While looking for a new area to explore, I stumbled upon a delicious travel loop that I would like to share with all day trippers. Variations on this loop are strongly encouraged, but using the route as a guide is sure to lead to an unforgettable outing.
Initially, there was only one planned destination, and it made more sense to make it the first stop; the rest of the day was free. Our journey began when we headed north to The Traveler restaurant in Union, Connecticut. It had been on my radar to visit for a number of years, but was still quite off my usual travels. Despite the distance, this restaurant/bookstore was well worth the detour.
With bookshelves and portraits of famous authors lining the wall, this quaint corner offers a literary-themed menu designed to charm bookworms and travellers. The highlight of visiting The Traveler restaurant is that every customer is invited to take home a free book or two. Whatever selection calls out to you as you browse the shelves, it can be yours. Sure enough, I found a book written by Meriden’s hometown hero, Tomie DePaola, on my way out while my mom opted to buy an entire bag of mystery books. For just $13, she was treated to a brown paper bag full of romance novels — the mystery being that only the best selections were visible, so the rest of the books she would have to check out after purchase. It was the perfect start to our day trip.
From there, we figured it was a toss-up between Providence or Boston for our destination city. We decided to go with Providence as it was closer and an area less explored by us in recent years. While my mom was driving, I excitedly Googled “things to do in Providence today” and was thrilled with the results. From tea parties to roller skates to food truck festivals, I couldn’t believe the number of options available to us. It turns out that Providence is usually a pretty active community when it comes to events, even on Friday afternoons. For our day trips, we decided to take the tourist route with our activities.
Our first stop in Rhode Island was at Roger Williams Park, a communal cornucopia of beautiful scenery, woodland creatures, and recreational activities. Tourists like us could spend an entire day in a place like Roger Williams Park. Instead, we decided to take a spin on one of the iconic swan pedal boats, stroll through the carousel village, and set off before burning the day away in a dreamy haze. (If you’re traveling with young children, this is a great place to have fun without breaking the bank.)
Since we were in such a nautical state, our next thought was something like, how can we embark on a ship today? It turns out that in Providence, it’s easier than we imagined. We explored a few options and finally settled on a 50 minute narrated tour with the Providence River Boat Company. It was a perfect option for us; the price was right, it was an intimate experience, the captain was knowledgeable, and the view was absolutely amazing. If you decide to take this route, I would like to mention that it is an outdoor boating experience, so I recommend that you bring a hat, sunglasses or other weather options to make your ride more enjoyable. After our visit, we grabbed a few scoops from the Providence River Boat Company gift shop and decided to head back to Connecticut for dinner.
In keeping with our maritime theme, we stopped in the village of Mystic for seafood by the sea. A family friend of ours works at Red 36, so naturally we knew where to dine. As the sun set, we were surrounded by the upbeat, lively vibe only found on the terrace of an open-air restaurant over the water. Our server was friendly and our meals were cooked to perfection. (If you order one item from Red 36, please make it the scallops. If you order more than one, I absolutely recommend trying some of their appetizers; they are well worth the price!)
Since we were in the area, we decided to end the day strong with a visit to the Mix Rooftop Bar at the Sift Bake Shop. Who knew Adam Young, owner of Sift (and 2018 “America’s Best Baker” winner), also throws parties on the rooftop? This classy spot offers an extensive food and drink menu. Whether your visit is a nightcap or the main destination, Mix has you covered. At Mix, we made new friends, shared a few laughs and reflected on our wonderful day of fun before deciding (reluctantly) that it was finally time to go home.
The next time you and your most spontaneous companion have the day off, take a look at the loop and see what appeals to you. There are so many little stops along the way just waiting to be explored, and you never know what you’ll find when you try something new. You will never be bored on the East Coast! Have a good travel day!
Francesca Fontánez is a journalist, educator and creative based in Meriden. A graduate of the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden to write about the city she loves and its surroundings. When she’s not teaching ELA at Washington Middle School, she explores the East Coast for her lifestyle blog (@eastsidevibes on Instagram) or works on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach. Email Francesca at [email protected] with advice on what to read next, or just to say hello!