Mystic Seaport celebrates the seafaring past of New England. Known as The Museum of America and the Sea, the seaport is an entertaining journey through 19th century nautical life.
This is the third part in the series of popular attractions for New England vacations with a historical theme. Others in the series are Plymouth Plantation, Mayflower II, and Old Sturbridge Village.
Located 100 miles from Boston on Route 95 at exit 90 in Connecticut, the Mystic Seaport exhibits are open between 9-5pm April-October, and 10-4:00pm November ? March.
Here's what you'll see and how to get the best out of your trip.
There's three main exhibits at Mystic Seaport: the historic ships, the authentic seaport village and exhibits, and the preservation shipyard.
Whenever I visit Mystic Seaport I head straight for the Tall Ships in the museum dock area. I'm just drawn to these magnificent vessels, and the most popular to tour is the Charles W. Morgan ? a wonderful example of a wooden whaling ship. It made 37 whaling trips from its launch in 1841 and before retiring in 1921.
The Joseph Conrad and L.A.Dunton are the other fine specimens of Tall Ships in the museum collection.
These ships alone are worth the trip to Mystic Seaport. But two others with a unique and rich history are the Sabino and Emma C. Berry. More later about the Sabino, but Emma C. first launched in 1866, and since then has undergone many changes as a fishing vessel and a coastal freighter. She was beautifully restored and donated to Mystic Seaport in 1969.
THE AUTHENTIC VILLAGE AND EXHIBITS?
A short walk from the ships is the village exhibits and galleries.
A stroll through the recreated Mystic Seaport village stirs the imagination. Most of the buildings in the village are authentic and moved from other locations in New England and the Northeast.
With 46 exhibits you'll discover a rich assortment of shops, homes, and stores. Amble around the nautical shops and discover rope making, rigging, cooperage, and the sail loft. And two must-see exhibits are the Mystic River Scale Model, and the Shipsmith shop.
Further down from the village check out the galleries and make sure you spend time inside both the Voyages and Figurehead exhibits.
The three-floor exhibit of Voyages celebrates the legacy of America and the sea, and how it continues to impact our lives in many subtle ways. And across the street is the Figurehead exhibit, and a wonderful collection of carvings.
Unfortunately, these carvings are a bittersweet display. The desire for these carvings on ships has dwindled and it's now become an endangered art form.
Now wander back to the shipyard area and get ready to be amazed?
THE PRESERVATION SHIPYARD?
I don't know about you but I've always had a healthy fascination for the old mastercarft skills, and love to watch people work with them. Many of these skills are being lost as the economics of our time reduce the need for them. Wooden ships are a thing of the past, and so the wonderful carpentry and shipwright skills have dwindled throughout the world.
But here in this corner of the world they are uniquely preserved.
In the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard many of these skills are still practiced to keep the museum ships in tip top shape.
In the yard you'll see carpenter's shops, a rigging loft, a paint shop, metalworking shop, lumber shed, and an old-fashioned sawmill. Close by is the documentation shop containing vital records used by the museum's shipwrights, carpenters and riggers, to maintain accuracy as they work on preserving the ships.
Just across from the duPont building is the shipbuilding exhibit. Here you can see the keel of the whaleship Thames, and take in a revealing display of the many stages of building a ship.
And when you're finally ready for a rest take a 30 or 90 minute cruise on the Sabino steamboat as she travels up and down the Mystic River.
Now that you've armed with this information it's time to set the main sail, raise anchor, and head out to Mystic Seaport to experience this all for yourself.
For more information and ticket prices for Mystic Seaport visit their web site at www.mysticseaport.org.
Cliff Calderwood is the owner and contributing writer of the New England vacations guide . You can read more about Mystic Seaport and get a free travel report at his New England vacation site.