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Some tips on
Living Simply
 
 

Mystic and More
Connecticut

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By Pat Mestern
 

Mystic & More Tourism Area is the place to spend a week or so for those who must go down to the sea again. Between its sea related attractions and special events, its great architectural treasures, accommodation and restaurants, cultural amenities, historic restorations, entertainments and activities, class one museums, casinos (for those who like this sort of thing), the area meets everyoneís expectations for a good vacation experience.

As in most of my articles where distances are not great, a central location to use as home base is recommended. We stayed at Groton Inn & Suites on Route #184, which provided quick access to highways, interstates and by-ways. We are not great "Interstate" folk, preferring instead to use the less traveled roads. This strategy gives us the opportunity to see, and enjoy, an area at our leisure - and its best - no hassle, no fuss, no fumes, no traffic jams. Mystic & More has marvelous "less traveled" byways.

Where to begin? Mystic offers so much. The Thames River divides Mystic & More into two distinct areas - that east of the river, and that west of the river. Letís start east of the river. I would suggest one very full day to discover Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium.

Mystic Seaport is a unique seaside village concept. Founded in 1929 the village collection contains more than one million objects, historical treasures and artifacts that tell the story of men, ships and the sea. Known as "The Museum of America and the Sea," visitors are surrounded by restored buildings depicting coastal shore life, work and recreation. Indoor and outdoor displays are numerous and informative. The museumís fleet of ships is impressive. Besides numerous displays, the complex has gift shops and a restaurant.

Ship and street scene at Mystic Seaport

Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration, is home to over 6,000 creatures, familiar and mysterious. In one 30,000 gallon tank, 500 beautiful and exotic fish dazzle visitors. The jelly fish aquarium is one spectacular, unforgettable movement of "grey and white." Beluga whales, penguins and sea lions cavort in outdoor settings. The Alaskan Coast has been recreated with cascading water fall, caves, rocky beach areas and native flora. Donít miss the dolphin show. Show times are posted on the grounds. New at the aquarium, Dr. Robert D. Ballardís "Challenge of the Deep" is an interactive experience that introduces visitors to technology used in deep-sea exploration. Leave at least one hour for this area if you are interested in under water exploration. A restaurant and gift shop are located on-site.

Old Mystic Village, not really an old village, but a new shopping ďcenterĒ built in an 18th century style with more than sixty shops and a movie theater, is located on Coogan Avenue near the Aquarium. Browsing through small shops surrounded by gardens, a mill pond and running water is a real treat in these days of "strip and mall" mentality.

Another treat is a walk through the Village of Stonington with its 18th and 19th century architecture, antique & specialty shops and working harbour.

Randallís Ordinary is a unique dining experience. Begun in 1685, the Inn was rebuilt in 1720 and enlarged in 1790. All floors, walls and doors are original, including the interesting interior wooden shutters. Known as "Indian Shutters" they could be quickly closed from the inside in case of hostile attack. The Inn was part of the underground railroad during the 1800's. Ask staff to show you the trap door that leads to a hiding place under the floor in the old kitchen. Part of your meal is cooked open-hearth. As a matter of fact you can watch staff stir your soup. Your table is located in what could be a living history museum, yet excellent fare is served up by costumed staff. Randallís Ordinary, along with delicious meals, offers accommodation in both the old inn building and a newer "barn" that was moved to the site. Should you wish to sleep in the old inn, be forewarned. A ghost is reputed to be haunting the back upstairs bedroom. Donít say I didnít warn you.

For people interested in submarines, the Historic Ship Nautilus, Submarine Force Library and Museum, just off Route #12 in Groton is the place to visit. The history of the submarine can be traced from ďBushnellís TurtleĒ to the modern Los Angeles, Ohio and Seawolf class of vessels. Experience first-hand the thrill of being on the worldís first nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus, the first ship to go to the north pole. There is enough in this museum, located on the banks of the Thames River, to keep a man busy for several hours. Ladies take note. If you are the least little bit claustrophobic, you might like to avoid a tour of the submarine. I did enjoy some of the hands-on displays and activities but a good book kept me occupied while a blissful hubby roamed through the complex, enjoying every minute of his visit. Remember, some men donít particular like art galleries and museums. Bear with this one. It is their holiday too. Bonus. Kids love this site!

West of the river lies the City of New London with its own charms. A dayís exploration will uncover a number of delights.

Lyman Allyn Art Gallery, on the campus of Connecticut College owns more than 30,000 objects. Of course not all are on display at once. Contemporary, Modern, Early American, Fine Arts, American Impressionist, and Connecticut Decorative are among some of the styles included in their ever-changing collection. One gallery is devoted to local and regional talent. The Gallery, well worth a visit, has an excellent book shop.

Eugene OíNeill, the only U.S. playwright to win the Nobel Prize, spent most of his first twenty-six summers at Monte Cristo Cottage in New London. Never a pretentious place, the summer home evolved from two buildings with add-onís and embellishments that gave it a Victorian look. The building was named after the stage character Eugeneís fathers played for years - The Count of Monte Cristo. Two of OíNeillís plays were set in the cottage, "A Long Dayís Journey Into Night" and "Ah Wilderness." Those familiar with OíNeillís work will see many aspects of the city of New London in them.

Sitting Room at Monte Cristo Cottage

The Florence Griswold Museum is housed in the c1817 family home that became a finishing school during the 1880's. By 1900 the property, with its access to the Connecticut River, was an artistís retreat during the summer months. Due to the talented people Florence attracted and supported, her property became known as the home of Americaís best-known Impressionist art colony. Artists such as Childe Hassam, William Metcalf, Will Howe Foote, and Matilda Brown were keenly attentive to New Englandís visually stimulating seasonal landscapes with their changing light patterns. More than thirty artists contributed to art panels in the dining room. They also enjoyed caricaturing themselves in one unusual panel above the mantel. Changing exhibits in the house highlight pieces from the Lyme Art Colony collection. Artist William Chadwickís studio (1920-1962) was moved to the museumís grounds in 1992.

One day should be set aside for a museum that, although open only two years, has achieved international status as one of the best in the world. The Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, located on a First Nations Reservation, is a fine example of what a museum should represent, with its excellent and stunning portrayals of Indian history- past through present. A 175 foot observation tower marks the entrance to the complex. The magnificent view from the top overlooks land that the Pequot have called home for centuries. Visitors are first treated to a 20,000 square foot gathering place, surrounded by glass before they descend three floors through an 18,000 year old glacial crevasse to the "beginning of time." Marvelous life-sized dioramas give an exciting portrayal of history. Among the most amazing are a full-size mastodon, a caribou hunt and recreated 16th century Indian village. The village is spectacular with its more than fifty life-sized people, authentic sounds of woodland life and aromas of cooking fires, flora and fauna. This village demands at least two hours of a visitorís time. Exciting visual exhibits, computer interactives, touch screen 3D graphics, film and video presentations make the museum a must-see destination. A 270 seat cafeteria-style restaurant and 6,000 square foot museum gift shop complete the experience.

Gambling your forte? This being the case you can feed the appetite in two locations - The Mohegan Sun Casino and the Foxwood Casino. Gambling is not part of our lifestyle, but we did visit both casino locations to see Ė their interior decorations. In particular Mohegan Sun has captured First Nations heritage nicely by using the concept of the four seasons as the basis for the casinoís interior. Foxwood Casino has a great light and sound show featuring a gigantic Indian warrior surrounded by water and native flora.

IF YOU GO:

  • For information on Mystic & More Tourism Area contact
    • Connecticutís Mystic & More
      P.O. Box 89
      470 Bank Street
      New London, Connecticut 06320
      #1-800-863-6569

      www.mysticmore.com

  • For information of New London contact
    • Soutereastern Connecticut Tourism District
      P.O. Box 89
      New London, Connecticut 06320
      #1-860-444-2206

      www.mysticmore.com

  • Contacts for Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Sites are
    • Lyman Allyn Art Museum
      625 Williams Street
      New London, Connecticut 06320
      #1-860-443-2545

      Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Library & Museum
      Route #12
      Groton, Connecticut 06349-5571
      #1-800-343-0079

      Monte Cristo Cottage
      324 Pequot Avenue
      New London, Connecticut
      #1-860-443-0051

      Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center
      P.O. Box 3180
      110 Pequot Trail
      Mashantucket, Connecticut 06339-3180
      #1-800-411-9671

      www.mashantucket.com

      Florence Griswold Museum
      96 Lyme Street
      Old Lyme, Connecticut 06371
      #1-860-434-5542

  • For information on Mystic Seaport

  • Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration can be reached at

  • For information on casinos
    • Mohegan Sun
      1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
      Uncasville, Connecticut 06382
      #1-888-226-7711

      www.mohegansun.com

      Foxwoods Resort & Casino
      Rte #2
      Mashantucket, Connecticut 06339
      #1-800-PLAY BIG

  • For information about accommodations
    • Groton Inn & Suites
      P.O. Box 807
      Rte #184
      Groton, Connecticut 06340
      #1-800-452-2191

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