If you are looking for a quick getaway with lots of stuff to do then a trip to Mystic, CT should be on your list of places to go for couples or with the kids.
Over spring break, I took my three kids to Mystic, CT for a 2 night get-away (just about 2 hours and 40 minutes from Long Island) and we were all tired at the end of each day because there was so much to see and do. We stayed at The Hampton Inn hotel, in Groton, CT which was inexpensive, has an indoor pool, free continental breakfast and we enjoyed our stay short there. It was 5 minutes by car from all the attractions and sites in Mystic.
Our first stop was the Historic Ship Nautilus Submarine Force Library and Museum, in Groton, CT. This was a great place to explore and my kids were in heaven. Inside the museum are working periscopes, an authentic submarine control room and models showing the development of the US Submarine Force from its beginning at the turn of the century to the modern Navy. USS NAUTILUS is docked and now decommissioned.
All visitors may explore the Nautilus as a self-guided tour. On board the submarine, each person will be given an audio wand that describes the things you are seeing; my kids thought this was great and it was informative and answered all their questions. The Nautilus is appropriate for small children but there is no stroller access on the Nautilus itself, so you would either have to carry them or they would have to walk for a short period of time. Allow about an hour to an hour and one half to tour the entire museum including Nautilus. No food or drinks are allowed in the museum, but at the far end of the parking lot there is a picnic area where they can eat. There are handicapped restroom facilities and an elevator to the second floor.
Admission: is FREE TO EVERYONE!!!
Hours of Operation: Wednesday through Monday 9am-5pm; CLOSED TUESDAYS
Located at 1 Crystal Lake Road Conning Towers-Nautilus Park, Connecticut 06340 (860) 448-0893
Our next stop was the Mystic Aquarium, in Mystic, CT. The kids loved it because there were many touch tanks. The first place we went was the Ray Touch Pool to feel all the Manta Rays as they swam around. This was their favorite spot and we visited it twice. The indoor exhibits also offer a shark touch tank and a crab touch tank, both with attendants to answer questions. There are so many fish, jellies and other animals to see. There is a California Sea Lion show offered a few times daily. Outside you can see the Beluga Whales, the Sea Lions and the African Penguins and the marsh lands. All major credit cards are accepted. To eat at the aquarium, there is the Penguins Cafe, adjacent to the Ocean Planet Pavilion, has a great menu with a variety of foods sure to satisfy guests of all ages. If you prefer, there’s also a picnic area near the east end of the parking lot.
General Admission: Adult $29
Senior (age 60+) $26
Children (age 3 – 17) $21
Children (age 2 and under) Free
Hours of Operation: Mystic Aquarium is open daily. April – October: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
November: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Once inside, guests may visit one additional hour after close.
Parking is always free.
55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, CT 06355-1997
Our final destination was The Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea, which is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Plan on spending the whole day because there is a great deal to do and see for all ages. There are daily activities and also theme days. We happened to visit on “Pirate Day” and the premises was covered with pirates walking around and working the different areas to visit. During theme days there is an additional cost while paying your admission fee. With the extra fee on Pirate day, kids were given a map, had to visit several locations of the premises and get a signature by a pirate at each location to ultimately be given the treasure of a gold doubloon (a gold coin) after all areas of the treasure hunt were met.
Explore American maritime history first-hand as you stroll through a re-created 19th-century coastal village or watch a working preservation shipyard in action. Founded in 1929, more than 300,000 people continue to visit Mystic Seaport annually. There were huge ships docked for visitors to board, a replica lighthouse to go in and watch a short film, a restoration ship to climb on called the Charles W Morgan, which is the world’s largest whale ship. The Shipsmith Shop was educational and interesting to observe the workers making hooks before our eyes and view the different kinds harpoons crafted for whale ships. There is Horse and Carriage Rides available at an additional cost offered seasonally. You can rent boats or even learn about the stars in the Treworgy Planetarium.
For little ones there are a wide variety of activities for learning and fun. There is the wooden ship play-scapes area for children to climb on and use their imaginations as my kids did for quite a long time! There is “past times and play things” on the third floor of the Stillman building where kids and adults can step back in time and try your luck at an old-fashioned game of skittles or checkers, or test your skills with tavern puzzles, knot making and toys of long ago. Since it was Pirate day, the free craft offered was to decorate a felt pirate hat which my kids enjoyed. There is also a puppet theater with puppets there to play at too.
We also visited the Children’s Museum where kids can use nautical flag cards to spell out their names by following the pictures on a display card, do puzzles, or play and act in the mini-kitchen area or the wooden boat.
A favorite spot was in the Mallory Exhibit Hall where there were all kinds of hands-on musical instruments to play and my kids participated in a new workshop to make their very own box banjos using tools, nails and glue. There are many activities going on throughout the day and on the weekends, children can make their own wooden boats. Check the website for upcoming events from now to September.
There are a few places to take a break and dine: The Galley, which was where we ate and enjoyed some lunch; the Latitude 41° Restaurant & Tavern, the Cake & Bake shop and the seasonal Shaefer’s Spouter Tavern are also nice places to eat. Vending machines are also available in many locations. You can also eat your own packed food at many picnic tables located in many locations.
Shop at the Museum Store, the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport and the Variety Store for books, gifts and souvenirs.
My kids (ages 9, 6 ½, and 5) and I enjoyed ourselves and all the activities that were available to do at the Seaport. I wish we had more time to get to every building, but we only got to explore the Seaport for one afternoon. We plan on visiting again, this time with my husband, so he can enjoy all that the Seaport has to offer.
Adult (18-64) $24
Senior (65 +) $22, Youth (6-17) $15
College Student, w/ID $22, Children (5 and under) Free!
*Each ticket is good for 2 days, just ask the attendant to validate each ticket and comeback within one week to finish your exploration. There are also other admission packages offered which can be viewed on the website.
Hours of Operation: March 31 – October 28
Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Weekend Activity Schedule (valid March 31 – June 17, 2012)
Weekday Activity Schedule (valid April 2 – June 22, 2012)
Mystic Seaport is located about 10 miles east of New London in Connecticut’s “Ocean Corner” — part of the Mystic Country region.
*The only compensation I was given on this trip was 4 complimentary admission tickets to the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea (no extras for Pirate Day, Carriage rides or food).