Mystic, Rich in History

By Kathie Farnell

Mystic, Connecticut, a region steeped in the history of the sea, also offers visitors a chance to experience everything from the lives of Native Americans to the life of a Hollywood legend.

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall honeymooned here, back when the elegant Inn at Mystic was a private home. The world’s only remaining wooden whaling ship is open for tours at the Mystic Seaport. And nearby, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center offers an in-depth, interactive look at the Pequot Tribal Nation’s journey from the Ice Age to modern times.

First stop on anyone’s tour of Mystic is the Mystic Seaport, American’s leading maritime museum. Its seventeen acres along the Mystic River include its collection of more than 500 vessels as well as dozens of historic New England buildings. Centerpiece of the seaport is the Charles W. Morgan. The Morgan, built in 1841, is the only surviving wooden whaling ship in the world.

Tours of the ship offer a glimpse at the cramped lives of whalers on their five-year voyages. Next year, the Morgan will make history of another sort when it undergoes repairs and restoration using wood from trees uprooted by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast.

This winter, the Mystic Seaport is home to the Amistad, the modern-day replica of the sailing ship which was the site of a successful rebellion by African captives, a story told in the movie “Amistad.” Elsewhere on the grounds, the Seaport hosts everything from weddings to summer camp to the filming of FedEx commercials.

The Seaman’s Inne, a restaurant which is reliably reported to be haunted—staff members don’t like to linger after closing—serves up regional specialties including clam chowder and cider.

The Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration gives visitors a chance to watch beluga whales, penguins, sea lions and a huge assortment of fish, and to see exhibits from the Institute for Exploration’s deep-sea finds, which include the Titanic and President Kennedy’s PT 109.

In nearby Mashantucket, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, an 85,000 square foot facility named by the Hartford Courant as “the most ambitious new museum in America” offers state-of-the-art computer interactives, lifelike dioramas, films and videos depicting the history of the Pequot Tribal Nation for the last 20,000 years. A 185-foot-tall observation tower offers a view over the Pequot Reservation and surrounding countryside. The museum’s restaurant, in addition to more mundane fare, serves up antelope and elk burgers.

Clyde’s Cider Mill in the Village of Old Mystic, the oldest steam powered cider mill in the United States, offers tours and tastings of its cider–both sweet and hard–and apple wine. Sweet cider is pressed daily from September through December, and the mill also sells apples, apple pies, pumpkin bread, gourds, and meal ground in its own 1920 grist mill.

The Inn at Mystic gives the visitor an opportunity to follow in the romantic footsteps of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who spent their 1945 honeymoon in the Inn’s gatehouse. The Inn’s rooms offer fireplaces, elegant furnishings and views over the Mystic Harbor and Long Island Sound. Room rates include breakfast and afternoon tea in the Flood Tide Restaurant, as well as use of canoes, kayaks, a tennis court and heated outdoor pool.

Packages feature everything from Rolls Royce tours of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, to a December lantern-light tour of Mystic Seaport.

For more information on visiting Mystic, visit the following sites:

* www.mysticaquarium.org
* www.mysticseaport.org
* www.mashantucket.com

For reservations at the Inn at Mystic, check the site at www.innatmystic.com

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