Inside a neo-Romanesque building on the Norwich Free Academy campus, Slater Memorial Museum traces local and world history with an extensive art collection. More than 150 plaster casts of classical and Renaissance sculpture tower above basketry, ceremonial masks, and leatherwork from African artisans, as well as artifacts from Mesopotamia and Persia. Saving space for those from North American shores, the museum also displays work from 19th-century Norwich artists, such as Denison Crocker and John Trumbull, plus pieces from 20th-century Connecticut artists, such as Ozias Dodge and Charlotte Fuller Eastman. The galleries host annual rotating exhibitions and events. Visitors courting their own muse can craft metal art and jewelry at adult art classes, and kid artistes sample a range of disciplines from printmaking and watercolors.
Within a 308,000-square-foot complex run by the government of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation lies the keys to unlock 20,000 years of Native American history. Atop a 185-foot tower made from stone and glass, visitors drink in views of the region before heading back downstairs to visit the exhibits. Life-size, walk-through dioramas and live performances tell stories via interactive means, and two libraries keep archival materials that are perusable by children and adults. In addition to the permanent exhibits, special events take place throughout the year from harvest festivals to beading circles.
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 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.
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.
Don't be fooled. Though it looks like a relatively small coaster, the Wooden Warrior at Quassy Amusement & Waterpark packs some serious thrills. A turnaround through a pitch-black tunnel and ample amounts of "air time" have made this coaster a favorite for many; in fact, The Coaster Critic put it on the list of the top 25 wooden coasters in 2012. And that's just 1 of more than 20 attractions sprinkled across the park grounds.
Once home to a summer resort, Quassy Amusement Park first began with a picnic area, paddleboats and a carousel. But Quassy really took shape around 1952, when the owners purchased some children's rides. A couple of the rides are still around today, including a boat ride that skims the surface of a circular trough filled with water, and two-seat jet fighters that send flyers up in an aircraft worthy of Flash Gordon. Of course, new kids' attractions have arrived over the decades, including the Frog Hopper, a seating platform that soars up a 16-foot tower and then descends with a series of quick, gentle drops.
Other areas cater to the whole family. Water cannons, fountains, and two slides drench visitors at the Splash Away Bay Water Park, and the Grand Carousel spins with jumping horses and other animals that have the patience to sit perfectly still.
The largest attraction at Quassy Amusement & Waterpark is Lake Quassapaug, and the park makes great use of its waterfront location. In addition to lounging on the beach, visitors can take a boat tour or charter their own voyages on paddle boats.
Inside tip: When not on rides, park visitors should play a game of Whac-A-Mole or order some ribs at Quassy Restaurant.
Take a virtual ride on the park's star attraction, the Wooden Warrior.