The American east coast was built on the seafaring industry – shops carried settlers from Europe and later carried goods for trade between the European powers and their colonies while commercial fishing provided trade and food for the New World. For visitors to this historic part of the United States, Mystic Seaport in Connecticut is the place to take in a full helping of cultural, colonial and ship-building history. Here you will find a re-created 19th century fishing village with living exhibits and staff in period costume. You will be invited to explore restored antique ships and explore the history of the east coast fisheries.
When you first enter the village, head left to the docks where you will see the museum’s ship restoration projects underway. Mystic is one of the few places in the world that specializes in building antique-style ships and restoring period vessels. Here you will see the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world. Step on board one of the real exhibit ships and get a taste of what sea life was like for 19th century whalers. You might be surprised to know that captains could bring their whole family on a whaling trip, and whaling vessels featured separate quarters for the captain’s family to dine and live. At the Henry Dupont Ship Preservation Yard, you can watch the craftsmen working on ships and there will be an expert shipbuilder on hand to answer all of your questions.
Then make your way throughout the village. You will be greeted by staff who are in full character; they will not only entertain you, but they have lots to teach about everything from rope-making, to nautical instruments, to 19th century education. Grab a drink at Schaeffer’s Spouter Tavern where you will hear raucous drinking songs or enjoy a proper meal at Latitude 41 degrees Restaurant. Be sure to stop into the Discovery Barn with the kids and explore some of the children’s activities throughout the village. Not to be missed is the Figureheads exhibit, featuring busts and figureheads that once adorned the front of great seafaring vessels – there are some remarkable unique items in here!
In the summer time you have the option of renting a boat from the museum’s boathouse or enjoy a ride on the resident steamboat, the Sabino. On your way back through the visitor’s centre, stop in at the Maritime Gallery where you will see the leading collection of model ships and marine art in the United States. Cap off your day of nautical activities with a stroll through historic downtown Mystic or a sightseeing cruise on the Mystic River.