The Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, one of Connecticut's preeminent cultural attractions, has only been open since the summer of 1998, but its fascinating exhibits take visitors back in time... way back to the Ice Age, as a matter of fact.
You may shiver a bit as an escalator transports you through thick, blue walls of perspiring ice to arrive at a time some 11,000 years ago when the glaciers finally receded and the first humans inhabited New England.
You will likely realize right away that whatever amount of time you've budgeted for exploring the immense museum, it won't quite be enough to fully appreciate all that is here to view, touch and absorb.
The 308,000-square-foot facility is five stories high, and the first two floors are dedicated to public exhibits that tell the story of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, from its origins to today. Even if you don't necessarily consider yourself a "museum person," you are likely to be drawn in by the extraordinarily lifelike dioramas depicting everything from a caribou hunt to everyday life in a Native American village, by the touch-screen computers that invite you to delve into the scenes depicted and by the audio tour that adds rich, realistic sounds and interesting and entertaining stories to your stroll through the village.
Throughout the museum, you'll also find cozy, dark theaters where you can view dramatic films; galleries spotlighting handcrafts, artifacts and changing special exhibitions; and interactive, multimedia installations that invite visitors of all ages to listen, touch and experience many aspects of Native American culture.
Outdoors, a 1780s Farmstead recreates the life of the tribe after the introduction of European tools and traditions.
Your walk through history culminates in the portrait gallery, where enlarged, black and white photographs provide a glimpse of the faces of contemporary Pequots. Devastated by losses in the Pequot War of 1636 to 1638, the tribe has only in recent times regained federal recognition and financial stature, largely as a result of the success of its Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Call ahead to inquire about the schedule of events at the museum, which often includes musical performances, storytelling, lectures, cooking demonstrations and special tours.
Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center Quick Facts
Location: The museum is located in southeastern Connecticut at 110 Pequot Trail in the town of Mashantucket.
Getting There: From Hartford, follow Route 2 East to Route 395 South to Route 2A East to a right onto Route 2 East to Mashantucket. Once you've passed the main entrance to Foxwoods Resort Casino on your right, take a right at the next traffic light onto Route 214. Turn right on Pequot Trail in 0.3 miles.
Additional directions are available at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum Web site.
Free parking is available at the museum.
Public Hours: The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. from early April through early December. The last admission is at 4 p.m. The Mashantucket Pequot Museum is closed on the 4th of July and Thanksgiving Day. During the winter off-season, the museum is open to members only on Wednesdays.
Admission: As of 2016, admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors 65 and older and college students with ID, $12 for children 6 to 17 and free for children 5 and under.
For More Information: Call toll free, 800-411-9671 or visit the Pequot Museum online.