Magazine article USA TODAY

Seaport Supreme: A Historic Seaport and Fascinating Aquarium Await Visitors in the Quaint Surroundings of Mystic, Conn

Magazine article USA TODAY

Seaport Supreme: A Historic Seaport and Fascinating Aquarium Await Visitors in the Quaint Surroundings of Mystic, Conn

Article excerpt

We like it low-key--well, at least I do. Off-season vacations are the only way to go. But, once you have kids, summertime--in other words; prime time--is vacation time. Yet, what with swimming lessons, bible camp, baseball practice, birthday parties, beach days, playdates, etc., it's tough to get away even when school is out.

So, we struck upon the idea of a long weekend retreat that didn't require an eight-hour drive to reach. Moreover, we were determined to avoid the aggravating bump-and-grind lunacy that can accompany any attempted escape off of Long Island and out of New York. The solution was supremely simple. Instead of battling through the city boroughs of Queens and the Bronx and over the bridge to Connecticut, we'd do exactly the opposite, head east to Orient Point, grab the ferry across the Long Island Sound, dock in New London, and then make the quick drive to our final destination, Mystic, Conn,, home to the Seaport and Aquarium. It worked like a charm. Only now we're kicking ourselves for all those missed opportunities of the past.

The trip east was a complete treat, especially passing through the scenic vineyards. The kids even stopped watching their tapes to take notice of the barns, horses, and lush farmland, Moreover, we nabbed the final spot smooth hour-and-a-half journey across the Sound.

Having never been on a boat before, our trio of would-be sailors--Julie (8), Alex (6), and Trevor (4)--were thrilled, getting excited by everything in sight, from the wake of the ship to the buoys bobbing in the water to the sailboats in the distance. Trevor, who stayed on the front bow with his dad the entire trip, even had me convinced (if not his brother and sister) that there was a pirate ship portside that could overtake us at any time.

Once back on terra firma, we wisely opted to stay in the town of Mystic itself, and this would pay big dividends the third day of our stay when two of the young ones were under the weather and needed a nearby respite.

Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea is a quaint seaside village that is packed with history and plenty of points of interest. The weekend of our visit showcased the "Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous" which is just like any gathering of classic vehicles; this one just happens to take place on water, as dozens of beautifully restored pre-1950s wooden power and sail boats parade down the Mystic River with their costumed crews. The downside, if you could call it that, was that the parade was led by the 1908-built Sabino--the only coal-fired passenger-carrying steamboat still in operation--thus cancelling its usual tour trips for the day. We'll just have to catch her next time.

Actually, four Mystic vessels are designated National Historical Landmarks: Sabine, Charles W. Morgan, Emma C. Berry, and L.A. Dunton. The Morgan--the country's last wooden whaleship from the once-great Yankee fleet--provided much of the impetus for the Seaport's creation and present state. After its 1941 acquisition, historic buildings from all across New England were moved to complement the great ship and the authentic coastal village area of Mystic Seaport was born.

Born just about the time the Morgan came to Mystic is the present-day star of the Seaport, the supervisor of the planetarium, Don Treworgy. …

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