Note: The museum is giving away a one-year family membership prize pack. Click here for details!
Nestled on 10 trail-filled acres of land tended by Native Americans for more than 12,000 years, is the stunning Mashantucket Pequot Museum. The 308,000-square-foot center is a modern tribute to human and natural history, showcasing indigenous cultures, science and the arts.
The museum’s size and scope give families plenty to discover, and special events and new programs offer many reasons to return.
Visitors explore history on a grand scale at the Pequot Museum, which is now open for its regular season, Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Start your journey in the Ice Age
Enter the ice-covered environment that humans and beasts traversed in Connecticut 12,000 years ago. While younger visitors enjoy a close encounter with a 10-foot-tall mastodon, giant beavers and majestic wolves, older ones can check out cool facts about the mile-thick glacier that covered the area, and how its movement shaped the current landscape. Walking through the exhibits brings families forward in time to life-size dioramas depicting developments in a warming climate that allowed for increased hunting, horticulture and village life.
Step into another world
The 16th century Pequot Village is a sight to see. This life-sized, immersion environment offers families an up-close and extremely realistic view into the daily activities and pastimes of Pequot families; talking, working, playing, cooking, fishing, hunting, weaving, gardening, raising children and caring for one another. Opt for the self-guided audio-tour and move at your own pace through life unfolding among woodlands and wigwams. Here, history comes out of the display case, as visitors get to experience traditional clothing, ornamentations, tools, and wigwam furnishings in a lifelike and lively community setting.
Further exhibits explore the evolution of Native peoples after European contact, and offer compelling perspective on how indigenous people responded to the Colonial presence.
Food, culture, creatures, happiness
The Pequot Museum hosts dozens of family-oriented events each year through late fall, welcoming visitors from New England and around the world. The museum is committed to staging programs that are unique, culturally meaningful, memorable and fun.
First up: Eyes on owls
Visit with six live owls, learn what owls eat, where they live, and how to attract and protect the owls near you. There will even be a hooting lesson! Naturalist Marcia Wilson and photographer Mark Wilson will also share field signs and naturalist skills that you can use to observe owls in the wild.
This event on Saturday, April 15 at 1 and 3 p.m. is included with the purchase of admission to the museum and is free for Pequot Museum members as well as Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center members. The first 200 children to arrive at the museum will be admitted free, thanks to a sponsorship.
Next: Native New England clambake
Hosted outdoors as summer’s bounty begins to arrive, this May 27 event is a welcome feast for all senses – and all ages.
Savor the aromas and sea-to-table techniques. Acclaimed museum Chef Sherry Pocknett will explain the artful process of steaming lobster, fish, steamers, linguica, hot dog, corn on the cob, white and sweet potatoes and brown bread in the Native tradition over hot stones and rockweed. Watch as locally sourced quahogs are transformed into homemade clam chowder and listen to Sherry’s stories of growing up in the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod. While the feast cooks, enjoy traditional drumming, singing and exhibition dancing by local tribe members in full regalia.
After you savor the last bite of watermelon, take a springtime stroll on more than 7 miles of marked walking trails, explore the 18th century farmstead and its organic gardens, or ride to the top of the observation tower for a breathtaking view of the glacially-formed landscape.
Become a 17th century pioneer
Hands-on participation is encouraged at this popular two-day gathering June 23-24. Native, English, Dutch and French reenactors showcase various aspects of daily New England life in the 1600s, including wampum making, cooking, militia and cannon drills, basket making, pottery, archery, lacrosse, children’s games and more. Attendees young and old can also try their hand at making an arrow, corn husk doll, and dipped candles — using the same techniques employed 300 years ago. These fun historical handcrafts are free to make and fun to bring home. Foodies will enjoy live historical cooking demonstrations, and special dishes will be available in the museum café throughout the event. War enthusiasts and historians won’t want to miss the living history displays from the Pequot War (1636-1637) and King Philip’s War (1675-1677).
A dance tradition like no other
Did you know the centuries-old tradition of powwow still holds great importance to Native Americans today? Much as they did in their earliest forms, contemporary powwows serve as a popular cultural experience where people gather, honor and celebrate through dance, music and elaborate regalia.
Experience the powerful sights and sounds of dozens of performers and drum groups at the museum’s one-of-a-kind Educational Powwow on July 6. Christopher Newell, education supervisor, skillfully explains the cultural, social and historical significance behind the dance, dress and songs. This event is held in the museum’s soaring, glassed-in Gathering Space. Native works of art will also be on display and sale, including clothing, jewelry, baskets and pottery.
The Mashantucket Pequot Museum is located at 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket. Visit pequotmuseum.org for more information.