What Makes Plymouth, Mass., America's Hometown?
Approaching historic downtown Plymouth.
Hurwitz. Page updated on 11/16/16.
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I remember my dad driving our family in his phony
wood-paneled Ford LTD station wagon down Main St., in Plymouth, Mass.,
in the 1970s, en route to a local sporting goods store for my baseball
needs. While listening to the golden throat announcer playing big band
favorites on WPLM-FM Plymouth and being amused that we saw two separate
restaurants named Bert's and Ernie's, the look of Main St. suddenly
took center stage by creating an instantly welcoming effect as if
Plymouth was actually our hometown.
Inviting older homes with diverse architectural styles in tree-lined
neighborhoods, historial preservation from every perspective, a
remarkable number of mom and pop stores, enough seafood restaurants to
fill a ship, and people walking the sidewalks to stop and talk made me
think, "I could live here someday." It was like Mayberry RFD by the
sea, and I was as excited as Barney Fife about being there.
That community spirit and visitor appeal still thrives in Plymouth
today. Best known as a vacation spot and the where the Pilgrims landed
in 1620, Plymouth is so much more than those two elements. There's a
real town going on here. Much like Cooperstown N.Y., Concord, Mass.,
Portsmouth, N.H., Hanover, N.H., and a few other small towns and cities
of the northeast United States, Plymouth definitely has that "I could
live here someday" factor that, more than often, trumps its vacation
destination presence. Yes, the "America's Hometown" moniker refers to
the Pilgrims landing here, but also can be applied to the town's innate
instant likeability. Even if you haven't been here before, everything
looks wonderfully familiar from every direction and, when living for
the moment, instantly becomes the center of your universe.
The downtown offers many of the requisite elements that make a Main
Street so "Americana": book stores, ice cream and coffee shops, a
diner, candy store, restaurants, and a few general stores with gift
shop appeal. No, you won't find any downtown department store or
old-fashioned movie theater like many downtowns showcased many years
ago. Greenfield, Mass., is the only town in New England with those two
traditional Main Street staples from yesteryear but, as a destination,
isn't quite there yet like Plymouth.
Thriving downtown Plymouth with plenty of
locally-owned stores and restaurants.
While large modern day shopping centers and chain stores have saturated
the perimeters of town and surrounding areas, Plymouth has remained
remarkably true to traditional form, and with a wonderful added bonus
that runs parallel with Main St.: a thriving waterfront on Water
St. with some amazing coastal scenic views.
Along the downtown Plymouth waterfront.
Here, you can take a long stroll alongside the sea, grab a seafood
dinner at a restaurant with water views (we recommend Wood's),
frequent several old-time shops that peacefully co-exist with the
galleries and boutiques. In the mix is the 11-acre Pilgrim State Park,
the smallest state park in the state but perhaps one of the most
appealing with its water views and world-famous attractions like
Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II. It's especially appealing on
a summer night where the light and breezy salt sea air combines with
the harbor filled with boats, the big sky illuminating the sea and the
welcoming lights of businesses open in the evening.
Like most hometowns, though, Plymouth is, by no means, perfect. The
north side has some rough elements and shuttered stores, and some
neighborhoods around town look run down. That's the post Industrial
Revolution, fisherman's town reality of New England, though, as
virtually all communities have an unappealing backside of town -- even
perceived idyllic destinations like Stowe, Vt., and Newport, R.I.
That's OK, though. So many New England vacation towns try to impress
with their air-brushed, idyllic marketing concepts that would look
better in a corporate business portfolio or on a resume than in a
working class person's vacation memories scrapbook.
When leaving a New England town or city, I would rather be connected to
that place than be impressed. Plymouth, as a prime example, doesn't
need to show off, come up with contrived vacation gimmicks, or abandon
its hometown roots in lieu of a superstore world. It's easy to connect
with Plymouth as the hometown appeal is timeless and heartwarming
without ever becoming boring.
Plymouth is perhaps best known as the home to Plimoth Plantation, a
living history museum. Along with destinations like Pilgrim Hall
Museum, the Jenney Museum, andf the aforementioned Plymouth Rock and
Mayflower II you could spend an entire Plymouth vacation based on just
visiting attractions but that would be a mistake. Get to know the whole
town by walking around a bit, and your chances of falling in love with
the community and returning year after year rise exponentially.
And don't forget the beach: Plymouth has several good ones like Long
Beach just a few miles south of the downtown.
The mom and pop sporting goods store is long gone and the phony
wood-paneled Ford LTD station wagon is a faded retro novelty, but the
ongoing presence of America's hometown remains strong, proud and
traditional with the best of both worlds: Main Street USA, a close knit
neighborhood feel, and a wonderful waterfront all combined into one
amazing downtown. May your next pilgrimage take you to Plymouth!
The Plymouth waterfront affords great walking opportunities.
That's the Mayflower 11 -- in the distance.
Editor's note: the "I could live here" thought as a child never
materialized but we clearly enjoy going to Plymouth at every
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