22 Things to Do in Plymouth MA 

Over 400 years ago, a group of 102 Pilgrims arrived in the “New World” in what was called the Plymouth colony. The arrival of the English colonists and their interactions with the indigenous Wampanoag people led to a complex history. The roots of Native Americans run deep here, a region that both celebrates the birth of the United States and acknowledges an uncomfortable history. By exploring things to do in Plymouth MA, one can learn and share the stories of all who call this place home! Not only is Plymouth a historic hotspot, but also a charming coastal town full of classic New England activities. 

As a Massachusetts resident for over two decades, I have always heard of the famous historic town of Plymouth. It wasn’t until I walked the 400 hundred year old streets that I truly understood and felt the historical significance. I was transferred back in time by exploring authentic replicas of ships, houses, and artifacts. The town is walkable and quaint, making it perfect for a weekend or a day trip. The best time to visit is the summer season for many attractions are closed in the winter. However, special events for the fall and winter season attract visitors year round.

Things to Do in Plymouth MA

When you first arrive, I recommend stopping by the Plymouth Information Center to pick up brochures and maps. We took a pen, circled, and mapped out the destinations we didn’t want to miss. Most of the main attractions and activities are walkable, but places like the Historic Patuxet Homesite, 17th Century English Village, and Plymouth Long Beach require about a five to 10-minute drive from the town square. 

Walk Pilgrim Memorial State Park

Pilgrim Memorial State Park Entrance

Looking for a place to relax in between exploring the Mayflower II and seeing Plymouth Rock? Pilgrim Memorial State Park is a beautiful, centrally located quaint park that offers views of the harbor. This dog-friendly park is a great place for daytime activities. When we visited, this was our first stop. It is a great place to dip your toes into all the history. What better way to start than where the Pilgrims started, the Mayflower!

Go Below Deck on Mayflower II

Outside Entrance to Mayflower II on dock
Entrance to Mayflower II on Dock

The story of the Mayflower’s voyage is all too well known. I remember learning about it several years in grade school. However, seeing the full-scale reproduction of MayFlower II makes you feel part of the story yourself. This authentic replica of the real Mayflower offers an immersive educational experience. 

Many attest to the shock of how small the ship was, carrying 102 people within a 25-foot x 106-foot space. You can explore below deck to see how the pilgrims lived during the voyage and peep into the captain’s quarters. The guides are very knowledgeable, making it a fun way to learn American history. As you walk around, you can better understand how ship-building technology has drastically improved since the 17th Century. 

The Mayflower II will return to Plymouth in mid-April 2024 and should reopen from mid-April through Thanksgiving.

See Plymouth Rock 

Caged in rock on the ground with the water in the background
Plymouth Rock Display

Plymouth Rock is a famous landmark that has brought up discussion about its significance. The story goes that this is the rock the Mayflower hit on the shore of Plymouth in 1620. However, there is no historical evidence to confirm that this is the exact rock that the pilgrims hit. Being identified in 1741, it is not hard to see why many people question the story. 

Many friends of mine who heard I was seeing the Plymouth Rock enjoyed pondering its legitimacy with me. It still remains a national mystery to this day. 

Despite the real happenings, the rock stands as a symbol of freedom. Located in Pilgrim Memorial State Park, it is a must-see if you are in the area. It’s the rock! Just don’t be surprised to find it kind of small and unexceptional.

Watch Grinding of Corn

A big wheel on the side of a brown building with water at the bottom
Plimoth Grist Mill View of the Wheel

The Plimoth Grist Mill is a reconstruction of the first mill built by the pilgrims. This real-life working mill produces grain for the local community. Watch the 14-foot wheel spin the Town Brook water, or venture to the grinding floor to witness the breaking down of corn and wheat. Some people were disappointed they didn’t see grinding in person, so make sure to double-check if they are grinding food on that day. 

There is also a hands-on exhibit where you can experiment with water power and machinery at a simple level. 

Learn about 17th Century Indigenous Life  

Plimouth Plantation | Plymouth MA

The Wampanoag, the “people of the first light”, had a population of around 40,000 during the arrival of the pilgrims. They lived within 67 villages in what is now known as Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Following a great loss in the war against the English, the Wampanoag continue to pass down oral traditions, language, and beliefs to the modern day. 

As part of the Plimoth Patuxet Museums, the Historic Patuxet Homesite is a live replica and representation of how indigenous people of the region lived for 12,000 years. Staffed by Native Americans who enjoy sharing their history and culture, you can explore their way of life at the time of the pilgrims’ arrival. Explore a Wetu (house) with fur-lined furniture, or dig out a Mishoon (canoe). You can also explore the cooking area and the gardens filled with native plants including corn and squash. This interactive experience is a great way to learn about an underrepresented area of history and hear their stories.

Live Like a Pilgrim 

View of village with path overlooking sea
17th Century English Village View

The 17th Century English Village, formally referred to as Plimoth Plantation, is another real-life replica and representation of how life was in 1600s Plymouth. This replica focuses on the pilgrims who lived in furnished timber-framed houses. Explore the aromatic kitchens, the gardens, and pound corn with a villager. Real-life roleplayers give an authentic experience, transcending you back in time. Like the Historic Patuxet Homesite, roleplayers give you a look into how people lived back then. 

Keep in mind that the Plymouth Patuxet Museums are open from late March through Thanksgiving weekend, but be sure to check the website for opening days and hours before you go.

Go Whale Watching 

Captain John’s Whale Watching is a popular place to seek some whale spottings. For a four hour trip, you leave from Plymouth Harbor and head out into Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank. These areas are feeding grounds for many types of whales from the humpback whale to the endangered Right Whale. The staff on board are extremely knowledgeable, making it both an exciting and educational experience.  

It is important to check not only the weather but the conditions of the water. Some people report lesser-than-ideal experiences due to seasickness and rough waves. However on a peaceful day, the experience can be truly magical for marine life lovers. 

Captain John’s Boats also offer deep-sea fishing. Keep in mind that these tours are only available from mid-April through mid-October.

Explore the Last Standing Pilgrim House 

Big brown wooden house with a red door
Jabez Howland House View from Outside

The Jabez Howland House is a truly authentic historical experience. It is the last existing house in Plymouth where the pilgrims lived. Jabez Howland’s family lived in the house until 1680 and it remained a private residence until 1912, when it was transformed into a museum. Since then furniture and artifacts from the original house have been retrieved and displayed. 

From letters and documents to native plants, this house stands as a time capsule of what life was like as an English settler. The house is located in downtown Plymouth, making it very walkable from other major landmarks and attractions. 

Visit the Massasoit Statue

Massasoit Statue in plymouth

If you want to pay homage to the Native people who originally lived in the Plymouth area, be sure to stop by the Massasoit Statue. Located across the street from Plymouth Rock on Cole’s Hill, this statue honors Massasoit Sachem or Ousamequin, who was the sachem or leader of the Wampanoags.

I’d like to acknowledge that the land of Plymouth, Massachusetts is the unceded ancestral home of the Wampanoag people. This land sustained them for millennia, serving as a source of food, medicine, and cultural identity.

I recognize the painful history of colonization that began with the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620, and the devastating impact it had on the Wampanoag way of life and acknowledge the ongoing challenges faced by the Wampanoag community, and their continued resilience in the face of adversity.

To learn more about this history, be sure to visit the historic Patuxet homesite and you could also go down to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Museum, which is located on the reservation of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod. This museum presents the tribe’s history and culture from their perspective. 

Watch Fireworks On 4th of July 

What better place to celebrate Independence Day than where the Country first started? 4th of July Fireworks can be viewed from Pilgrim Memorial State Park, Burial Hill, Stephens Field, and Nelson Park. While in the area, there is a 5k, a parade, and food trucks to add to the festivities. 

Walk the Jetty 

The Plymouth Harbor Jetty is a great place to take a break from all the history and just relax near the water. The walk out on the water is about 5 to 10 minutes and offers beautiful views of the harbor. The path is made of rocks, so make sure to stay cautious while walking.  

A fun feature of the path is a small bridge in the jetty for boats to pass under. About halfway out, the path turns south to get a great positioning in the harbor. 

Visit Nelson Memorial Park 

Nelson Memorial Park offers a playground, a large grass area, and a small sandy beach a little way north of Pilgrim Memorial State Park. A walking trail runs throughout the park offering water views, connecting to the North Plymouth Rail Trail. The water is clear and the whole beach has a very peaceful atmosphere, contrasting the busy harbor. With concession stands and the Splash Pad, this area is a great family-friendly destination. 

Shop handcrafted Gifts 

The Richard Sparrow House is not only a gift shop, but a museum. Focusing on locally crafted knick knacks like jewelry, pottery, and bags, you will find authentic items. The gift shop offers a refreshing shopping experience, one that is less commercial and more small-scale. 

After shopping, make sure to check out the Museum portion of the House. Here you can see a snapshot of the exact rooms people lived in over 300 years ago. 

Walk Leyden St 

Uphill street lined with colorful houses and a church at the end
Leyden Street (First Street)

Walking only a few blocks over from Pilgrim Memorial State Park is Leyden St, “First Street”. Located in Plymouth’s historic neighborhood, it is quite walkable and offers scenic views of the close by water. Like the Jabez Howland House, Leyden Street is the first and longest-standing street since the Pilgrims’ arrival. When you walk, make sure to look at the signs of names who lived in the historic houses. 

The street is gorgeous with authentic American styles of architecture, standing as a time capsule. A few blocks away is the National monument of the War of 1861, honoring the sailors and soldiers of Plymouth who aided in defeating the rebellion and ending slavery. This 50-foot granite structure is surrounded by a large area of grass next to the backdrop of beautifully authentic houses of the time. 

Explore Brewster Gardens

The Brewster Gardens is a perfect place to unwind and connect with nature in the heart of downtown. From the Town Brook running right through, to picturesque walking trails, this haven offers a tranquil atmosphere. There are several benches, art, and historic statues to explore while in the park. 

Visit Long Beach 

Rocky beach with snow and grey blue sky
Long Beach in the Winter

When I say breathtaking, I truly mean it. We visited in the off-season, making the views from Long Beach even more tranquil. This approximately 3-mile barrier beach is great for swimming, fishing, horseback riding, biking, and of course walking. During high tide the beach is quite rocky, but low tide offers more sand, best for taking long walks. Bird nesting is common during certain seasons, and limited parking can make it difficult at times. After the main parking lot, there is a bumpy dirt road where you can take your car, but only brave it if you have a four-wheel drive. Our car barely made it, so it is recommended to bike or walk instead. Some recommend the beach more for boating, especially due to the chillier water. 

Taste Local Wine 

Plymouth Bay Winery offers tastings of their local wine, jellies, and sauces from local grapes and berries. Delicious food is also offered such as a cheese plate to balance the tastes. This winery is a fun environment, with many pilgrimed themed knick-knacks from the gift shop. This experience is a fun way to incorporate local history. 

Pilgrim Hall museum 

The Pilgrim Hall Museum is the oldest public museum in the US, preserving and highlighting both Native American and Pilgrim history. Here they focus on telling the whole story of the relationship between the native indigenous population and the English settlers. History is told through preserving and displaying artifacts from both groups of people.

Stories highlighting women from both cultural groups are presented in video. You can see up close William Bradford’s 1592 Geneva Bible, and view displays of Pilgrims’ authentic clothing.  

This museum is a great way to engage and learn about our history in a way that may have been lost in the classroom. It is a great educational experience.

Edaville Festival Of Lights

If you are planning to visit around the holiday season, the Edaville Festival of Lights is a nearby attraction perfect for family fun. Held at the Edaville Family Theme Park, this winter tradition runs from the middle of November through December. Are you a train lover? Edaville is known for its classic steam and diesel trains alongside the Christmas-themed activities. Not only does Santa make an appearance, but there are hundreds of thousands of lights that decorate the whole place. This event is very popular, so it is recommended to buy tickets ahead of time online. 

Directly in Plymouth, there is a Winter Lights road race, Christmas parade, and tree lighting. 

Learn more about how to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts.   

Discover How Cranberries are Harvested 

Cranberries are an essential part of a classic Thanksgiving feast. In the fall season from the end of September to the end of October is cranberry harvest season. Join a Cranberry Bog Tour and witness up close the different stages of the process. From picking, to racking, to loading, watch the cranberry go through its whole journey. Here you can learn about cranberry farming as well as its nutritious benefits. 

Visit Burial Hill Cemetery 

Dating back to MayFlower passengers that passed in the first year of settlement, Burial Hill Cemetery is an important piece of US history. Some notable people who are buried here are Governor William Bradford and William and Mary Brewster. 

The earliest burial spots were marked with carved wood, no longer preserved to the modern day. Out of respect and the delicacy of the current stone markers, it is requested to not touch them. To further learn about the stories of those who have passed, and those whose spirits may still be around, check out the ghost walking tours! 

Look for Paranormal Activity 

Due to the historic and complex history of the region, paranormal activity has been known to be common if you are looking in the right places. Specifically, the Dead of Night Ghost Tours have you walk through the historically haunted part of town after dark. As you explore places like Burial Hill, you will hear stories of peoples’ spirits that remain after hundreds of years.

Where to eat in Plymouth

Dillon’s Local

Dillon’s Local Famous Fish ‘in Chips

After a long day of exploring, the best thing to do is sit down and grab some delicious seafood. Popular among the locals and my mom and I, Dillon’s Local is a fantastic stop. You walk into a small pub-like restaurant and the waitstaff bring a friendly and small-town energy. After not too much contemplation, both my mom and I went with the Fish n’ Chips. Their fish is never frozen and it turns a golden brown color and never yellows. Not only is it one of their most popular dishes, my mother exclaimed “Best fish next to Galway in Ireland”. I don’t know about you, but being compared to fish from Ireland is a big deal.

We finished up with a creme brulee and left feeling incredibly satisfied. Located right downtown, it’s also not a far walk from the harbor and other attractions, making it a great pitstop for food during your stay. 

East Bay Grille 

If you are looking to enjoy upscale waterfront scenery and delicious cuisine, East Bay Grille is a great option. Serving both both traditional and modern American-style dishes, the menu ranges from seafood to steak. With the venue being more luxurious, they ask quests to dress business casual with specific requests to not wear hats after sundown and no men’s sleeveless shirts. The restaurant often has live music and events so stay posted! 

Speedwell tavern 

If a laid back pub is more your liking, make sure to stop by Speedwell Tavern. Known for its craft beer and chicken wings, it is the perfect place to kick back and hang out with friends and family. According to many, Speedwell Tavern has the best beer and wings in town! With great service and live music, you can’t beat it. 

Where to Stay in Plymouth

John Carver Inn

Where to stay in Plymouth MA - The John Carver Inn hotel review
John Carver Inn Entrance

If you want to stay longer than a day trip, the John Carver Inn is a quaint and charming accommodation that fits among the history of the town. This full-service hotel has a restaurant and a spa. The Indoor Pilgrim Cove Pool is equipped with a waterslide, which is a great draw for families with kids.

The hotel is very active around common vacation weeks, serving Thanksgiving feasts, and cookie and cupcake decorating. Other entertainment involves magic shows and face painting, great activities for families. A sauna, fitness room, hot tub, and poolside bar are great attractions for adults. 

Take a trip to America’s hometown and discover a world of history!

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