The fresh breezes that buffet Mystic's shoreline probably feel much the same as they did 150 years ago, so it's a fitting place to find America's nautical history resurrected. Called Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, includes 19 acres of exhibition space. In addition to the museum proper, the complex hosts a recreated 19th-century sea-faring village, a working shipyard, and extensive gardens that blanket the grounds. Live museum staff lead demonstrations and performances throughout, even welcoming guests aboard the National Historic Landmark vessels moored in port. On Wednesdays through Mondays, captains take visitors out on the water in a coal-fired steamboat to experience the river and town from a different angle. They also rent out their small boats seasonally, to visitors who can comfortably handle being in charge of a boat. When tired of ship studying and naval gazing, guests can head to the Treworgy Planetarium and turn their eyes to the stars, learning how to chart courses in the manner of ancient captains, modern astronauts, and late-night deliverymen.
At the Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, kids can build skyscrapers out of giant foam blocks, experience flight with a small zipline, and learn about cultures on other continents in a global village. Apart from the sciences, the exhibits also focus on the arts and health, whereas two outdoor play places make it easy to burn off energy with a climbing wall and tree house. The 5,000-square-foot museum has everything children need to explore, leaving them only limited by the power of their imaginations.
The Connecticut River spans 410 miles from the border of Canada to Long Island Sound. Inside the Connecticut River Museum, visitors can span that space through exhibits that tell the stories of the river and the people who have lived along it. Aerial photographs and a large mural depict the evolution of the river communities through time, and the “On the Great River” exhibit showcases the early history of the river through artifacts and works of art. A reproduction of David Bushnell’s “Turtle” allows visitors to get up close to the submarine, turn the propeller, and pump the ballast intake. A huge mural, cannonballs, and ship fragments recall the night in April, 1814 when British forces traveled upriver and burned the privateer fleet in Essex. The river played a key role in the development of towns and cities in New England, providing everything as transportation routes to waterpower.
Along with long term and special exhibits, the Museum offers educational programs for adults and children as well as seasonal boat cruises up the River. Cruises travel along the lower river valley, labeled one of America’s last great places by the Nature Conservancy.