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For Mighty Mystic Connecticut Part I- Mystic Aquarium

As far as traveling goes, there will always be places I want to see for the first time, and there will always be places I continue to return to. Sometimes it is for the sites and new tastes and sometimes it’s for a more personal reason. Such is the case that brought me to Connecticut, Mystic to be specific. One of my very best friends lives there and I try to make at least an annual pilgrimage there to catch up and hang around town. Connecticut has also allowed me to know and love most of Rhode Island but that’s another blog for another time (tomorrow to be exact). 

Mystic, Connecticut is a quaint little town with a big personality. The homes are all different but lovely. There are always tourists (me especially) walking around taking in the great weather in the summer and the food year round. There are many things to do and it is in such close proximity to many other parts of the state that you can plan a vacation around just about anything you like to do.

On previous trips I have stopped off in Hartford, Connecticut to visit the former homes of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe ( These great authors lived next door to each other and their properties are lovely to visit. I had a great time when I went in December 2012 as a pit stop to Newport, Rhode Island. Although it was cold it was charming. There were horse drawn carriages giving rides and the visitor’s center was serving warm beverages and sweet treats. No matter the time of year I really recommend visiting. Besides the proximity to one another is the price. You can usually get two tours for the price of one and the timing is scheduled so that you don’t miss anything. It is really well done. If you go, figure an hour per house on the guided tour which is only way to see inside. Mr. Twain’s elaborately carved staircase is worth the visit alone.
In March of 2012 I was again in Connecticut and my first stop was to Foxwoods Casino. Although gambling can be fun, when you win, this was not the reason for my trip. I was here to see the “Diana” exhibit that was traveling around the United States ( I had seen it previously in Philadelphia the year before but this time I wanted my mother to see it and Foxwoods was the closest location. It also happened to give me an excuse for a mini-vacay. 
This summer I was finally returning to Connecticut, as I did not travel at all in 2013. This time I was headed right to Mystic to see my friend and one of the main attractions there, Mystic Aquarium.

Mystic Aquarium opened in 1973 with their main draw; Beluga whales, arriving in 1975. Then there was the California sea lions that arrived in 1976 and the African penguins in 1989. There are the various fish species and stingrays that you can even pet. They are an array of sharks in tanks, seals being rehabilitated before being released back into the wild.

I couldn’t believe I had never been here. I had always meant to go. But I know when you want to see something you have to pencil in the time.

Every city has an aquarium so when deciding what ones I am really interested in they have to have something special, something more than the usually penguins and fish. I want an exotic creature, new experiences, and of course something to write home about.

The exhibit that drew me right in opened in April 2012 and surrounds the epic saga that was the Titanic. This portion of the aquarium is called “Titanic 12,450 Feet Below” and is the brainchild of one Dr. Robert Ballard the ocean researcher who created the technology that aided him in finding the wreckage. It was he who saw the very first images of the Titanic when his camera system made that first approach over one of the original twenty-nine boilers. That moment in time changed everything for scientific research, water archeology, and analysis into the past.

I always forget that that it took seventy-three years to find the lost ship. I have grown up in a generation that took that kind of artifact for granted. When I learned about this tragic passage in school the story went right into images of the ship at the bottom of the ocean and all of the trophies it still held. It's grim reminder that there once was just a glorious ship that was alive because of the two thousand two hundred and twenty-four passengers that graced it. Ultimately when it sank in April in 1912, fifteen hundred lives were lost.

It is so appropriate that this exhibit furthering exploration of such a historic part of our culture opened a hundred years to the month from the maiden voyage.

While this was the exhibit I was longing to see, it turned out to be the very last thing I did. I started off with the Beluga whales which you certainly don’t see at just any aquarium. They are majestic and graceful. First I watched they from the top of the tank and then went down below. To watch them overhead hurling toward you it is a powerful thing.

I followed the path around and eventually saw sea lions and seals, and caught the sea lion show, which was funny and entertaining although a tad hot for me. You have to remember that it was July and the heat was palpable outside. Being in a crowded semi-enclosed space with little or no AC was not ideal for me but I am glad I attended. 

I have to say the only animal I didn’t quite enjoy as much as I would have thought were the penguins. I don’t know what it was but they were the smelliest penguins I have ever seen. Apparently it was the raw fish they were eating but I don’t believe that. I couldn’t get away fast enough. Sorry penguins. Glad they can’t read this.

When my big moment to enter the Titanic exhibit came I was naturally all a buzz. There was a life size iceberg replica that felt as cold as one does. Since I was overheated at that point I had to resist the urge to lean my whole body against it. There was the machine created that found the ship, wreckage, suits worn by the divers who would go exploring, and countless other items. Sadly I was under whelmed.

What I really was moved by actually had no physical connection to the boat. It was a series of signs that listed who survived out of those who boarded. Those statistics put in that way really stopped me in my tracks. When you think you know a story by heart you can get lost in it. To have a giant sign reading “for every two who lived, four died” is dumbfounding. It brought new life to this tale, no pun intended.

After my big day (really just a couple of hours) I was ready to move on and have some lunch in a cool place with great people and tasty food.

Mission accomplished!

Stay tuned because tomorrow is: For Mighty Mystic Connecticut Part II- Mystic Seaport.
For More Information: (great food, next building over)
For Other Aquariums:
For Other Sites in Connecticut:


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