America’s Hometown: Plymouth Rock, Mayflower & Plimoth Plantation

Plymouth, Massachusetts, is home to one of the great dramas in the founding of America.

Step onto a full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Step onto a full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the landing location for the Mayflower’s Pilgrims in 1620, and their subsequent settlement, it has earned the nickname America’s Hometown. The Pilgrims also celebrated what is now known as the first Thanksgiving with their Wampanoag neighbors here in 1621.

Situated about 40 miles south of Boston along Massachusetts’ South Shore, Plymouth unfolds along a scenic harbor of blue waters and picturesque boats. The town is walkable, so you can park along the waterfront and head to its most famous landmark: Plymouth Rock.

The legendary granite rock, known as the ‘Landing Place of the Pilgrims’, rests in the sand along the waterfront. Being a rock, it’s not the most interactive attraction, but the bold neoclassical portico enshrining it gives weight to its hallowed significance. A guide usually stands nearby answering questions, and recounting the rock’s adventures and how it was identified in 1741 as the landing place.

After Plymouth Rock, you can visit two nearby sites: Cole’s Hill and Mayflower II. Cole’s Hill, located behind Plymouth Rock and across Water Street, reveals a scenic harbor view from which you can observe Mayflower II, as well as the comings and goings of today’s yachts and fishing boats. On the hill you’ll find a statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag Indian chief who befriended the Pilgrims, plus a sarcophagus containing recovered bones of the settlers who died (half of the original party) during the first winter.

Then, just north of Plymouth Rock, you’ll find the dockside home of Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of the original. It was built in Brixham, England, and sailed to Plymouth in 1957 as part of a transatlantic goodwill project.

Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The adjacent dockside museum offers exhibits about the voyages of both the Mayflowers, but the real fascination begins onboard the ship. There, you can walk the oak-timbered half-deck, smell the salt air, and imagine the settlers approaching land and nearing their dream of religious freedom. While exploring the ship, you’ll also meet guides who offer a wealth of knowledge about the voyage and those traveling onboard.

After disembarking Mayflower II, delve into history by traveling 3 miles south of town to visit Plimoth Plantation. Since it’s an historical highlight of any trip to Plymouth, you’ll want to arrive early enough to enjoy several hours.

Plimoth Plantation is a living historic museum dedicated to telling the history of Plymouth Colony from the perspective of both the Pilgrims and the Native Wampanoag people. The museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate that includes the Wampanoag Homesite, 1627 English village, 17th-century Craft Center, Plimoth Bread Company, and Plimoth Grist Mill.

Costumed role-players tell you about their perilous journey across the Atlantic, while modern guides speak about the fascinating history of Mayflower and Mayflower II. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Costumed role-players tell you about their perilous journey across the Atlantic, while modern guides speak about the fascinating history of Mayflower and Mayflower II. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Visitor Center offers an indoor gallery exhibit, Cinema, gift shop, and the Patuxet Café serving delicious New England fare.

At the homesite along the Eel River, you’ll find the recreated home and garden of a 17th-century Wampanoag family. You’ll meet native Americans, including members of today’s Wampanoag tribe, who answer questions and demonstrate traditional skills such as preparing a meal, making a canoe, or building a home.

From the homesite, you can stroll along the Eel River boardwalk to the English Village rising over Cape Cod Bay. For the many costumed interpreters mingling around the re-created Pilgrim Village, the year is 1627—seven years after the first arrival of settlers.

Exploring the village is like traveling back in time. You’ll wander along paths with colony ‘residents’ who enter and exit their thatched-roof homes and pursue their chores. Although they’re focused on their lives, feel free to approach them ; they’ll be glad to answer questions. Speaking in 17th century English dialects, they convey not only the histories of the people they re-enact but also their viewpoints and concerns.

It may seem awkward to converse with someone from the 17th century—to ask how a colonist feels about the neighboring Wampanoag, for instance—but after a few questions you might get hooked on the experience, gaining much through the interaction.

Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Like most people, I was immediately struck by how small the ship seemed—particularly in the ‘tween decks, where the passengers were confined. How could 102 people, including three pregnant mothers, have survived more than ten weeks in a space this size?

—Nathaniel Philbrick, “At Sea with the Pilgrims: Writing About the Voyage of the Mayflower”, Plimoth Life, 2007

Read More

50 Amazing Places to RV

You might have seen it on a shelf and thought, “I should pick that up.”

The 17th-Century English Village is a re-creation of the small farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims* along the shore of Plymouth Harbor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The 17th-Century English Village is a re-creation of the small farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims* along the shore of Plymouth Harbor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the national bestseller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

Sometimes the best adventures are those in your own backyard.

Here, in alphabetical order, are 50 things to do or see in your RV before you die:

Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts

A living history museum in Plymouth, Plimoth Plantation depicts the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in the 17th century by English colonists. Visitors relive the past by experiencing a living museum that showcases the distinct lives of two cultures that came together during the 1600s.

The interaction between guests and the current day Wampanoag and people playing the part of the original English colonists, provides keen insight into life in Plymouth during the times of early colonial life, and uneasy, yet respectful, relationship that existed between the colonists and the native Wampanoag.

Quartzsite, Arizona

A dusty destination in the middle of nowhere—but, come January, the little town of Quartzsite transforms into the vendor capital of the world and becomes the largest gathering of RVs and RVers on the planet.

This sleepy Arizona town has become famous for luring snowbirds who like to browse amid RVs and RV products, gems and minerals, crafts and hobby items—and the “mother of all swap meets.”

Continue reading →

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

A mere two-hour drive from Denver, Trail Ridge Road takes visitors into the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, traversing a ridge above 11,000 feet for 10 miles. Along the way, tiny tundra flowers and other wild blooms contrast with sweeping vistas of towering summits; 78 of them exceed 12,000 feet. Alpine lakes reflect the grandeur.

On a one-day blitz from the East Entrance, drive Trail Ridge Road as far as Farview Curve for the classic overview of the park’s mountains, valleys, and tundra, then double back and take Bear Lake Road to see a collection of scenic lakes

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

An Arizona highlight is a visit to Saguaro National Park near Tucson—the only place in the United States where unique “man-shaped” saguaro cacti grow. The towering saguaros which can grow up to 50 feet in height are the highlight of this national park, of course.

Tucson, Arizona is home to North America’s largest Cacti. The Giant Saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The scenery is spectacular and captures the beauty that is so unique to the region. Saguaro National Park is divided into two segments in Tucson: Saguaro East (Rincon Mountain District) and Saguaro West (Tucson Mountain District).

Santa Fe, New Mexico

A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter.

Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings. Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages.

Continue reading →

Sedona, Arizona

Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona is an Arizona destination not to be missed—a must-see wonders.

Sedona easily makes the “A” list of RV destinations in the U.S. due to its rugged western appeal and colorful rock formations. Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centerpiece.

Sedona’s mesmerizing red-rock country is unique to the world. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Continue reading →

Please Note: This is Part 7 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

—Saint Augustine

Read More