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    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    Memorial Day Weekend could be start of ‘monster’ tourism season in Mystic

    Mystic ― A favorable weather forecast and a projected return to pre-pandemic levels of holiday travel have Bruce Flax, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, looking forward to a banner Memorial Day weekend.

    It could be the start of a “monster” tourism season, he said Tuesday.

    “I would say, especially due to recent weather reports, that we’re in for a big weekend,” Flax said. “A week ago, the forecast was for rain this weekend, but now, it’s supposed to be sunny. If we have three sunny days, I’d say we’ll have three spectacular days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday). … If it rains, it’ll still be spectacular, just fewer people.”

    As of Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service, which tracks conditions at Groton-New London Airport, was forecasting “sunny” or “mostly sunny” skies Thursday through Monday, which is Memorial Day. The service predicted daytime temperatures ranging from the high 60s Thursday to the high 70s Sunday and Monday.

    Flax said the number of weekend tourists in Mystic has been growing in recent weeks, a sign that summertime crowds will be robust.

    The early activity, he said, may be at least partly attributable to USA Today, the national newspaper that listed Mystic among its readers’ top 10 summer-vacation destinations in the U.S. The poll, published at the end of April, ranked Mystic fourth, behind Mackinac Island, Mich.; Mobile, Ala.; and Door County, Wis.

    Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport Museum, two of the state’s leading attractions, will unveil new exhibits this weekend, according to their websites. At the aquarium, DinoSeas, billed as an “immersive journey,” will feature hands-on interactive experiences, animatronic undersea creatures and dinosaurs, 4-D movies, a two-story indoor playspace, and live amphibians and reptiles.

    The aquarium is closing early Thursday due to a fundraising event.

    On Saturday, Mystic Seaport Museum will launch “Alexis Rockman: Oceanus,” featuring 10 large-scale watercolors and an 8-by-24-foot panoramic painting, all commissioned by the museum to become part of its permanent collection.

    The village’s annual Memorial Day Parade, organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hugo A. Simonelli Post 3263, will start from Water Street at 2 p.m. Monday and continue along Route 1 to the VFW post at 6 Stonington Road.

    According to projections by AAA, the national travel service, almost 400,000 Connecticut residents will travel 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day holiday, which AAA defines as the five-day period from Thursday through Monday. The projection reflects an increase of more than 6% over last year and recalls pre-pandemic traffic levels.

    “In Connecticut this is expected to be the second busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” said Tracy Noble, a spokeswoman for AAA Club Alliance.

    Gas prices are significantly lower than they were last year, when the national average was more than $4 a gallon.

    State police announced that troopers from each of the agency’s 11 troops will be conducting extra patrols for drunk driving from Thursday evening through Monday evening. Police will be deploying laser units to enforce speed limits as well as marked and unmarked, non-traditional police vehicles.

    b.hallenbeck@the day.com

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