When it comes to beaches, restaurants and shopping, Westerly has it all and then some, but if you’re looking to make memories with experiences that are a little bit out of the ordinary, you may want to try these:
Get to know a beluga whale — up close and personal
From the Russian belukha, meaning “white,” belugas are an Arctic marine mammal bigger than a dolphin, smaller than a whale. They’re a hit at Mystic Aquarium, where they are one of the institution’s most popular attractions. But if seeing them from a distance isn’t enough for you — if you’d like a more intimate encounter — then the aquarium is ready to accommodate you. And you may learn a lot in the process. From May to October, in the Beluga Encounter program, participants put on waterproof gear and wade waist-deep into the Arctic Coast exhibit with the whales and trainers. This program is designed to help guests better understand and connect with these magnificent animals through an up close experience, and is a great opportunity to learn more about them, their habitat and conservation of the species. For young children or those who don’t want to get waist-deep in the water during the Beluga Encounter program, Mystic Aquarium offers a way to have an up close visit with a beluga whale without getting wet. During the Whales Up Close program, witness a beluga feeding and learn more about these magnificent animals’ special behaviors with only a three-foot-high window separating you from the whale.
The Beluga Encounter program is $169 for members and $179 for non-members. The Whales Up Close program is $69 for members and $79 for non-members. Both programs run May to October. Online sales open in April.
Catch a flick at Misquamicut Drive-In Movie Night
Drive back in time as you drive into the Wuskenau Town Beach Pondside Lot from May to October. The Misquamicut Drive-In Movie Night features classics from “Jaws” to “Footloose” — from “Ghostbusters” to “The Goonies” — from “Field of Dreams” to “Fifty First Dates.” You can even catch “Grease,” which has a great-drive-in scene of its own. The fun begins on May 19. Every Friday from May to August, showtime starts at 9 p.m. The gates open at 6:30. Every Thursday in July and August, showtime starts at 9 p.m. The gates open at 6:30. And every Friday from September to October, showtime is at 8 p.m. The gates open at 7. The last show is October 13. Price is $10 per car. Concession stands and restrooms are available. For a schedule of what’s playing, visit misquamicut.org.
See the beauty of Misquamicut Beach as you plunge to the earth
Many people enjoy the beauty and wonder of Misquamicut Beach — but few get to see it from the sky. But that’s exactly what you’ll get to do when you jump out of a plane strapped to one of the experienced professionals at Skydive Westerly. There is no adventure in the world like it. With minimal training, join one of the professional tandem skydiving instructors for the adventure of a lifetime. And you can’t beat the view. See Misquamicut Beach from 10,000 feet in the air at speeds of 120 mph. The price of a tandem skydive is $220 cash ($230 if you pay with a credit card). There are discounts for military, police officers, firefighters, students, and guests celebrating a birthday. But have an ID ready, because you have to be at least 18. You also have to weigh less than 240 pounds, no exceptions. For more information, visit skydivewesterly.com.
These parade floats actually float!
For the truly wondrous and whimsical, look no further than the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade at Mystic Park. Macy’s may make the claim to opening the holiday season with their Thanksgiving parade, but in this neck of the woods, we wait until Santa arrives by tugboat up the Mystic River. After the annual tree lighting, folks line both sides of the river to see the parade of boats, some fun, some fanciful, all lighted up like a Christmas tree. Entrance to participate in the 17th Annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade only requires a toy or coat donation to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and it is open to the public. Decorated vessels parade down the Mystic River at 6:20 p.m. and return to the Mystic River Park, where spectators and judges gather. Boats are judged on creativity and team spirit, and prizes are offered for Most Charasmatic Crew, Innovative Vessel, Best Dressed Vessel and Miss Mystic Vessel of Grandeur. There is no better way to kick off the season, so plan to be there Saturday, Nov. 25 when Santa arrives on the 60-foot “John Paul.”
How about dinner — a couple of centuries ago?
Ever wonder what it would be like to have dinner in the 18th century? Well, now you can, in one of the best Colonial/Victorian houses around. The Babcock Smith House (so named because the Babcocks lived there — and then the Smiths) will treat you to a complete candlelit five-course dinner for 12 at $50 per person. Served by the museum docents, the dinner also includes a tour of the museum, which is amazing even without dinner. From the colonial era of the Babcocks to the Victorian era of the Smiths, each period is beautifully and lovingly preserved. The home was first built in 1750. It is located at 124 Granite St. in Westerly. The museum is open May 30 through Oct. 31 on Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m. It is also open in July and August on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Suggested donation is $5 per person.
Celebrate the 4th of July in style at Ocean House
Celebrate the birth of our nation in style at Ocean House’s Independence day Beach Ball, featuring amazing food, live music and dancing. The traditional Lobster Boil takes place over the beach and offers the best summertime seafood, fresh sides and grilled classics. Everyone comes dressed in their best Fourth of July-inspired ensembles with colorful blazers and beautiful dresses. Live music will keep you moving and grooving into the night. And true to tradition, the evening’s grand finale is a colorful fireworks display over the ocean. Ocean House is located at 1 Bluff Ave. in Watch Hill. For more information, visit www.oceanhouseri.com
Napatree Point: It’s the best place around to say good night to the sun
If you look up Napatree Point on TripAdvisor, the main headline reads “Awesome Sunset Spot.” What better thing can possibly be said of anyplace? Napatree Point is a long sandy spit that extends about a mile and a half from Watch Hill. It’s a nice, peaceful, relaxing walk. But when the sun takes a header over the horizon, it turns the canvas of the sky into a masterpiece that would make DaVinci weep. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to check visiting the southernmost and westernmost point of mainland Rhode Island off your bucket list. To get to the beach go down Fort Road in Westerly and park in the shopping district. The entrance to the conservation area is through the private parking lot, past the cabanas on your left.