We came pretty close to skipping Mystic Seaport when we were itinerary planning. We just went to Williamsburg, VA a couple of of years ago, and this seemed like pretty much the same thing, only with more boats. It’s expensive. Maybe we should just skip it and get to Cape Cod a day earlier instead. We thought. But I’m really glad we ended up going, because we all look back on this as one of the most fun days of the trip.
From the website:
The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT and include a recreated 19th-century coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship still in existence.
The part about it being expensive is true; it’s $26 for adults and $17 for kids 6-17 (kids 5 and under are free). But they do have a deal where you can get your ticket validated and return for free any time in the next 7 days. We weren’t in town long enough to take advantage of this, but I think we definitely could have easily spend another half day at least at Mystic Seaport, and that would have made the admission price seem very reasonable.
I mentioned the similarity to Colonial Williamsburg earlier. They ARE similar, but we had a better experience here than when we went to Williamsburg, although I can’t put my finger on why. My best guess is that we didn’t have a one year old with us (I should reflect back on one year old Abe more often when I’m having a hard time dealing with three year old Abe). We were here in early June, so school was still in session for local kids, and on a weekday. We had the whole place nearly to ourselves early in the morning and again in late afternoon; we shared space with lots of school groups in the middle part of the day.
When you buy your tickets, you get a map and a schedule for the day; there was a staggering number of scheduled events, particularly given that it was a relatively uncrowded weekday. We only managed to make it to a handful.
Dave and the older kids listened to a talk about the Charles W. Morgan, a restored whaling ship that’s the oldest surviving commercial ship in the country.
Abe was not interested in sitting still for that, so I took him across the street where we checked out the print shop and one of the many historic homes and gardens you can tour:
Abe was so fascinated by the print shop, he wanted to take his brothers there to see it themselves. The woman working there had given Abe a very quick, toddler appropriate demonstration of the printing press; when the older kids came in, she went into a lot more detail for them:
Later on, Milo and Gus learned to make rope:
They got to keep the rope, and Gus has been carrying his around with him on and off ever since. Free souvenir!
And right before we left for the day, we took in some live music:
Most of the day we spent exploring unscheduled. There are so many buildings you can go into and read all about their histories (and often there are people working in them to answer questions and/or do demonstrations):
There are, of course, many ships and boats to explore:
Look! They had a bunkhouse in the whaling ship just like in our trailer!
I really liked this one–an old, decaying ship that they’ve built up walkways around and through so you can get a look at the “skeleton:”
Milo and Gus, especially, really liked the shipyard area. They talked a lot about how they were going to build a boat of their own when we got home….but I haven’t heard anything else about it since.
(I couldn’t stop making these photos black and white when I edited them. They seem to want to be that way).
This is a working preservation shipyard; you can watch people working on restoring old ships in one area.
They have a scavenger hunt for kids, called Navigation Quest, involving using a compass and finding clues. We did a similar program in Williamsburg, but this one was much less time consuming. Therefore I liked it better:
And the prizes at the end were surprisingly good. They got to choose between a tote bag, a book, this set of notecards, and a couple of other things (I would guess it’s all stuff that didn’t sell on clearance at the gift shop, but still, it was more exciting than a trading card or something):
There are several different museums to check out. We focused on the kid-centered ones. We all enjoyed the Discovery Barn, especially Abe, who stayed there with Dave for probably a good hour while the rest of us went over to the Shipyard and then made rope:
Abe was playing with this water table designed to show you how the shape of boats affects how they move though the water when we left. I called Dave much later, after we made rope. “We’re still exactly where you left us,” he said. Abe knows SO MUCH about boats and science and stuff now!
And he could have spent all day at the small, adorable children’s museum, making us all food in the play kitchen:
We bought fudge, of course, after trying out some samples:
The gift shops were really nice and had some good quality stuff. Ari even found a t-shirt that met his very high design standards. And we bought a hat for Milo to replace the one he lost in the Shenandoah River. Also colorful rocks:
Everyone really liked this big model of the Mystic River:
By the end of the day, we were very tired:
In short (and, wow, this post IS short for me! Just barely hitting 1000 words! Because I’m making up for it with tons of pictures), we had a great time at Mystic Seaport. There was SO MUCH to do, and it did a great job of hitting that fun for the whole family, even when you’re family includes a huge age range of kids spot….not always an easy feat. I’d love to come back sometime and spend at least part of a second day here and also explore more of the area.
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