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My Town: Mystic, CT

Andrew, 14, has traveled to Europe four times so far, but his hometown, Stonington, Connecticut, four miles from Mystic, hasn't paledby comparison. He lives in a shingled house designed by his architect father, Mark, with his mom, Donna, and his brothers, Robby, 11, and Jordan, 7. When he's not on the football field or playing alto sax for Stonington High School, Andrew is taking advantage of local attractions. Around Mystic, and its colonial enclave, Old Mystic, these are either maritime (a famous aquarium, a 19th-century port) or cinematic (backdrops for Julia Roberts's first hit, Mystic Pizza, in which Andrew's great-grandfather played the grandfather of the bride). Here are Andrew's tips for keeping kids entertained, inspired, and fed on his turf.

Must-Sees "At Mystic Seaport [75 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic; 888/973-2767; www.visitmysticseaport.com], you can watch the shipbuilders at work and go aboard the oldest whaling ship in the country. The planetarium show tells how stars are used for navigation. On weekends in October, there are spooky guides, and you get to hear legends about sailors lost at sea.

"Since I was a kid, they've added on to the Mystic Aquarium [55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic; 860/572-5955; www.mysticaquarium.org] so many times that now I'll take some turn around a tank and go, 'Whoa, where am I?' The place is especially cool because one of the scientists running it found the Titanic. You can reserve a time to pet the penguins or put on waders and go into the beluga tank (Warning: $145 for an hour and a half ). Once, on a freezing cold day, one of the whales spat a big mouthful of water at me—so watch out.

"We go on class trips to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum [110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket; 800/411-9671; www.pequotmuseum.org], where you see exactly how Native Americans around here used to live. Even if you don't like museums, you should try this one. Foxwoods casino next door gets great acts—Elvis impersonators, the Beach Boys."

Fishing and Swimming "The first time I went fishing at the dock in Stonington, I caught a foot-and-a-half-long striped bass. When my dad saw my pole bending, he thought I'd just snagged my hook on the pier. We swim at DuBois Beach, on Stonington Point just past the Old Lighthouse Museum [7 Water St., Stonington; 860/535-1440; www.stoningtonhistory.org], even in winter. It's tiny, but we appreciate any sand we can get around here—they call it Stonington for a reason. There are great beaches nearby in Rhode Island, at Watch Hill and Misquamicut."

Refueling "Somewhere in Time [3175 Gold Star Hwy., Old Mystic; 860/536-1985] is my favorite breakfast place; I love the French toast. Tourists come to see Mystic Pizza [56 W. Main St., Mystic; 860/536-3700; www.mysticpizza.com], by the old drawbridge that goes up every hour. (Yeah, the pizza is pretty good.) For dinner there's Go Fish [Olde Mistick Village, Bldg. 22, Mystic; 860/536-2662; dinner for four $120] and the Steak Loft [Olde Mistick Village, Bldg. 24, Mystic; 860/536-2661; dinner for four $100]. Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream [2 W. Main St., Mystic; 860/572-7978] makes its own. You can try weird flavors like lemon chocolate. In Stonington, Skipper's Dock [66 Water St.; 860/535-0111; dinner for four $70] has awesome seafood, and people in boats pull right up to it."

In Case of Rain "Kids here like to hang out at Franco's Xtreme Laser Tag [860/572-7733; www.francoslasertag.com], at the Mystic Carousel [193 Greenmanville Ave., Rte. 27 at Exit 90 off I-95, Mystic; 860/572-9949]. You put on vests with lights on them and carry a gun that's flashing, then run around a black-lighted room that has pipes to hide behind. There's also a video arcade and a snack bar, plus a maze and a carousel inside the building for littler kids. At the back is Ollie's Rock Gym [860/572-7625; www.olliesrockgym.com], with huge walls for rappelling, hanging upside down, everything."

Souvenir Hunting "Mystical Toys of Mystic [4 E. Main St., Mystic; 860/536-7131], by the drawbridge, is filled with great stuff. There are lots of little stores at Olde Mistick Village [Exit 90 off I-95, Mystic; 860/536-4941; www.oldemistickvillage.com], where you can buy toys, kites, and scrimshaw—or feed the ducks at a pond. Load up on candy for a few cents at Tom's News & General Store [133 Water St., Stonington; 860/535-1276; www.tomsnews.com]."

Best in Fall "The Mystic YMCA [860/536-3575] always has a Halloween parade with a big turnout. At the end we all get cookies at the firehouse in Stonington. The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center [109 Pequotsepos Rd., Mystic; 860/536-1216], near the aquarium, has creepy flashlight walks through the woods. You can watch apples being pressed at B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill [129 N. Stonington Rd., Old Mystic; 860/536-3354]. North Main Street in Stonington is a couple of miles long, all lined with maple trees. It's where Julia Roberts's car breaks down in Mystic Pizza. In the fall there's nothing more beautiful than the leaves changing here."

As told to EVE M. KAHN.


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