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Southeastern Connecticut Attractions for Families, Part 1: Historic Sites

Updated on September 25, 2020
Karen Hellier profile image

Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She lives happily in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.

5 Historic Sites in Southeastern CT

1) The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Mashantucket, CT

When you first enter the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, there is a glass tower from which visitors can see for miles around. If you are afraid of heights, you might want to skip that experience! There are four types of exhibits for visitors: dioramas, including a caribou hunt, text panels, interactive computer programs and a series of thirteen films telling the history of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, and stories about their customs. There is also a display of spearheads, tools, and traditional clothing. One of the largest exhibits shows a Pequot village in days gone by. It includes figures, based on traditional Native Americans. They wear traditional Pequot clothing, and wigwams built by native craftspeople. Narration can be heard through headphones as guests wander about the village. The Museum includes a cafeteria-style restaurant and a gift shop. There are various programs throughout the month, and the first Saturday of each month is free for children under 15.

Go to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum Website to get times and current admission costs.

2) Shantok Village of Uncas (formerly Fort Shantok) Uncasville, CT

This park was recently purchased from the state of Connecticut by the Mohegan Tribe and is a historic tribute to the fortified village of the Mohegan Indian tribe, lead by the Sachem Uncas. The village was on the banks of the Thames River and was fortified to protect the tribe from their rivals, the Pequots across the river.

A visit there today is a peaceful reminder of days gone by. There is a stone monument memorializing Uncas as the Sachem of the Mohegans, surrounded by a Mohegan tribal cemetery. Recent descendants of the Mohegan Tribe are buried there as well as tribal members from centuries ago. In another area of the park, there are picnic tables, a beautiful lake with a walkway around it, from which I have observed deer in the woods, and geese on the lake. There is also a children's playground with benches for parents, and another picnic area. For a peaceful afternoon, it is definitely worth a stop to pay tribute to the Mohegan Indians history and to allow your children a chance to run and play on the playground amidst the breezes coming off the Thames River.

Visit the link below for directions and information:

3) The Leffingwell Inn, Norwich, CT

The Leffingwell Inn is an often overlooked historic home in the Norwichtown area. It sits inconspicuously in a valley just off the highway, and many people don't even realize it's there. The home is a wonderful example of 18th century living in Connecticut. Starting out as a two-room house in 1675, it evolved into a much larger, elegant home for Christopher Leffingwell. The museum houses a very interesting assortment of antique pieces from various generations of the Leffingwell family. The tour of the home includes the Great South Parlor, the Tavern Room, The North Parlor, The Kitchen, the 1675 bed Chamber, and the Children's Room. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and truly enjoy their work as they share the history of this wonderful home and its past inhabitants.

4) The Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT

No visit to Southeastern Connecticut is complete without a visit to the Mystic Seaport. The Mystic Seaport, in Mystic, Connecticut consists of 3 major components: A recreated nineteenth-century coastal village complete with various homes and buildings of the period, four historic ships on view or open for tours, and exhibit galleries which include period art and even a gallery of ship figureheads.

There are special festivities that go on during the year at Mystic Seaport. On cold Winter nights in December, the Mystic Seaport offers Lantern Light Tours that you must purchase tickets for weeks in advance. A lantern Light Tour gives you the opportunity to experience life at Christmas time in the late 1800s, complete with actors in costume, a visit to the tavern, and a wagon ride. The whole village is decorated with a holiday theme, and it's a wonderful addition to any holiday season. One of my favorite times to visit the Mystic Seaport is on Memorial Day. At noon, there is a somber parade. Led by costumed actors who go through a ceremony of walking to the pier with a wagon load of wildflowers and each person there, including seaport visitors, can throw a flower out to sea in memory of a loved one. During Labor Day weekend, a favorite treat is the Lobster Fest ( hot dogs are also available for children who don't like lobster). You can eat a lobster dinner down under a gazebo by the water and watch the boats go by while being entertained by a folk music band. There is usually a whole schedule of events during these festive weekends.

Group tours are available which is an invaluable field trip for children's scouting and home school groups. There is a cafeteria and also a gift shop on the grounds.

Spend a day with the kids at Mystic Seaport, and it will be a day of education and fun your family will treasure!

5) The Submarine Force Museum and Historic Ship Nautilus, Groton, CT

This museum is wonderful for all Navy and submarine enthusiasts because visitors can actually tour a retired submarine, the USS Nautilus. And the admission is FREE...hard to beat that! The Nautilus was first launched in January of 1954, and in September 1954 it became the first commissioned nuclear-powered ship in the United States Navy. Once inside the Nautilus, visitors can see the bunk room where real sailors slept, the toilet area, showers, mess for the crew, the officer's quarters and mess area, the torpedo room, meeting room, attack center, sonar room, control room and radio room. It's quite an experience to see how cramped the quarters actually are in a submarine and you will leave the ship having more respect for our Navy's sailors and the sacrifice they make being away from their families to protect our country in such uncomfortable conditions. The museum itself is full of interesting Naval artifacts, over 33,000 to be exact, with 20,000 documents and 30,000 photographs. There is a replica of a submarine attack center for visitors to experience, exhibits of submarine weapons, and a life-sized replica of Bushnell's Turtle the original submarine built in Old Saybrook, CT during revolutionary war times to fight the British.

Below you will see one of the last wooden whaling ships in the world docked at Mystic Seaport.

Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
Lake at Shantok, Village of Uncas ( formerly Fort Shantok)
Lake at Shantok, Village of Uncas ( formerly Fort Shantok)
Monument stating this was the Shantok village of the Sachem Uncas, on the banks of the Thames River, Uncasville, CT
Monument stating this was the Shantok village of the Sachem Uncas, on the banks of the Thames River, Uncasville, CT

Poll of SE CT Historic Sites

Which one of these was your favorite to visit?

See results

© 2012 Karen Hellier


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