Mystic's major attraction is Mystic Seaport, a 17-acre re-creation of a 19th-century maritime community. Your little ones will be happiest in the village area, where they can scramble from one ship to the next -- turning captain's wheels, peeking through portholes, and climbing ladders between decks. The village also has more than 30 historic buildings, including homes, a one-room schoolhouse, and a general store with old-fashioned toys and games on display.
For hands-on activities, plan time at the Children's Museum (ideal for ages 7 and under) and the Discovery Barn (ages 8 and up). The fun includes floating paddleboats, donning sailor's garb, and "cooking" in the galley. Over at the Discovery Barn, young mates can test their seamen's skills tying knots, identifying signal flags, and furling sails.
Older children, as well as sailors and history buffs, will enjoy talks about life on land and sea during the whaling industry's heyday. But the big wows go to Seaport "sailors," who'll climb 60 feet of ropes and rigging to show how a tall ship is readied for sail. Visitors are usually welcome to pitch in with the hauling and hoisting. All hands on deck!
Throughout the day, there are plenty of family events and activities. Here are some of the best:
- A Tale of a Whaler
A funny and fast-moving play about life onboard a whaling ship, with plenty of acting roles for kids. Tell Dad to behave or he might be used as a lighthouse prop.
Presentations on the night sky, celestial navigation, and constellations. On Wednesday evenings in summer, you can view the stars and planets through outdoor telescopes.
- Games on the Village Green
A chance for soccer stars and budding gymnasts to give old-fashioned games like hoops, stilts, graces, and tug-of-war a whirl.
- Arts and crafts
Some days, it's designing scrimshaw and quilt squares. Others, it's rope-making and crafting boats. Activities change constantly but are always creative and fun.
- Preservation Shipyard
Watch craftspeople repair, restore, and maintain the museum's expansive collection of wooden boats.
- Dead Horse ceremony
Sounds gruesome but it's not. This recreation of an old-time tradition involves singing sea chanteys, marching around the deck, throwing a stuffed canvas horse overboard, and setting the sail.
- Horse-drawn carriage rides
Clip-clop your way through the village the way they did in the 19th century. But before you go, visit the street vendors. The ride is even more fun when you're sipping lemonade and munching on snicker-doodle cookies!