This is a historic little village like Sturbridge, MA but smaller and geared towards boats in Mystic, Connecticut. There’s a children’s museum building with a play kitchen, bunk beds, play fishing, puzzles, books, and an area outside where kids can wash something by hand and put it on a line. My girls, who act like they are dying of plague whenever there’s a chore to be done, really enjoyed the clothes line. Hmmmm….
This building is by a playground made from several boat structures that kids can climb on. The next building is a small planetarium (small fee). Note that it’s small and really dark, and not as high tech as some larger planetariums but my girls, starting at ages 5 and 6, enjoyed the 45-minute presentation lead by a person (not like some shows that are all theater, colorful, and fast-moving).
You can take a horse-and-carriage ride (small fee) and enjoy an audience-participation show: There are different themes and the actors do a great job interacting with (mostly) kids.
There are opportunities for kids to build boats (small fee), take a boat for a spin (fee), explore historic boats, peek into an old one-room schoolhouse, a printing shop, a cooperage, etc. Also check for demonstrations like setting a sail and dropping an anchor. There’s a puppet playhouse in the Home Port with a great variety of puppets including mermaids and pirates. This was good for a full half hour for my kids. They put on shows they invented with other kids and had a blast.
Parking is free, well marked, and is in two lots across the street (there are lights and crosswalks) from the seaport. Each entrance now has a visitor center. Just last month the seaport opened a new visitor center by the north parking lot: The Thompson Exhibition Building is a 14,000-square-foot facility that is the cornerstone and final element of the McGraw Gallery Quadrangle, a $15.3 million project that integrated existing buildings and grounds with new construction.
Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929, it is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship and the last wooden whaleship in the world. It holds more than two million artifacts in its collection.
The seaport occupied my kids for a good half day. It’s expensive: Admission is $26 for adults and $17 for children ages 6-17; children under 5 free.
The first thing to know about this aquarium is that it’s mostly outdoors. Rain, snow, wind, small children, strollers, umbrellas…A staff member told me that many kids don’t bring coats in the middle of winter on class trips thinking they’ll be inside.
The second thing to know is that it’s ridiculously popular. Get there ten minutes before it opens, park, and be among the first to enter to have the best experience. The aquarium not only gets tourists and locals but school groups, camp groups, etc. When we went this summer as it opened we got rock star parking, and went right to the beluga whale. Unencumbered by crowds, I got good photos of my kids with these sweet creatures.
There are signs posted re times of seal shows so make note and start making your way to the auditorium about 10-15 minutes before it starts. The theater I think seats 1,000 people and they fill it several times a day. The show we saw was not very exciting to me but my kids (ages 7 and 8) enjoyed it. It was about 20 minutes long. There were a lot of moving spotlights, high energy music, and bits where the seals swam to different places on command.
We were there for penguin feeding time, which was interesting. One staffer hands out fish while the other notates which penguin ate what. The aquarium doesn’t name the penguins (I asked); they have numbers, which I thought was odd since there weren’t that many of them.
We made our way across a little bridge over a pond thick with pretty flowering lily pads. We spotted several frogs and appreciated the landscaping with tall grasses and other marsh greenery. There was an opportunity to feed a machine a dollar and get a special coin to control a miniature boat with a steering wheel.
We watched the seal show and then it started to rain so everyone who was outside came inside just at the point that we were going to see the indoor exhibits. The kids decided not to fight for a spot to pet the rays. They waited in line close to ten minutes to pet a reptile of some sort. My husband and I had to split up to keep our eyes on our kids, which was challenging in the squish of people. We were happy to leave and were surprised to see lots of cars circling for spots. They have a serious amount of parking and there were cars as far as the eye could see and no empty spots at 1pm on a summer weekday.
See my other Mystic blog entry about where I recommend for lunch and what else to do in Mystic.
Parking is free. Aquarium admission is $34.99 adults, $29.99 seniors, $28.99 ages 13-17, $24.99 3-12; age 2 and under free.
Good for both seaport and aquarium plus dining and lodging discounts. Adult $58, seniors $51, youth 13-17 $43, kids 6-12 $39. Ages 3-5 aquarium only $24; seaport 5 and under free.