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Unpacking the allure of Plymouth Rock

What to expect when visiting (or bringing visitors to) Plymouth Rock, located south of Boston.

A stone with the numbers "1620" carved into it sitting in sand, with a structure built around it.

“1620" was carved onto Plymouth Rock in 1880, when the upper and lower portions of the rock were reunited.

Photo via @jetsetpep

Each year, over one million visitors make the trip to nearby Pilgrim Memorial State Park to behold Plymouth Rock: A symbol of history, passing time, and... let’s be honest...tourist traps.

We don’t mean to dismiss the significance of Plymouth Rock, aka the reputed site where the Pilgrims disembarked the Mayflower in 1620. Minds may conjure images of an impressive, towering boulder situated before an expansive sea, imagining Pilgrims stepping foot onto the new land via this very rock many years ago.

In reality, Plymouth Rock is just that — a rock. Remnants of a rock, actually. While the original stone may have been quite grand, what remains is a much smaller piece of the boulder after years of moving locations, human interaction, and the natural effects of time. In fact, parts of the original rock are located in various locations, two of which can be found in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Ironically, no early Pilgrim accounts even mention the landmark. It wasn’t until 1741 that Plymouth Rock was noted as historically significant, when Thomas Faunce, the son of an early settler, protested a project that would cover the rock and even gave it “a tearful goodbye.” Nevertheless, Plymouth Rock has endured, and if its number of visitors signifies anything, it remains an important symbol to many.

If the Thanksgiving season has you wanting to connect with history and make the ~50-minute trip to Plymouth Rock, we recommend checking out these spots while you’re there.

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