PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2015, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it is also possible that it may contain some outdated information. Please check their website and Facebook page for the most current information, especially about things like hours and pricing.
Disclosure: Thank you to the Mystic Seaport for providing me and my family with complimentary admission to their venue. All opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own.
Last week Shawna took you on a prehistoric adventure with her visit to Dinosaur Place in Montville, CT and this week I am also taking you back in time (though only a few hundred years instead of a few million!). Today I’m sharing with you our visit to Mystic Seaport located in Mystic, Connecticut!
This popular destination was founded in 1929 to preserve the seafaring history of this area and includes a a 19th century coastal village, shipbuilding demonstrations, ships to explore, and more.
Like several places I have visited with my kiddos, Mystic Seaport was one I had hesitated to try out because I was not sure if it would be a great outing when my kids were so little. I didn’t know if there was enough for them to do there and assumed we would visit when they were older. Well, thankfully, they reached out to us and invited us to come visit (thanks John!) because now I know that this is a fun place for visitors of all ages and I wanted to share with you today the 7 Fun Activities for Kids that we enjoyed during our visit to Mystic Seaport.
Now before I get started with my list, I want to give you the basic details for parking and actually getting into Mystic Seaport!
Parking is pretty simple. There is a free, large parking lot located right across the street from the main entrance.
The first stop for visitors is usually at the Visitors Center where you can purchase tickets to get inside.
But I did want to point out that there is a Bake Shop right near the entrance as well. This might be a good place to stop for a coffee or treat before heading inside.
Inside you will find this HUGE map showing all that there is to offer on the 19 acres that make up the Mystic Village property. I would recommend checking out this map and then grabbing a more portable version to use during your visit. You will need it.
Admission price information is below or you can find the latest details here. Note that children ages 5 and under are FREE and they also offer a ton of discount and specialty pricing options (see our Pricing section below for more information) You can also check out your library’s Museum Pass Program to see if they have a pass for discounted entrance. The nice thing about admission here is that you can get your ticket validated and return for a second visit (within 7 days) for FREE. There is a lot to see here so that is helpful.
Once you paid for admission, you head through the glass doors in the back of the visitors center and can make your way into Mystic Seaport. I forgot to grab a picture of the backside of the building but there are stairs or a ramp to get back down to the main level.
Once inside Mystic Seaport (well actually outside but you know what I mean) there are several routes you can take to see all that this venue has to offer. Check out the map (see below) or take a look at some of Mystic Seaport’s suggested activities for kids and families.
But your easiest option might be just to completely copy our itinerary for the day which you can find below in my list of 7 Activities for Kids at Mystic Seaport! Here is a list of what we enjoyed during our visit:
1. Climbing Aboard the Charles W. Morgan Whaleship
Our first big adventure at Mystic Seaport was a pretty impressive experience. There are a few ships at the seaport that you can actually walk on board and the recently renovated Charles W. Morgan Whaleship is one of them (number 33 on the map). One important thing to note here is that while strollers are allowed on the property they are not allowed inside the buildings or on boats. So if you are traveling with a baby, it might be a good idea to bring a baby carrier along that you can use for visiting these exhibits.
Here is a little history of the ship straight from the Mystic Seaport website:
The Charles W. Morgan is the last of an American whaling fleet that numbered more than 2,700 vessels. Built and launched in 1841, the Morgan is now America’s oldest commercial ship still afloat – only the USS Constitution is older.
The ship was restored at the Mystic Seaport and that restoration was completed in 2013. Then is 2014 the ship started a three month journey to historic ports throughout New England. It is now back at Mystic Seaport and a wonderful exhibit to explore.
We got a chance to walk around the main deck and then took the kids below to the sleeping quarters, eating areas, and whale processing areas (I get a little queasy thinking about that part 🙂 There was a lot to see and explore on the ship and it was so neat to learn about this part of history.
2. Visiting the Children’s Museum
Our next stop was the children’s museum located right on property (number 43 on the map). I had no idea a children’s museum existed here and the kids were so excited to check it out.
The building was not huge but it contained so much for the kids to see and explore. I was amazed to see so many wooden toys included in the museum and found out that many of the toys were made by Mystic Seaport volunteers. The toys, puzzles, and books included here could have kept my kids entertained for hours. Plus, they had creative play areas including a pretend ship, sleeping quarters, and a galley. My little sailors had a great time pretending they could actually handle life on board a ship. Ha! They literally did not want to leave and kept asking to go back during the rest of our visit.
One note for the children’s museum is that like all other buildings on the property strollers and food and beverages are not allowed inside the building. Make sure you finish up your last sip of coffee before heading inside (and if you are a Mystic Seaport member you can get a free cup of coffee at the Membership Building located directly across from the children’s museum!).
3. Exploring the Playscape
Right around the corner from the children’s museum was an outdoor playscape area. It included a set of wooden boats that my kids had a great time climbing all over. Picnic tables are also available in this area so it would be the perfect spot for a snack or meal if you brought food from home or purchased items on the property but wanted to enjoy them outside.
Restrooms are also located right in this area and I was happy to see that they had a baby changing station included as well. Actually all of the restrooms we tried while on the property had a baby changing station included.
4. Seeing a Printer and Shipsmith in Action
After playtime, we made our way back to the waterfront to explore the 19th Century Village. Here visitors can explore a variety of shops and learn all about life back in the 1800’s.
One thing to pay attention to when visiting the village is whether or not a building has this blue and yellow flag flying. If you see that flag than you know there will be someone inside who can answer questions and may even be doing a demonstration.For our visit, we stopped inside the Mystic Print Shop (number 26 on the map) and the Shipsmith Shop (number 22 on the map).
We saw a demonstration of what printing was like back in the 19th century and I became very thankful for printers and modern technology!
The Shipsmith shop was full of live action (and fire so keep the little ones close). This was a pretty neat place to visit.
If you want to get even more information about the village, you might want to try out the horse-drawn carriage ride operating in the area. But more details on that in a moment.
There are several dining options available at Mystic Seaport, well four to be exact. As I mentioned before there is a bakery attached to the museum gift store (near the entrance) and there is also Latitude 41° Restaurant & Tavern, The Galley Restaurant, and Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern. If you prefer to bring a picnic lunch with you to enjoy, that is okay as well.
For our lunch that day, we decided to try the casual Galley Restaurant. This seemed to be the most popular joint for families – – it has a large eating area and offers counter service.
There was a sign outside the restaurant asking patrons to park their strollers on the deck. We complied as we didn’t really need our stroller inside, but if you have a baby or a sleeping little one in your group there was really plenty of room inside to bring a stroller.
There is a nice variety of food options available at The Galley Restaurant and they also have an ice cream counter for an after meal treat.
The kids really wanted to finish their meal with a treat from the ice cream counter. However, they had sooooo much energy that day that I thought a shot of sugar might completely put them over the edge. We quickly navigated them outside and tried to get them to think about something other than ice cream (a tough job!). Good news is that right outside the restaurant is the Village Green. Here the kids could burn off a little bit of their energy by running and playing in this area.
One thing the kids did notice while playing on the Village Green was the horse drawn carriage ride stop nearby. They wanted to go but we didn’t have time that day. I did find out, however, that these rides offer a narrated tour of the coastal village. The cost is $5 per person and children ages 3 and under are free (cash only).
6. Taking a Boat Ride on the Mystic River
The neat thing is that after walking around Mystic Seaport, you can actually then enjoy it from the water as part of their Waterfront Tours. From May to October, these tours are offered daily from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The boat leaves about every half hour and the ride lasts for about 20 minutes. It is actually another one of the activities on the property that requires an additonal fee (there are only a few of them) but the cost is reasonable at $3 per person with children ages 5 and younger being free.
Tickets can be purchased at this building and only cash is accepted.
This is what my kids did while my husband was purchasing tickets and I was taking pictures. They were trying to see if they could see fish in the water below. Works for me!
We had to then walk around the corner to the dock where the boat ride started and waited just a few minutes for the next ride.
I think they had fun.
During the summer season, there are actually a few additional options if you want to get out on the water while visiting Mystic Seaport. Take a ride on their sailboat, Breck Marshall, or rent a rowboat or small sailboat yourself.
7. Seeing Shipbuilding in Action
One of our last stops on our visit to Mystic Seaport was a trip to the Henry B. Dupont Preservation Shipyard (number 2 on the map). Here visitors can learn about wooden ship building and actually see it in action!
The main building is this one located in the back of the ship preservation area. Note that there is a huge set of stairs that you need to take to get inside.
Once inside, though, there is a lot to see and explore.
Another area where my kids probably could have sat and watched for quite a while! But alas, it was time for us to be heading home because that was about all my crew could handle for our full day of touring Mystic Seaport.
Good thing you can use your pass here to come back for a second day as there is really a lot to see (get your ticket validated so you can return for a second day for free within a 7 day period). I didn’t even get a chance to talk about the Planetarium, toy boat building, many of their other wonderful exhibits, gardens, and all of their demonstrations and performances.
Plus, Mystic Seaport has some wonderful activities planned for this summer season. They have summer camps for kids ages 4-18, community sailing classes, and other great programs for families. They also have a full list of events including their famous Wooden Boat Show happening June 26-28, 2015.
As I said before, Mystic Seaport was one of those destinations that I thought we would visit when my kids were a bit older but I’ve come to realize that this destination has a lot to offer for kids of any age (and adults too of course). Definitely consider it for your summer outing calendar or another time throughout the year. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the history of this area and enjoy a scenic destination.
Phone: (860) 572-0711
Hours vary seasonally and by attraction. Check here for the most up-to-date information.
The 2016 schedule is as follows:
- January 1-March 25: Open Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Presidents Day, February 15: Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- March 26-October 30: Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- October 31-November 27: Open daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- November 28-December 23: Open Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- December 24-25: Closed
- December 26-January 1, 2017: Open daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Standard Pricing:
- Adult (18-64) – $26
- Senior (65+) – $24
- Youth (6-17) – $17
- Children (5 and younger) – Free
- Parking is free
- Memberships are available
- Specials and Discounts:
- Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
- Free second-day admission: Each general admission ticket purchased at Mystic Seaport is good for one admission on the day of purchase. Have your ticket validated before you leave and return a second day for free within seven days.
- Active duty and retired military receive group admission and membership discounts: All active duty and retired military and their accompanying family members receive the group discount rate of $20 per adult and $11.50 per youth. All memberships will receive a $10 discount.
- Special needs’ visitors receive a 50% discount on admission: One additional adult attending to the special needs’ visitor will also receive a discount of 50% on admission.
- Free admission on your birthday: Visit on your birthday and your admission is our gift to you! If you already receive free admission as a Museum member, bring a friend for free. Offer available to adults and children. Must present a valid photo ID or copy of birth certificate.
- AAA members: Show your valid AAA card to the gate attendant when purchasing your Museum admission and receive $3 off each general admission ticket for up to four people in your party.
- Last-hour admission is 50% off. Second-day ticket validation does not apply.
- Other special offerings include:
- Some libraries also have a pass as part of their Museum Pass Program that will provide visitors with free or reduced priced admission to Mystic Seaport. Check out our list of libraries or your own library for more details.
- Stroller Friendly: SOMEWHAT. Strollers can be used throughout the property. The property is large (19 acres) so I would definitely recommend bringing a stroller for little ones. However, strollers are not allowed on the boats or in the exhibit buildings so if you are traveling with a non-walker, it might be helpful to bring a baby carrier as well.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: SOMEWHAT. Outside food and beverages are welcome on the property but they cannot be brought inside exhibit buildings or on the boats.
- Restroom: YES. There are restrooms located throughout the property and in the restaurants. Check the map for locations.
- Baby Changing Station: YES. We probably visited 4 different restrooms on our trip (that is my life) and each one had a baby changing station.
- Parking: YES. FREE parking is available in a large lot directly across for the main entrance.
- Food for Sale: YES. There are 4 dining options available on the property. We enjoyed lunch at the Galley Restaurant during our visit but you can find more about food options here.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES. Feel free to bring a picnic!
- Cash Required: YES. Credit cards are accepted for park admission and food/gift shop purchases but cash is needed for some of the other activities like waterboat tours and carriage rides.
- Dress Code: Nothing specific is required, but you are outside a lot during your visit. During the summer months be sure to bring some sun protection and during the colder months be sure to bring layers in case the weather changes.
- Age Recommendations: This adventure can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
- Discounts: YES. See the PRICING section above for all of the details.
- Birthday Party Venue: SOMEWHAT: They don’t have structured birthday parties here, but you can certainly bring friends here to celebrate your big day. And don’t forget that you get FREE admission on your birthday!
- Dogs: Leashed dogs are allowed on the property but they are not allowed on the boats or in buildings.
- Connecticut Children’s Medical Center – The state’s only free-standing hospital that offers comprehensive, world-class health care to children. Based in Hartford, Connecticut Children’s also provides services at several locations throughout the state.
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT, this private pre-school, elementary and middle school serves families from over 20 communities.
- The Little Green Tambourine – Located in Canton, CT, this healthy living creative arts studio offers a variety of opportunities for kids to learn and play.
- Mandell JCC – The Mandell JCC, Zachs Campus, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT, welcomes and serves families and individuals of all ages, stages, backgrounds and faiths. Our fitness, wellness and recreation, arts and culture, camp, early childhood education programs, classes, clubs and services are open to all. You Belong Here!
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