Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Summer weekend trips from NYC for kids and families

So long, East River. See ya, Hudson. There's a whole wide world of water to discover within easy reach of the city through one of these weekend trips.

  • Photograph: Mystic Seaport

    Discovery Barn, Mystic Seaport CT

  • Photograph: Mystic Seaport

    Children's Museum Mystic Seaport, CT

  • Photograph: Mystic Seaport

    Mystic Seaport, CT

  • Photograph: Mystic Seaport

    Mystic Seaport, CT

  • Gillette Castle State Park

Photograph: Mystic Seaport

Discovery Barn, Mystic Seaport CT


Mystic, CT

Travel time 2 hours 50 minutes by car or train
Start with breakfast at Kitchen Little (135 Greenmanville Ave; 860-536-2122, kitchenlittle.org). The Mystic Melt—fresh lump crabmeat and cream cheese scrambled with two eggs—is a favorite. Dine on the patio so kids can watch boats traveling up and down the river. At the Mystic Aquarium (55 Coogan Blvd; 860-572-5955, mysticaquarium.org. $26, children ages 3--17 $19, children under 3 free), you'll find African penguins, sea lions and beluga whales. Pirate-loving tykes get a real taste of 19th-century maritime life at the Mystic Seaport Museum (75 Greenmanville Ave; 888-973-2767, mysticseaport.org. $24, children ages 6 --17 $15, children under 6 free). Don't forget to check out the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world. When tummies start growling for lunch, head to Sea Swirl (30 Williams Ave; 860-536-3452, seaswirlofmystic.com), a roadside burger and fries dive that also serves top-notch fried seafood, or Mystic Pizza (56 W Main St; 860-536-3700, mysticpizza.com), the eatery made famous by the 1988 Julia Roberts movie. Save room for dessert: The best ice cream in town is just down the street at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream (2 W Main St; 860-572-7978, mysticdrawbridgeicecream.com). The local favorite serves up house-made flavors like chocolate truffle. Spend the night at the Inn at Mystic (3 Williams Ave; 860-536-9604, innatmystic.com. Rooms from $195 per night). Before heading home, make a pit stop at Mystical Toys (4 E Main St, 860-536-7131). It's the perfect place to pick up a memento of your weekend adventure.—Liza Hamm

Gillette Castle, East Haddam, CT

Travel time 2 hours 30 minutes by car to the Essex Steam Train depot
A mansion tour isn't at the top of most children's must-do lists, but this isn't just another rich family's house: Among other novelties, you take both an antique train and a ferry to get here. Kids used to jam-packed subway cars will love settling into their comfortable seats on the Essex Steam Train (One Railroad Ave, Essex, CT; 860-767-0103, essexsteamtrain.com. $17, children ages 2--11 $9, children under 2 free) for a half-hour trip through the Connecticut River Valley. Disembark and, after a brief walk, hop aboard the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry ($1 per person). As you approach landfall, keep an eye out for the medieval-style stone structure atop a hill. That's Gillette Castle (860-526-2336; $6, children ages 2--12 $2, children under 6 free), and it's just a short (though not stroller-friendly) hike from the shore. Once you're there, tour guides will take your crew through two dozen wood-and-stone--clad rooms. Built in the early twentieth century by the then-famous actor and Sherlock Holmes portrayer William Gillette, the mansion is like a mystery-movie tableau where ghosts and evildoers might lurk at any turn. Gillette was also a stage manager who invented many trick props, and a bit of a prankster: He devised a series of mirrors to allow him to spy on visitors, and a hidden staircase so that he could sneak up on guests—or escape from them. Before or after your ferry ride, fill up at the Trackside Caf (essexsteamtrain.com/trackside.html), a converted dining car at the steam train depot. Relax by the outdoor pool at the former Sandpiper Inn in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, now an Econo Lodge Inn and Suites (1750 Boston Post Rd; 860-399-7973, econolodgeoldsaybrook.com. Rooms from $160 per night), which retains much of the old inn's charm.—GD

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