The Museum of America and the Sea
This virtual photo tour will show you the sights and scenes that have made Mystic Seaport a popular New England attraction for 75 years. The 17-acre seaport, located on the banks of the Mystic River, is a must-visit destination for anyone with an interest in history, sailing, shipbuilding or the arts. It's also the only place in Connecticut where you can buy a beer for 5 cents, but we'll get to that.
Mystic Seaport is open daily year-round except Christmas Day. For current hours, directions, special events and exhibits and other information on visiting America's preeminent maritime museum, call 860-572-5315 or toll free, 888-973-2767, or visit the Mystic Seaport Web site.
Climb Aboard the Charles W. Morgan
Climbing aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the world's last surviving wooden whaleship, is a quintessential Mystic Seaport experience. It's one of the first things most visitors to the Mystic, Connecticut, attraction do when they arrive. Not only can you stand on deck, you can go below and see the crew's quarters and the blubber room.
The Charles W. Morgan, a National Historic Landmark, is one of more than 500 historic vessels owned by Mystic Seaport. Not all are on display, of course, but visitors can also get an up-close look at the Joseph Conrad, a full-rigged 1882 training ship, and the L.A. Dunton, the last surviving example of an early 20th-century New England fishing boat. In season, you can also book passage aboard Sabino, the only coal-fired passenger ship still in operation, for a leisurely cruise along the Mystic River.
A Whale of a Job
If you didn't get the impression that whaling was a tough way to make a living while aboard the
, then meander over to the nearby Whaleboat Exhibit. Here, you'll see the tools of the whaler's trade including the small whaleboat sailors used to pursue their big catch. When you see the size of the boat... and imagine it pulling up alongside a whale close enough so that the harpooner could make his strike... you'll realize just how dangerous whaling was. Whatever your profession, you'll gain a whole new appreciation for just what a bad day at work could be like.
The Golden Age of Shipbuilding
Mystic, Connecticut, is situated along the state's southeastern shore, and its access to the sea via the Mystic River made it an ideal location for shipbuilding. The first ships were built in Mystic starting in the 1600s, but the period from 1784 to 1919 is considered the "Golden Age" of America's maritime industry. During that period, more than 600 wooden vessels were built along the Mystic River.
In 1929, following the decline of the wooden shipbuilding industry, the Marine Historical Association--now Mystic Seaport--was founded to preserve the maritime culture of this coastal Connecticut town. During its long history, Mystic Seaport has grown exponentially. Today, it boasts the world's largest collections of maritime photography and boats and holds two million other maritime artifacts.
Clip-Clopping Through the Village
Of course, as Mystic's shipbuilding industry flourished, so did the village that sprang up along the banks of the Mystic River. Mystic Seaport features a recreated 19-century coastal village. Visitors can explore on foot, of course, but there's something very authentic about riding through the village in a horse-drawn carriage.
The buildings in the village are historic New England structures, and inside, visitors can interact with historians, musicians, storytellers and talented craftspeople who bring seafaring days to life.
Visiting with the Shipsmith
At Mystic Seaport, talented craftspeople, such as the shipsmith, demonstrate 19th-century skills and discuss their work with visitors. Visitors can also learn about maritime trades in the ship carver's shop and the cooperage.
Other buildings in the Mystic Seaport village include the bank, shipping office, grocery and hardware store, printing office, chapel, schoolhouse, drug store, rope walk, nautical instrument store, mast hoop shop and ship chandlery.
Visitors receive a schedule that includes times and locations for demonstrations, musical performances and interactive activities occuring throughout the day.
Allow at least a half-day, longer if possible, for your visit to Mystic Seaport. Your admission ticket is actually valid for two consecutive days if you have it validated before you leave.
5-Cent Beer Here
Of course, every 19th-century New England coastal village had a tavern. If you look closely at the sign on the tavern at Mystic Seaport, you'll see it advertises an offer that's pretty tough to beat--5-cent beer.
I didn't venture in, but my guide told me you really can order a 5-cent beer inside the tavern. It comes in a really small glass!
A ship's figurehead is the carved wooden figure traditionally mounted on the prow of a ship. An example appears in this photo. In addition to sailing ships and village buildings, Mystic Seaport is also home to a number of exhibition galleries, and my favorite is the figurehead exhibit, where many intricate figureheads from the Seaport's collection of maritime artifacts are displayed.
Oh, the stories these "mascots" could tell of their days at sea. Ships' figureheads were often emblematic of the name of the ship, and many of these works of art were larger than life.
A Passion for Preservation
Mystic Seaport is known for its efforts to preserve America's classic and historic wooden sailing ships. Visitors can observe master craftsmen at work restoring old ships in the Preservation Shipyard.
The is one of the only shipyards of its kind in the world, where 19th-century tools and techniques are still employed in the repair and restoration of great ships. Mystic Seaport's craftsmen have also built authentic recreations of famous ships, such as Amistad.
It's time to get rowing! If this virtual visit to Mystic Seaport has sparked your desire to head for the sea, you'll also want to know that after exploring the Seaport's wonderful ships, shops, buildings and exhibition halls, you can take to the water yourself by renting a small boat to sail or row on the Mystic River.
To plan your visit to Mystic Seaport, call 860-572-5315 or toll free, 888-973-2767, or visit the Mystic Seaport Web site.