Mystic Aquarium entrance

Last week the hubs and I took the ladies on our yearly mini vacation to Mystic, Connecticut. Since we’re not exactly rolling in money (OK, it’s more like we’re rolling in a lack of money), a three-day getaway that we can get to in under three hours is kind of perfect.

Our first stop? Mystic Aquarium.

Mystic Aquarium entrance

We are big fans of the aquarium. In fact, I used to visit it with my family when I was little. It seems a little smaller now that I’m carting my own kids through the exhibits, but I still love it—and so do they. Mystic Aquarium beluga whalesMystic Aquarium sea lionsMystic Aquarium sea lion showMystic Aquarium Birds of the OutbackMystic Aquarium indoor exhibitsMystic Aquarium insideIf you find yourself in Mystic and decide to pop into the aquarium, you definitely have to go to the sea lion show (see the third row of pictures). They do it a few times a day and it’s absolutely worth planning your day around. The trainers do fun little skits aimed at teaching the audience about sea lions and showing off some of their tricks. My girls love this.

We also totally recommend paying a little extra to see the 4D movie and the Birds of the Outback exhibit.

The movie is a lot of fun. It’s in 3D but there’s also a physical element to it—cool air is blown on you, your chair might shake and you might get sprayed with a tiny bit of water. The movie this summer was Rio—it’s short (five minutes) but the girls get a kick out of it.

The Birds of the Outback is also fun. You each get a stick covered in bird seed and walk through an aviary where you can feed hundreds of colorful birds. If you’re lucky, they’ll be nesting like they were when we went—which means they’re particularly interested in pockets. The girls cracked up as birds landed on my husband’s pants and and tried to poke their little faces into his pockets.

Mystic Connecticut back at the hotelAfter the aquarium, we headed back to our hotel (which was pretty much across the street). The girls fell in love with the dolphin fountain out front. The fountain, the indoor pool, and the complimentary breakfast were pretty much the only things the girls needed for a fabulous vacation.

Once they passed out on the pull-out couch, my husband and I huddled quietly on the (amazingly huge) king-sized bed and shared a pair of ear buds while binge watching Shameless on the laptop. This, my friends, is the glamorous nightlife of vacationing with children. 😉

Ocean Beach ParkOcean Beach Park mermaidOcean Beach Park ArcadeFake play at Ocean Beach Park ArcadeThe next morning we headed to Ocean Beach Park, which was so much fun. We had never been there before and were definitely happy that we decided to check it out. First, we hung at the beach for awhile. Tim and Ellie dug in the sand (which she has recently made friends with) while Sam and I searched for shells in the clear, calm water. Once we had walked the length of the beach, Sam kneeled down at the shoreline like the little mermaid she is and thoroughly enjoyed letting the waves crash into her.

Once the girls had their fill of the sun, we decided to make our way over to the arcade. Tim and Samantha hit up the games with a cup full of tokens while Ellie and I looked around to see what we could “play” (and made a few trips to the bathroom). Ellie was more than happy to dance by herself on the board for one of those dancing games and then shout out orders to me while we pretended to race cars.

Once all of the tokens were used up and the tickets were cashed in, we headed over to the little amusement park. Ellie was too small for most of the rides, but they rode the carousel twice and Sam took a turn on the mini ferris wheel. We had planned to hit the splash pad and mini golf course, but at that point we were all so exhausted we headed back to the hotel to sleep and swim.

Mystic drawbridgeThat night we drove to downtown Mystic for dinner and wandering around town. We sat by the water, watched the drawbridge go up once or twice and bought some souvenirs before stopping at Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe. If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that Ellie thoroughly enjoyed her ice cream cone.

When we got back, all four of us totally passed out on the pull-out couch.

The Dinosaur Place dino eggsThe Dinosaur PlaceThe Dinosaur Place splash padOn our last full day, we got up and headed to The Dinosaur Place. We went there last year and the girls loved it. There’s a trail with life-sized dinosaurs tucked into the trees. There’s also a volcano that erupts on the hour and an animatronic dinosaur that spits water. It’s pretty awesome and the girls like to grab maps and try and lead us to all of the dinosaurs—although Ellie was a little freaked out by them at first. There’s also a big maze, a splash pad and a pretty big playground.

That night we walked around Olde Mystick Village. There are a ton of quaint little shops and restaurants and it was nice to not have to worry about cars. The girls could wander freely. Samantha loved picking out shops to peek into and they both liked checking out all of the souvenir options.

In case you can’t tell, we kind of had a good time. If you ask the girls what their favorite part was they say something different every time—that’s how you know a vacation was a success.

PS If you go and there’s one place you have to eat, it should be The Pita Spot. The moussaka is my favorite and Samantha deemed their bathroom The Nicest Ever—plus she really likes the hip scarves with coins that the waitresses wear. 😉

Written by Jennifer Garry
Jen is a freelance writer and girl mom from New York. When she's not knee-deep in glittery crafts and girl talk, you can probably find her sprawled across her couch in the middle of a Netflix marathon with dark chocolate smeared on her face. The struggle is real.