Many are our Thanksgiving myths. The very first “Thanksgiving,” in Plymouth, Massachusetts, sometime in the fall of 1621, was actually a harvest festival, rather than a day of Thanksgiving, which had religious connotations.
Nonetheless, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a national day of Thanksgiving each year. And we’ve been overeating ever since.
Turkey aside, Plymouth holds a special place in American history and has been careful to preserve and celebrate it. 24 miles west of Provincetown, where the Mayflower first threw out her anchor, the pilgrims came ashore and settled in 1620.
Visitors to today’s Plymouth can see the famous Plymouth Rock at Pilgrim Memorial State Park, where it is housed in a monument designed by McKim, Mead and White, and staffed (May-November) by park interpreters who field questions from visitors.
History buffs won’t want to miss Plimouth Plantation, where a self-guided tour through 1627 English Village lets you take in the sights and sounds of the settlement as it appeared just seven years after the pilgrim’s arrival. Costumed and role playing settlers are there to answer your questions and provide a peek into the world of 17th century America.
The Wampanoag Homesite gives visitors a chance to see how Native Americans of the region lived in the late 1600s. The costumed people who staff this attraction, however, are not actors — they’re modern Wampanoag people, whose ancestors have lived in New England for 12,000 years.
Of course, no trip to Plimouth Plantation is complete without a visit to the Mayflower II, a recreation of the vessel that brought the pilgrims to Plymouth. In 1957, this vessel was built in England and sailed across the Atlantic to Plymouth, just as she was originally.
When you’ve had your fill of history, Plymouth’s shoreline features great beaches and the town is home to plenty of good restaurants offering everything from diner food to fine cuisine. If you come by boat, check out our list of nearby marinas.