Last week my family and I enjoyed some time away during a trip to Massachusetts. Driving from NYC, we charted our journey around four hours where we arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a beautiful and historic port city.
Where we stayed:
Before we enjoyed any activities, we checked into the Fairfield Inn & Suites, a super convenient location that was situated on the pier and within close proximity to the downtown area. This also included amenities like FREE daily breakfast, comfortable Queen beds, fridges in every room, access to the indoor pool and fast WiFi. We were very happy with these accommodations that offered enough for our family of four, while still have the amenities we needed to make this trip special.
Activities in New Bedford:
Starting in new area, I like to walk around and we did just that in New Bedford. I loved checking out all of the ships at the dock and walk towards downtown seeing the small businesses and beautiful homes. With a more laid back pace to NYC, we took our time as we soaked in the sights of this historic community.
With being in close proximity to downtown, we began our travel adventures with a visit to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. With a deep history in the whaling industry, our family learned so much about the unique stories of the whaling industry through a personal tour. Featuring over 750,000 items, the Whaling Museum was an eye-opening experience where we all loved learning about the life in this industry such as what life was like on a whaling vessel, how crafts were made from whale parts, stepping on the forecastle and our favorite part – learning about the composition and skeletons of various types of whales. My six-year-old was deeply engaged throughout the process as our guide asked her questions along the way as she learned about this interesting history.
During our stay, we also attended the Charles Morgan Homecoming in New Bedford. Built in 1841, this homecoming event honored the last wooden whaleship in the world. This included a nine-day celebration of educational programs, music, races, parades, ceremonies, kids’ activities and the chance to step on the historic Charles Morgan. The girls loved learning more about whaling as they made crafts, watched videos about whaling and sat in a nearby boat. It was really the perfect mix of education and fun as we learned about the interesting world of whaling.
Another favorite experience was our visit to Buttonwood Park Zoo. Renowned as “one of the finest small zoos in the U.S.,” we had an incredible day exploring this 10-acre zoo. Personally, I was struck by how there were so many zookeepers at the cages – able to answer any questions or provide facts to passing families. Another highlight was their incredibly constructed barn where we saw horses, cows, pigs, goats, and chickens. We also loved seeing animals we don’t see everyday like elephants, cougars, river otters and black bears. After our walk of animal discovery, the girls loved that there was an animal carousel and a train ride that took us through the whole museum.
We also loved learning about more about the history of New Bedford during a visit to the Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden. Built in 1834, the house was built for whaling merchant William Rotch Jr whose home was described by Herman Melville in Moby Dick by the “brave houses and flowery gardens.” My family really enjoyed taking in the sights and learning about the history of this incredible home. It was such a pleasure to walk through the home that was once lived in by the Rotch, Jones and Duff families. This interactive experience allowed us to explore this Greek Revival mansion and learn more about the families that lived there. This included a look into their bedrooms, kitchen, dining area and kids’ room (my kids’ personal favorite) as we saw a look into the way they lived. Another favorite part of this experience was the beautiful gardens and their beautiful collection of roses and greenery where visitors can now enjoy gardening techniques, conservation practices, bee-keeping and more.
During our time in Massachusetts we loved experiencing such different and beautiful beaches. One of our favorites was the gorgeous Horseneck Beach in Westport. Only around 30 minutes from New Bedford, this beach featured 600 acres of barrier beach and salt marsh. A combination of beach and estuary habitat made for an incredible day where we explored the area and viewed the birds. The beach was very rocky, though, so I would recommend water shoes and to bring tons of snacks and water since there is no vendors here. Also, the waves were pretty intense, but that was also a benefit for my daughters who were roaring with laughter at the giant waves.
Following Horseneck Beach we discovered another bird estuary were the girls’ roamed free and enjoyed the open land. Those are the moments on vacation that I loved the most as they could soak in nature and simply run freely.
Another beach we discovered was West Island beach in Fairhaven. Only 20 minutes from New Bedford, we loved exploring this quiet and peaceful beach. With not at much rocks, and being in close proxmity to the shoreline we loved exploring and relaxing on this majestic beach.
We generally enjoyed food at our lesiure, but one stand out place was Spicy Lime, a Thai restaurant in New Bedford. WIth rich and incredible flavors, we loved a lunch of shrimp salad, chicken satay salad, noodles and thai iced tea that made for a memoriable and must-try restaurant in New Bedford.
Visit to Plymouth:
During our stay we also enjoyed a few day trips and one of our favorites was our visit to the 17th century when we visited Plimoth Plantation With my girls being 3 and 6, this was an interesting and engaging way for them to learn more about the stories of the Native Americans and the English during this time. This included an comprehensive outdoor learning experience where we were able to see the 17th-Century English Village, Wampanoag Homesite, and Mayflower II.
Starting with a visit to the Wampanoag Homesite, we were able to see a look into how the native peoples lived. Dressed in historically accurate clothing, this included a walk through their homes, gardens and village where passerby’s could ask questions about what life was during this time. After this we walked to the English Village where we entered a re-creation world of the farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims. This included a look into their homes, gardens, and churches as we all experienced what life was like during this time. An interesting aspect of this was that we could all talk to the English settlers – asking them about their homes and life during this time – as they were emmersed in what life was like during that time. This allowed us to see them attending to animals, cooking, and more on the streets of this new community.
After our experience at the Plimoth Plantation, we enjoyed a day at sea to look for whales with the Captain John Whale Watching experience. After learning so much about whales in New Bedford we were so excited to have the chance to see them up close. Prior to seeing whales, the crew talked about the waters and typically what whales we would see. About 2 hours later we heard the naturalists on-board directing us to where nearby whales were. We were in awe as they were within close proximity of our boat as she described their unique features and attributes. The girls were so amazed at seeing them so close, which was we later learned was finback whales and humpback whales. After the excitement, we headed back feeling so amazed to having seen these majestic creatures up close.
Another interesting aspect of Plymouth that we loved was exploring the pier and seeing Plymouth Rock, the site of the pilgrims in 1620. This was another way to explore and talk about history as we took in the stunning views of the town.
New Bedford Art Museum (New Bedford): As is the case with many of this coastal town’s businesses, the New Bedford Art Museum lives inside of a building that was formerly a bank. The South Coast is rich in culture, history and diversity, displayed through its art museum. It opened in 1996 and is a fixture in downtown New Bedford. Museum exhibits change three times a year, displaying works from both local and international artists.
New Bedford Glass Museum: Another fun museum for the kids is The New Bedford Museum of Glass. Home to a wide collection of glass from ancient Mediterranean unguent bottles to designs by contemporary artists like Dale Chihuly.
Schooner Ernestina: Schooner Ernestina was built in 1894 at the James and Tarr Shipyard for the Gloucester fishing fleet. Under Captain Bob Bartlett, she sailed to within 600 miles of the North Pole, and later brought immigrants to the U.S. She is known as Massachusetts’ Official Vessel.
Nathan and Polly Johnson House: Nathan and Mary Johnson were free African Americans living in New Bedford, MA who owned a block of properties including their home and the neighboring old Friends meetinghouse. Nathan was an active abolitionist who assisted numerous fugitive slaves, including Frederick Douglass, who they housed during his escape from slavery in 1838.
An incredibly fun family trip, we loved experiencing the unexpected during our visit to New Bedford, Plymouth and Westport where we we were fully immersed in history and fun as we explored and enjoyed our time away learning more about this incredible state.
Momtrends was not paid for this post. We were given a complimentary stay and some passes for this review.