By Paulette Cooper & Paul Noble
Which would you rather see: Beluga caviar or Beluga whales? Chances are, you'd go for the food and your child would rather see the whale. But you (and your children) can have both (and much more) in Mystic, Connecticut, two hours away. For there are Beluga whales to see and Beluga caviar to taste at some of the posher restaurants, like the one at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa.
Conveniently situated half way between Boston and New York, the Mystic area is filled with places that will please everyone. For example, within 20 minutes of the Marriott, hotel. adults can spend time at the Foxwoods Resort Casino or the Mohegan SUN. There's a shuttle service that goes directly to these Indian-owned casinos each evening; remember to bring plenty of wampum there.
Mystic is for everyone
During the days, children (and their parents) will enjoy the Mystic Seaport, a recreation of a maritime village with special exhibits such as female pirates and sea captains. This classic New England attraction is an easy walk from the village center where we had the best chowder ever at the S & P Restaurant next to the drawbridge.
There are also sure hits for kids at places like Nature's Art in Montville with a dinosaur exhibit, or Groton, which houses the USSNautilus. This is America's first nuclear powered submarine, and you can now tour it and see how tight the quarters are.
Perhaps the most popular place in this region for families is the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, which is like a small theme park. It's filled with splashy aquatic exhibits from all over the world and this is where you'd find the big Beluga whale.
Not only can you watch these graceful mammals in the Alaskan Coast exhibit, but they have a special whale-touch program where you - or more likely your child - can touch their backs and belly and see up close how they breath, spout and "sing."
A Great Hotel & Restaurant
But if your taste for Beluga is more to taste it than touch it, you'd be more than satisfied at the Marriott's Octagon Restaurant. Indeed, after a day of fish and water-related sights, it's almost a relief not to have to see another fish again, for here the specialty is delicious steak.
The extraordinary dinners are beautifully served in a large stunning room with an open kitchen and roaring fire. A fine selection of wine is available, perfect for relaxation after a busy touring day.
But it's easy to unwind and relax at this place with or without the wine. This is a peaceful hotel because of its size - at 6-stories, with 285 guest rooms, it's not too big and not too small, and it's also quiet because of its location. It's right off I-95 in Connecticut, far enough away that you don't hear any traffic, but near enough to the highway to make it easy to find as well as to travel to all the attractions in the region.
This AAA four-diamond hotel is also attractive to look at from the outside, since the yellow U-shaped building blends well with the surrounding hills and its rich green foliage. Not only does the Marriott look good from the outside in, but also from the inside out. Many of the rooms face the large reservoir across the road, and the stately trees surrounding it are mirrored inside it.
The marble-floored lobby is large but doesn't feel cold because it's divided into two sections, each with comfortable seating and stunning rugs. Those unused to Connecticut tranquility (say, those with children) who feel they need a jolt, can walk to the end of the lobby where there's a small Starbucks stand.
Behind the Red Door
Relaxation is also possible at the well-maintained pool, whirlpool and fitness center, especially since two hours a day only adults are allowed in the pool. This is wonderful for those who don't like children screaming in (OK, peeing in) their pool.
Right next to the pool is the elegant adults-only Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa which offers hair-dressing & barber services, manicure and make-up facilities, nice to find in a medium sized hotel.
The men in our party are often squeamish about a massage, so they were persuaded to have a facial, which both totally enjoyed.
The spa itself not only provides standard spa treatments, but also their own signature packages and rituals. For example, there's a cream and sugar scrub, olive oil exfoliation, and even a specialized pregnancy massage, etc.
The service at the spa and throughout the hotel is excellent, and you feel that everyone is going out of his/her way to provide not only efficient but friendly service. For those used to hotels in more "glamorous" locations, like the Caribbean, or Florida, or New York, the Mystic Marriott will prove to be a pleasant surprise, as is the fact that there is so much for adults and children to do and see in this area.
Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa
625 North Road (Route 117)
Groton, CT 06340 USA
Phone: 1 860-446-2600
To make reservations by phone, call 1-800-228-9290