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jun 01 2011

Ahoy Matey! Check out these pirate museums

Prior to being commandeered by pirate Captain Sam Bellamy, the "Whydah" was a slave ship. It's currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. (Courtesy National Geographic)

Have you ever wondered what it was like to sail the seven seas, pillage for gold doublooms and hunt for buried treasure? Pirate lore has captured the imagination of both children and adults for centuries, often a popular subject of literature and film. The latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opened on May 20th, adding the infamous pirate Blackbeard as one of its main characters. A number of pirate museums along the east coast of the United States—as well as one in the Bahamas—offer guests a rare opportunity to see the treasures left behind by the real pirates of the Caribbean.

Visitors to New Providence Island in the Bahamas can get an idea of what pirate life was like during the "Golden Age of Piracy" by checking out the Pirates of Nassau Museum, where guests are welcomed by a pirate re-enactor and can view a number of wax figurines depicting what life was like onboard famous ships like Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge. Walk through models of a replica of Blackbeard's ship and a number of old glass bottles, coins and other artifacts left by pirates on Nassau's shores make the trip interesting for pirate lovers and landlubbers alike. As a display in the museum states: "It was said that when a pirate slept he did not dream that he had died and gone to heaven but instead, that he had returned to New Providence." Pirates of Nassau is open from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday and from 9am to 12pm on Sunday, with tickets priced at $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 4-17.

If you're looking for pirate museums stateside, there are a few worth mentioning.

Formerly known as The Pirate Soul Museum in Key West, the entire collection was moved to St. Augustine earlier this year, and reopened in December of 2010 as the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum. Home to one of the largest collections of authentic pirate artifacts in the world, the museum features one of only two original Jolly Roger flags in existence, Captain Thomas Tew's treasure chest, an official journal of Captain Kidd's final voyage, and one of the world's oldest wanted posters from the 1696 search for Captain Henry Every. The museum is open from 9am to 8pm daily and discounted tickets are available online for $10.99 for adults and $5.99 for children ages 5-12.

Is Edward Teach (aka. Blackbeard) one of your all-time favorite pirates? The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, Connecticut, will open a new exhibit entitled "Life aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard's Flagship" on June 11th, 2011. The ship ran aground on a sandbar outside North Carolina during a raid in 1718, resulting in the death of the famous pirate. Free opening festivities from 10am to 4pm at the museum include 18th century weapons demonstrations, jolly roger flag building and the chance to have a photo taken of you with Blackbeard himself. A free lecture—"Blackbeard: Pirate Enemy #1—will be given by Dr. Elliott Engel at 6pm and 8pm.

Did you know there were pirates as high up as New England? The New England Pirate Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, features exhibits starring Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, Captain Sam Bellamy and other pirates who frequented Boston's gold coast. Visitors can take a 20-30 minute guided tour of authentic pirate artifacts, a pirate ship replica and even troll an 80 ft deep cave for treasure. The museum opens every day at 10am and the last tour is given at 5pm. Tickets are $8 for adults, while children ages 4-13 get in for $6 and seniors over 65 pay $7.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is hosting National Geographic's production, Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship, until August 21, 2011. The exhibit tells the story of the Whydah, originally commissioned in 1716 as a slave ship. During a voyage from the United States to England, the ship was overtaken by Captain Sam Bellamy who made it his flagship for the remainder of his pirate career. Unfortunately the ship sank on April 26th, 1717, during a nor'easter off the coast of Cape Cod, leaving only 2 of its original 146 crew as survivors. The National Geographic exhibit offers visitors a rare glimpse at over 200 artifacts gathered from the Whydah wreck, the first ship ever found in U.S. waters. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm and tickets are $22 for adults, $13 for students and $16 for seniors.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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