As purists will tell you, the town of Mystic does not really exist; Old Mystic comprises a couple of quaint streets north of the highway, while tourists are drawn to the maritime recreations at Mystic Seaport, a couple of miles south, and its bustling downtown just across the Mystic River. The drawbridge leading downtown is still raised hourly and on request for some magnificent taller ships sailing through.
The area's biggest draw is the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, exit 90 off I-95 (Jan & Feb Mon– Fri 10am–5pm, Sat & Sun 9am–6pm, March– Dec daily 9am–6pm; adults $24, children 3–17 $18; Tel:860/572-5955, Web: www.ife.org ), home to over twelve thousand weird and wonderful marine specimens, including penguins, sea lions, piranhas, and the only Beluga whales in New England.
Whether you think it's authentic or tacky, Mystic Seaport, also known as the Museum of America & the Sea (daily: April– Oct 9am–5pm, rest of year 10am–4pm; $18.50, children $13; Tel:860/572-5315, Web: www.mysticseaport.org ), is the area's other big draw, where more than sixty buildings house old-style workshops and stores reflecting life in a nineteenth century seafaring village. In the Preservation Shipyard, watch the restoration and maintenance of a vast collection of wooden ships, among them the 1841 Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world.