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A TANK AWAY | STONINGTON, CONN.

Places for tourists and wanderers, too

Mystic gets most of the attention, but the village has its own attractions

Stonington Village is home to many shops, galleries, and antiques stores. Stonington Village is home to many shops, galleries, and antiques stores. (Paul E. Kandarian for The Boston Globe)
By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / May 5, 2010

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When you think of this coastal town, you probably don’t think of Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium, or “Mystic Pizza,’’ neither the place nor the motion picture. But you should. That’s because Mystic is not a town but a village of Stonington. And now it will come as no surprise that Stonington, with its beautiful water views, quaint inns, unique shopping options, and interesting attractions, attracts many couples and singles looking for a weekend away.

Stay
The Inn at Stonington (60 Water St., 860-535-2000, www.innatstonington.com, $150-$445) is smack dab in the heart of Stonington Borough, with most of its 18 rooms having views of Stonington Harbor and Fishers Island Sound. Best sunsets, innkeepers say, are seen from the third-floor Harborview Room. The Steamboat Inn (73 Steamboat Wharf, 860-536-8300, www.steamboatwharf.com, $150-$300) is an 11-room inn with views of the Mystic River, located in the heart of the historic district. Its most romantic room is said to be the Mystic, with views of the river and the morning sun rising over it. The Whaler’s Inn (20 East Main St., 860-536-1506, www.whalersinnmystic.com, $109-$259) has five buildings, including the 1865 House, a historic Victorian, and the Hoxie House with whirlpool baths, fireplaces, and river views.

Dine
A must-eat, and not just because of the 1988 Julia Roberts movie, but for the fabulous food, is Mystic Pizza (56 West Main St., 860-536-3700). The menu includes sandwiches, soups, and salads, and there is, as you might imagine, an extensive “Mystic Pizza’’ souvenir selection. With downtown Mystic’s only riverfront and patio dining, S&P Oyster Company (1 Holmes St., 860-536-2674, www.sp-oyster.com, entrees $16-$32), enjoys an enviable location by the historic bridge spanning the Mystic. For dessert, try the cupcakes and other treats to die for at Lis Bake Shop (15 Holmes St., 860-536-9090), a relatively new place on the river that is already so known for its tasty concoctions that it was invited to try out for “Cupcake Wars’’ on the Food Network.

During the day
Stonington’s villages are superbly walkable, including Stonington Village, home to many shops, galleries, and antiques stores, not to mention the incredibly quaint Tom’s News and General Store (133 Water St., 860-535-1276), with its sloping floors, cramped feel, and newspapers spread on an ancient countertop awaiting perusal. Nearby is the Lighthouse Museum (7 Water St., 860-535-1440, www.stoningtonhistory.org/light.htm, $8 adults, $5 children), with six rooms of exhibits and old iron steps up to a terrific 360-degree view. Mystic Seaport (75 Greenmanville Ave., 860-572-5315, www.mysticseaport.org, tickets $15-$24) is one of Stonington’s most-visited locations. There you can climb onto the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whale ship, which is being renovated. Get to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center (109 Pequotsepos Road, 860-536-1216, www.dpnc.org, $8 adults, $5 children), with 10 miles of hiking trails, educational programs, bird walks, kayak trips, and admission to the Denison Homestead Museum, a 1717 historic house.

After dark
Many are the small, quaint places to enjoy music, food, and beverages in Stonington, and one of the most popular is the Daniel Packer Inn (32 Water St., 860-536-3555, www.danielpacker.com), not an inn at all but a restaurant with a cramped downstairs bar, moodily dark and featuring live music. Cozy pub, great Irish grub, and good tunes are had at Harp & Hound (4 Pearl St., 860-572-7778), with live entertainment Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. With live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, RiverWalk Restaurant (14 Holmes St., 860-536-5220, www.mysticriverwalk.com) has expansive beer and wine offerings.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@globe .com.