By Kathie Farnell
Photos by Jack Purser
The community of Mystic, Connecticut, famous for the Mystic Seaport (and the ‘80s movie Mystic Pizza) welcomes visitors with a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.
The Inn at Mystic, a small luxury inn overlooking Long Island Sound and the Mystic River, offers comfortable, upscale accommodations along with a glimpse of local history. The mansion house, built in 1904, was formerly the home of financier Frederick Mosel; Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall spent their honeymoon in the estate’s gatehouse. Today the Inn is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and comprises five buildings on 15 landscaped acres. In addition to the original Inn, known as the Haley Mansion (which houses five rooms and features magnificent original paneling in the living room), the gate house, Motor Inn, East Wing, and Flood Tide Restaurant. My headquarters in the East Wing featured a fireplace, queen-sized canopy bed, and whirlpool bath.
Enhancing the late-October ambience was the biggest pumpkin you’ve ever seen, 800 pounds on the hoof, lurking in front of the restaurant. The Flood Tide is open to the public and serves up three meals a day, including fabulous buffets at breakfast and lunch. The emphasis is on freshness and the Inn’s extensive orchards and gardens provide a bounty of seasonal ingredients. Seafood is one of the highlights of the menu, and I was able to pack in my minimum daily requirement of lobster.
Mystic Seaport , including the Museum of America and the Sea, occupies seventeen acres in the heart of town along the Mystic River.
Historical buildings in the complex house everything from a scale model of the seaport, built over forty years and still being modified by volunteers, to a fascinating collection of ship’s figureheads, to a tavern. Centerpiece of the collection of vessels is the Charles W. Morgan, the last American whaling ship. First launched in 1841, the Morgan was a typical whaling bark; its maiden voyage off New Bedford around Cape Horn and through the Pacific Ocean took more than three years. In eighty years of whaling, the Morgan survived ice, storms, fire and attacks by hungry cannibals. Today the visitor can tour the ship in the company of authentically-costumed guides who climb the rigging to demonstrate setting sails.
Musical programs are presented daily and during the month of December, lantern-light tours of the Seaport at night will transport the visitor back to Christmas Eve 1876.
More fun—indoor and out—is on tap at the Mystic Aquarium which presents the world’s only exhibits on deep-sea exploration. Dr. Robert Ballard, who found the Titanic, maintains an office at the Aquarium; an exhibit currently being installed will feature PT-109, another of Ballard’s finds. Elsewhere at the Aquarium, it’s possible for visitors to arrange some quality time with a penguin or a friendly beluga whale. The intrepid beluga group donned waders and got into the water with the whales, who seemed genuinely glad to see them. I patted a whale’s tongue—all in a day’s work for the whale, though a new experience for me.
A somewhat less exotic nature experience is available at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, a beautiful 300-acre sanctuary with miles of trails and resident owls, turtles, frogs and snakes. The “Night in the Meadow” Theatre introduces the visitor to the sights and sounds of the natural world after dark.
Nearby, Clyde’s Cider Mill, established in 1881, offers cider and apple wine from the only steam powered cider mill in the U.S. Sweet cider is pressed fresh daily, seven days a week, from the first of September through December.
For more information on the Inn at Mystic and area attractions, contact the Inn at 1-800-237-2415 or check the website at www.innatmystic.com The Mystic Chamber of Commerce also has information on its website at www.mysticchamber.org
Sixty miles away, the airport, located in Providence, Rhode Island, is served by a number of airlines including Delta, United, and U.S. Airways.