If you live in the Northeast and you're seeking a family-friendly venue for a long weekend, we recently discovered that Mystic, Connecticut is not a bad place to visit. Mystic is an old whaling town that has become a popular haven for summer vacationers; however, show up in April right before the tourist season begins and you'll find it to be refreshingly crowd-free for the most part. The town's main attraction is the historic seaport, a collection of old ships and buildings that were assembled in one location to simulate a 19th-Century New England port village - on paper, the concept sounds a bit hokey, but it's actually very impressive if you happen to have any interest in old American maritime culture (for example, the world's last wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, has been fully restored and docked at the seaport for exploring).
Of course, fans of 1980s pop culture are also familiar with a certain pizza parlor that provided the name to a romcom flick featuring Julia Roberts (we tried the pizza and, by the way, it's better than you might expect for a tourist trap).
When traveling to the Long Island Sound shore, one is never far from a stellar seafood shack - Mystic's crown jewel of this category is the Sea View Snack Bar, serving up the ocean's bounty next to the Mystic River (conveniently located within a short walk of the seaport) since 1976.
Although there are better places to get a lobster roll (it was mediocre), the whole clam (or clam belly) roll on a toasted bun is an item you can't miss. The fried clam strips and cole slaw were also quite tasty.
For an upscale meal, Oyster Club (just off the main drag near downtown Mystic) is a great farm-to-table (or, as they call it, farm/sea-to-table) restaurant that I'd heard of even before we booked our trip.
In addition to a bevy of local oysters on offer, brunch patrons can order inventive dishes such as "farrancini" (Sicilian rice balls made with farro in place of risotto) with white anchovies/pesto and a killer marzipan brioche french toast. OC has been heralded as one of the best restaurants in New England and I have no qualms with that lofty distinction - if we drive fast enough, Mrs. Hackknife and I might even be able to pull off an evening meal here from the Chuck Wagon and back...