Plymouth Rock vintage view.

Oldest Tourist Attraction in America

Field review by the editors.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth Rock is an American icon, the spot where the Pilgrims first set foot on America in 1620. Maybe. The tale of the rock wasn't reported until 1741, long after anyone who could dispute it was dead. And most New Englanders point out that no sailor would risk breaking a boat by parking it next to a rock.

Old post card image.

What we know today as Plymouth Rock isn't even the whole rock; it was hacked off of a larger rock in 1774, dragged to various locations for a hundred years, then brought to this site on the water's edge in 1880. Someone then chiseled the date 1620 into it, at which point the rock became official.

In 1921 a Greekish portico -- it looks like a scaled-down Lincoln Memorial -- was erected around it. The rock -- known locally as "the great New England disappointment" -- lies in the center, a gray boulder in a caged-in sand pit. Twice a day it isn't even visible, being covered by high tide.

Some people hate the thing: in 1970 the American Indian Movement painted the rock blood red; in 1995 another group jumped into the pit and buried it.

Most visitors are content to walk around the sand pit on the portico's elevated platform. Not knowing what to do at an attraction that's just a rock, they throw pennies at it.

Oldest Tourist Attraction in America

Plymouth Rock

Water St., Plymouth, MA
Hwy 3/Pilgrim Hwy to US Hwy 44/Samoset St. east to town. South on Water St. to Pilgrim Memorial State Park, and Plymouth Rock.
The rock is free, but parking is not.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

National Monument to the ForefathersNational Monument to the Forefathers, Plymouth, MA - < 1 mi.
Peter Toth Indian HeadPeter Toth Indian Head, Plymouth, MA - 1 mi.
42nd Parallel Marker42nd Parallel Marker, Kingston, MA - 4 mi.
In the region:
Dogtown Ghost Town and Babson Boulders, Gloucester, MA - 47 mi.

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January 17, 2018

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