I’m a New England gal through and through, so I’m qualified to tell everyone to not bother with Plymouth Rock.
“But, history!” you insist.
Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but the Pilgrims didn’t even care about this rock enough to write about it in the first records of docking in Plymouth. William Bradford, OG governor of the colony, made zero reference to Plymouth Rock in his documentation about the Mayflower’s journey and Plymouth’s colonization. The first official mention of this famous stone being the spot where the Mayflower dropped anchor is from 1741, over a century after the Pilgrims are thought to have arrived in Massachusetts.
Let’s pause for a fourth grade history lesson.
Plymouth, Mass. today is known as “America’s Hometown,” and in a way, it is. English Separatists (aka Pilgrims) looking to escape the Church of England boarded the Mayflower and struck land in Massachusetts via what is now Plymouth Harbor. Though not the first American colony -- that’d be Jamestown in Virginia -- Plymouth colony ended up establishing New England and hosted the first Thanksgiving dinner, so people remember it.
Sure, nowadays we don’t even really care if it’s where the Pilgrims hopped into America -- Plymouth Rock is mostly a symbol of the fact that they did it at all.
Which is great! I just think don’t think anyone needs to bother looking at it. It’s enclosed by a granite canopy that you’ll be confused by at first, until you realize that not only is it a smallish and ordinary rock, you can’t even stand next to it -- you look down at it.
A better use of your time is 10 miles away. Plimouth Plantation (the spelling difference baffles me) is a true-to-history replica of the Plymouth colony as it was in the 17th century. It’s basically an outdoor, interactive museum where you can try your hand at living like a Pilgrim. There are actors walking around in character as Pilgrims to provide the whole experience, and they adjust their activity according to the seasons and recreate special events from history.
Exhibits include the English village, the Mayflower II and the Wampanoag Homesite, where modern American Indians dressed in traditional wear demonstrate the life of the tribe that the Pilgrims encountered in Massachusetts.
You can even spend your Thanksgiving at the plantation and experience the first Thanksgiving like it’s 1621.
Yeah, the rock is free to see and Plimouth Plantation charges an entrance fee, but if you're just going to Plymouth to look at a rock and think you'll be excited, think again.