractions are outdoors. There are beautiful water views, family-friendly activities and attractions, romantic restaurants, and great coffee shops. There is truly something for everyone!

Where to Stay

Mystic Marriott

  • Early morning coffee at Starbucks right down in the lobby.
  • Breakfast and dinner at Octagon Steakhouse 
  • A drink at the lobby bar (or you can grab an app and a wine/cocktail).

Highlights: Family-friendly accommodations/dining, Indoor Pool, Full-Service Spa, Updated rooms/lobby/ballroom; a small lobby market with toiletries, snacks/drinks, and souvenirs. This hotel is in a great location — it’s a short drive from everything you will want to see in Mystic!

Another great option: The Whaler’s Inn (located right in downtown Mystic).

Favorite Spots

Olde Mistick Village is across the street from the Mystic Aquarium so it’s a great place to go just before or just after visiting — you can re-enter the aquarium so you can always take a break mid-day, as well. This shopping center has lots of small, local shops, and restaurants, including Vault Coffee Roasters.

Vault Coffee Roasters is a cute coffee shop, that also serves delicious Deviant Donuts (Friday-Sunday). They offer classic flavors (we tried the Strawberry Chocolate Frosted), and then a variety of specially donuts. Go early so you can have your pick — they run out quickly!

The Mariner  is a great spot to grab lunch or dinner – right on West Main St. The staff are welcoming and accommodating, and the food is fresh and delicious. I loved my entire meal, and I am still dreaming about the Charred Brussels Sprouts and the Brownie Sundae! 

Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream absolutely lives up to the hype, and is totally worth waiting in the long line! (You can order ahead online if you are in a rush). I had the Pure Vanilla and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup (and I will get the same thing next time!)

Via Emilia  in downtown Mystic is an amazing Italian restaurant – perfect for celebrating a special occasion. Definitely order the Salumi e Formaggi! 

Young Buns Doughnuts  is right in downtown Mystic – they have delicious monthly specials, but definitely grab some of their classes, as well! They also have doughnut holes (definitely grab 6 of those along with your doughnuts)! 

Mystic Aquarium is a great aquarium that has both indoor and outdoor exhibits including: beluga whales, penguins, seals, sea lions, snakes, frogs, stingrays, sharks, jelly fish, and so many fish (including Clownfish) — they have hands-on exhibits, as well. We also loved the dinosaur exhibit – Jurassic Giants (worth adding on for any Dino lovers).  Their mission is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research (and they even have an on-site Animal Rescue Clinic).

I recommend buying your tickets on the app/computer, in advance, to avoid the long lines — this will save you a lot of time. No matter what you decide to do while you’re in Mystic I would definitely recommend visiting the aquarium! 

B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill is family-owned, and has been operating since 1881! It is the oldest steam-powered cider mill in the United States! Stop here for baked goods (including Apple Cider Donuts – of course), wines and hard ciders! 

Octagon Steakhouse at the Mystic Marriott has a good wine list, and delicious food. My go-to dish is the Statler chicken, but there are other great options, including a kid’s menu. At first glance this restaurant doesn’t look kid-friendly, but we all enjoyed our breakfast and our dinner, and they even have kids cups!

Downtown Mystic is one of my favorite areas of Mystic. It has the Mystic Draw Bridge (Mystic River Bascule Bridge), lots of local stores, restaurants, coffee shops,  Mystic Draw Bridge Ice Cream, and a great local book store.

You should definitely visit Mystic Pizza when you’re in Downtown Mystic! You can get pizzas by the slice so even if you’re heading out for the afternoon, you can grab a slice and head to your next destination! The pizza is good, and the staff is friendly. It’s just disappointing that you won’t get to hang with Julia Roberts!

Bank Square Books is one of my favorite bookstores. They have a great children’s section, and an entire wall of journals! You have to stop by when you are in downtown Mystic!

S&P Oyster Restaurant and Bar — just check out the view!

Some other attractions include: Mystic Seaport Museum and Mystic Museum of Art

Mystic is definitely one of our go-to spots in New England — it’s under 2 hours from Boston, and just about 2.5 hours from New York City. It’s perfect for a romantic overnight, or a getaway with friends and family, and it has all you’d want in a charming New England town.

Adventure Mystic is perfect for anyone looking for a unique activity in Mystic! They have Paddle Board/Kayak/Bike rentals, and they offer lessons! Check out their site for a full list of activities and for upcoming events: https://www.adventuremystic.com/events

Other spots to visit nearby:

Rosabianca Vineyards is a family-owned vineyard in Northford, CT (about an hour outside of Mystic). I recommend checking out the beautiful story behind this vineyard: https://www.rosabiancavineyards.com/our-story Rosabianca Vineyards has a great selection of reds, whites, rosé, and red blends. 

You can visit for one of their events: https://www.rosabiancavineyards.com/events, or for a tasting. If you can’t make it over there, you can buy a bottle (or two or three) over on their website: https://www.rosabiancavineyards.com/shop

Follow along on Instagram to learn more (and so you don’t miss any of their events!): Rosabianca Vineyards 

Essex, CT (about 30 minutes outside of Mystic) is a cute town with great places to stay – check out the Griswold Inn (Essex) and the Copper Beech Inn (in nearby Ivoryton) both inns have great on-site dining options, as well!

Also, Essex (along with North Milford and Washington Depot) is the inspiration behind Stars Hollow in the Gilmore Girls!  

Travel Today: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

My parents introduced me to James Taylor when I was a child (I’ve loved his music ever since), and as I got older I finally learned why he sang “In my mind I’m going to Carolina…” We’ve been to different parts of South Carolina, but this post is going to focus on Hilton Head Island. HHI is the perfect place for a getaway with your family, significant other, or a group of friends. Southern Living named HHI as the South’s Best Beach Town for 2019, and I agree that it is definitely one of the best beach towns — would be hard for me to choose a favorite, but HHI ranks high on my list!

Where to Stay

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

  • Coffee from Palmetto Market (grab your coffee to-go, and take a walk around the hotel’s beautiful property or along the beach — this became our routine each morning).
  • Breakfast at HH Prime
  • Casual outdoor lunch at the Buoy Bar.
  • Drinks and appetizers at XO Sports & Spirits

You can also grab a quick breakfast, or snacks throughout the day, at Palmetto Market. They have seating, as well, so it’s a great spot to get out of the heat to enjoy a bite.

Highlights: Full-Service Spa, 2 family pools, and an adult pool, as well as a splash zone for the kids. Also when you check into the hotel, kids get a small Omni backpack filled with crayons, an activity pad, and a water cup — we still use the cup and backpack — they are great souvenirs!

Other hotel options: Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, The Westin Hilton Head Resort & Spa 

Favorite Spots

Watusi Cafe & Coffee Bar was a recommendation from a local. Watusi’s motto is “It is what it is…”, and their definition of Watusi is “It is a state of mind. Let go of your worries, relax your mind, and feel at home. It is what it is.” What a great reminder while you’re enjoying a cup of coffee/tea and a delicious breakfast. There was a short wait, but it was worth it! Also, the kids pancake comes in the shape of Mickey Mouse — it made us all smile. Locals always know the best spots to grab a great meal!

New York City Pizza has unique baked ziti, delicious meatballs, and great pizza (which you can also get by the slice!) We went to the Shelter Cove Towne Centre location where we enjoyed sunset views, as well as shopping after dinner.

Palmetto Dunes General Store is located on the property of the Palmetto Dunes Resort on Queen’s Folly Road. Where else can you grab beach toys, sunscreen, t-shirts, and a delicious breakfast or lunch? This is a must-visit while on HHI! When putting together your list of what to order, make sure to include: cinnamon rolls (baked fresh daily!), homemade biscuits, and grits, and then you will need to try the fried chicken and macaroni & cheese for lunch. PD General Store also has soft-serve ice cream and slushies!

A Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant lived up the hype! I worried that this was just a tourist trap, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I won’t say too much, but go and order the Shrimp & Grits, and the Shrimp BLT Salad (both dishes are amazing!)

Shelter Cove Towne Centre for unique shops selling gifts from local artists, books, HHI-inspired clothing, and lots of restaurant options (along with evening activities).

Alexander’s Restaurant & Wine Bar is also located on the property of the Palmetto Dunes Resort (both PD General Store & Alexander’s are walking distance to the Omni). We had such a nice dinner here — they have a great menu (including a unique kids menu), a diverse drink menu and wine list, and delicious food — I recommend the crab cake with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

The Shops at Sea Pines Center has great shops and restaurants including Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe — grab a coffee and walk around the shops. Try and visit when the Farmer’s Market is scheduled.

Lawton Stables is great for families to see beautiful horses and farm animals, and to go horse-back riding. This was one of our favorite stops on HHI. One of the best parts is the drive through the Sea Pines Resort — you’ll want to drive slowly and take it all in (especially the Live Oaks with Spanish Moss).

Harbour Town Lighthouse at the Harbour Town Marina, not only has the iconic lighthouse (perfect spot to grab a photo), but also has shops and restaurants. I would recommend hitting the gift shop at the bottom of the lighthouse — that’s where we picked up our copy of Scoot’s New Home by Ann Eilers Lilly. It’s still one of our favorite books at bedtime.

Coastal Discovery Museum for the Farmer’s Market, nature trails, reptiles & amphibians, butterflies, and a beautiful property. Make sure to check their schedule before heading over so you can register for their daily events. The Coastal Discovery Museum also has a great gift shop!

Bluffton, South Carolina is just under 15 minutes from HHI, and it is worth the drive. We did not spend as much time here as we would have liked during this trip, but we are so glad we visited this beautiful area. Make sure to visit the Church of the Cross — read the history and grab some photos.

The Storybook Shoppe located in Bluffton is a beautiful little local bookstore.

Duck Donuts for made-to order donuts — I recommend the plain donut with hot fudge, and the donut with peanut butter/chocolate sauce. Those were our favorites!

Kilwins Hilton Head Island located at Shelter Cove Towne Centre, is perfect for grabbing ice cream after dinner at New York City Pizza.

Hilton Head Island is ideal for a family vacation, or for a romantic getaway — it is just under an hour from Savannah, and just over two hours from Charleston, Kiawah Island, and Isle of Palms. The beaches are beautiful and serene, and there are so many hotels and vacation rentals in the area — so there are plenty of options for your stay. This is the type of place you will want to return to again and again. 

What are some of your favorite spots to visit on Hilton Head Island?