It’s a long way back to Colonial America. And, it’s easy to get lost when making the journey.
Thanks to organizations and attractions along the Eastern Seaboard, group tours can follow the footsteps of those who made their mark, explore historic sites and get a sense of what life was like in the long-ago past.
While history may be the inspiration for the tour, stay on for some modern fun.
After a hazardous North Atlantic voyage from England, the Mayflower arrived in what is now Massachusetts in November 1620. The 102 passengers, separatists from the Church of England, established Plymouth Colony.
Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The museum offers a personal look at the lives of the native Wampanoag people and the English, who became known as the Pilgrims.
“At Plimoth Plantation, our group guests experience powerful encounters with history that spark their imaginations, delight their senses, touch their hearts and enrich their minds,” said Rob Kluin, director of marketing and communications for the museum.
Sites include The Wampanoag Homesite, the 17th-Century English Village and Plimoth Grist Mill.
Mayflower II also is part of the museum. Although normally docked at the Plymouth waterfront, Mayflower II is receiving a full restoration at Mystic Seaport for the Plymouth 400 commemoration in 2020. The ship is scheduled to return to Massachusetts in May 2020.
Groups can set up a guided tour, arrange for a specialized speaker and book one of the plantation’s historical themed dining experiences.
Stay for: Original artwork in a variety of mediums is for sale at Made It!, located on the Plymouth, Massachusetts, waterfront. Most of the artists are from Plymouth, the South Shore, Cape Cod and New England.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum in Boston presents a time near the end of the Colonial period.
“We love working with groups and teaching them in a fun and interactive way about the Boston Tea Party,” said Paul Lurie, group sales manager. “The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is an immersive experience, led by costumed actors, versus a museum filled with artifacts. Each person on a group tour experience gets to participate in a hands-on re-creation of the Boston Tea Party, and our interpreters go the extra mile to make groups feel like they are truly taking part in a historical event.”
Lurie said the Dec. 16, 1773, Boston Tea Party was the single most important event that led to the American Revolution and, in turn, the creation of the United States.
For a unique evening experience, the attraction hosts groups for an engaging and fun Huzzah! Tavern Nights!, Boston’s only Colonial dinner experience. Guests are invited into a spirited 18th-century tavern complete with live period music, rustic fare, historically inspired cocktails and a host of famous Colonial-era Bostonians.
Stay for: Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, plans to open a 40,000-square-foot addition on Sept. 28. The Gallery Expansion Project will include 15,000 square feet of galleries, a light-filled atrium, an entry for school and group tours, linkages to existing galleries and a new garden.
Historic St. Mary’s City
Historic St. Mary’s City in southern Maryland is located on the original site of Maryland’s first capital.
The 800-acre living history museum provides a link to the 17th century. Guests make a connection to the diverse group of people who lived and worked there and shaped Maryland’s history.
St. John’s Site Museum shows how HSMC archaeologists use discoveries and research to decode the past.
Hands-on activities are offered at the town center; a 1667 tobacco plantation; the waterfront and Maryland Dove sailing ship; and the woodland Indian hamlet.
“As you walk down Aldermanbury Street towards the ‘center of town’ you walk with the knowledge that history was made on that path,” said Sharol Yeatman, external relations manager. “Many visitors that come first ask, ‘Where is the city?’ They’re surprised to see such a rural area. The answer I always give is, ‘it’s beneath your feet.’ The mysteries of Maryland’s first capital lie beneath the ground, and Historic St. Mary’s City archaeology and research have informed everything we see and do here.”
All tours and activities are customizable and can be designed to match a group’s specific interest.
Stay for: Stop for a guided tour and optional tasting at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House in Baltimore County, Maryland. The brewery opened in 2018 and produces Guinness Blonde American Lager and small-batch beers.
Colonial Williamsburgin Williamsburg operates the world’s largest living history museum. Virginia’s 18th-century capital is preserved as a fully functioning city.
“Colonial Williamsburg is a rare place where groups can disconnect from the modern world, experience firsthand the moment of our nation’s founding and reconnect with one another and our shared story,” said Winette Jeffery, Colonial Williamsburg outreach and sales manager.
Nearly 40 historic area sites include 22 historic trades shops, historic gardens, the Capitol and the Governor’s Palace. Colonial Williamsburg guests also can experience two world-class art museums.
Groups can come face-to-face with a Nation Builder: one of the men and women of Williamsburg who helped establish the nation.
“Haunted Williamsburg” is the only ghost walk to bring guests into the darkened interiors of Colonial Williamsburg historic sites. The new “Colonial Williamsburg Escape Room: Spies & Lies,” features interactive trials of alleged witches, pirates and patriots at the Capitol, plus music and dance programs.
Enjoy period-inspired dining at four historic area taverns, as well as modern experiences at restaurants including Sweet Tea and Barley at the Williamsburg Lodge and HUZZAH! Eatery.
Stay for: Finnegan’s Flyer, a high-flying thrill ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia, opened earlier this year. Two pendulum-like arms fly progressively higher over the park with each swing, providing remarkable aerial views of the park.