Exploring Connecticut: New London, Mystic, and New Haven

Over Labor Day weekend, we considered a few different travel ideas, but in the end, we decided that a set of family day trips from the Boston area would be the most practical and fun. On this particular day, we set out for the shores of Connecticut with hopes of having enough time to take a quick stop by Yale on our way home.

Research seemed to indicate that Mystic would be a great option to get a feel for the Connecticut coast. We chose to take a slightly longer (by 10 minutes) route to avoid Rhode Island, which is currently on the covid “bad state” list for Massachusetts residents – meaning that if we got a flat tire there, we’d technically be supposed to quarantine for 14 weeks on return. We had to ignore the GPS suggestions for a bit though.

New London

As we drove, we realized that we would be driving very close to New London, and decided to make a quick stop to see what the town was like. Not knowing where to go, we followed the road signs to the New London Waterfront Park, which is right next to downtown.

As it turns out, Covid had turned the downtown into a ghost town. Anyone who had been to downtown, were probably on a ferry to one of the nearby islands. Similarly, the waterfront really wasn’t all that exciting, although there were definitely signs of its commercial past. In colonial times, it was Connecticut’s first official port. In addition to trade, there were a lot of whalers and sealers who also came through this town.

On the other hand, the town is filled with street art. I really enjoyed looking at all the murals on the various buildings. The boys were fascinated as every corner seemed to reveal another beautiful mural.

Rather than figure out where we should have parked and what we should have done, we did a walk from the waterfront, back around the block, then decided to get back into the car and head to Mystic. If you do decide to stop in this town make sure you do see the murals, but also consider going on a cruise, to one of the parks, or to a museum.

The lighthouse ferry cruise is supposed to be interesting, as well as Fort Trumbull State Park, Ocean Beach Park, the United States Coast Guard Museum, the Submarine Force Library & Museum, the Custom House Maritime Museum, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, the Garde Arts Center, and many more places. Do your research before you go and you will likely have a better time than we did!

Mystic

After getting back in the car, we drove a few more miles until we reached Mystic. As we drove towards the downtown/waterfront area, the traffic was terrible. In the end, we decided that since we were less than a mile away from where we wanted to be, we would simply grab some street parking and walk along the Mystic River until we reached our destination. Great decision!

As it turns out, a bunch of the cars were heading for the Mystic Seaport Museum. It looked like the kids would have loved that particular museum, but with the crowds decided to avoid it. We decided that we would stick with the outdoors and come back another time to visit the museum. The plus side is that the museum has several old houses as part of their exhibit, so we were able to look and read about them as we walked to downtown.

There was also a nice tug boat on display in front of the museum.

The views of the water were delightful. At one point we saw kayak, paddle boards, and bicycles for rent. I could definitely see myself spending a few days here.

Having been in Plymouth earlier in the summer, we discovered that the Mayflower replica was being restored in Mystic and we still had a few more days to see it before its return to Plymouth. We’re pretty sure the ship off in the distance was it. We tried to get a little closer, but alas, everything was gated off.

Making it to the drawbridge to the super cute downtown, we had to wait for a while as some boats were let through. Then they let the masses descend into the overcrowded streets. The bridge traffic was supposed to be one way, though real life was a bit different.

We made our way to the church at the end of the street. In normal times, this would have been a downtown that I loved: cute shops, fun restaurants, a lively atmosphere. We took a walk through it but decided not to linger too long given the current covid environment.

We made our way back to the other side of the river, and spent some time admiring some long, skinny fish with needle-like noses. When traveling with kids, it is sometimes the small things that they remember.

As we walked back to the car, we stopped for slushies and ice cream. Yum!

Yale University

Thinking about heading home, we instead decided to drive a little further and go see the Yale University campus in New Haven. It wasn’t super close, but since we would be able to do a triangle back to our house, it really wouldn’t add all that much extra driving.

We easily found street parking and the boys were wowed by the Neo Gothic architecture.

So beautiful!

Some of the original buildings were built in the Georgian style, but in the early 1900’s, Gothic architecture took over.

These buildings are “old” by American standards, though admittedly somewhat young compared with the European Gothic buildings that they were inspired by. I personally love it, particularly in these Covid times when traveling to Europe is not an option. If we can’t travel to Europe, we can find parts of the USA where Europe is brought to us!

It’s worth explicitly noting that in New Haven you should be aware of your surroundings (crime was a significant issue in the past). But during the day time when we were there, it wasn’t a huge concern.

Feeling happy, but tired from a long day of sightseeing with our kids, we decided to head home. What a wonderful day in Connecticut!

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