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You’re wearing your comfy Cudas sandals, slather on sunblock, and step outside — and you discover it’s raining. This is not how you pictured your summer vacation.
Don’t waste the day by staying inside! You can still get that seafaring feeling even if it’s too gray for the beach. Board a ship, tour a waterfront museum, hear pirate lore or learn about the rich maritime history of these well-known port cities. Here are a handful of our favorite maritime destinations, from Connecticut to California.
Avast, ye mateys! The 19-acre Mystic Seaport invites you to explore a 19th-century seafaring village, see old ship carvings and maritime art, and tour the last surviving wooden whaleship, the Charles W. Morgan. Younger kids can dress in sailors’ garb and practice swabbing the deck. Hop aboard the Breck Marshall, a reproduction Crosby catboat, for a 30-minute cruise. Or if the weather’s too grim, go meet a beluga whale at the Mystic Aquarium.
Launched in 1942, the USS New Jersey saw action in three wars and sailed for nearly 50 years. You can spend hours exploring the enormous ship. Kids will love climbing ladders, squeezing through tight corridors and clambering inside the gun turret. Comfortable, quality water shoes or sandals are a must. Cudas are perfect for wet days, because they’re grippy, fast-drying and breathable.
Take a tour through time when you visit the trove of historic ships docked in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The oldest is the USS Constellation, launched in 1797, which fought privateers, intercepted slave ships and circumnavigated the globe. Don’t miss the Saturday and Sunday “powder monkey tours,” when kids can experience the lives of the young boys who served on the ship during the Civil War.
You can also tour the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney, known as the last survivor of Pearl Harbor, and the USS Torsk submarine, which came to rest in Baltimore after more than 10,600 dives. See puffins, sharks, poison dart frogs and even a two-toed sloth at the nearby National Aquarium.
Nauticus’ interactive exhibits about naval history and weather will fascinate both adults and kids, but the coolest part by far is the guided tour of the Battleship Wisconsin. Comfortable, quality water shoes, like Cudas’ Tsunami II models, are a good choice to help you grip slippery decks. If you want to meet more huge ships up close, cruise the bustling Norfolk Harbor with Naval Base Cruises.
We love kayaking and surfing off the Outer Banks, but for centuries, sailors feared this stretch of coastline. More than 500 ships have sunk off the North Carolina coast, including the Civil War-era USS Monitor. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is a small, but engaging museum, where you can see shipwreck artifacts and hear pirate tales, including stories of the legendary Blackbeard.
Just five minutes from downtown Charleston, Patriots Point is home to a fleet of maritime war vessels including the WWII destroyer USS Laffey, the submarine USS Clamagore and the enormous aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, also known as the Fighting Lady. You can spend hours aboard the Yorktown, which is so well preserved it feels like its crew has just stepped away for a break. Wear comfortable Cudas sandals or water shoes as you explore the flight deck and check out the aircraft.
If climbing on an aircraft carrier isn’t really your thing, you can enjoy a more sedate experience at the Savannah Maritime Museum. Housed in a genteel mansion, the museum displays maritime paintings, artifacts and ship models, including one of the famous Titanic. If the kids start to get restless, head to Skidaway Island to explore the touch tanks and walk the nature trails of the University of Georgia Marine Education Center.
Did you know a swallow tattoo represents 5,000 nautical miles traveled? Or that a golden dragon means a sailor has crossed the International Date Line? See all kinds of exotic ink in the “Life of the Sailor: Superstition at Sea” exhibit at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (through Oct. 31, 2016). Also, learn about female lighthouse keepers, abalone diving and the history of California surfing.
Located on beautiful Lake Union and housed in the Naval Reserve Armory, the small Museum of History and Industry chronicles the story of the Puget Sound region. Look through a working WWII-era periscope or build your own town in the Kid-struction Zone. Come on the last Saturday of the month for Maker Days, when you can learn a craft or new skill.