Plymouth, Massachusetts: History Comes Alive
Last Updated on May 18, 2017 by Jody Halsted
Even though Plymouth, Massachusetts was only half an hour from our rental house in Scituate we waited until our time in Massachusetts was almost at an end before visiting. Mainly because Plimoth Plantation didn't open until the end of March, but more than that, we really wanted some nice, warm weather.
Thankfully the Saturday we chose for our Plymouth outing was amazing- blue skies, sun, warmth. And Sunday promised to be even more beautiful- which was lucky for us as we needed another day to explore what Plymouth had to offer. And we still didn't see everything!
If you want to see both the Mayflower II and Plimoth Plantation (and if you're visiting Plymouth I'm gonna say it's pretty much a given that you want to experience that history) I recommend you buy your tickets from the Jenney Grist Mill. While you won't “technically” save any money on your tickets you will get a tour of the mill for no additional charge. I also suggest scheduling yourself for the Historic Walking Tour- it was the best part of our first day. Just a note: the Jenney Grist Mill only accepts cash for the combo tickets. Visa and Mastercard are accepted for all other tours and merchandise.
Nancy Martin, who with her husband Leo (the miller), cares for the mill, was incredibly helpful when I inquired about scheduling our first day. Her suggestion: Tour the Mayflower first, then head out to the Plantation. Do the grist mill at the end of the day, followed by the walking tour.
Getting Around Plymouth, Massachusetts
Plymouth's downtown area is walkable and parking is plentiful, though most of it is pay-parking. There are a few free parking areas, one of which is at the Jenney Grist Mill. To get to Plimoth Plantation you will need a car or get in touch with America's Hometown Shuttle to inquire about routes and pricing.
Things to Do
My recommendation for your first stop, ok your second stop after you get your tickets from Jenney Grist Mill, is the visitor center on the corner of Water Street & Memorial Drive. Pick up the great (free) visitor's information: the Plymouth Guide, the Pilgrim's Path & Town Square “Walk Through History” brochures from VisitPlymouth.com and the Best of Plymouth map with a close-up of the downtown area on it.
From the visitor center it is an easy walk to the Mayflower II.
The Mayflower II is a recreation of the original Mayflower, a late 16th century merchant ship. You can explore the decks and chat with costumed staff members about what the journey would have been like. Off the ship are exhibits with information about both the Mayflower and the Mayflower II (which sailed the Atlantic in 1957). Check out the list of passengers- maybe you'll find a distant ancestor (I did: William Brewster).
Just past the ship, back on dry land, are two rough hewn log buildings which house the gift shop. You will find many of the same items at Plimoth Plantation, although there are some maritime items that we only found here.
Walk a bit farther and you'll find Plymouth Rock, probably the most celebrated sediment in the US.
Plimoth Plantation, a recreation of the original settlement, is a couple miles from the downtown area. If you are a history buff or you enjoy talking to people I suggest planning few hours here. Luckily the combination ticket we purchased allows for entrance into the plantation two consecutive days. We went through quickly on the first day and went back for the entire afternoon the next.
The plantation has 6 areas:
Visitor Center: view the orientation program, grab something to eat in the cafe, visit the gift shops and view the Thanksgiving exhibit.
Wampanoag Homesite: Here you will meet Native People and learn about their history and culture. We spent a lot of time here learning and talking. The staff in this area wear traditional clothing and practice traditional skills. They are not re-creationists, however, but preservationists of their culture. We spent a lot of time here both days we visited talking of life and listening to stories.
Eel River Boardwalk: This is a beautiful way to get from one site to another. Lots of fauna and wildlife.
1627 English Village: The staff here recreate the original colony settlers. You have stepped back to 1627. Look inside the homes, talk with the settlers and learn their life stories as they all represent actual people. Ask in modern language- but be prepared for questions and clarifications: a bathroom hasn't always been called a bathroom!
Crafts Center: We missed this on the first day and spent over an hour here on the second! We all enjoyed watching the artisans at work and listening to them discuss what they were doing and how. There is another gift shop here featuring pottery made on site.
Nye Barn: Learn about the rare breeds of animals that didn't used to be so rare.
Jenney Grist Mill: A recreation of the Jenney Grist Mill built on the site of the original mill (the first mill built in the US; the original mill burnt in 1837.) Learn why the mill was so important to Plymouth, how big a grinding stone is, and why John Jenney built a fish ladder. Talk with Nancy & Leo about the history of the mill and their dreams for the John Jenney house and bakery, located across the Town Brook. And reserve a spot on their Historic Walking Tour. Leo is full of information from past and present. We learned so much from him during our tour (he's got great back-story on “Hollywood East“.)
Next to the Jenney House is the Sparrow House, the oldest house in Plymouth. It's a great pottery shop (among other amazing finds).
The National Monument to the Forefathers is well worth seeing. It sits away from everything else but signs will lead you to it.
If you get your fill of history there's lots of shopping. Souvenir shops line Water Street; head up to Court Street for eclectic shops.
At the end of Water Street, past the free parking, is Nelson Street Memorial Playground. Picnik areas, great equipment and a sandy beach for walking. Nothing better on a nice day.
Isaac's on the Waterfront was elegant without being imposing. Our daughters were welcomed and the food was quite good. Salads, seafood (of course), sandwiches and specialty burgers. $10-$15 entrees.
New Tokyo is located at the edge of Plymouth just off Hwy 3. We drove down a couple of times. Go for the Hibachi. The traditional Chinese food was a let down a couple weeks later. Kids eat free Wed-Fri. Expect to spend $25 per person, not including drinks.
The British Beer Company has a location downtown. We ate at a BBC in Pembroke. Fun atmosphere, good food.
For a picnic in the park visit Tedeschi, in the heart of downtown. Huge deli sandwiches, made to order.
Skip the Ming Dynasty near the waterfront. The food wasn't very good, the service was terrible and the prices were high for the quality.
Plymouth was one of those places we would have liked to spend more time. No matter how much we saw it left us wanting to experience more.
Because the house we rented was so close by we didn't stay in a hotel here. There are plenty of lodging options: hotels, B&Bs, camping and home rentals. (If you're renting a house though, I suggest Ocean Perch.)
I have many more pictures on my Flickr page…