Day trips that bring you face-to-face with whales, wine and African-American art
Yes, the pandemic is cause for concern, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay put 24/7. While the weather’s still pleasant, why not take a day trip?
Here’s three ideas. First up and perfect for families is Mystic Aquarium, where learning meets fun with interactive experiences and intriguing exhibits.
“Mystic Aquarium is where you can meet New England’s only beluga whales,” says Dale Wolbrink. “They come up to the window and you’re eye-to-eye with them. There’s not many other places that happens.”
The belugas are very engaging and visitors are attracted to their “majesty” and “uniqueness,” says Wolbrink, senior director of public relations. They have an unusual look, with white skin, round heads and a protruding melon that aids in echolocation and communication.
These intelligent whales are also unique in that they’re able to swim backwards. Scientists have documented at least 11 distinct beluga sounds, including high-pitched whistles, clicks, mews, bleats, chirps and bell-like tones. Channel your inner Dr. Dolittle while visiting, and perhaps you’ll decipher a beluga secret.
Mystic Aquarium is also where you can visit with more than 300 species of other creatures including fish, frogs, jellyfish and more. A new shark touch habitat features five species of shark and stingrays.
Wolbrink says the aquarium is “a safe and inspirational respite for people during this time of rebound and rediscovery.”
With health protocols to allow for social distancing, timed tickets — which must be ordered in advance — provide for two-hour visits. You can get them via mysticaquarium.org . Click here for complete details. Facial coverings are required.
Mystic Aquarium, 55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Prices change daily; check website for best offers, 860-572-5955, mysticaquarium.org
Next up is Hawk Ridge Winery in Watertown, which overlooks the pastoral Litchfield Hills and is part of Hidden Breeze Farm. In 2014, its owners decided to diversify by planting grapevines with the assistance of volunteers and college students.
The winery, named for an abundance of red tail hawks on the property, offers outdoor tastings as well as live music each weekend. Plus, they have a wine slushie of the month. “Our August slushie is watermelon with a sour apple Pop Rocks rim,” says Autumn Elmazi, general manager. “For September, it’s caramel apple with caramel sauce.”
Another thing that makes Hawk Ridge different from many other wineries is it offers a full food menu, Elmazi says. “We have everything from pizza and sandwiches to chips and dip. We have several different types of wine, which you can order by the glass or bottle. We also have frozen wine pops, plus carbonated canned wine; that’s new for us.”
And Hawk Ridge recently partnered with Woodbury Brewing Company, so it serves their beer, as well.
“We have seating in our tent area and on our deck. Tables are spaced 6 feet apart,” Elmazi says. “We have open seating on our lawn; you can bring chairs and blankets. We are kid- and pet friendly, too.”
Elmazi says Hawk Ridge takes reservations on weekends in its tent area; you can learn more via email. The table charge is different depending on how many are in your party. For example, if there’s four people it’s $10. “You don’t need a reservation,” she says, but the tent is very popular so the ability to make a reservation “is a benefit.”
While the winery is open daily, the live music is usually just Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. But there’s extra entertainment Labor Day weekend. Mike Wilson plays Saturday, Sept 5, 9 Style performs Sunday, Sept. 6, and Eric Jones plays Sept. 7 from 2-5 p.m.
Hawk Ridge Winery, 28 Plungis Road, Watertown. Wednesday-Saturday, 12-8 p.m., Sunday-Tuesday 12-6 p.m. 860-274-7440, email@example.com
And finally, there’s the Katonah Museum of Art, where the popular “Bisa Butler: Portraits” exhibit has garnered much love and attention this summer. Butler is an African American artist of Ghanaian heritage. This show — her first solo museum exhibition — features vivid, larger-than-life quilts.
“Through her luminous, multilayered works, Bisa Butler chronicles African-American history — stories that have too often been ignored and unrecorded,” says the museum, which closed in March and reopened July 26.
“This project is a quilted fabric album of everyday people of African descent inspired by vintage photographs,” the artist says, in her statement. “My goal is to not only provide a simple snapshot of a person, but also to communicate an entire story in one piece of artwork. I create portraits of people that include many clues of their inner thoughts, their heritage, their actual emotions, and even their future.”
“People have come back to see it more than once because the stories behind each work are so profound,” says Caroline Holder, of Butler’s mesmerizing, colorful quilts. “Breathtaking,” “beautiful” and “ groundbreaking” are among the words visitors have used to describe them.
Holder is the museum’s communications manager and grew up in Costa Rica. She says the piece Butler calls “The Princess” is among her favorites. “I grew up overseas and it’s a tribute to immigrant children,” Holder says. “When they move around and immigrate to a new country they have to start their lives anew to a certain extent; it is a nod to that whole process of immigration, which is a pretty predominant topic these days. There are hardships that are faced when people undergo that journey.”
The show, which was written up in The New York Times, only runs through Oct. 4, so it’s best to reserve tickets as soon as possible. Katonah Museum of Art, in Katonah, N.Y., has other exhibits as well, and there’s a learning center you can visit which has art-related activities for people of all ages (and requires a separate reservation). When you’re finished with all of that, there’s an outdoor sculpture garden to enjoy.
The Katonah Museum of Art can be visited in person or via a virtual walk-through. Timed tickets must be purchased in advance. Face coverings are required and attendance is controlled to allow for social distancing. Guests arrive through one entrance and follow a guided path.
Katonah Museum of Art, 134 Jay Street - Route 22, Katonah, N.Y. Tuesday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday 12-5 p.m. Closed Monday, closed Labor Day. $10 adults, $5 seniors and students, free for members. 914-232-9555, katonahmuseum.org
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @LindaTKoonz