If you’re a boat-buff or simply enjoy visiting historic sites, then Mystic Seaport is for you. Even landlubbers will enjoy it. The museum was founded in 1929 and consists of a recreation of a 19th century village complete with marina, shipyard and lighthouse. And did I mention boats? There are plenty of ships, including four that are recognized as national historic landmarks: the fishing schooner L. A. Dunton, the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, the fishing sloop Emma C. Berry, and the coal-powered steam ship Sabino. During our recent trip to Mystic, Connecticut, we spent the better part of a day exploring the family-friendly seaport.
About Mystic Seaport
Mystic Seaport is considered the largest maritime museum in the world and was one of the first living history museums. There are different ways to explore the seaport. You could focus on the village and visit all of the homes and businesses, which aren’t reproductions but actual buildings transported to the edge of the Mystic River. Re-enactors bring history alive in many of the buildings. We watched some pirates doing an interactive story with a group of young buccaneers (aka children) — and seaport staff inside them to explain how the building would have been used. During our visit, there was a pear and apple pie baking in the kitchen of one of the homes and a couple of staffers wobbled precariously by on penny-farthing bicycles.
There are other buildings that are more curated for self-study. In particular, you can explore how to make rope and how to farm and harvest oysters. It sounds a lot drier than it is. One of my personal favorites was the collection of figureheads that once adorned the bow — that’s ship-speak for the front — of ships. The amount of detail in those wooden carvings is nothing short of art.
Of course, there are actively working buildings at Mystic Seaport, too. There’s a shipyard that’s working to preserve and maintain the boats where you can watch them at work or you can take a ride on the water in a variety of different vessels. The seaport also has a planetarium where you can learn to navigate by the heavens and a research library. If you’re feeling a little hungry, I can personally recommend their outdoor cafe Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern. While it’s nothing fancy — plastic cups and Styrofoam bowls — the New England clam chowder was a nice break while visiting the seaport.
Movies & More
Here’s something you may not expect. The Seaport is worth a visit for movie buffs! Parts of Amistad were filmed at the Seaport as were a couple scenes from Mystic Pizza.
While Mystic Seaport isn’t the most modern of museums, it’s full of information. With a wide range of subject matter covered, there’s something of interest for everyone and it’s large enough to keep you busy for at least a day if not longer. It’s a definite must-see if you’re in the Mystic area, especially on a nice day as most of the museum is out of doors.
75 Greenmanville Avenue
Mystic, CT 06355
All photos are my own.