• Plimouth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts
    Plimouth Plantation
    Plymouth, Massachusetts

New England Living History Museums

Step back into New England's history and have fun! History comes to life in New England with a variety of "living history" museums where staff are often dressed in period costume and sometimes speak in the dialect of the time. For other historic attractions and activities, also see History & Heritage.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum - Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

In the dark of night, Bostonians disguised as Native Americans creep onto three ships in Boston Harbor – and throw hundreds of cases of tea overboard. Dubbed the Boston Tea Party, this anti-tax protest is one of the most famous events in American history. But what exactly happened on December 16, 1773? And why? All is explained at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, an exciting new living history attraction, with replica 18th-century vessels and costumed interpreters. Discover the history of tea; throw boxes of tea into the harbor; then sip tea in Abigail’s Tea Room overlooking the water.  

Plimoth Plantation view - Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plimoth Plantation: The Real Thing

When the Pilgrim Fathers settled in New England, their first community was in Plymouth, Massachusetts. That’s why Plimoth Plantation takes you back to 1627. Not only are the buildings, the gardens and the food authentic, but the costumed Pilgrims never leave 1627, never step out of character. This really is a time machine. By contrast, the Native Americans that you meet at the Wampanoag Homesite really are members of the Wampanoag Nation. Talk about their heritage; go into a wetu (home); smell the sobaheg (stew).

MAYFLOWER II at Sunrise - Plimouth Plantation - Plymouth, Massachusetts

Mayflower II: The Voyage that Changed the World

In Plymouth, Massachusetts, the costumed passengers and sailors aboard the Mayflower II talk about old England and their 66-day transatlantic voyage. Learn about the 1620 voyage and navigation in the 17th-century. Hear about life aboard the tiny vessel and how the 102 passengers fared. What you see is a detailed replica built of solid oak 60 years ago.

Maple-sugaring- Old Sturbridge Village - Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Old Sturbridge Village: Everyday Life in the 1830s

In Sturbridge, Massachusetts, the largest outdoor history museum in the northeast bustles with energy: coopers make barrels, farmers tend heritage cattle, blacksmiths hammer out horseshoes. As well as visiting 59 historic buildings (including working water mills and covered bridges), you can take an active role: bake bread in a brick oven, roast meat in a tin reflector oven, mull spiced cider in the hearth. Then eat the dinner you helped to prepare. A full day out.

Mystic Seaport - Museum of Amercan and the Sea - Mystic, Connecticut - New England

Mystic Seaport: America and the Sea

Along the scenic Connecticut coast, Mystic Seaport is the nation's leading maritime museum. Explore American seafaring history firsthand as you climb aboard four historic tall ships, stroll through a re-created 19th-century coastal village or watch a working preservation shipyard in action. Take a carriage ride through the gardens in summer, or come in December for a holiday lantern stroll. In the Preservation Shipyard, see antique vessels being restored using traditional methods and tools, or rent an historic rowboat to test the waters of the Mystic River yourself.

Role Players - Strawbery Banke Museum - Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Strawbery Banke Museum: Four Centuries of Americana

See how a community evolved over the years in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Back in 1630, English colonists called the spot Strawbery Banke because of the plentiful wild strawberries. Today, the museum’s 42 historic buildings, gardens and workshops reflect four centuries of Portsmouth life. Hear about the generations that lived here, from sailors and merchants to immigrants. Best of all, there are hands-on activities: try on 18th-century clothing, visit a Victorian tree house. A special place.

Burnt Island Light - Boothbay Harbor

Burnt Island Living Lighthouse: Shining Example

Take a boat out to Burnt Island, just off Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Then, learn about the reality of life in a lighthouse. At Burnt Island Living Lighthouse, meet keeper Joseph Muise and his family who take you back to 1950. James Buotte, the gentleman in uniform, not only astonishes you by his stately appearance, but also by his knowledge. As a former keeper of the Burnt Island Light himself (1955-58), there isn’t a question that he can’t answer.

Coggeshall Farm Museum - Bristol, Rhode Island

Coggeshall Farm Museum: Down on the Farm

The clocks stopped in 1799 at Coggeshall Farm Museum, a living history farm in Bristol, Rhode Island. As well as meeting interpreters dressed in accurate reproduction clothing, you can sign up for fun, hands-on programs. Learn what it was like to be an 18th-century farmhand and enjoy the rewards of a breakfast of johnnycakes, made in a cast-iron skillet; check the livestock, from the pig and the cows to the heirloom game hens.

Old Fort Western - Augusta, Maine

Old Fort Western: Frontier Days

Get an idea of life on the frontier – in 1754. On the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine, Old Fort Western is not just a National Historic Landmark, it is America’s oldest surviving wooden fort. History is all around you. Learn about the French and Indian War 1754 – 1766; hear how Benedict Arnold was based here before his assault on Québec in 1775.

Sabbath Lake Shaker Village - New Gloucester, Maine

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village: History Lives

The Shaker sect was founded in England in 1747, but the last surviving members of this faith live in a 225-year-old community near Portland, Maine. At the last functioning Shaker community in the world, you can tour 18 buildings that trace the story of people dedicated to work and worship. The 1794 Meetinghouse is still used by the Shakers for their current services.

Minuteman National Historic Park - Concord, Massachusetts

Minute Man National Historic Park: 'The Shot Heard Round the World'

Once a year, in and around Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts, you can travel back to April 19, 1775, and the start of the American Revolution. On Patriot’s Day weekend, British Redcoats and farmers march to the North Bridge in Concord. To see drill and musket firing demonstrations, cooking, life in the British Camp, 18th-century surgical demonstrations, and more, visit the 18th-Century Encampment of Militia and British Soldiers and colonial life at the Hartwell Tavern and Smith House, Minute Man National Historic Park.

See also: History and Heritage

Concord Lexington Battlefield Re-enactment - Concord, Massachusetts Credit: Kendra Clineff Map this photo

New England History & Heritage

When it comes to the story of America, New England is a history book come to life. Americans come to see this region to see “where it happened.” For those from abroad, a visit provides insights into the American character. And for all travelers — a history-themed vacation in this region is a lot of fun!
Bunker Hill - Charlestown, Massachusetts
The past lives in the present From the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers onwards, major events of US history happened in New England. Nowhere else in the US is more dense with things to see and do. Visit charming villages, whose British names and architecture recall Old England – yet they are considered “traditionally American.” Stand where the Colonials did as they challenged British soldiers and started the American Revolution. See where America’s Industrial Revolution – and the Literary Revolution began. Discover how Yankee ingenuity developed everyday essentials from the telephone to the safety razor.
Plimouth Plantation - Plymouth, Massachusetts
Pilgrim Fathers (And Mothers!) New England was founded when the Pilgrim Fathers stepped ashore in November, 1620. After their voyage from Plymouth, England, they first landed near Provincetown, on Cape Cod. They settled in Plymouth, where Plymouth Rock commemorates their arrival. Go aboard Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of their tiny ship. Built in Brixham, England 50 years ago, the vessel was a gift of the British people. Tour Plimoth Plantation. One of the country’s best living history attractions, this time machine takes you back to 1627, complete with Pilgrims and Native Americans.
Revolution! In Boston, walk the Freedom Trail to find out why the Colonists wanted independence. Then visit nearby Lexington and Concord, where the first shots of the Revolution were fired on April 19, 1775. Learn who did what, when, where and why at the excellent Minute Man National Historical Park. But, the Revolution affected lives throughout New England. Up in Vermont, Bennington has a tall monument commemorating a battle fought in 1777. In Rhode Island, the annual Gaspée Days in Warwick recall the burning of a British schooner. In Maine, York had its own version of the Boston Tea Party, while in New Hampshire, Portsmouth honours Scottish-born John Paul Jones, the “Father of the American Navy.”
Strawbery Banke Museum - Portsmouth, New Hampshire
New England life… See what New England rural life was like in 1830s’ Massachusetts at Old Sturbridge Village. Watch the blacksmith and the miller at work; tour furnished homes and learn about cooking on a hearth. One of the country’s oldest cities is Portsmouth in New Hampshire. Here, Strawbery Banke Museum is a living history museum covering four centuries of local life, with interpreters to explain it all. And for one of the country’s best collections of Americana visit the superb Shelburne Museum. South of Burlington, in Vermont, it boasts quilts and toys, Impressionist art and the steamship Ticonderoga.
Philadelphia II , a full-sized replica 1776 gunboat - Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
…and work New England boomed on the back of its maritime skills. Learn more at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Take a cruise to see nearby lighthouses, or a trolley tour of the Bath Iron Works. Vermont has no seacoast, but it does have Lake Champlain, over 120 miles (193km) long. Discover what happened on its waters, and why gunboats were needed, at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes. As for America’s Industrial Revolution, it started in the Blackstone River Valley, where the Slater Mill, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, rumbles away as it did in 1793: the first successful water-powered, cotton spinning mill in North America.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport Mansions - Newport Rhode Island
The Gilded Age The Industrial Revolution generated huge wealth. See the grand mansions of the Vanderbilts and their affluent friends, now open to all in Newport. Although furnished with fabulous art and antiques, these “summer cottages” were only used for a few weeks each year.  See an example of 20th-century wealth at Rough Point with its antiques and European art.  This was the home of the heiress Doris Duke, who lived here until 1993.
Round Barn - Hancock Shaker Village - Hancock, Massachusetts

The Simple Life

Learn about the Shaker sect, their classic furniture design and quiet lifestyle, in Canterbury, New Hampshire and Hancock, Massachusetts, and in Sabbathday Lake, Maine, where the last surviving community still lives.
Salem, Massachusetts Rooftops
Villages & Towns It is not just houses that are preserved. There are whole streets and towns that look unchanged for centuries. Stop by Hancock, New Hampshire; Historic Deerfield Massachusetts; Paris Hill, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island; Salem, Massachusetts and Newfane, Vermont.
Other useful New England history travel links: For more information on history & heritage sites in each state: Maine History & Heritage Sites Massachusetts History & Heritage Sites New Hampshire History & Heritage Sites Rhode Island History & Heritage Sites Vermont History & Heritage Sites