Follow this historical timeline to find the top five historical sites to tour with the family on your trip to the Commonwealth. From the sandy beaches of the Massachusetts coastline to the breathtaking fall foliage and snow-covered ski trails, the best time of year to visit this four-season state will depend upon your family's interests. When traveling with children, you simply can't pass up the opportunity to experience American culture come to life in this richly historical state.
Cape Cod: Plimoth Plantation, Mayflower II
What better way to learn about the beginnings of America than to experience the landing of the first permanent settlers and walk through the village created out of steadfast dreams?
Begin this wonderful trip back in time aboard the Mayflower II, a floating, full-scale reproduction of the original Mayflower where you can fully appreciate the courage of the original settlers and the sacrifices they made to come to this new world, through costumed role-players who eagerly recount their adventure. Explore Plymouth as it was in the 17th century as you wander through the recreated coastal village alongside costumed settlers going about their daily lives. Experience the vast differences between two cultures as you explore the Wampanoag Homesite, where modern-day Native American staff practice and preserve traditional skills and speak about the history of the Wampanoag people.
Mayflower II is located on the Plymouth waterfront while the Plimoth Plantation is located three miles from downtown Plymouth. Combination tickets to visit both locations are $24.00 per adult, $14.00 for children 6 to 12 and free for children under 5.
Plimoth Plantation is open March 26 to November 27, seven days a week.
Salem: The House of the Seven Gables
Infamous for its 17th-century witch trials, Salem has a rich history to explore, including The House of the Seven Gables, which should be a stop on your tour of Salem. Built in 1668, New England's oldest standing mansion was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne's book of the same name. There are many special events during the year inviting you to become part of the town's history.
General admission includes guided tours of The House of the Seven Gables, a visit to The Nathaniel Hawthorne House, The Counting House, the Colonial Revival Gardens and the Waterfront. It is open year round.
Adult admission is $12.00, children 5 to12 is $7.25.
Boston: Freedom Trail
Fast-forward in history about 100 years after the first settlers of Plymouth to the Colonial settlers about to wage their war for freedom. This tour of the important points along America's quest for freedom can be seen by car, trolley or boat, but if the weather permits, this is a wonderful walking tour. Starting from Boston Common, a red-brick or painted line takes the visitor to 16 historical sites including the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House.
Many guided tours are available.
Charlestown: USS Constitution
If you can't do the complete freedom trail, make its 15th stop one of your priorities. You are invited aboard the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship, still afloat after two centuries.
Several times a year the ship makes a turnaround cruise that is open to the public. Since space is limited, the passengers are selected by a lottery which can be entered by visiting the official Navy Web site.
The USS Constitution is open April 1 to October 31, Tues.-Sun. from 10:00 AM to 5:50 PM; November 1 to March 31 from 10:00 AM to 3:50 PM.
Free 30-minute guided tours are given daily by active-duty sailors. The last guided tour is at 3:30, but visitors may take self-guided tours up until sunset.
Sturbridge: Old Sturbridge Village
Fast forward another 50 years after the American Revolution to take a stroll through a rural New England Village set in the 1830s.
The heart of this authentic 200-acre community, which is abuzz with activity, is the expansive town common that includes shops, houses, stores and meetinghouses, all of which the visitor is encouraged to explore. Once you have spoken with a few of the friendly townsfolk, you can meander through the countryside over a covered bridge along rambling country roads to pop in on real, working farms.
The magic of this setting lies not only with its authentic buildings that even smell of history but in the experience of becoming part of a real, working town. The townsfolk never come out of character as they go about their daily routines, happy to stop their task at hand to explain exactly what it is they are doing. Old Sturbridge Village is a living, breathing history lesson that no child, or adult for that matter, should miss.
Located in scenic Sturbridge, in the western part of the state, the village includes more than 40 structures, including restored buildings brought from across New England as well as some authentic reconstructions.
Admission is $20.00 for adults $20.00, $5.00 for children 3 to 17.
The Boston Freedom Trail winds for 2.5 miles through downtown, the North End, and into Charlestown. In theory - and this is extremely flexible, depending on your interests and habits - it's probably a 4-hour excursion to cover the whole trail....but that can be compressed or expanded as you like. You can do it all in one day or visit individual sites over a span of years!
For some reason, Prescott pushed on to a lower hill closer to Boston, Breed's Hill, and dug in there under the cover of darkness. Whatever the reason for his decision, he created two centuries of confusion, since the Battle of Bunker Hill didn't actually take place on Bunker Hill, but on Breed's.
Plimoth Planation is dedicated to recapturing the actual conditions of the first Thanksgiving. The interpreters are schooled in the behavior, dress, manner and worldview of the colonists and native peoples, speak in the authentic dialects of the people they represent and will converse with visitors about their daily lives.
The one must-see site for anyone in the vicinity of eastern New England is "Old Ironsides," the 207 year old Navy frigate officially named U.S.S. Constitution.