Cities We Love
Mystic Seaport, the nautical-themed attraction in Mystic, Connecticut, is a great reason to visit the city, but the lure doesn’t end there. This delightful place beckons visitors with a plethora of interesting and exciting venues that appeal to the entire family.
Thanks to its relevant location, shipbuilding became the industry that sustained the town, which was founded in the 1600s. In the period between 1784 and 1919, more than 600 sailing ships were constructed along the banks of the Mystic River. But with the development of steam power and the decline of wooden sailing ships, the town turned to textile manufacturing to sustain its economy.
Rather than see that era forgotten, industrialist Edward E. Bradley, lawyer Carl C. Cutler and physician Charles K. Stillman set about realizing their dream: preserve America’s deep and abiding love for its maritime culture. Despite dire economic conditions, fueled by the Great Depression, the trio was able to obtain significant naval artifacts, ships, ship plans and other related items that became the foundation for a museum.
In 1941, the seaport acquired the Charles W. Morgan, the country’s last wooden whaling ship, and combined it with other historic buildings from across New England to create an authentic coastal village that became Mystic Seaport. Visitors can step down into the belly of the Morgan and get a sense of what it was like to sail on a whaling ship. It made 37 voyages, the longest almost 5 years. Along the wharf near the ship, you’ll find interpreters talking about life aboard the whaling ships, or the “Nantucket Sleigh Ride,” the experience that followed the successful thrust of a sharpened harpoon into the whale’s hide. The interpreter explains how the whale fat was processed and refined into lubricants and lamp oil.
There is enough at the seaport to keep guests entertained for days, and its difficult to avoid anything sea-related, but venture out and visit a variety of wineries along the Connecticut Wine Trail and discover the distinct differences of each locale. Look for the Wine Trail’s blue signs. Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center is a nature preserve and learning center with lots of hiking trails and a delightful nature store.
You can’t really skip the Mystic Aquarium. Indoor and outdoor exhibits get you up close to amazing sea creatures including beluga whales. For all-around pleasure, visit the Maritime Gallery, Buckingham-Hall House, home of import merchant William Hall, and the Mystic River Scale Model — but grab a cup of chowder somewhere at a local eatery along the stroll.
Don’t miss Mystic! Visit your local AAA Travel office to plan your next adventure.
(Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Traveler)