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Celebrating 400 Years of the Mayflower

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the historic voyage of the Mayflower, which departed England in 1620 as Puritans sought religious freedom in the New World. Several events that were planned for May on both sides of the Atlantic, with participation from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans have been postponed due to travel concerns related to COVID-19. We still can acknowledge those early travelers and the impact it had on our country.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the Pilgrims settled, naming the town after the port city in England from which they sailed, has a strong connection to the Mayflower’s maiden voyage.

The residents of Plymouth, which is located about 45 minutes south of Boston, look forward to visitors flocking to see the Mayflower II. The full-scale replica, built in the 1950s, was a gift to the United States from the British people, in recognition of friendships forged during World War II. For the past several years, the ship, a popular tourist attraction, has been undergoing a multimillion-dollar restoration.

Other attractions to see in the area include the Pilgrim Hall Museum, which tells the story of the Plymouth Colony and displays items that Mayflower passengers brought with them, including William Bradford’s Bible and a sword that belonged to Myles Standish. The Jenney Museum holds programs like “Conversations with a Pilgrim” and walking tours that explore Plymouth’s history. And of course, Plymouth Rock marks the spot where the Pilgrims disembarked in December 1620. In Boston, the New England Historic Genealogical Society is planning four exhibits commemorating 400 years of Mayflower and Wampanoag history, on display through December.

When you’re able to travel to England, you can explore the port city of Plymouth, on England’s southwestern coast, about 4½ hours from London. Several buildings from that era remain, such as the Island House, where some of the Pilgrims are believed to have stayed before their voyage. The Mayflower Steps, flanked by British and American flags, mark the final English departure point of the ship and its 102 passengers.

Plymouth, England is also opening a cultural and heritage center, The Box, in honor of the anniversary. The first exhibit, “Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy,” will include artifacts that tell the story of the Mayflower’s passengers, including their relationship with Native Americans. Pictures and stories of about 1,200 living Mayflower descendants will be displayed on a wall of the gallery. Plymouth’s Mayflower Week, from September 14-20, includes a visit from a replica 15th-century tall ship and a ceremony on Sept. 16 marking the date the Mayflower set sail.

Before leaving for the New World, the Pilgrims sought refuge in the Dutch city of Leiden, 40 minutes from Amsterdam, where they lived for 12 years. The city’s American Pilgrim Museum, in a beautifully preserved 14th-century house, tells their story. A walking tour explores the city’s Mayflower heritage and here you can learn about Native American culture.

For help navigating any travel plans, contact your travel advisor or connect with one through WorldVia at worldvia.com.

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