Field Trip Materials

Teaching and Visiting Plimoth Plantation:
An Educator's Guide

Welcome to the Museum!

A visit to Plimoth Plantation introduces your students to life in the 1600s and one of our nation's birthplaces. The story of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag People is familiar to most Americans. It evokes powerful images of strength in the face of adversity, of ships on Girl with pestle at Plimoth Plantationstormy seas and bleak winters; yet also of harvest plenty, of Thanksgiving and golden fall afternoons. The historic reality is as fascinating and inspiring as the legendary story. The Pilgrim families who arrived in 1620 brought not only European tools and technology, but also hopes, dreams and a faith that expressed their English view of the world. The Wampanoag (the Native People of southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands) have lived on their homeland for many thousands of years. There were about 67 villages in Wampanoag territory when 102 passengers arrived aboard the ship Mayflower. Sometimes the ancient and complex indigenous societies did not comfortably coexist with that of the new English Colonists. Plimoth Plantation tells the exciting story of the 17th-century world that the Pilgrims and Natives made in collaboration - and sometimes in conflict. We have inherited that world.

One of the best ways to prepare for your Plimoth Plantation field trip is by making an advance Museum visit on your own. When you book a field trip online or by calling (508) 746-1622 extension 8358, your reservation includes a complimentary teacher admission. When you speak with a Group Tour Sales Associate, let him or her know that you plan to make a familiarization visit. It will be arranged for you. Carry this guide with you while exploring the Museum grounds and exhibits. Try the Things to Do listed for each site, and discover how they might play a role in your focused field trip. Your students will also find useful essays in the Homework Help section of this web site.

Click here for a printable version of this Teaching and Visiting Plimoth Plantation: An Educator's Guide.

A Focused Field Trip

Gathering and Organizing Information

Classroom Activities for Younger Students

Classroom Activities for Older Students

Visiting the Museum Sites

Field Trip Evaluation


A Focused Field Trip

A focused field trip has a specific theme, purpose and outcome and is supported by classroom preparation and follow-up. It concentrates on specific areas in the Museum, rather than pushing students to see everything. Students on a focused field trip gain motivation by becoming active participants in their learning. When students are prepared and equipped, a field trip becomes a vehicle for illumination and clarity.

 When preparing for your field trip, consider the following questions:

  1. What is the study objective or focus and where does the field trip fit into your unit?
  2. How will information be collected and recorded at the Museum?
  3. How will information be processed and shared back in the classroom?

Your Focus

If possible, involve students in selecting the focus. You may choose to have the whole class share a focus and seek the same information or the class may share the same focus but seek information on different aspects of the focus. When selecting and exploring your focus, we encourage you and your students to consider both Pilgrim and Wampanoag cultures, rather than one culture in isolation, because the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims were face-to-face communities who together transformed 17th-century New England.

The following are suggestions for focusing your field trip:

Plimoth and Patuxet: Who were the people living in this area in the 1600s? What made them different from each other? How were they similar?

A Child's Life: Find out what Wampanoag children and Pilgrim children did for chores around their homes. What did they do for fun? How were they treated if they misbehaved?

Material Culture: For example -- clothing, houses, cooking tools, farming tools, baskets.

Crafts/Technology: For example -- house building, clothing construction, pottery, food preservation, gardening.

Issues: For example -- relationships with parents, the roles of women, career choices, cultural assimilation.

Choices: Did young people in the 1600s face the same choices that young people face today?

Immigration Stories: Compare the immigration experience of the Pilgrims with that of other immigrants throughout American history. How does it compare with the experience of today's immigrants?

Native Stories: Explore the history of Wampanoag life before and after contact with European explorers, traders and colonists. How did the Wampanoag People persist after the dramatic changes of the 1600s?

Legendary Stories versus Historic Reality: What are commonly held beliefs about the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims? Are these true?

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Gathering Information

Using Prepared Questions

Prepared questions can be a great tool for focusing the student experience. They can guide children and help them start observing and interacting. However, care should be taken that they do not limit children when their natural curiosity takes over. The search for answers can turn into a competitive treasure hunt whose emphasis is on completing a list of questions rather than experiencing the Museum. The following tips for using prepared questions should help make the most of this tool. 

  • Have students develop their own questions based on their particular focus or interest.
  • Remind students that the purpose of using prepared questions is to initiate interaction with Museum staff or exhibits, as well as to help them gather facts.
  • Have students write down answers or notes only after they have left the exhibit area or the person they were speaking with.
  • Rather than providing answer spaces underneath each question, have students use blank sheets of paper to jot down notes that they will later have time to formulate into complete answers.
  • Have students seek answers to the same question at a variety of Museum sites and from different people at each of these sites.
  • Devise comprehensive learning objectives that require students to create their own questions and process information from multiple sources. (For example: How are the English and Wampanoag views on marriage different and similar?)
  • Encourage students to ask spontaneous questions.
  • Encourage students to develop probing follow-up questions; to ask how and why in addition to what.
  • Have students put their name and the school's name on their paper so that it may be returned if lost. 

Collecting and Recording Information

At Plimoth Plantation students experience a rich amount of information presented in a variety of ways. Students should know in advance what kind of information to look for (based on their focus) and know how to acquire it. Using the list below, discuss the ways in which information can be acquired. Have students decide which methods could best gain the information needed. Then, from the second list, have them choose the best ways of recording this information.

Ways of Collecting Information at Plimoth Plantation

observingstudying objects and artifacts
listeningdiscussing or conversing
smellingreading exhibit labels
touching (with permission)testing thoughts and theories
asking questionsparticipating in an activity

Ways of Saving/Recording Information

memory                                digital recorder                                  
jotting down notesvideo camera
sketching, drawing pictures        questionnaires
photographs 

Processing and Sharing Information

Processing or organizing information following the field trip is an essential part of the experience. Time for reflection should be provided as soon as possible. You may wish students to share their findings with the rest of the class. This can be done in a variety of ways, including:

discussion or debate                    dramas or skits                               
oral reportsart projects
essays, stories or poemsa classroom exhibit
podcastsnewsletter
role playinga website about their field trip
student-produced videos 

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Classroom Activities for Younger Students

Prior Knowledge Chart
Have students brainstorm a list of ideas they have about the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and the coming together of these two cultures in New England. Record their ideas on a chalkboard, Smart Board or a large sheet of paper under the heading “ideas.” Keep this list. As a follow-up activity, ask students to review the idea list and determine which ideas held true and which did not. Students can then make a new list under the heading “facts,” incorporating things learned on their field trip to Plimoth Plantation.

Timeline
Making a timeline will help students fit the settlement of Plymouth Colony into their understanding of time. Depending on the students' age, you may want to include the extinction of dinosaurs, 800 AD when the Wampanoag first began to practice agriculture, Christopher Columbus sails to America, 1525 when Estavo Gomes captured 58 Natives from New England whom he intended to sell as slaves, the arrival of Mayflower in New England, the year depicted in Plimoth Plantation' s 17th-Century English Village (1627), the start of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the birth of their grandparents and parents (approximate) and the students' birth year. Include the dates of other historic events that they have been studying as well. You may also want to include the dates of familiar inventions such as cars, televisions, the internet and cell phones.

Map Skills
On a map showing Europe and North America, trace the route the Pilgrims took, from England to Holland, back to England then across the ocean to Plymouth Colony. In New England, mark Provincetown (Meeshawn), where the Pilgrims first landed; Eastham (Nauset) on Cape Cod, where they first encountered the Wampanoag; and Plymouth (Patuxet). Discuss how the Wampanoag had their own names for these places (given in parentheses above).

Math Skills
Use figures and dates associated with the story of Plymouth Colony to construct math exercises appropriate to your students' ability. For example, how many years ago did Mayflower arrive in New England? How many years after the establishment of Plymouth Colony did the Revolutionary War begin?

Basic Needs
In groups or as a class, have students think about things they need to live today. Distinguish between the things they need and the things that make life easier, more interesting and enjoyable. Brainstorm a list of daily needs. Discuss how the Wampanoag met their daily needs. Discuss how the Pilgrims met their daily needs. Did the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag have the same needs? Did they fulfill these needs in the same way? What did each culture do for pleasure?

Point of View and Descriptive Writing
From the point of view of a Pilgrim, have students write a letter back to England describing their houses, gardens, animals, the village and their daily lives. Include how things might smell, sound and feel as well as how they look. The resources on the Plimoth & Patuxet Ancestors and You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving pages can provide additional background information. 

Oral Tradition and Written Narratives
Break students into groups of four or more. In each group assign half the students the role of Wampanoag People. The other half will be English. From the point of view of one of Hobbamock's children, have the Wampanoag students describe orally what their homesite, house and fields are like. Have them include how things smell, sound and feel as well as how they look. Have the English children write down what the Wampanoag children are saying, as they say it. The Wampanoag will be speaking in a normal conversational pace, so the recorders will have to jot down main ideas rather than word for word translation. Now, have the  English students make their notes into a narrative and read it out loud. How close did they come to what the Wampanoag children said? Did they miss anything? Did they make any mistakes? Remind children that they have just gone through the process that the Colonists did when writing about the Native People. Based on their experience, how accurate do they think the English accounts of the Wampanoag People were? (You may wish to digitally record the oral descriptions so that you may play them back and check for accuracy.) How would this knowledge have survived across time if it hadn't been written down?

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Classroom Activities for Older Students

Prior Knowledge Chart
Have students brainstorm a list of ideas they have about the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and the coming together of these two cultures in New England. Record their ideas on a chalkboard, Smart Board or a large sheet of paper under the heading “ideas.” Keep this list. As a follow-up activity, ask students to review the idea list and determine which ideas held true and which did not. Students can then make a new list under the heading “facts,” incorporating things learned on their field trip to Plimoth Plantation.

Timeline
Making a timeline of the 16th and 17th centuries will help students understand the historical climate when the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth (Patuxet). Discuss what information would help students best understand the time period, then have them research events and dates. You may want to include scientific discoveries (the discoveries of the circulation of blood and the earth's rotation around the sun) art and culture (the births of Rembrandt and Shakespeare) and current events (wars and monarchs).

Stereotypes
Explain the concept of stereotypes to your students. Are there stereotypes associated with specific cultures? Discuss where these stereotypes may have come from and why they can be romanticized and worshipful or derisive and offensive. What are some stereotypes of Native People? What are some stereotypes of the Pilgrims?

“Coming to America” Stories
Have students research their family's (or community's) story of how, when, where and why they came to America. What did the immigrants hope to find? Did they find it? How were they treated here in this country? How did they treat the people who were already here? How do these stories compare to the experience of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag?

Point of View and Writing
Writing from the point of view of an English colonist, have students describe what they might think of the Native People and their way of life. Have students write about how they think the Wampanoag might have felt about the Pilgrims and their way of life. The resources on the Plimoth & Patuxet Ancestors and You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving pages can provide additional background information. 

Choices
Discuss what choices the students in your class must make at their age. Did the students' 17th-century counterparts -- both Pilgrim and Native -- have to make these same choices? If they did, would they have made the same decisions as students today? What factors would affect their decisions (for example, parents, church, society)?

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Visiting the Museum Sites

Henry Hornblower II Visitor Center

Your Museum visit begins here. After viewing the brief orientation program in either the Maxwell Theater or the Linn Theater, you and your students enter a woodland pathway to history that leads to the Wampanoag Homesite. Enjoy the experience of nature. Let the trees, grasses and flowers help your students enter a world before cell phones, before airplanes, and before electricity. Remind them that they're entering a world lit only by fire. The Hornblower Visitor Center also features an exhibit on the history of Thanksgiving, three Museum Shops and the Patuxet Cafe.


Wampanoag Homesite

The Wampanoag Homesite is a carefully re-created Native encampment where indigenous interpreters represent the life ways of the Native Peoples who lived in southeastern New England in the 17th century. The name “Wampanoag” means “Eastern People” or “People of the First Light.” The Homesite represents the home and garden of Hobbamock's family. Hobbamock was a Pokanoket pniese (warrior-counselor) who lived on the other side of the brook, south of the Plymouth settlement. Sachem Ousamequin (also known as Massasoit) sent Hobbamock to Plymouth in 1621 to be an ambassador from his people to the English. Hobbamock and his family were the only Wampanoag family known to have lived alongside the Colonists in the 1620s. A Wampanoag homesite consisted of two or three acres near the coast where an extended family lived in spring, summer, and fall. In the winter, families traveled to their larger inland villages.

Native interpreters explain indigenous culture from a modern perspective through conversation, craft activities and storytelling. All staff wearing traditional Native clothing are Native People; some are Wampanoag and some are from other Native nations.

For more information on the Wampanoag, please see:

Explore the Wampanoag Homesite | Resources | Collections

Cultural Sensitivity: Visiting the Wampanoag Homesite Respectfully
Every student has probably experienced how cruel words can be and remembers how they felt when words were spoken as weapons. We all deserve respect. Every day, in an effort to educate, to preserve their traditions and to overcome cultural stereotypes, the Museum's Wampanoag Indigenous Program staff welcome families, tour groups and thousands of school students. They share stories of their ancestors and often share their personal experiences too. It is a gift to experience their openness about their lives and community.

Help your students show respect to their Native hosts. No war whoops, please. A simple “Hello” will win many more smiles than using the Hollywood stereotype “How” for a greeting or addressing the staff as “squaw” or “chief.” Without teepees and feathered headdresses, our Wampanoag Homesite and our Native staff might look different than your students expect. A visit to Plimoth Plantation is an opportunity to discover the unique history and culture of America's Eastern Woodland nations.

Some Questions You Might Ask

  • How is modern Wampanoag life different from traditional Wampanoag life in the 1600s?
  • Is this area original Wampanoag territory?
  • How did the Wampanoag react to the Pilgrims' arrival in their homeland?
  • What material (for example, a woven bag) is that article made from? How would that article have been used in the 1600s?

Things to Do

  • Notice the housing, gardens and observe the total area.
  • Take a close look at objects of interest to you.
  • Ask permission from a staff person before handling any objects or artifacts. Observe how these artifacts have been made.
  • Be aware of sights, sounds, and scents as you experience the Wampanoag Homesite.

 Practical Considerations

  • Allow at least 45 minutes for your Wampanoag Homesite visit.
  • Prepare children for visiting this site by discussing the Cultural Sensitivity material above.
  • Remind students that this site represents only one large family's residence.
  • Please remind students that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 Wampanoag living in southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands today. They do not live in the 17th-century traditional way.

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17th-Century English Village

The 17th-Century English Village brings Colonial Plimoth to life. In terms of acreage, our re-creation is about one-third the size of the original colony, yet the houses and garden plots are full size. In 1627, the young settlement was a farming and maritime community. The year was selected for re-creation because it is well documented in the historical sources and shows the plantation (a Pilgrim-era word that was used interchangeably with the word “colony” in the 1600s) just before the Colonists began to disperse beyond the five-acre walled town, seven years after the arrival of Mayflower. “The Street” rises westward from Plymouth Harbor to the Fort/Meetinghouse on the hill. It replicates the original site of the Plymouth settlement, which today is Leyden Street in downtown Plymouth. The houses are located on either side of this street. Crossing near the center of “The Street” is “The Highway” which runs north and south to the cornfields. In the 17th-Century English Village, the houses on the north side of “The Street” (starting from the water) represent the homes of the Soule, Fuller, Howland, Hopkins, Bradford, Alden and Standish families. On the south side (from the water) are two storehouses, the Brewster, Billington, Allerton, Cooke and Winslow houses. Community structures such as the cow house, hay house, henhouse and outdoor ovens are found throughout the Village.

The Fort/Meetinghouse dominated the hillside on which the 17th-Century English Village is located. It is a timber-framed blockhouse. In addition to its military function, the Fort/Meetinghouse was also used as a meeting place for religious services and as a courthouse for the colony's legislative and judicial affairs.

Many of the 17th-Century English Village staff that you and your students encounter are role players portraying actual residents of Plymouth Colony and nearby Native nations. The role players express 17th-century viewpoints in order to immerse you in the past. Some viewpoints might shock and surprise your students, even as they fascinate them. Remember, people thought, believed and did things differently in the 1600s. For example, you won't encounter a single Pilgrim who thinks the earth moves around the sun. American Revolution, what's that? It hasn't happened yet. You may also meet Museum Guides who speak from a modern perspective and can give you additional background on life in the 1600s, and how the Museum accurately re-creates the world of the Pilgrims and the Natives.

For more information on the English Colonists, please see:

Explore the English Village | Resources | Collections

Some Questions You Might Ask the Role Players

  • What are you doing? How does it relate to other work you do?
  • Did you come here for religious reasons?
  • What goods, tools, and resources are important to the colony? How are they made or acquired?
  • How are the relations with the Native People?
  • Do you worry about competition or attack from Dutch, French or Spanish colonies in America?

Things to Do

  • Take a moment to close your eyes and identify the many smells and sounds you are encountering. Do this periodically as you travel through the historic site.
  • Have students imagine what it would be like to live in the 17th-Century English Village. Where would their food come from? Their clothing? What might they do for work or fun?
  • Look for objects the Colonists used in their daily lives. Identify their function and compare them to objects that we use for the same purpose today.
  • Compare attitudes of different Colonists by questioning several people on a few topics that you find significant. What factors or patterns contribute to differences of opinion?

 Practical Considerations

  • Allow at least 90 minutes for your visit to the 17th-Century English Village.
  • Because the buildings are small, it is best to travel in groups of ten or less, each led by a chaperone.
  • Please do not feed, touch, or tease the animals. Do not chase the chickens.
  • If pressed for time, it is better to spend more time with a few characters or in a few areas, rather than rushing to see everything.
  • The houses do not need to be visited in any particular order. If a house or area is crowded, visit another and return later.
  • If you enter a house that is not staffed by a role player, students may carefully touch the objects they see.
  • Because there are fewer role players than there were colonists in 1627, not all colonists are represented. The character you wish to meet may not be portrayed on the day you visit.
  • You will probably not meet any Pilgrim children during your field trip, because our youngest role players are school students themselves. The characters Sarah Morton of the book Sarah Morton's Day, and Samuel Eaton, of Samuel Eaton's Day, are not portrayed in the 17th-Century English Village.

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The Craft Center

While the Wampanoag Homesite offers a variety of Native craft, construction and maritime demonstrations, for accuracy's sake, you and your students will not see many trades being practiced in the 17th-Century English Village. Because the Pilgrims relied on English supply ships for manufactured goods, little craft production happened in early Plymouth. Today the Craft Center serves as the source of many of these “imports” that furnish the 17th-Century English Village, Wampanoag Homesite and Mayflower II exhibits. At the Craft Center, students can talk with modern artisans about their projects. They use many of the same techniques, materials and tools used by English and Native artisans 400 years ago.

For more information on the Craft Center and 17th-century material culture, please see:

Explore the Craft Center | Craft Center Resources | Collections

Things to Do

  • Explain that in the 1600s the word craft meant a job, profession or trade. What does the word craft mean today?
  • Envision each craft as an entire process. Where did the raw materials come from? How was the finished product distributed and used?
  • Discuss the idea of human production versus automated machine production, and look for evidence that the crafts exhibited were made by individuals. For example, though the potters make many of the same kind of object, each is slightly different.

Practical Considerations

  • Allow approximately 20 minutes for your Craft Center visit.
  • The demonstration area can become crowded. It is best to move in smaller groups led by the chaperones.
  • The Craft Center includes a Museum Shop featuring items made by the artisans, as well as books and objects relating to 17th-century crafts and trades.
  • Over the seven-day week the artisans have a schedule of rotating days off, thus all craft areas may not be in operation every day.
  • Restrooms and water fountains are located near the Craft Center Museum Shop.

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The Nye Barn

The Nye Barn highlights Plimoth Plantation's Rare and Minor Breeds Animal Program. The program conserves endangered livestock breeds while supplying the Museum with animals that represent those found in 17th-century Plymouth Colony. The barn is home to a selection of these animals. A brief history of each breed is on display.

Plimoth Plantation manages breeding programs that involve several older breeds of livestock with critically low breeding populations. They include Kerry and Milking Devon cattle, San Clemente Island and Arapawa Island goats, Wiltshire Horn sheep and Tamworth hogs. Their conservation is essential in maintaining genetic diversity in modern livestock populations.

For more information on the Nye Barn, please see Explore the Nye Barn.

Things to Do

  • Compare these older breeds of livestock with breeds that students are more familiar with. What are some of the visible differences?
  • Discuss the idea of genetic diversity and its importance. What might be the consequences without it?
  • What might account for the dwindling numbers of these older breeds?

Practical Considerations

  • The Nye Barn is near the school bus parking lot. It is a good place to start your visit if you are early, or end if you are waiting for the rest of your group.
  • Please do not feed, touch, or tease the animals.
  • The pasture area is surrounded by wooden fencing with electric fencing just inside.

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Mayflower II

The original Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England in September 1620. There were 102 passengers aboard the 180 ton-ship. The beginning of the Atlantic crossing was pleasant, though many were seasick. Then followed a period of storms and crosswinds that cracked a main beam 'tween decks and caused the upper works to leak badly. The conditions raised questions about Mayflower's capacity to finish the voyage. Christopher Jones, the ship's master and part owner, felt the ship was fundamentally sound and pressed on.

Cape Cod was sighted on November 9, 1620, and two days later, after 66 days at sea, Mayflower anchored in what is today Provincetown Harbor. That day, most of the male passengers signed the famous agreement now known as the Mayflower Compact. Mayflower left for England in April 1621 with no colonists choosing to return home. More information on the 1620 voyage and signing of the Mayflower Compact may be found on our Mayflower and Mayflower Compact page.   

Built between 1955 and 1957,  Mayflower II is a reproduction of a late 16th-century English merchant ship of the same size as the original Mayflower. She sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts from Plymouth, England in 1957. Over 50 years old, she continually undergoes maintenance and restoration by the Museum's Maritime Artisans. Thanks to this care, Mayflower II is seaworthy and sets sail every few years as a special event.

While aboard Mayflower II, explore the three decks of the ship and talk to costumed role players, Museum Guides, and Maritime Artisans about the history surrounding both the 1620 and 1957 voyages. There are also dockside exhibits that tell the stories of Mayflower and Mayflower II.

The Maritime Artisans and Museum Guides work in modern clothes with shirts labeled CREW. They speak from a modern perspective. You can ask them not only about the 1620 crossing, but about Mayflower II's construction and voyage, her renovations and future sailing plans, and about Plimoth Plantation's Maritime History programs.  By contrast, other staff dress in 17th-century costume and speak in 17th-century dialect. In order to represent Colonial attitudes, they recognize only the time frame of the 1620s.

For more information on Mayflower and Mayflower II, please see:

Explore Mayflower II | Resources | Collections

Some Questions You Might Ask Mayflower II Role Players

  • Why did you come on this voyage? Did your friends and family back home approve?
  • How is life in Plymouth different than your life in England or Holland?
  • Do you expect new forms of government or religion?
  • Have your opinions about the New World and the Native People changed since you arrived?

Some Questions You Might Ask Mayflower II Museum Guides

  • What were the biggest problems at sea? How did sailors and passengers get along with each other?
  • What happened to Mayflower when she returned to England in 1621?
  • Can Mayflower II really sail?
  • What did the Wampanoag know about England and Europe before the Pilgrims arrived?

 Things to Do

  • Before boarding the ship, explore the dockside exhibit to learn about this region, the Native People, the Pilgrims' lives in England and Holland, and the maritime background of the colony.
  • Once aboard, look carefully at the living and working areas on the ship. What were conditions like for passengers and crew? Compare perspectives offered by the role players, Museum Guides and Maritime Artisans?
  • Ask the staff to explain how the ship was sailed. Find out about tools and techniques for navigation.
  • As you come off the ship, there are more exhibits about the construction of Mayflower II, the 1957 voyage, and the Museum's efforts to preserve Mayflower II.

Practical Considerations

  • Allow about 30 minutes for your Mayflower II visit.
  • Mayflower II is located 3 miles north (about 15 minutes) of Plimoth Plantation's main location.
  • The ship's limited capacity makes it important for groups to arrive at their reserved time.
  • Watch your footing. The gangplanks and stairs are steep.
  • Ropes and rigging, as well as the ship's bell and ladders are only for the use of the crew.
  • Public restrooms operated by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation are located near Mayflower II's berth in Pilgrim