Come explore Mystic Country: an area of southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island that has maritime museums and early American history the whole family will enjoy.
A reproduction of Amistad, known around the world as the ‘Freedom Schooner’ depicted in the Steven Spielberg film, is just one of many reasons to visit Mystic Country, a year-round destination comprised of 42 towns and communities in picturesque southeastern Connecticut and coastal Rhode Island. The original Amistad also found its way to New London, Connecticut in 1839, when 53 kidnapped Africans, bound for slavery, over took the ship off the coast of Cuba and erratically traveled north before being taken into custody. In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they were free men.
In addition to the Amistad, families visiting Mystic Seaport – The Museum of America and the Sea can wander around its recreated 19th-century village buildings, tall ships, exhibit galleries and the shipyard, where the nearly-lost art of wooden ship building still thrives. At the seaport, families can partake in a number of seaworthy activities including touring a whaling vessel or hopping aboard the Brilliant, Mystic Seaport’s own schooner available for multi-day and weekend educational adventures for the entire family. Though the Amistad is currently at Mystic Seaport, she is embarking on a 2011 World Tour, so be sure to check for updates on the museum website.
Lovers of the sea should include the Mystic Aquarium in their itinerary. The aquarium is home to several beluga whales, a $9 million Arctic Coast exhibit and the Challenge of the Deep, headed by ocean explorer and RMS Titanic discoverer Robert D. Ballard which “simulates a deep sea dive with interactive exhibits and artifacts from the bottom of the ocean,” states Hope Philbrick, manager of public relations for Mystic Coast & Country Leisure Council, representing the region of Mystic Country. Other animals you can spot at the aquarium currently include jellyfish, penguins, sea lions and seals.
Mystic Pizza was made famous in the 1988 Julia Roberts movie of the same name. The place still stands and the pizza is yummy! Across the street is Mystical Toys, a great place to find something unusual for the kids.
In nearby Groton sits the historic Nautilus/Submarine Force Museum. It’s free of charge to climb aboard the first U.S. nuclear-powered submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus. It is amazing to find out grown up officers spent months under water in such cramped quarters.
The Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, which caters to children 9 months to 9 years, offers hands on experiences in science and technology rooms, a Lego station and garden center, with regularly scheduled programs for visitors.
Nearby is the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center. This interactive environment is America’s largest tribal museum. You could spend a day exploring their tumultuous native history; one exhibit transplants us back 400 years to a Pequot village. A poignant yet disturbing film called The Witness about the Pequot is shown. Younger children should skip it.
Happily, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe is now thriving. They own the Foxwoods Resort Casino, housing a state of the art casino, three luxury hotels including the family friendly Two Trees Hotel. The resort offers big name entertainment and a multitude of restaurants, many of which welcome children. The tribe also owns the Mystic Hilton, located right in downtown Mystic, across the street from the aquarium.
The Mohegans, historic enemies of the Mashantucket Pequot, are also in the gambling game, owning Mohegan Sun in Uncasville. While parents try out lady luck or catch a show, children can check out Kid’s Quest. Kids who are anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 years can be enrolled in this children’s program for about $9/H to as late as 2am on weekends. Hours vary by day and season. To ensure safety, check-in includes providing pertinent information to be input into the Kid’s Quest computer. Parent’s must present a photo ID upon check in and pick up.
Of course, one of the main reasons tourists flock to Mystic Country in summer are the beaches, and there are plenty to chose from, particularly the Misquamicut State Beach in Rhode Island. “This beach is popular because it is surrounded by several economic family hotels. There is a new pavilion with arcades and a waterslide,” adds Philbrick. Mystic Country’s accommodations include family hotels, motels and B&B’s, some pet-friendly.
The Inn at Stonington is a B&B right on the waterfront in the typical small New England town of Stonington, Connecticut. Harbor view rooms are available from the 18 guest rooms, all of which have fireplaces, TVs, and AC.
For more information on the area, visit Mystic Tourism or call 860/536-8822.
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