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, the extensive grounds could almost qualify as a theme park. In addition to the museum proper, the complex hosts a rebuilt 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 four National Historic Landmark vessels moored in port. Nearby, 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 vessels to other licensed boaters seasonally, who can sail or row their way across the Mystic River. 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.
Since 1997, ice skaters have gracefully glided beneath clear skies atop the shiny surface of the outdoor Westport PAL Rink at Longshore. Every night when the sun goes down, overhead lights flicker on around the boards to accommodate late-night triple axels and hockey games delayed by puck strikes. The rink’s instructors are each certified by the United States Figure Skating Association and offer group and private instruction in figure skating, hockey, or basic technique.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studio, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
A crimson curtain rises to unveil the operas, nationally touring musicals, children's shows, and films that pass under the historic movie palace's gilded ceiling. Originally built in 1926 as a home for vaudeville performances and motion pictures, the grand venue has survived more than eight decades with the help of The Garde Arts Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization that formed in 1985 to both preserve the building and pursue its mission "to engage, enrich, entertain, and inspire the region of Greater New London." Today, the center stages a slew of performances and events that keep guests on the edges of all 1,472 seats.
With more than 10 on-water activities, Hamptons Paddleboard lets its customers accomplish everything from catching fish to conquering crashing waves. Led by Captain Mike, a USCG Certified Master Captain with more than 15 years of experience, the team of CPR-certified instructors and captains help students traverse the Hampton's varied aquatic terrain. The crew can teach fledgling aquanauts to smooth out wobbles atop a paddleboard, ski along the water, or successfully snorkel the water's depths. Tours by paddleboard, kayak, or canoe are also available amid the warm, romantic glow of sunset.