Mystical Quest

Mystical Quest

You’ve probably heard of Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Seaport, Mystic Pizza.

You probably haven’t heard of Young Buns.

The doughnut shop was our first stop on a mission to see a different side of Mystic, the famous seaside village spanning the Groton-Stonington border. Knowing we’d arrive hungry, my friend and I ordered online the night before from both Young Buns and Sift Bake Shop, both owned by pastry chef Adam Young. Sitting in comfy chairs on Sift’s deck and enjoying the blooming potted garden, we compared notes. My friend’s flakey, striped Lavender Lemon Croissant ($4.50) showcased subtle lavender flavor and a tart lemon cream center. Thrilled by the novelty of gluten-free doughnuts, I ordered two: Cinnamon Sugar ($4) and Peanut Butter Banana ($4), a banana doughnut topped with peanut butter glaze, banana chips, peanut butter cream and roasted peanuts—fantastic and filling with iced coffee ($2.85-$3.25).

Saving the Cinnamon Sugar for later, we walked a half block to Main Street and window-shopped along the wide variety of stores tucked into a short block, including Mystic Army Navy, Astrology Boutique, Bank Square Books, The Linen Press and The Rose, a women’s boutique. Especially eye-catching were The Rose’s hats that looked worthy of Queen Elizabeth. Crossing a bridge, we headed down the boardwalk along the Mystic River, where few benches were unoccupied.

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A short block away, I hopped on the swings at Mystic River Park Playground, which also boasts a wide variety of climbing opportunities, slides, shady benches, and a Little Free Library that held mostly children’s books. From there, we decided to walk about a mile to Williams Beach Park. Although strolling past homes, gardens and a business strip was interesting enough, I’d suggest driving this stretch—and bringing your swimsuit, which we regretted not having at the inviting and empty Williams Beach.

Heading back toward Main Street, we popped into Mystic Market East, a deli offering indoor and outdoor seating and a plethora of salads, sandwiches, desserts and tempting ready-to-heat main dishes, but we opted instead to have lunch at Taquerio, on the site of a former gas station whose overhang now serves as a patio roof. We enjoyed the breeze and shade and were contemplating playing corn hole when our tacos arrived: Grilled Swordfish with cabbage, pico de gallo and chipotle cream ($5), Al Pastor (pork) with pineapple, peppers, salsa and spices ($5), and the Fried Plantain with black beans, pickled onions, chili aioli and cilantro ($4). We finished every delicious morsel and stuck with water, rather than cocktails, because we wanted to be alert at our next planned stop, the Mystic Museum of Art.

Before we got there, however, we watched a string of boats pass under the raised Mystic River Bascule Bridge, better known as the Mystic Drawbridge, whose 200th anniversary will be celebrated with a festival and fireworks show on October 15. The small balcony at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream provided the perfect view of the bridge in action as well as an extensive ice cream menu for future reference.

We also enjoyed the view at the museum ($10/person, children under 12 free), where we browsed two now-closed and fascinating exhibits: Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post Covers: Tell Me a Story and Missing Narratives, a show of prints, paintings and sculptures by African American artists. Beginning October 7, the next major exhibition will be 100 Years of the Mystic River and the Bascule Bridge, featuring “paintings, prints, etchings, and ephemera.”

Back outside, we headed to Pequot Woods Park, a five-minute drive away. We walked through tall woods and along a pond, passing many old stone walls and a few dog walkers on our half-hour route through the park’s branching trails.

Back at the small parking lot, we decided on a final stop in town at a consignment shop my daughter recommended, Pennywise, where she’s found many fun bargains. We enjoyed browsing but left empty-handed, though our stomachs and minds were full.

Written and photographed by Heather Jessen.

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