Celebrate 400 Years of History in Plymouth

cape cod plymouth activities

We realize that it might feel counter-productive once you’re made it to Cape Cod to head back over the Sagamore Bridge before your getaway is over. But a visit to Plymouth, which is only about a 30-minute drive, is well worth to effort for anyone who wants to soak in our nation’s history.

This year marks the 400th anniversary since the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620, and the town is going all-out to commemorate the occasion with celebrations lasting throughout the year.

plymouth massachusetts history

One of the biggest events is the return of the restored Mayflower II this spring. Since 2016, the replica of the ship in which the Pilgrims sailed to the New World has been undergoing a multi-million-dollar renovation in Mystic, Connecticut. But it is scheduled to arrive back in Plymouth Harbor on May 21.

Several major events are planned to celebrate the Mayflower II’s homecoming. The official Opening Ceremony of the Plymouth 400 Commemoration will be April 24 with a parade through downtown featuring Pilgrim descendants, veterans and active military, reenactment groups, the U.S. Coast Guard Band, other military bands, and a host of dignitaries and celebrities. The two-hour event will also feature musical headliners and a Plymouth 400 Legacy time capsule that will honor the past and celebrate the future. Throughout the day, and, in fact, all spring and summer, the Plymouth waterfront will be brimming with fanfare and special activities.

cape cod hotels

In addition, there will be festivities at historic Memorial Hall, which over the years has hosted such well-known performers as Bob Dylan, Robert Cray and Melissa Etheridge.

The official maritime salute to the Pilgrims’ journey will take place on June 27-28 when a regatta of wooden ships, yachts, work boats, official vessels, and pleasure craft will culminate in a traditional New England lobster dinner on the waterfront. Military fanfare and maritime programming will be part of the day’s festivities.

The waterfront also features plenty of shops to browse and a number of quality seafood restaurants, and is also the site of the iconic rock. Yes, it’s just a rock ensconced beneath a granite canopy, but it was the disembarkation site of the Pilgrims, so you might want to take a moment to view it while heading to the nearby Mayflower II museum or just strolling along the harbor.

One of the most popular waterfront dining spots is the East Bay Grille, located on the town wharf. In warm weather, it offers outdoor seating on the water’s edge, along with a bar and Adirondack chairs in which to lean back and savor a cocktail.

The Rye Tavern is a short drive from the waterfront, but it’s worth the visit if you’re on a history tour. This cozy and quaint tavern dates back to the 1700s and once served as a stagecoach stop. Today, it features upscale farm-to-table seasonal offerings, some grown in the tavern’s own garden.

While you’re enjoying the Plymouth 400 festivities, you can take a walk back in time with a visit to Plimoth Plantation, which tells the story of the Wampanoag people and the English colonists who created Plymouth County in the 1600s.

plymouth ma activities

At the 17th-century English Village, you’ll encounter a re-creation of the small farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims as Colonial Plymouth is brought to life. There are modest timber-framed houses, occupied by costumed role players eager to tell you about their new lives in Plymouth Colony. The people you’ll meet have adopted the names, viewpoints and life histories of the people who lived and worked in the colony.

At the Wampanoag Homesite, located on the banks of the Eel River, you’ll discover how the 17th-century Wampanoag lived. You’ll duck into different kinds of homes, including a mat-covered wetu and a bark-covered long house, where food is cooked over an open fire using only the ingredients that were available in the 1600s. At the riverside, you may see men making a mishoon, the Wampanoag word for boat, using fire as a tool to hollow out a tree. Unlike the people you’ll meet in the 17th-century English Village, the staff in the Wampanoag Homesite are all native people and are dressed in historically accurate clothing, mostly made of deerskin.

Plymouth has earned the moniker “America’s Hometown.” During 2020, that label has never been more accurate.

 

All photos via Facebook.