As chocolate ice cream dribbled down my littlest’s chin, a band played in the background, and the sun set behind my family, I could only think one thing: best vacation ever!
We’ve made visiting Mystic, Connecticut a family tradition for years now. Full of New England charm and nestled halfway between New York and Boston just off Interstate 95, it’s the perfect destination for families living in (or traveling through) the northeast.
Over the years we’ve done our share of exploring the area and there are a few family-friendly spots in and around Mystic that stick out for us.
Things to Do with Kids in Mystic, Connecticut
I’ve been going to Mystic Aquarium since the early 80s. I remember being so excited packing up our minivan with coolers full of drinks and food that would last our family of six all day. We could barely sit still once we hit the road.
Those warm, fuzzy feelings are what made me want to take our girls there. And, for the past five summers, we’ve done just that.
There are so many cool things about this aquarium. One of the first exhibits we always check out is the beluga whales—this aquarium has the only beluga whales in New England! It is absolutely amazing to watch a gigantic beluga whale swim right past you. They weigh thousands (!) of pounds but they glide by with ease. Ellie couldn’t get enough of them.
“I’m boooooored,” she whines, while suffering through a few minutes of downtime on a vacation your wallet will be recovering from for months. Sound at all familiar? Not to be a terrible human, but I really hope so.
I’m convinced my kids would find a way to be bored at Disney World. A few minutes of rest and relaxation—which, lets be honest, parents really need while vacationing with kids—and they seem to develop amnesia. They no longer remember all of the fun that has been packed into the day.
After a mini vacations with our girls, I’ve perfected a small list of absolutely must-have items that we couldn’t survive a hotel stay without. Sometimes we don’t need every last item, but the fact that they’re there is like a parental security blanket. I know I can pull them out if I need them and I’m a much less crazy-eyed mom because of it.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know we’ve been bouncing around to different area codes this summer, getting in some solid family travel with mini getaways. First it was Great Wolf Lodge in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains (remember that time we went and I forgot to pack pants? I remembered them this time!) and then last week we enjoyed a few days of bliss at Basin Harbor in Vermont.
It. was. glorious.
If you’ve never heard of it (I hadn’t!) Basin Harbor is a resort that sits right on Lake Champlain. With ridiculous views and so much to do, it’s a great family vacation spot—just be sure to pack some dressier clothes along with your bathing suits and hike-friendly outfits or you’ll feel a liiiiiittle bit out of place. The regulars like to dress their best.
The resort has been family-run for over one hundred years and many of the same families return every summer for their vacation, which gives the place a very familiar, neighborhood kind of vibe, which we loved.
So, if you head to a schmancy resort there are probably millions of things you could be blown away by, right? The incredible food. The spa. The endless activities offered. Basin Harbor had all of those things, but our family’s favorites were a little less upper crust.
Before you read about our favorites, you should head over to Glamamom for my full rundown on Basin Harbor and all it has to offer.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved a good road trip. From driving a couple of hours to the Jersey shore with my grandparents every summer to driving to Florida on spring break while in college, I have always found road trips incredibly exciting. Killer playlists, hilarious conversations, and a whole lot of open road is my kind of adventure.
And then I had kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still the first to jump at the idea of adventuring to a new place by car, it just takes way more preparation now. Like, way more. And along the way, I’ve become pretty good at keeping my kids entertained on road trips. In fact, I have a list of five tips that I consider essential when road tripping with kids.
“I didn’t pack pants.” I. didn’t. pack. pants.
I packed twelve changes of clothing, slippers, bathrobes, and a variety of car toys for the girls. But I did not pack myself pants.
Yes, I had a pair of sweatpants that were not meant to be seen by anyone who had no choice but to be stuck with me and a pair of leggings so worn that my ass was one rogue thread away from a nice summer breeze. But I had no actual pants to wear as I walked the halls of Great Wolf Lodge.
My husband looked at me with an eyebrow raised and I kind of wanted to pluck it off of his face. “How do you not remember pants?” asks he who only worried about packing for one human—and a human who wouldn’t have a total meltdown if he forgot something “essential” like the correct pair of patterned socks.