Plymouth, MA
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Plymouth, MA

American history gets real at this waterfront landmark.

Destination Guide

Let kids learn their lessons the fun way in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This quaint, New England town is where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 and later celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Its three major attractions - Plimoth Plantation, the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock -- paint an authentic picture of Pilgrim life your children won't soon forget.

Plimoth Plantation Revisited

Start your textbook-free tour early a.m. at this recreated Pilgrim village, where actors in full costume reenact colonial life. As you wander through the village's 20 buildings, encourage the kids to ask questions. The Pilgrim townsfolk will answer in character and in the colloquial English of the day. It's interactive learning at its best.

Native Americans are an integral part of the Plimoth Plantation experience. The adjoining Hobbamock's Homesite is staffed by native Wampanoag Indians dressed in deerskin, and well-versed in traditional Native American ways of hunting, cooking, building and crafting.

More History Downtown

After lunch, continue your family's historic adventure with a quick drive to downtown Plymouth, home of these top attractions:

Plimoth Plantation/Ted Curtin

  • The Mayflower II. Hear costumed interpreters describe the Pilgrims' difficult journey across the Atlantic. Then, explore this replica of the original sailing ship, including the captain's quarters, cargo hold and cannon room.
  • Plymouth Rock. Nearby the Mayflower II, Plymouth Rock sits on shore, enshrined in a pillared monument. It's a rather ordinary-looking New England boulder. But the Rock's awe-factor can't be denied. Seeing it up close helps people envision those weary Pilgrims stepping ashore for the first time.
  • Plymouth National Wax Museum. Older children (8 years and over) will enjoy the lifelike, if not unnerving, depictions of the Pilgrim story showcased in this museum. Located across the street from Plymouth Rock, the museum is also home to two of the best gift shops in town. Just try to walk away without buying one of those oh-so-authentic Pilgrim hats. A great Thanksgiving Day prop.

On The Waterfront

Once your clan has had their fill of the past, head for the water. In warmer months, there's swimming, harbor cruises, deep-sea fishing trips, whale watches and splashdown tours on amphibious-vehicles. Here are two kid-friendly boating trips we found:

Lobster Tales Excursion. This all-hands-on-deck experience gets kids hauling up lobster traps, handling live lobsters and attaching those fat, little elastics to a pair of snapping claws. (Only if they dare, of course!)

Pirate Adventure. During this swashbuckling adventure, kids don pirate hats, sing songs of the sea, ward off enemy pirates (with a water cannon) and capture a treasure-trove of booty.

Both trips are affordably priced, last one hour and include a narrated tour of Plymouth Harbor. And let's be honest, it's a welcome change after all that historic stuff.

Baking Bread Plimoth
Plantation/Ted Curtin
Dine Like the Forefathers

If your children are adventuresome eaters, reserve seats for a buffet-style lunch at Out of the Ordinarie, a 17th century-style restaurant at Plimouth Plantation featuring such old-world specialties as Wampanoag stew, roast hen, and a "sallet" of asparagus.

During October and November, Plimouth Plantation also serves up a fine Harvest Dinner and Thanksgiving Day feast. Tickets are hard to get so reserve early. And not to worry, the Plantation does have a cafe with "normal" food.


Type of trip: Educational, water sports

Best ages: 6 and up

Ideal trip length: Long weekend or stopover to Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket.

Distance: Boston (41 miles); Springfield, MA (120 miles); Hartford, CT (141 miles) Best time to go: May, June, September and October. Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II are closed December 3 through April 1. Weather: 65/45 degrees in fall and spring.

Traffic alert: Avoid Route 3 South from Boston on Friday afternoons/evenings where tie-ups can cause one-hour delays.

Squirm factor: Some

If You Go...

Plimoth Plantation/
Ted Curtin

Plimoth Plantation. Plimoth Plantation Highway off Routes 3 and 3A, 508-746-1622. Mayflower II. State Pier on Water Street, downtown Plymouth, 508-746-1622,

Plymouth National Wax Museum. Across from Plymouth Rock, 508-746-6468.

Lobster Tales Adventure and Lobster Tales Pirate Excursion. Town Wharf on Water St., downtown Plymouth, 508-746-5342.

More Information: Plymouth Visitor Information Center/Discover Plymouth, 508-747-7525,; Plymouth County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-231-1620 or 781-826-3136,; Massachusetts Tourist Information Center, 508-746-1150,

Edaville Railroad

The youngest members of your family will squeal with delight as they ride the Edaville, a 5.5-mile narrow gauge railroad. The 45-minute steam engine tour through cranberry bogs is best in the fall, when this bright red berry is harvested. During November and December, sit back and enjoy the Christmas Light Festival, on display as you travel the train route. A carousel, kiddie rides and small petting zoo on the grounds add to the fun. 15 minutes west of Plymouth on Route 58 in South Carver, 508-866-8190.

After a day of good behavior, let the kids loose at Myles Standish State Forest. This 15,000-acre recreational area offers biking, hiking and horseback riding paths, as well as ponds for fishing, boating and swimming. Lots of room for campers and family picnics. Six miles west of Plymouth off Route 3 in South Carver, 508-866-2526.

The INSIDE Scoop

Favorite local spots:

Lobster Hut. Town Wharf in Plymouth, 508-746-2270. Not your typical "clam shack," this fried seafood haven features an expansive deck overlooking the harbor.

Plimoth Lollipop Company. North Plymouth on Rt. 3A, 508-746-5875. Known for its old-fashioned barley sugar lollipops and bins filled with salt-water taffy, maple sugar candies and "penny" candy.

Local foods: Lots of great seafood -- lobsters, steamers, fried clams/shrimp and clam chowder. And since this part of Massachusetts is known as "Cranberry Country," try the berry-flecked muffins, breads and jellies.

Best souvenir: Pilgrim hat that can be worn at every Thanksgiving meal.

Reviewed April 2004.