On the 37th day of our family road trip, the PapiBlogger clan visited America’s Puritan roots in Plymouth, Massachusetts, boarded the Mayflower II and capped a long day with phantom-hunting at Boston’s premier ghost tour.
In preparation for upcoming, history-packed visits to Philadelphia and our nation’s capital we decided to take the kids way back to our country’s Puritan roots in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our journey into Puritan times began with Plimoth Plantation (yes, it’s the original spelling for Plymouth).
The 40-acre plantation is an impressive recreation of a native Wampanoag village and of the original Plymouth settlement. The two settlements are recreated to help you understand the full context of the cultures and viewpoints that collided in 1620 when the Puritans and the native Wampanoag encountered each other.
The Wampanoag village features descendents of the Wanapago and other Native American tribes in costume but not in character. The Native American actors provide visitors with a 20th-century interpretation of how they lived, what they believed and what happened to them.
In the much larger Plymouth settlement, located just a couple miles from the original one, you are greeted by in costume and in character actors. These characters speak to you in 17th century English and are quite convincing because even when you see them working in the farms with animals or mending a fence, they never leave their character. (Jonathan kept asking one of the Pilgrim women we met if she REALLY, REALLY lived there).
When you go to the Plimoth Plantation, budget at least a half day to see the settlement and don’t skip the 15-minute orientation video. It will be very helpful to your visit.
MAYFLOWER AND PLYMOUTH ROCK
About four miles north of Plimoth Plantation is the Mayflower II, a replica of the original one that was torn down in England three years after it was rented by the Puritans to reach Plymouth. No one knows the whereabouts of the original’s wooden beams but it’s likely that the ship’s wood went to Ship Heaven somewhere in some church’s pulpit or bench seats.
The Mayflower II was built in 1957 and was a gift from England to the United States. It took two years to assemble the new Mayflower using ship building plans that survive from the 17th century.
Even though visiting the ship should be the first part of your trip to Plymouth, the kids didn’t mind the order we took. As with most every where else we’ve been they peppered the poor guides with a barrage of questions:
Where did people bathe? They didn’t bathe and actually, that was quite normal. Most people would just wet their faces with some ocean water that was brought on deck with buckets.
Did anyone die during the journey? Two people died and 102 survived.
How many people got sick on the trip? Everyone got extremely seasick on the 66-day trip, especially because they were not sailors; they were families.
Did any animals travel on board the ship? Young farm animals.
Little known facts about the Pilgrims:
- The Mayflower passengers never called themselves Pilgrims. That characterization was not given to them until the early 1800s.
- The Mayflower was leased for its journey to Plymouth and returned to England where three years later it was torn down and its wood was used for building materials.
- It’s often assumed that all the passengers on the Mayflower were persecuted Christians but only half of them were Christians. The other half were not.
- 51 of the original 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower died within months from disease.
ROADTRIPPER, PART THREE
During our brief view of the alleged Plymouth Rock, (yes, the one that was set aside to be the historic one many years later), we met a major road tripper, Jim Marx. Marx, 61 of Michigan, had just completed a 65-day, 3,650-mile, 14-state bike ride from Seattle to Plymouth. This specific ride is called the Yellowstone Trail.
PATRIOTS AND PHANTOMS
At night we took one of our favorite ghost tours, Boston’s famous Ghosts & Gravestones tour. In case you’re counting, Ghosts & Gravestones was our third ghost tour of the trip but the reason we like these tours is because they’re like playing a live version of “Scooby Doo” and they get the kids very engaged with the place they’re visiting.
Our Boston ghost tour was probably my personal favorite because it had the four key ingredients that the elite ones have: history, humor, scary pranks and a mixture of trolley riding and walking. It didn’t hurt that our “ghost guide” lady on our tour (her character’s name was Maria) was the funniest one we’ve ever had.
During the tour you go inside three of Boston’s most historic cemeteries, places that look straight out of the “Scooby Doo” cartoon except you visit the graves of such famous people as Paul Revere, Mother Goose (yes, really) and Samuel Adams.
(Jonathan got the scare of his life at the gravesite of Ben Franklin’s parents when a ghost person popped out of nowhere and that’s exactly the kind of thrills that make the kids love these types of tour).
SPRINT NEXTEL ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY
Cranky old people and judging parents have given the kids or us the evil eye at numerous places throughout the trip so plan to deal with it. In order to avoid conflict it is a good idea to discuss with your spouse and kids how you plan to deal with cranky old people you will encounter on elevators, fair rides and practically anywhere else where large crowds gather.