With waterfront beauty and small-town ambiance, Plymouth, Mass., oozes with American history and charm. A visit to Plymouth might have you stepping back in time, spotting a humpback whale, strolling along the beach, exploring Burial Hill, or shopping and dining along Main Street. There’s a lot to do, but at the same time, there’s not a lot to do – and that’s the beauty of Plymouth.
While it can be crowded in the summer months, Plymouth isn’t Disney World crowded. It’s a small, quaint town with bed & breakfasts and a few key historical attractions. An ideal place for a romantic weekend getaway or a short trip with the kids, I recommend four must-see spots in Plymouth: Plymouth Rock, Plimoth Plantation, Mayflower II, and Kiskadee Coffee.
Yes, it’s a rock – a rock with the year “1620” carved into it. But you really can’t go to Plymouth – the birthplace of America – without taking a look at the symbolic first footfall of the Pilgrims.
That’s not a typo. Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum and its spelling is taken from a historical account of the town by Governor William Bradford. Back in the 17th century, there were no standards for spelling, so many things were spelled phonetically. The museum stays true to its roots by using the “Plimoth” spelling.
Plimoth Plantation offers the Wampanoag Homesite, the English settlement, and a craft center. At the Wampanoag site, visitors interact with Native Americans dressed in 17th-century, historically accurate clothing and learn how they grew food, fished and hunted, made clothing and tools, played games, and more. My family had an inspirational visit to a nush wetu (long house), where we sat by a fire pit and talked for quite some time with a Native American.
As you walk down the path from the Wampanoag Homesite, prepare to enter the 17th Century in every way. At the English Settlement – a recreation of the community built by the Pilgrims along the shore of Plymouth Harbor – the role players are very serious and do not break character. They are strict about not knowing anything of the world beyond their time. You can ask a question using a modern term and they will feign ignorance. This can be frustrating for kids, but I found it to be quite entertaining. We spent less time at the English Settlement, but learned a lot exploring the homes, stores, fields, animals, and fortifications. Quite a different way of life from the Native Americans!
The original Mayflower ship no longer exists, but a full-scale reproduction was built in England and crossed the Atlantic in 1957. This ship, the Mayflower II, is open for tours so you can get a feel for what the space was like for the 100+ people that lived there for ten weeks. Let me tell you, it’s tiny! You’ll get to see the cramped passengers’ quarters and the lower level “hold” where supplies were stored.
And because you need to eat, I recommend Kiskadee Coffee, a relaxed coffee shop with friendly service and quality food. I had lunch and a Candy Cane Latte. The atmosphere was unhurried, lots of laptops, lots of conversation. We loved Kiskadee so much, we revisited the next morning before we headed out of town.
Another wonderful event in Plymouth is America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade. The weekend before Thanksgiving is a celebration of our nation’s history in Plymouth. There’s an illumination ceremony, music, food festival, crafters village, Wampanoug Pavilion, and lots of waterfront activities and entertainment. The parade features a chronological walk through the history of our great nation via custom built floats, equestrian groups, and renowned drum corps. While I haven’t had the chance to see this parade, I’m looking forward to it someday soon!
Depending on the time of year you visit, there are beaches, nature walks, whale-watching tours and more historical sites to visit in and around Plymouth. I recommend spending at least three days to maximize your experience, but in the summer months you could take four or five days and enjoy all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this wonderful little town by the ocean.