- Submarine Force Museum: In addition to a smallish museum about the history of submarines and their role in various endeavors, you get to tour the U.S.S. Nautilus, the first atomic submarine as well as the first submarine to travel to the North Pole. No amount of exposure to the "gee, they lived in such tight spaces" factor really weighs up to actually seeing those spaces first-hand. Photos here (password is 4wombats). I tried to take a lot of photos since a friend seemed very interested. Though photos never add up to really being there and that's trebly so for being on a submarine.
- Best Buy: Well, they were having a short-term sale on some PS3 games for $10, and it happened to fall while we were on the vacation, and it was very near the nature center, so why not?
- Citadel Games: We hadn't even looked for gaming shops, but just happened to see this on the way to Best Buy, and then went to it on the way back. Found some good stuff, too.
- Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center: A fairly small nature center, with pretty minimal indoor stuff, and maybe half of that taxidermy. One part was an eight-minute "the fields at night" thing that seemed like it was going to be corny, but it was surprisingly good. Instead of a film, it was a diorama in the dark, with a voiceover, and the theme was what the meadows are like after night falls and the noises of people die down. Lights would shine on specific things from time to time as the narration discussed them: creatures you might hear or even see if you sit quietly and listen. At time it lapsed into goofiness, but it was a good-hearted goofiness, and the net result probably would really convince people to try sitting outside and listening once in a while. The center also featured extensive hiking trails, but with the bugs out, we only did a quick loop around the "duck pond" (inhabited by geese, not ducks), then bought a lovely pair of salad tongs hand-crafted from sustainably harvested olivewood in the gift shop. Photos here (password is 4wombats).
- Olde Mistick Village: The definitive example of tourist-trap shopping, it's the usual cluster of quaint shops selling things you would never even look twice at at home, only three times bigger than almost anywhere else, and embarassingly brash in its determination to be charming. We were originally just looking for an area map to consider dinner options, but we did manage to visit four or five shops and even bought something we don't need.
- Saybrook Yarn: Siobhan can talk about the yarn shop itself. What I can say about it is it's very nice they offer chairs and a table, so I could get a lot of useful writing about Tinkering done while I waited.
- Tanger Outlet Centers: We intended just to browse and maybe pick up a few things, but actually bought more than we expected to. The story of consumerism, I suppose! More on what we bought in a post to come.
- Rocky Neck State Park: A charming park with a very nice beach on the Long Island Sound. My first chance ever to stare out over the waves, squint, and say "I can see Long Island from here!" (Doing it the opposite way around was an every-year thing in my youth.) You had to walk under a train track to get between the parking lot and beach, and several trains rolled by while we were there. Photos here (password is 4wombats).
- Pequot and Mashantucket Museum: We didn't realize this was an adjunct to Foxwoods until we found ourselves driving by Foxwoods, and I worried that it would end up being a very Disney sanitized view of the Pequot tribe, the kind that would overglorify their deep spiritual connection to the land. And there were a few small examples of that: the escalator "into the Ice Age" running through a glacier was corny, for instance. But in all, it was a remarkably balanced view that depicted the Native American tribes at their best and worst, and over their whole history from Beringia right up to the present day. The dioramas of the Pequot village (filling almost an entire floor of the impressively big building) and the caribou hunt (much smaller) were very impressive and gave a great sense of what daily life must have been like. They were a bit draconian about cameras (but I still snapped one picture on the sly anyway).
One thing we didn't do: ride the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, which is kind of annoying since that's what made us pick that area for our getaway in the first place, but they didn't open for the year as early as they made it seem they would back when we were booking our travel.