Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts pin

Everyone who grows up in the United States hears about Plymouth, Massachusetts. Often called “America’s Hometown,” Plymouth was the site where the Pilgrims on the Mayflower famously arrived in 1620, “discovering” America. It was the location of the first Thanksgiving and remains a port city for the area. Plymouth makes for a great day trip from Boston, and there are two main attractions of historical significance to see: the ship and the plantation.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts sky

Historical Significance

Before the Pilgrims settled in the area, Plymouth’s location was a village of over two thousand Wampanoag Native Americans called Patuxet. European explorers visited the area twice prior to Plymouth’s establishment. In 1614 and 1617, two plagues possibly transmitted from visiting British and French fishermen killed about 96% of the local population. The tribe abandoned their cornfields and cleared areas that the Pilgrims later occupied.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts boat

As mentioned, Plymouth was founded in 1620 by the passengers of the Mayflower, the pilgrims. The pilgrims were separatist Puritans who broke away from the Church of England because of their belief that the Church did not complete the work of the Protestant Reformation. The town was named after the English city where the Mayflower departed. It is one of the oldest municipalities in the United States and served as the capital of the Plymouth Colony until the Colony merged with the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1691.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts item

What You Will See

At Plymouth, there are two main attractions: the Ship, and the Plantation. We’ll discuss each attraction separately below. In addition to these main attractions, there are many other things to do, such as checking out a cranberry farm, the 911 memorial, historic sites, museums, and different fun events.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts inside

The Ship

The ship is a full-size replica of the original Mayflower, called the Mayflower II. Travelers can explore two layers with in-character docents who tell visitors about what it was like to sail a ship in that time.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts shipGuides also inform travelers about the history of the Mayflower and the Mayflower II. Currently, the Mayflower II is at Mystic Seaport getting a full restoration until 2019. However, visitors can still see many of the shops nearby. Those interested can actually donate to help with restorations for the ship here.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts wood

Of course, visitors get to see the great Plymouth Rock, allegedly the one the first settlers stepped on upon arrival. Nearby, active kids can run around the beautiful beach front park.

The Plantation

This plantation is otherwise known as the “Plimoth Plantation.” It is a living history museum with acting volunteers and replicas of different sites.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts outside

Upon arrival, visitors first watch a movie about the settlement, detailing the history and daily life of the settlers. Only after watching the video are visitors allowed to explore the rest of the site.

The area is divided into a replica of a Wampanoag village and a Plymouth settlement. Volunteers in costumes reenact daily tasks like cooking, weaving, making posts, and making a canoe. After that, travelers can visit the artisans. Here, the volunteers show visitors how to make traditional items such as candles, clay pots and bread.
Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts bull
There is also a separate area that shows how the settlers lived – their homes, a church and even the backyards with livestock such as cows, sheep, goats, and hens. What is fascinating about these animals is that they are actual rare direct descendants of specific breeds actually used by the original settlers. These breeds include Kerry cattle, San Clemente Island goats, Tamworth Pigs, and eastern wild turkeys. Plimoth Plantation does its part to help save the genetic diversity of these rare, endangered breeds.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts native american

Location, Hours, and Admission

Travelers can find Plimoth Plantation at 137 Warren Avenue. They can locate the ship at the nearby state pier. The sites are both open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts man

To get to Plymouth, travelers can take the train from Boston, then take a cab from the train station to the ship or plantation. Travelers can also drive or take the bus from Boston’s South Station.

Taking Kids with Autism to Plymouth Massachusetts ship

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There is a cafeteria onsite. The cafe serves various foods, including “settler’s grub” and Native American staples.
  • Families can enjoy the special events throughout the week.
  • Much of the area is outdoors, so parents should take weather issues into consideration. Parents should also make sure everyone’s wearing comfortable shoes.
  • There are no wheelchairs or strollers available. However, the staff does offer golf carts to transport visitors to various sections on a first come, first serve basis.
  • There is a handy Parent’s Guide available on the website that has some great tips and educational information.

 

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

PRISON

Witchcraft and Halloween are often closely associated. But back in 1600s Salem, witchcraft was a wild accusation that could easily lead to the death of the accused with little real evidence. This dark period in history is still remembered and preserved in the original Salem Massachusetts location. Here, you can practically walk through history.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts is infamous for the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s. From 1692-1693, 20 people, mostly women, were executed after being accused, tried, and found guilty of witchcraft. Just 16 miles from the big city of Boston, Salem is a great place to go for a day trip (or more if you have time) to learn more about the history of the town and this sordid part of American history. It feels like a place out of time. The townspeople pride themselves in trying to preserve the history as much as possible.

Getting there

If you are driving from Boston, you can take U.S. 1 N or 95 N. You can take bus 450 or 455 from Haymarket Square to downtown Salem. If you come by train, from North Station take the Rockport/Ipswich Line to the Salem Depot (about 30 minutes). For complete directions from any place, visit the Salem website. Be aware that most of the museums close by four, so an overnight stay is recommended.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

What to Do

There are several museums so you can tailor the visit depending on the ages of the kids. Be sure to start at the Salem Visitor’s Center for maps and info. There is a course you can follow to make sure you see all the museums and landmarks. The course is marked on the concrete throughout the town, yellow brick road style. Kids might get a kick out of following the pavement to see the different landmarks.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

We started off at the Witch History Museum at 197 Essex Street, which seemed to be a better place for older kids and adults. This museum had recorded and narrated segments of what lead to the trials, the trials themselves, and outcome. There are live sized presentations depicting aspects of life and the trials, and stories of people that were accused of being witches (or in one minister’s case, charged with being the devil). The museum is open daily from April-November and features some special Halloween tours. Admission is $9/person, but you can save money if you purchase a combo ticket for the Witch History Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the New England Pirate Museum (all within walking distance of each other). Check out this video of our experience at the Witch History Museum.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Be sure to take some time when you are walking on Essex to see all the unique lampposts that portray witches along with the stores filled with tarot cards, incense, and other magical artifacts.

Next, visit the Witch Dungeon Museum, at 16 Lynde Street. At this unique experience, there was a simulated mini-trial. Then we got to experience first hand the conditions the prisoners endured, including a standing only space cell for those who were poor. This one might be a little scary for younger children. This museum is open daily from April-November. Fact sheets are available in a variety of languages.

At this point, we had worked up quite an appetite, so we stopped for a delicious lunch at the Boston Hot Dog Company at 60 Washington Street. We got three different hot dogs: the Boston Club Dog (tomato, bacon bits, lettuce), Texas Dog (chili, sauteed onions, jalapeno peppers), and Chicago Dog (onion, tomato, peppers, shredded lettuce, green relish, grey poupon mustard, poppy seeds, celery salt and deli pickle).

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Then we went to the Salem Witch Museum 19 1/2 N Washington Square, which is geared more towards middle school and high school kids. The museum is more educational, with a detailed historical background of the trials and then a mini exhibit that carries the theme to modern days explaining Wicca and how people today still face persecution in the U.S. because of beliefs, race, or sexual orientation. The Salem Witch Museum is open daily from 10 am – 5 pm, and tickets are $10.50 for adults, $7.50 for children (6-14 years).

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

We ended our day in Salem with the New England Pirate Museum that showed artifacts and explained how piracy was prevalent in the area. The tour is around 20-30 minutes, and the guides encourage participation and questions.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Be sure to prepare your kid with stories of what happened beforehand, so they know what to expect. Topics like death, witches or pirates can be scary or overwhelming.
  • Keep in mind that most of Salem is a walking tour, and everything is nearby. It could be helpful to have a car for those who have a difficult time walking long distances.
  • Most museums have a place to sit and listen or watch a presentation
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Although walkable, it is spread out.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

  • Get a good map from the visitor’s center, because you can easily get lost.
  • Be aware of the tour times in each museum, because there’s nothing more frustrating than getting there five or ten minutes after the start of the tour.
  • Again, staying overnight is recommended, especially if you or your kid is an avid history fan. Our son was frustrated with the fact he could only see a few museums out of the many that are there.

Overall, if you are ever in Boston, do take time to see Salem. It’s a step back in time full of exciting information. Old and young visitors will enjoy seeing and learning about this preserved section of history.

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