45 miles SE of Boston

Everyone educated in the United States knows at least a little of the story of Plymouth -- about how the Pilgrims, fleeing religious persecution, left Europe on the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth Rock in December 1620. Many also know that the Pilgrims endured disease and privation, and that just 53 people from the original group of 102 celebrated what we now call "the first Thanksgiving" in 1621 with Squanto, a Pawtuxet Indian associated with the Wampanoag people, and his cohorts.

What you won't know until you visit is how small everything was. The Mayflower (a reproduction) seems perilously tiny, and when you contemplate how dangerous life was at the time, it's hard not to marvel at the settlers' accomplishments. One of their descendants' accomplishments is this: Plymouth is in many ways a model destination, where the 17th century coexists with the 21st, and most historic attractions are both educational and fun. Visitors jam the downtown area and waterfront in the summer, but the year-round population of 60,000 is large enough that Plymouth feels more like the working community it is than like a touristy day-trip destination. It's a manageable 1-day excursion from Boston, particularly enjoyable if you're traveling with children. It also makes a good stop between Boston and Cape Cod.