From the first landing of the English Pilgrims in 1620 at Plymouth Rock, to the infamous Salem Witch Trials; and from the first shots of the American Revolution to America's literary Renaissance and Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century, Massachusetts can't be beat for historic sites. It's got the birthplaces of honored presidents, the homes of patriots and poets, and the hallowed halls of the most prestigious universities in the country. Between the historic houses and period buildings, world-class museum collections, and heritage trails, there's something to look at and learn from all angles and for all interests.
The town of Plymouth is "Pilgrim Central." The first stop should be Plimoth Plantation, which features a recreated village circa 1627 based on the one built by the English colonists in the midst of the Wampanoag homeland. Here you can interact with the costumed role players portraying real people from the colony. The Plantation also features a Wampanoag Homesite where visitors can meet real Native People (no "characters" here) to learn about traditional Wampanoag family life. In downtown Plymouth, the Plantation also runs the Mayflower II, a recreation of the Mayflower ship on which the Pilgrims sailed to the New World.
The North Shore city of Salem brings visitors face to face with both a difficult past and an engaging future. Many people associate the city with the Salem witch trials of 1692, which the city embraces both as a source of tourism and culture. Salem's also had a real significance in American history, playing a leading role in the American China trade. View exquisite artifacts from this era alonside world-class art at the Peabody Essex Museum. But if it's witch history you want, they've got it in droves. The Salem Witch Museum brings you there, back to the Salem of 1692, with a dramatic history lesson using stage sets with life-size figures, lighting and a narration - an overview of the Witch Trials of 1692.
Although the American Revolution officially began with Lexington & Concord's 'Shot heard 'round the World' in 1775, more than just tea was brewing in the years leading up to that historic day, and many of the events leading up to the start of the war were just as important as its early battles. Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston to learn more, it's literally like stepping back into history. Sixteen significant historic sites are found along the 2.5 mile redbrick walking trail.
The sites along the Freedom Trail encompass areas where townspeople educated their young, proclaimed their rights as groups, buried their dead, governed their own churches and protected their property from the British Crown. Along the Freedom Trail tourists can see individual collections of museums, meeting houses, churches, graveyards, parks, a ship and historical signs that tell a true tale of the American Revolution and beyond. Then explore Lexington and Concord to hear about the details of the opening battles of the War for Independence. The Minute Man National Historical Park features exhibits and historic trails, and the two towns flanking it offer tours of their historic houses and town commons.
Drive out to Sturbridge in Central Massachusetts to journey into the past during a very special period of our nation's history. In the years 1790-1840 a new nation took shape. In rural towns across New England, ordinary people worked to better their lives, build strong communities, apply new technologies, and define the meaning of democracy. Year-round, you'll discover the allure of history with all five senses at Old Sturbridge Village, which features a re-created rural 1830s New England town set on a historical landscape encompassing a Center Village, mills, and pastoral countryside.
The American Industrial Revolution began in the Blackstone River Valley of Central Massachusetts - the swath of land along the Blackstone River extending from Worcester, MA to Providence, RI. Learn about this innovative history by visiting the city of Lowell. The Lowell National Historical Park documents and presents the birth of large-scale textile manufacturing, the significance of the machine shop, the city's important canal system, and the use of water power. There are profiles of factory workers, from mill girls to immigrant labor; and exhibits on the difficult working conditions in the mills and what life was like living and working in this bustling, new company town.
Visit the south coastal city of New Bedford to learn all about Massachusetts' history as a famous whaling community. New Bedford was the mid 19th century's preeminent whaling port and for a time "the richest city in the world." The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park includes a 13-block National Historic Landmark District and the preeminent New Bedford Whaling Museum.