Famously known as “America’s Hometown,” Plymouth, Massachusetts, is filled with carefully preserved history dating back to 1620 — the year that the Pilgrims stepped off the Mayflower and started new lives in a new country.
If you love American history, there are tons of things to do in Plymouth, MA, that you’ll love. Plymouth is a fantastic day trip from Boston, Massachusetts, Newport, Rhode Island, or other nearby cities in New England. It shines in the warm summer or fall—especially leading up to Thanksgiving!
Plymouth has tons of history to explore, but it’s a beautiful destination to visit, too. The town itself is extraordinarily lush, the homes are charming, and the views of the harbor and simply beautiful. Don’t skip these awesome things to do in Plymouth, MA, during your trip to this historic destination.
Awesome Things to Do in Plymouth, MA, for History Lovers
1. Plimoth Patuxet Museums
If there’s one thing you have to do during your time in Plymouth, it’s visiting the Plimoth Patuxet Museums. These interactive museums and attractions bring history from centuries past to life, and they’re one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA! The Plimoth Patuxet Museums consist of four main attractions: the Historic Patuxet, English Village, Mayflower II, and the Plimoth Grist Mill. I’ll share a bit of information about each attraction below.
I highly recommend starting your day in Plymouth at these museums, so you can spend as much time at each attraction as you’d like. I also recommend starting at the primary address, where the Historic Patuxet and 17th-Century English Village are located, and then driving into town to tour the Plimoth Grist Mill and Mayflower II.
If you want to secure your tickets in advance, you can get admission to both the Historic Patuxet and English Village and the Mayflower II or the Plimoth Grist Mill for $33.95 per person. Purchase tickets here.
The Historic Patuxet offers the opportunity for guests to learn about the Wampanoag people who have lived here for over 12,000 years — centuries before the Pilgrims arrived! At the Historic Patuxet, you’ll be able to tour a wetu (winter house), learn how to make a mishoon (canoe) with fire, and discover how the Wampanoag people grew, hunted, and cooked meals.
You can also talk to museum staff to learn more about the Wampanoag people and how they lived in the early 1600s.
17th-Century English Village
The 17th-Century Village is a replica of the Plymouth Colony. You’ll see timber-framed houses, items that the Pilgrims may have owned and used, and livestock roaming around the village, like chickens and goats.
The best part of this portion of the museum is the actors, dressed up as real people who inhabited Plymouth Colony. You can ask the “colonists” questions about their day-to-day life, their beliefs, where they came from, their families, and more, and they’ll respond with historically accurate information, but as if they were talking in the present. We spent some time talking to an actress playing Susanna White, the mother of Peregrine White, the first Pilgrim born on American soil.
After leaving the English village and Patuxet (within walking distance on the same property), we walked back to the visitor’s center. Here, we found a fantastic exhibit about the history of Thanksgiving, from the first Thanksgiving, how Thanksgiving became a national holiday, and how Thanksgiving dinner has evolved over the centuries.
Personally, I’d recommend walking through this small but informative exhibit. Since Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, I enjoyed learning more about its history. Out of all the things to do in Plymouth, MA, this is one thing I hadn’t known about previously but really loved!
Plimoth Grist Mill
When you’ve finished at the two villages, you’ll need to drive roughly three miles into town to visit the next exhibit—the Plimoth Grist Mill. From the outside, you’ll be able to see how water from Town Brook provides power for the waterwheel, and from the inside, you can see how the power grinds the corn to make cornmeal.
Although the Plimoth Grist Mill is a replica, you can still learn its history and how the Pilgrims used it in the 1600s. It is one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA, if you have an interest in history!
The Mayflower II is a full-scale replica of the original ship that transported 102 Pilgrims from England to America. The Pilgrims left on a daring voyage bound for the “New World” on the Mayflower in 1620 from Plymouth, England (check out these things to do in Plymouth if you are spending some time “across the pond”), and they decided to name the spot where they landed — you guessed it — Plymouth!
Needless to say, touring the Mayflower II is one of the most popular things to do in Plymouth, MA. Unfortunately, we were unable to tour the ship due to a thunderstorm, but we did have the chance to see the ship in the harbor. If you have good weather, you’ll have to tour the boat and let me know what it’s like on board.
2. Howland House
Did you know that the Jabez Howland House is the only existing structure in Plymouth where the Pilgrims actually spent time? I didn’t either until I visited. However, visiting this historic home is one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA!
This home was built in 1667 and was sold by the original owner’s son, Jabez Howland, in 1680. It remained a private residence until it was purchased to become a museum in 1912. You can tour the Howland House from June – October, from Wednesday – Sunday, for $6 per adult. Since we were visiting Plymouth on Tuesday, we stopped for a quick photo!
3. Plymouth Rock
Ready for the truth? Plymouth Rock is underwhelming. Although I wouldn’t actually say it’s one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA, it is one of the biggest attractions in the city, so it deserves a spot on this list.
Plymouth Rock is said to be the location where the Mayflower landed and the Pilgrims first set foot in America. Although the historical accuracy of Plymouth Rock is undoubtedly up for question, it’s still a symbolic location to visit nonetheless. You’ll probably only spend all of two minutes here, but it’s an easy place to visit (right next to Downtown Plymouth and the Mayflower II), and the views of Plymouth Harbor beyond the rock are pretty spectacular!
4. National Monument to the Forefathers
The National Monument to the Forefathers is a massive statue that stands at eighty-one feet, constructed in 1889 to honor the Pilgrims. Our visit to Plymouth was cut short because of a terrible thunderstorm, so we couldn’t make it to this spot. However, this statue looks impressive, and I wish we’d had the opportunity to visit it!
5. Pilgrim Hall Museum
Plymouth is home to the country’s oldest continuously-operated public museum — the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
The Pilgrim Hall Museum has been one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA, ever since it opened in 1824. According to the museum’s website, they have William Bradford’s Bible, the only painted portrait of a Pilgrim, Susanna White’s baby cradle brought onto the Mayflower, William Brewster’s chair, and the earliest sampler made in America, embroidered by Myles Standish’s daughter, on display.
The Pilgrim Hall Museum also focuses on the relationship between the Wampanoag people and the English colonists throughout history. You can purchase tickets to the museum for $15 per adult. Like the Howland House, Pilgrim Hall Museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
6. Coles Hill Burial Ground
If you’re looking to pay your respects to the Pilgrims and others who lost their lives on the Mayflower, you may find yourself at Burial Hill — a graveyard on the National Register of Historic Places with headstones dating back to 1681.
However, you may not realize that before the Pilgrims buried their dead at Burial Hill, they buried people at Cole’s Hill—located just above where the original settlement would have been. After three centuries, the bones from Cole’s Hill were placed in a large coffin that you can see during your visit to Plymouth.
We visited Cole’s Hill instead of Burial Hill, and I can’t say I was disappointed. Cole’s Hill also features a statue of Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag people who befriended the Pilgrims, and the hill overlooks Plymouth Rock and Plymouth Harbor!
7. Brewster Gardens
When you’re ready to take a break from the museums, monuments, and memorials, head to Brewster Gardens. These beautiful, lush gardens were near the Pilgrims’ original settlements, but today, they’re a beautifully maintained park and one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA.
Just steps away from Brewster Gardens is Leyden Street, the oldest continuously inhabited street in the United States. Take a walk down this historic street after strolling through the park to be transported back in time to when the Pilgrims used this street in 1620!
8. Plymouth Farmers Market
The Plymouth Farmers Market provides fresh, local, and seasonal produce, meats, cheeses, and other items to residents and visitors in Plymouth. The market happens every Thursday at the Plymouth G Pub Entertainment Complex from 2:30 PM – 6 PM — rain or shine. If you are around on a Thursday, stop by the market for some local goodies.
9. Plymouth Ghost Tours
One of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA, at night is a spooky ghost tour. Dead of Night Ghost Tours is a popular ghost tour provider in Plymouth that offers a 90-minute Twilight Lantern Ghost Tour. You will be able to learn about the ghosts that roam the oldest streets in America and visit Burial Hill, where the Pilgrims are buried.
10. Whale Watching Cruise
Did you know that humpback whales, pilot whales, finback whales, pilot whales, and other whale species call the warm waters just off the coast of Plymouth home from May – October? If you will be in Plymouth, MA, during the summer or early fall, be sure to book a whale-watching boat ride with Captain John Boats to see these whales in action! It is one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA, during the warmer months.
11. Myles Standish State Forest
Myles Standish State Forest, just outside Plymouth, is the perfect place to get outside during every season. Visitors can go hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, fishing, horseback riding, swimming, and snowmobiling in this 12,400-acre park, depending on the time of year. You can also bring your RV and camp on a site near one of the park’s four beautiful ponds!
12. Cranberry Harvest Celebration
If you are visiting Plymouth in October, take a day trip to Wareham, MA, for the Cranberry Harvest Festival. This old-fashioned family festival is a great way to see and learn about the cranberry harvest — a New England tradition. You can also enjoy live cooking demonstrations by culinary professionals, shop in the marketplace, and listen to live music. It is a fun event for the whole family and one of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA, if you are in town at the right time to enjoy it.
Where to Stay in Plymouth, MA
Although I’d recommend visiting Plymouth as a day trip from a nearby city, like Boston or Newport, if you decide to extend your stay to experience more of the fun things to do in Plymouth, MA, here are some highly-rated hotel recommendations:
- Holiday Inn Express – Plymouth, an IHG Hotel — These comfortable accommodations in the heart of Plymouth are surrounded by historical sites and many of the best things to do in Plymouth, MA.
- Best Western Plus Cold Spring — This quaint hotel offers scenic views of Cape Cod and is within walking distance of many historic things to do in Plymouth, MA.
Best Places to Eat in Plymouth, MA
Since we had to leave early due to the thunderstorm, we didn’t have the chance to dine in Plymouth. However, if you’re looking for a bite to eat, these restaurants are located near all of Plymouth’s main attractions, and they have excellent ratings, too!
- Mamma Mia’s – Plymouth Waterfront — The food at this Italian restaurant is just as spectacular as the incredible views of Cape Cod Bay!
- Salt Restaurant —Enjoy the raw bar and entrees at this upscale restaurant in Plymouth, serving dumplings, noodles, soups, rice bowls, salads, and other tasty meals.
- Plymouth Bay Winery — Sample a glass of wine or flight at Plymouth Bay Winery. In addition to wine, this local company makes wine sauces, local honey, balsamic, olive oil, and more!
- Wood’s Seafood —It’s not a trip to New England without seafood, right? Try fresh seafood at this local spot on the water serving lobster, clams, scallops, lobster rolls, chowders, and other fish!
FAQs: Best Things to Do in Plymouth, MA
How do I spend a day in Plymouth, MA?
During your day in Plymouth, MA, visit the Plimoth Patuxet Museum (including the Mayflower II and Plimoth Grist Mill), Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrim Hall Museum, and the Jabez Howland House. When you get hungry, grab a bit to eat at Mamma Mia’s on the Plymouth Waterfront and spend some time walking around downtown.
Is Plymouth, MA, worth visiting?
Yes, Plymouth is the oldest town in Massachusetts and one of the oldest towns in the United States, dating back to 1620. Plymouth, MA, is worth visiting for its rich history and ample collection of historical sites. It makes the perfect day trip or weekend trip from most nearby towns in New England, including Boston, Newport, and Portland.
What is Plymouth, MA, known for?
Plymouth, MA, is the home of Plymouth Rock, a landmark that identifies where the Mayflower and the Pilgrims landed in America from England in 1620. Because of its rich history, Plymouth, MA, had been endearingly nicknamed “America’s Hometown.”
Does Plymouth, MA, have a downtown?
Plymouth, MA, has a quaint downtown filled with shops, restaurants, and popular landmarks, like Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II. Downtown Plymouth is also home to two green spaces — Brewster Gardens and Burial Hill — for a lush change in scenery.
Step Into the Past with the Best Things to Do in Plymouth, MA
Alright, history buffs. Which of these things to do in Plymouth, MA, would you be the first to check off your list? Regardless of which of these things to do in Plymouth, MA, you choose for your adventure, you are sure to walk away with a better knowledge of the history of the United States.
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