special travel section - Vitality Magazine Cape Cod
SPECIAL TRAVEL SECTION
If you’ve ever stopped at the Mystic,
Connecticut exit off I-95 to get gas or
food near Exit 90, or if you’ve just looked
down from the Interstate and seen the
signage on the southeast side of the
intersection of I-95 and Rt. 27 from the
highway, you may be under the mistaken
impression that "Mystic Village" (a
shopping center) and the Mystic
Aquarium, (which you can see from the
Interstate), are the only main attractions
in Mystic. Such is not the case.
Over the years, the signage as you get
history--sort of Mystic’s answer to
· Downtown Mystic (which offers
shopping and restaurants, a historic
drawbridge, and gorgeous scenery).
ATTRACTIONS IN THE MYSTIC
Mystic Seaport: The Museum of
America & The Sea: This recreated 19thcentury seafaring village is made up of
dozens of real New England buildings
staffed with historians, musicians,
storytellers and craftspeople who bring
The misleading sign that greets drivers coming off I-95.
off Interstate 95 and head south on Rt. 27
has indeed caused confusion. To
overcome the confusion, here are the key
points of interest in Mystic in a nutshell:
· The Mystic Aquarium (next to I95)
· Mystic Village (the Shopping
Center next to I-95)
· Mystic Seaport: The Museum of
America & The Sea (a 17-acre trip into
From the deck of the Charles W. Morgan,
a view of the Joseph Conrad.
PAGE 24, VITALITY, July 2004
our seafaring past to life, from
shipsmiths and coopers, to woodcarvers
The Seaport started back in 1929
when an industrialist, a lawyer and a
physician formed the Marine Historical
Association--forefunner to today’s
Mystic Seaport. Their mission was to
"create a dynamic educational
institution that would preserve
America’s maritime culture, and turn
the achievements of the past era into an
inspirational force for the future."
Mystic Seaport has three main
areas: the Shipyard, the Village and
The “Shipyard” is a remarkable
place, mainly because the art of wooden
shipbuilding is largely a lost art. It
includes a 1920 sawmill, a spar lathe that
can turn a 100’ log, and exhibits on
shipbuilding and marine engines. You
can also see where the recreated Amistad was constructed in 1998. (Also in the
film "Amistad", Mystic Seaport
represented New Haven Harbor of
The recreated 19th century
“Village” is where you can board the tall
ships, including: the Charles W.
Morgan, the Emma C. Berry, the Sabino
and the L.A. Dunton. You’ll also enjoy
the shops and talking to tradesmen like
the cooper and the blacksmith.
The "Exhibit Galleries" are brimming with permanent and changing
exhibits offering glimpses into other eras
and cultures, including the acclaimed
Voyages: Stories of America and the Sea,
restored vessels, figureheads, ship
carvings and vintage photography. The
new exhibit “Sea Dogs” celebrates canine
participation in the maritime world.
While in the Exhibit Galleries, try
the nearby Seaman's Inn for lunch or
dinner. It's typical New England fare and
the dress is casual. Open 7 days. (860572-5303).
Mystic Seaport is open every day of
the year except Christmas. Adult
admission to the 17-acre facility is $17
and is good for two consecutive days.
The Mystic Aquarium was opened in
1973 in Stonington, Connecticut. In 1999,
it reopened, having united with Dr.
Robert Ballard’s Institute for Exploration. The merging of the two and the
expansion of the 18-acre facility was at a
cost of $52 million. It has 36 exhibits
containing 200 plus species and 4,400
You know this Aquarium is going to
be different the minute you walk up to the
entry pavilion designed by worldrenowned architect Cesar Pelli. It is
reminiscent of 19th-century garden
Inside the Aquarium, there’s a
30,000-gallon coral reef exhibit with
above and below-water viewing.
The California Coast exhibit is a
5,000-gallon Western habitat allowing
visitors to feel a part of the exhibit.
Pribilof Islands exhibit features
Steller sea lions, the largest of all sea
lions, and northern fur seals.
Lions of the Sea is a fast-paced, fun
show that has people and sea lions
Also at the Aquarium, folks of every
age group enjoy getting very close to the
Beluga whale or the penguins. The
Aquarium’s new Immersion Project
allows you to travel to the depths of
America’s National Marine Sanctuaries.
Deep sea cameras, a remotely-operated
vehicle and a live video, fed to their
interactive theater let you explore the
seas. There’s also the ever-popular Sea
Lion Show. (www.mysticaquarium.org)
Institute for Exploration has
exhibits highlighting Dr. Ballard’s
current and ongoing research projects
including Challenge of the Deep, which
explains the technology he utilizes for
deep ocean explorations, such as the one
that located Titanic; “PT 109 Courage
Under Fire”, which explains the finding
of JFK’s PT109, which was sunk by a
Japanese destroyer, and “Noah’s Flood
and Ancient Shipwreck,” which to date
has discovered an ancient Phoenician
The newest exhibits include Return to
Titanic, which includes an 18’ scale
replica of the Titanic, and “Salvage
Ancient Seas.“ (www.ife.org)
A couple of minute's drive from
Mystic you'll find Stonington's Old
Lighthouse Museum, which commemorates the first government lighthouse in
Connecticut, built in 1823. The original
30’ tower was once a beacon for ships
approaching Stonington’s habor from
L.I. Sound. It remained active until 1840.
Located at DuBois Beach, in Stonington,
it is open 10-5 daily during July and
Blacksmithing at Mystic Seaport
August and closed Mondays the other
The 16-room Captain Nathaniel B.
Palmer House is a national historic
landmark. (Nathaniel Palmer is credited
with the discovery of Antarctica and also
The ship’s bow figurehead collection at
the Exhibit Galleries, Mystic Seaport
A 19th century conveyance at visiting Mystic Seaport
SPECIAL TRAVEL SECTION
The quaint, very pubby lounge at the Seaman’s Inn at Mystic Seaport
Stonington’s Old Lighthouse Museum
being instrumental in the building of the
fastest and largest clipper ships.) Built in
1852 by two brothers--Captains Nathaniel Brown Palmer and Alexander
Smith Palmer, the house is located at the
upper end of Stonington Harbor. Once
threatened by demolition, the home was
purchased by the Stonington Historical
Society in 1994 and is now preserved. The
house is open 10-4 daily except Mondays.
For more information, call 860-535-8445.
Another interesting activity located
near Foxwoods (only 7 miles from
Mystic), is the Mashantucket Pequot
Museum & Research Center--the largest
native American research center in
America. Don’t be fooled by this
museum’s prison-like exterior, (which
belies its well-designed and very
interesting interior). The 85,000-squarefoot museum relates the Pequot’s
journey beginning with the last Ice Age
through present day. One film that
visiters should not miss is ”Federal
Recognition”, which tells the story of how
the Tribe received Federal recognition as
a tribe. It’s a fascinating story.
There are other films and videos
throughout the museum, plus dioramas
that are meticulously done. There is also
an actual archeological dig a few hundred
yards from the museum that you can ask
day 9-5, except on some holidays.
Admission is $15 or $13 for seniors. The
museum has an excellent cafeteria that
serves lunch. For more information
about the Museum, call 800-411-9671
Where to stay?
While dozens of hotels have sprung
up in the area in recent years, the nicest
place to stay in Mystic is still the 67-room
Inn At Mystic. It’s right downtown at the
corner of Rt. 27 and Rt. 1. Looking at this
elevated property from street level on
Route 1, the size of the Inn is deceiving.
Actually, the several buildings on the
property cover 15 acres. It's easy to
understand why the grounds were used
centuries ago by native Indians due to its
elevated position (a natural fortification)
overlooking the Mystic waterfront.
One of the Inn’s buildings is the
colonial revival Haley Mansion, built in
The lounge at the Flood Tide Restaurant
The Inn At Mystic’s pool area and Flood Tide Restaurant
prepared table side. They also have
1904. And although all of the Inn’s rooms
several unique entrees prepared by Chef
are tasteful and squeeky clean, a room in
Bob Tripp in a wood-fired grill, oven and
the mansion is a wonderful experience.
rotisserie. And there are a number of
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall
sauteed specialties on the menu as well.
stayed in this lovely home on their
A pianist plays nightly on the weekends.
honeymoon. Rooms are decorated with
Breakfast and lunch is served daily as well
period furnishings, a queen-sized bed,
Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House
The “Mansion” at the Inn At Mystic
One of many dioramas at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center
to see. Wear some appropriate shoes,
The Pequot Museum is open every
whirlpool and done in designer fabrics.
These rooms overlook an orchard on one
side, with formal gardens and a pond with
a waterfall on the other side.
Also interesting are the rooms in the
Gate House, which contain period
antiques, English paneling and fireplaces
with imported mantels.
The Inn contains one of the nicest
restaurants in town: the Flood Tide
Restaurant. It’s one of the few places left
where you can still get a Caesar’s salad
as Afternoon tea--served from 4-5 pm.
When booking your room, be sure to
ask about the many interesting special
packages offered by the Inn At Mystic.
The most unique includes a tour of the
Newport mansions in a Rolls Royce.
There’s a Haley Mansion Anniversary
Package that’s very romantic. Other
plans include meals and other options.
Mystic is exit 90 off I-95 and is a little
over 2 hours drive from Cape Cod.
There’s plenty to do there. And don’t
leave without letting yourself get lost on
the side streets of Mystic, Stonington and
Noank. These are charming residential
neighborhoods with historic home
architecture. Also, be sure to take River
Road, which goes around the “Mystic
And thanks for traveling.
YOU READ IT
A Beluga Whale at Mystic Aquarium
The Mystic Aquarium entry pavillion designed by architect Cesar Pelli
PAGE 25, VITALITY, July 2004