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Joan has been writing about New England covering shopping, home buying, gifts and events from the region. She grew up in Boston and hasn't ventured too far but like many of the writers here she loves to travel in New England. Expect her to write about her favorite destinations and attractions as well, and write about news and events.

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8 Things to Do at Thanksgiving in New England

Thanksgiving Dinner ImageYou can sit and argue over when and where the first Thanksgiving Dinner was – some people think it was really in Florida – but the fact is, it’s become linked to the Pilgrims and New England.

True, they may not have sat down on the 4th Thursday of November and eaten Turkey with the Native American’s and watched college football that first time, but there was a celebration.

The Pilgrim’s survived their first year thanks to the natives who showed them how to work the land and fish the seas. The dinner, whenever and wherever it happened, acknowledged this debt of gratitude.

So, not surprisingly the first destinations to discuss focus on the Pilgrims and those early years as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Plymouth Rock – Plymouth, Massachusetts:

Plymouth Rock sits in a monument close to the ocean in present day Plymouth town just 40-miles south of Boston. The rock is inscribed with the year 1620 and is promoted as the rock at which the Pilgrims disembarked the Mayflower in Plymouth. The history of this particular rock and how it came to be identified as the actual rock the Pilgrims stepped on first when coming ashore is open for debate among scholars.

The fact is there is no real way of verifying its authenticity. The rock itself is like many glacial erratic you can find in New England and over the years has been reduced in size to about a third or half of its original volume. It sits at sea level along the waterfront. More details about the rock here >>>

Mayflower II – Plymouth, Massachusetts:

Mayflower II ImageThe journey across the Atlantic in 1620 was long and arduous for the Pilgrims and took 66 days during the stormy hurricane season.

They first made landfall in Provincetown on November 11th. In late November they left the Cape to head south but were forced due to winds and the dangerous Cape coastline to head north to present-day Plymouth.

The Mayflower II is a faithful replica of the original ship and built at the Brixham shipyards in Devon, England.

The ship was built as a joint venture and commemorated the Anglo-American alliance of World War II. It sailed across the Atlantic itself in 1957 arriving in New York and visiting other ports on the eastern seaboard before arriving in Plymouth. The ship is now under the ownership of Plimoth Plantation. It is an unusual museum but a striking one to experience. More information on the Mayflower II here >>>

Plimoth Plantation – Plymouth, Massachusetts:

Piomoth Plantattion ImagePlimoth Plantation is an authentic recreation of structures and gardens supporting the pilgrims and their native friends during the early years after arriving in Plymouth. The location of the original community is accepted to be in present-day Plymouth along the coast. But what you experience at the most-famous of New England’s Living Museums is the coupling of two cultures in realistic settings.

An impressive visitor center and orientation film prepares you for your journey into the English Village and the Wampanoag Homesite.

Be prepared to marvel and learn about the cultures and how life was lived in 17th century N. America. More details about the plantation here >>>

The Pilgrim Monument – Provincetown, Massachusetts:

Pilgrim Monument ImageAs previously mentioned the Pilgrims first came ashore at Provincetown on Cape Cod in November 1620, and spent their first weeks exploring the Cape before heading to Plymouth. The Pilgrim Monument was developed to commemorate the first landing of the pilgrims at Provincetown.

The monument is 252 ft high and is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States – the granite came from Stonington in Maine. It was dedicated in 1910 by President Taft.

The base has a museum covering the role of the Cape in American history, and you can climb the 116 steps to the top for a magnificent view of the Cape and the bay. More information about the monument here >>>

Old Sturbridge Village – Sturbridge, Massachusetts:

Old Sturbridge Village depicts life in early 19th Century New England, but more importantly in November celebrates the season in traditional fashion. The Thanksgiving weekend finds the homes and walkways colorfully decorated and plenty to make the visit memorable.

Special events are planned all weekend such as shooting matches between the farmers, stories about the true meaning of Thanksgiving, a recreated New England Wedding, musket-firing demonstrations, and of course you can reserve a spot for a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner or Buffet. More details about Thanksgiving at Old Sturbridge Village here >>>

Factory Outlet Stores – Various Locations:

The Thanksgiving holiday period has become synonymous with shopping for the holiday season. We have “Black Friday” the day after Thanksgiving where people line-up in early hours of morning to get the best deals, and of course now “Cyber Monday” where people do their shopping online.

While the demise of the local mall was predicted when most things became available online the fact is it hasn’t happened. Bricks and motor places still attract droves of people during the holiday shopping spree. The newer versions of the malls are the Factory Outlet stores, and New England has more than its fair share of these places scattered throughout the region. Find list of factory outlet stores here >>>Preview

Putney Crafts Tour – Putney, Vermont:

Putney Crafts Tour ImageIf malls and factory outlet stores are not your idea of shopping for gifts and you’re looking for something more original and artistic, and in places less crowded then consider the Putney Crafts Tour which happens each year over Thanksgiving weekend.

Putney is located in southern Vermont and local artists open up their studio for the weekend to discuss their work and so you can see how it’s created. This year you can visit over 28 artist studios. Maps to each studio location are provided at the welcome center where you can also sample work from each artist.

This tour is the antidote to “black Friday” and “cyber Monday” blues and its located in scenic Vermont and close to major highways.

More information on this crafts tour here >>>

Museum of America and the Seas – Mystic Seaport, Connecticut:

Mystic Seaport ImageThe Mystic Seaport Museum celebrates Thanksgiving a little differently than other living museums we’ve already mentioned. It doesn’t offer a traditional dinner but instead invites attendance at its Field Days. In 2012 these dates will be on November 23rd and 24th.

Activities include 19th century games on the Village Green, puppet-making workshop, sing-along, candlemaking and wooden craft workshops, and of course visiting the famous tall ships.

The Museum is a place to discover and learn about life in a 19th Century whaling town and is a perfect destination for a family gathered for America’s favorite holiday weekend. More details on this activity here >>>

Another New England post by one of our writers is being prepared right now so be sure to visit again or just subscribe to our RSS Feed here and get notified automatically of events and news.

Joan Daniels
Staff Writer
New England Online Magazine

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