Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mayflower II - Pilgrim's Mayflower Ship Replica | Plymouth, Massachusetts

If you have already visited Plymouth Rock and you want to get even more out of your visit to Plymouth, Massachusetts, a stop at the Mayflower II, only about 100 yards from Plymouth Rock is a great way to spend a few hours.

The Mayflower II is a replica of the original Mayflower, which brought over the original colonists in 1620. The original ship was lost after making the voyage, so this ship is a replica of the original ship. It was built in England and then sailed to Plymouth, where it is now docked at Pilgrim Memorial State Park, just down the shoreline from Plymouth Rock, and is owned and managed by the Plimouth Plantation.

How to get there 

The Mayflower II is located in downtown Plymouth along the shoreline in Pilgrim Memorial State Park. You can get there either from the north or the south by taking Route 3 and getting off at exit 6 (Route 44), which will take you into downtown Plymouth. Once in the downtown area, signs will direct you to the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock, which are both located off of Water Street in the state park.

During the off-season you may find parking along the street adjacent to Pilgrim Memorial State Park. However during busier times, it’s likely that only handicapped parking will be available there. In that case, municipal lots are scattered throughout Plymouth and generally even on the most crowded days, parking is available if you search for it.

The Mayflower is open to the public from March 25th through November 26th and is open 9 to 5 during that time.

How much does it cost? 

Check the Mayflower II website for the latest admission fees.  There are rates for children, seniors and adults.

What’s there? 

Besides just the ship, the dock surrounding the Mayflower II has been turned into an outdoor museum space with many different information displays that discuss and explain various features of the Mayflower, the original colonists and the establishment of the Plymouth Colony.

There isn't a whole lot of room on the dock as you progress through the displays, so it can get crowded. We were there on the off-season (the last day of the fall that it was open) and it was fairly crowded, so expect to take some time in order to wait to be able to view and read the displays. They are generally worth the wait – as I traveled from display to display, I did learn a few things I hadn't know about the Mayflower voyage and the pilgrims’ landing in Plymouth.

The exhibit leads you to the gangplank that brings you onto the Mayflower II. From there, you can walk throughout the ship, exploring just about every corner of the ship. You’ll walk through the captain’s quarters, look at what the colonists had to live through for over 7 months.

My first impression of the ship was “gosh it’s small.” Over 100 colonists, along with the ships crew lived on that ship and just by looking at it from the docks, it didn't seem like all those people could fit. After walking around the ship, I still couldn't believe all those people, along with their animals and their supplies were able to fit in this tiny little ship. Not only that, I couldn't imagine being crammed in with all of those other people, trapped on a ship that is only slightly over 100 feet long and maybe 20 to 30 feet wide at its widest point. No on board entertainment for these travelers – everything must have had its space and you basically must have done the same thing every day for months at a time.

Exploring the Mayflower II, you’ll get a good idea of what the colonists had to go through to get to New England. The colonists’ quarters on the lower level are dark, tight and uncomfortable.

There are both costumed actors role playing as colonists and Plimouth Plantation staff who are both there to answer questions and provide a background on the Mayflower and the colonists voyage. The role players stay in character and provide a real insight into the colonists aboard the Mayflower. While it’s only acting, they give you a sense of what it was like for those on the ship, from their clothes, their attitudes, and their occupations.

The non-role playing staff present help to explain the details of the ship and the history of the Mayflower II, which is interesting in its own right. They will also answer any questions that you may have about the colonists and the ship.

As you exit the ship off another gangplank, you are brought into an exhibit area that showcases the history of the Mayflower II. It was built in England and then sailed to Plymouth, where it is now under the care of the Plimouth Plantation.

How much time do I need? 

We spent about 1 ½ hours between wandering through the exhibits and then the ship. At that time it wasn't overly crowded, so we were able to get into and out of the various portions of the ship fairly quickly and we could browse through the exhibits generally at our own pace.

I would imagine that the more crowded the ship and the exhibit area got, the longer you should plan for your visit, to make sure that you get a chance to see and experience everything in and around the Mayflower II. During the summertime, I’d expect to spend at least 3 hours, with less in the spring and the fall when the crowds are thinner.

Was it worth it? 

The money we each spent to get on the ship was well worth it to me. I had no idea how small that ship was before I there and to just think of spending months cooped up on the Mayflower sends chills down my spine.

I also got a chance to learn more details about the colonists, their journey and their landing in Plymouth that I didn't know just from reading history books. Plus I got a chance to actually see and experience a small portion of what it must have been like for those people.

Final Thoughts 

If you are in Plymouth, Massachusetts and you’re visiting Plymouth Rock, it’s well worth the few hours and a few dollars that it takes to explore the Mayflower II. It’s an amazingly accurate replica ship that truly gives you a great feeling for what it must have been like for those first colonists as they made their way to the Americas. The Mayflower II is a way to experience history up close, as opposed to just reading about it and I would be willing to bet you will learn a thing or two, even if you have already studied the Pilgrims’ trip to America.

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