New Bedford, MA: A Working Port With Literary, Culinary, And Historic Appeal

Harbor View from New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

WHY GO: Called “The City That Lit the World,” New Bedford MA, once the planet’s premier whaling town, claimed more millionaires than any other city in America. From the 1820’s until whaling’s demise in 1925, when the last whaling ship sailed out of New Bedford Harbor, this city dominated the industry. More pure, smokeless spermaceti (whale oil) came from New Bedford than from anywhere else on earth.

From the Pulpit Seamens Bethel New Bedford MA

In its heyday in the mid 1800’s, 750 whaling vessels plied the Seven Seas from U.S. shores: Of those, nearly 450 hailed New Bedford alone. One was the Acushnet, on which a 22-year-old Herman Melville toiled for over a year.  His experiences, of course, were chronicled in his classic novel, Moby Dick.

Though it’s been through several booms and busts, New Bedford remains today the number one fishing port in the country in profits – based largely on the tonnage of weight-in-gold scallops caught by New Bedford fishermen each year.

In 1996, Congress designated a segment of New Bedford as a National Historic Park, deeming it the best place in America to tell the story of whaling. Since then, the city has transitioned into a burgeoning tourist mecca, and within the past five years has been attracting countless creatives and New Yorkers due to its “exploding art scene” and low real estate costs.

Exterior Moby Dick Brewing Co. New Bedford MA

With upgraded infrastructure, a second boutique hotel, trendy wine and beer bars, and picture-perfect cobblestone streets, this Getaway is perfect for history buffs, Melville fans, and art aficionados who wish to explore a working waterfront and be well-fed in the process.

Things To Do in New Bedford, MA

Front door of New Bedford Whaling Historical Park Visitors Center #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

TOUR: New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park. Begin at the Visitor’s Center for a 22-minute movie, “The City That Lit the World,” and then peruse exhibits that expound upon The Lure of Whaling, Life in a Port City, Faces of Whaling, and Women in Whaling.

Cobblestone Street New Bedford MA

From here, you can take a free 45-minute walking tour of this diverse town. Several narrated walks center on the History of Whaling, Herman Melville, and the Underground Railroad.

In the mid-1800’s New Bedford was “a hotbed of abolitionism” – encompassing a large Quaker community that believed God did not discriminate among his creations. Frederick Douglass and his wife, Anna, fled from slavery to New Bedford, and were housed by free blacks, Polly and Nathan Johnson. Douglass swept church floors, caulked ship hulls, and then, with his brilliant mind, found his footing as an abolitionist crusader.

Whaling Captains, in particular, were color-blind; jobs on a whaling ship were based on merit only and each ship housed a virtual United Nations. Sailors were forced to get along, as teamwork increased the whaling profits that were divvied up at the end of each voyage.

Reading cushions form wall art while not in use in “Makers Space,” New Bedford NHP Visitor’s Center MA

The Visitor’s Center newest sensation is The Maker Space upstairs – where hands on exhibits serve as “inspiration, not information.” Besides watching an artist-in-residence at work, you can participate in games, activities, and craft making. There’s a comfy reading nook, and a 3-D printer. Best of all, on hot days, it’s air conditioned and free to enter. Visitor’s Center open daily 9am-5pm. Maker Space open daily July-Sept. and weekends throughout the year. Free.

The 1850's Gals, Ruth and Abby, dish the latest gossip in New Bedford, MA #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

SEE: Ruth and Abby. Join the fun, the gossip, the banter between two 1850’s busybodies, Ruth and Abby.  Dressed in period garb, they dish about the food of the times, their neighbors, shopping and running a home at the height of New Bedford’s wealth. Mid July – end of August; Thurs 5pm – 6:30pm, Friday 11am-2pm, Sun. 2pm-4pm, Free.

Blue Whale skull still leaching oil at New Bedford Whaling Museum #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

VISIT: New Bedford Whaling Museum. Four fully articulated whale skeletons hang from the ceiling in the entry hall of one of the best Whaling Museums on the planet. There’s a Humpback, a North Atlantic Right Whale with her ten-month-old fetus, and a Blue Whale – the largest mammal on earth.

This juvenile Blue, killed accidentally by a tanker in 1998, is half the size of one full grown, and one of only four on display in the world. Amazingly, even after the bones were cleaned and bleached for months, its sinus cavities are still leaching oil, which drips into a Lucite pan fitted beneath the skull and then transported by hose into a graduated beaker kept at eye level.

Mother Baby Whale Skeleton New Bedford MA Whaling Museum

This is just one of many wows! you’ll experience among 750,000 artifacts, from the Worlds Largest Collection of Scrimshaw to the Worlds Largest Ship Model (at half scale, the Lagoda Whaling Ship, which can be boarded, was built by aging shipwrights in 1916 inside the then brand new museum hall), to products made from bones and baleen, to harpoons – which were kept so sharp, the sailors shaved with them.

Penny guiding New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

For an exceptional overview of the Museum – and stories about whaling ships, sailors, and the whales themselves – be sure to join a one-hour tour docent led tour. My guide was the uber-knowledgeable Penny. Her sweeping narrative covers everything from economics to biology, spotlighting the grim, precarious, but incredibly lucrative business of catching and killing these sentient beings, and rendering their body parts into oil, corsets, home goods, and scrimshaw art.

Lagoda New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

Jobs on a whaling ship – each vessel a self-contained oil factory with all the reeking, bloody, slippery, and dangerous conditions you can imagine – attracted three different kinds of sailors: second-and-subsequent-born farm boys who were not in line to inherit property; adventurers like Herman Melville; and fugitive slaves. Eventually, whaling merchants sought cheaper labor in the Azores off of Portugal, and Cape Verde off of Africa, diversifying the crews even further.

With its head cavity full of spermaceti oil the Sperm Whale was the most coveted of the species – though ships had to travel around Cape Horn to the Pacific Ocean to find them. Thus, whaling was the first “globalized industry.” Sailors returned home with souvenirs, exchanging language and art with people of Asian cultures and beyond.

Scrimshaw New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

Oil from the ground and Edison’s light bulb ultimately killed off the whaling industry, at which point New Bedford transitioned into a textile-manufacturing hub. When that industry went kablooey, it took some time for the city to reinvent itself as a living history museum and art mecca. $17 adults, $7 kids, May-September 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. Jan-March Tues-Sat 9-4, Sun 11-4. Docent led tours at 11am. Penny’s tours on Tuesday afternoon.

Seamens Bethel New Bedford MA

VISIT: Seamen’s Bethel. In the heady days of the great whaling ships, New Bedford’s docks thrummed with bars and brothels. Resident Quakers sought to counteract the “licentious” temptations of the waterfront, first by boarding boats at dock to sermonize and hand out bibles, and in 1832, by building a house of worship for the sailors: The Seamen’s Bethel.

Known as “The Whalemen’s Chapel” in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the Seamen’s Bethel underwent a $3.2 million renovation in May 2017 to save it from complete collapse. Stucco was removed from the exterior walls, leaving its original pre-Melville stone intact.

A modern breezeway, linking the Bethel to the adjacent Mariners Home, is the Church’s new main entrance and features a reception desk made from 150 year old lumber reclaimed from the renovation.

Bow Sprit Pulpit Seamen’s Bethel New Bedford MA

The bow-shaped pulpit – from which Reverend Enoch Mudge (Father Mapple in Moby Dick) spoke to his parishioners from 1832-1844 – juts into a small bench-lined room. Melville’s pew, the second to last row on the left as you walk in, is of course a photo-op favorite.

New Bedford was unique in that sailors shipping off from here were required to register by name, age, height, complexion, eye color, ship’s name and Captain, and so family members came to New Bedford to determine the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Cenotaph Seaman’s Bethel New Bedford MA

Marble cenotaphs (“empty tombs”) of men who did not return from the sea line the sanctuary walls. One is believed to be Melville’s inspiration for Captain Ahab: Captn. Wm. Swain, who “after fastning to a whale was carried overboard by the line and drowned on May 19th 1844.” Another cenotaph memorializes poor 18-year-old Charles Petty who, in 1863, was killed by a shark while bathing off the African coast.  Apparently whales weren’t the only sea life to be wary of on these dangerous voyages.

These inscribed tablets remain touchstones for the modern fishing community who come to pay respects to those lost. Additionally, every year since Memorial Day 1866, the 1835 church organ is wheeled down to the waterfront in a decorative wheelbarrow, and played during the memorial service for New Bedford fishermen lost at sea.

MA Life Ring Found in France Seamens Bethel New Bedford MA

Don’t miss artifacts on display in several other rooms – one, the Life Ring from a 1988 wreck off of Nantucket that was found on a French beach in 2010, and wonderful drawings of New Bedford by the New Yorker Magazine artist, Sergio Garcia Sanchez. Though, this church does not operate as a house of worship on a regular basis, it’s a popular wedding and baptism venue.

Fishing Heritage Center New Bedford MA

VISIT: New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. Bring a fishing boat into port, quickly don survival gear, and learn what it’s like to be a commercial fisherman in this small but excellent museum that opened quite by accident. What started out as an office for the annual Working Waterfront Festival has turned into a bricks and mortar space celebrating the “fishing industry of New Bedford Past, Present, and Future.”

Survival Gear Fishing Heritage Center New Bedford MA

This interactive museum is divided into the various aspects of the fishing life. You can watch the construction of a fishing vessel “from keel to launch;” see several oddities in an “Unusual Catches” display; read a whole wall of crazy fishermen nicknames; tie nautical knots; and scroll through an interactive website that details ships that went down, incident reports, and bios on those who died (one of the most utilized exhibits for those who lost loved ones).

There’s a makeshift wheelhouse composed of a navigational simulator (programmed with many American harbors) and all the electronics found on a modern vessel. You’ll even hear radio chatter from corresponding bridge and harbor masters.

Shell Art Fishing Heritage Center New Bedford MA

The most popular activity for teens, though, is the 60-second challenge to dress in survival gear: an endeavor much more difficult than it sounds. Open Thurs-Sun 10-4, free, but donations gratefully accepted.

Fish Auction Warfinger Building New Bedford MA

VISIT: Waterfront Visitors Center in the Wharfinger Building. The small brick structure, built in 1935, once housed the once robust, live New Bedford Fish Auction. You’ll get a sense of the frantic 20 minute New York Stock-Exchange-like negotiations that took place here before proceedings went online in 1985.

New Bedford MA Fishing Fleet

Afterwards, head to the docks for captivating views of the harbor, and if you time it right, you’ll find some of the 200 commercial fishing boats of New Bedford – scallopers and trawlers – offloading catch. Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. year round
Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day

SEE: Behind the Customs House was the local recruiting station for the 54th Regiment, the first African American civil war regiment brought to public attention in 1989 by the movie “Glory” staring Denzel Washington. More than 350 New Bedford men of color – both escaped slaves and those born free – served in the Union forces between 1861 and 1865.

New Bedford MA Historic District

TRIVIA: Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE). WHALE’s unofficial motto is “two days after the fire — one day before the wrecking ball,” and has been instrumental in preserving the authenticity of New Bedford’s landmark buildings — going so far as to move several to prevent them from being demolished.

Acushnet - Harbor Tourboat for New Bedford Harbor Tours #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

TOUR. New Bedford Harbor Tour. It’s a harbor tour unlike any other – after an hour on the water, you’ll come away knowing why scallop boats are not painted completely, and learn all about one hard-working, fastidious, trash-talking Azorean, known as “The Codfather,” who came to the US dirt poor but managed to amass a fleet of 30 fishing boats (worth tens of millions). If the forecast is bad, you may see the whole fleet at the docks – and get as close to them as possible without being on deck.  You’ll also glide through the longest hurricane barrier (9,100 feet) in the world, which is also the largest stone structure on the East Coast, and hear stories of whaling ships and oil tycoons. Mid-June through end of September, Daily 12 Noon, 1:30, 3:00 & 4:30 PM. September –Weekends Only – Saturday & Sunday, same times. $15 adults, $8 kids.

The Blue Lane New Bedford MA

WALK: The Blue Lane. An elevated waterfront path atop the rocky Hurricane Barrier bulwark linking the Covewalk, Harborwalk, and soon-to-open Riverwalk, this newly sleek and contiguous esplanade has enhanced the 4.5 mile long shoreline experience for New Bedford residents and visitors alike. It’s lit up at night and pet and stroller friendly, too. 24/7, free.

New Bedford City Hall Elevator New Bedford MA

RIDE: New Bedford City Hall Elevator. Here’s something that not many guidebooks will recommend.  Stop in to City Hall to find the Oldest Operating Elevator in the US – a 1912 Otis human-run steel and wrought iron cage with a curved cushioned bench large enough for six. Ask for a ride to the top floor – the 4th. It’s a time machine for sure. Mon-Fri. 8am-4pm. Free.

Vaseline Glass made with uranium glows green under ultraviolet light at New Bedford Museum of Glass #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

VISIT: New Bedford Museum of Glass. Once hidden in the back of the former Wamsutta Textile Mill, the Museum of Glass is moving into new digs at the Wamsutta Club in the James Arnold Mansion up on the hill, and will be reopening sometime in 2019. Glassmaking was a huge New Bedford industry in the 1860’s; tableware, quality cut glass, and fancy chandeliers were all manufactured here.

The Museum of Glass showcases glass of all kind from ancient to contemporary – much of it rare, including shelves of Vaseline Glass, made with uranium, which glows green under ultraviolet light in a dark room. (Listen to the insistent Geiger counter in one of the cases). You’ll find Stuben, Orrefors, Tiffany and Chihuly masterpieces. If you have any interest in decorative glass at all, this unassuming museum is a must-see. Check website for updates on opening, hours, and entry fees.

Rotch-Jones-Duff House New Bedford MA

TOUR: Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum. This stunning manor on the hill, built in 1834, gives visitors a glimpse at the lifestyle of wealthy whaling merchants. The gardens are truly enchanting. Open May-Oct. Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun. 12-4, Nov-April Tues-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4. $6 adults, $3 kids.

New Bedford Art Museum Gift Shop MA

VISIT: New Bedford Art Museum. President Obama’s official photographer, Pete Souza, is from New Bedford, so proud locals came out in droves when, in April 2019, this small art museum mounted an exhibit of his best work (up until June 19th 2019). Though NBAM exhibits rotate several times a year, you can count on the Museum Store to stock one of a kind crafts, clothing, and jewelry. Open Wed-Sun. 12-5, Thurs 12-9pm, $5, free Thurs nights from 5pm-9pm.

UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts New Bedford MA

POP IN: UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts Galleries. It’s free to walk in to these sunlit galleries and see what students are up to.

SEE: Zeiterion Performing Arts Center. Be it a staged show, a ballet, symphony orchestra, or other performing art, there’s always something going on at this historic, renovated theater. Check website for calendar.

GO: Buttonwood Park Zoo. If you’re with someone who just has to see an elephant or other exotic animals, drive a few miles to the 10-acre, Buttonwood Zoo, deemed one of the Best Small Zoos in America.

Fort Taber New Bedford MA

GO: Fort Taber-Fort Rodman Military Museum. Even if you aren’t into armaments or cannon/gun history, come to this seaside granite fortification, built in 1860, for the expansive views of Narragansett Bay.

GO: Kilburn Mill. This is not the first textile mill to be repurposed into artist studios (see Lowell MA), and it won’t be the last. Here, you’ll also find other enterprises and plenty of events and programming. Check website for info on Farmer’s Markets, music, comedy, and beer events.

New Bedford MA Ferry Terminal

FERRY: Seastreak Ferry To Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. While travelers could always get to Martha’s Vineyard from NB, the Nantucket route is brand new and much anticipated. On the waterfront – Pier 3.

Calico New Bedford MA

SHOP: Calico Boutique, for the latest ladies fashions, cute one of a kind accessories, and “Neue Beige” (New Bedford in Portuguese) t-shirts.

Anthi Frangiadis owner The Drawing Room New Bedford MA

SHOP: The Drawing Room. Architect Anthi Frangiadis owns this newly opened “shop for artful living,” where you can find ceramics, jewelry, paintings, topographical wooden maps, and hefty bronze doorknockers among other statement pieces.

Alison Wells Gallery New Bedford MA

SHOP/LESSON: Alison Wells Gallery. From Trinidad, Alison Wells adds a splash of island color to her paintings. She also hosts guest exhibitions, mixed media shows, and classes for kids, teens, and adults. Sign up for a weekend workshop online.

Brothers Artisanal Jerky New Bedford MA

SHOP/PLAY: Brothers Artisanal Jerky (across from the Whaling Museum). Dehydrated spiced beef, turkey, and pork never tasted so amazing. Though pricey ($8.99 per 2 oz. package), you’ll savor every organic-grass-fed nibble. Brothers is also a funky rec-room of sorts, with billiards, picnic tables, beer and wine bar, and an excess of space.

SHOP: At Bedford Merchant Gift Shop you’ll find typically “resort” like gifts at very reasonable prices. Festoon yourself with craft jewelry from BeJeweled for a lot less than you’ll pay in other cities. You’ll find apparel stamped with everything New Bedford (and mermaid) at The Landing Gift Shop and Chandlery on Front St. Also, be sure to wander the cobblestone streets of the Historic District and stop in to as many of the Art Galleries and studios as you can.

Best Restaurants in New Bedford, MA

Merrills on the Waterfront New Bedford MA

EAT: Merrill’s (on the Waterfront). Right across the parking lot from Fairfield Inn and Suites – diners wishing to stare into the cockpits of scallop boats at dock, while eating, won’t find a better location than this. Besides the proximity to the fishing fleet, if the weather is clear, it’s a safe bet you’ll also observe a dazzling sunset that casts the ships in a rosy-gold hue.

Merrills sunset view New Bedford MA

Views are fine, but the food is, too. Honestly, how can you go wrong with any scallop dish when the source of said shellfish is right out the window? The Pan Seared Orange-Ginger Scallops ($26) are fresh from the sea delectable. And so is the Signature Oven Roasted Cod with Littlenecks, braised kale, and white beans ($25). Not into seafood? Steaks every which way (Filet Mignon – $30), are formidable options.

Ishm-ale Moby Dick Brewing Co. New Bedford MA

EAT/DRINK: Moby Dick Brewing Co. A block from the docks, Moby Dick Brewery is a labor of love for seven co-owners who saw opportunity in this literary-culinary-beverage-brewing mashup of a place. Formerly a chandlery, a marine electronics store, and then a fruit wholesaler (banana hooks are all that’s left in a room downstairs once flooded with carbon monoxide to kill stowaway tarantulas), Moby Dick Brewery opened in March 2017. Brew names refer to Melville’s novel: Ishm-ale (Red Ale), Simple Sailor (Lager), Quick Eternity (West Coast IPA), Sailor’s Delirium (Double IPA), and more.

Fish Tacos Moby Dick Brewing Co. New Bedford MA

The beer is top notch, fresh, and tasty, and the food, gobble-up good. My particular favorites are the Fish and Chips ($17) or Fish Tacos (3 for $18), both with light and airy fried cod, and billowy thin fries. If I lived closer, that would be my go-to dish on the daily.

New Bedford Harbor Hotel Restaurant and Bar

EAT/DRINK: New Bedford Harbor Hotel. The head bartender here takes his cocktails and especially, his craft-draft seriously. You’ll discover new brews, and beer you won’t find anywhere else (like my now personal fave, Jali – a Jalapeño-Apricot Sour from Maine’s Hidden Cove Brewing Co.). The restaurant is currently morphing from traditional entrees to elevated pub grub – Whaling Captain style from around the world and heavy on seafood. Try Little Necks sautéed in olive oil with roast garlic ($14), Shrimp Mozambique ($18), and the lightly battered, fried, and succulently flavored Calamari ($13) – my pick for best dish.

Exterior Tia Marias European Cafe New Bedford MA

EAT: Tia Maria’s European Café. Owned by locals who were thrilled when this Historic District location became available, Tia Maria’s, an adorably homey eatery across from the Whaling Museum, specializes in Portuguese cuisine at reasonable prices. Signature dishes include the broth-based Caldo Verde ($3.15, cup) – a potato-kale-sausage soup served in a rustic crock; Bifana Sandwich – pan fried pork steak topped with hot peppers; Sao Jorge Pizza ($7.50) with Portuguese sausage and Sao Jorge cheese; the often requested Shrimp Cakes with a slight citrus kick; and Chicken Mozambique Sandwich ($8.50) made up of chicken breast in a saffron garlic sauce.

The Baker New Bedford MA

BREAKFAST/LUNCH: The Baker. Whenever locals talk about this bakery and sandwich shop, their eyes light up. Pastries are flaky, not cakey, and bagels are so fresh and chewy as to give your jaw a workout. In a very good way. All accolades are well deserved.

LUNCH: No Problemo. A bevy of patrons, from  tattooed skateboarders to boardroom executives, line up for the fantastically fresh burritos, tacos and all manner of handheld Mexican Food.  When asked about a favorite restaurant, most locals mention this for deliciousness, freshness, speed and low price. Tacos start at $3.00, Tortas at $6.00.

Destination Soups New Bedford MA

LUNCH: Destination Soups. Are the soups “Soup Nazi” good?  I’d say very close, but without the attitude.  Don’t restrict yourself to soup alone, however.  This place does an excellent job with specialty Grilled Cheese, as well, like the Rick Cheese – stuffed with apple, bacon and balsamic vinegar ($3.80 small, $6.00 full size).

EAT: Freestone’s City Grill. The chowder served within this former 140 year old Citizens National Bank Building keeps winning awards. You’ll see why. Close to the Whaling Museum, Freestone’s has been a local favorite for years.

Special Spices and Unique indoor BBQ spit make Churrascaria Novo Mundo a top New Bedford restaurant. #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

EAT: Churrascaria Novo Mundo. Walk into this less-than-nondescript building and you’ll be rewarded with what I’ll go out on a limb to say is one of the top 10 chicken dishes this side of the Azores. Toasted to perfection on an unusual Portuguese indoor barbeque spit, these flattened half chickens come to the table with heaps of fries and rice for just $6.99.

Tasting room of Urban Winery - Travessia in New Bedford, MA

SIP: Travessia Urban Winery. You won’t see a vine in sight, but what you will see, and sip, are some great wines.   Travessia sources grapes from within a ten-mile radius and produces cases of award-winning, light, sweet Vidal Blanc and pleasurable  Pino Noir Rose. Buy local.  Buy a bottle or two of each. Open Wed – Sat Noon – 6pm, Sun. Noon – 5pm.

The Black Whale big chair New Bedford MA

DRINK: There are several bars in repurposed waterfront buildings that attract Vineyard Ferry travelers like frat boys to keg parties. Find vibrant nightlife scenes at Cork Wine and Tapas (for wine flights), Rose Alley Ale House (beer flights), and the newest The Black Whale (oversized Instagram-perfect chair outside).

EAT: Locals also love Café Italia (opening up a second location soon), Brick Pizzeria, and, if you ask, almost every restaurant in town for something or other.

Best Lodging in New Bedford, MA

Reception New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

STAY: New Bedford Harbor Hotel. Sitting about a quarter mile up Union St. from the waterfront, the brand new New Bedford Harbor Hotel, opened in July 2018, fills a downtown lodging niche close to museums, historic Town Hall, and the cobblestoned Historic District. Like all trendy boutique hotels, the reception area is small, but personable. And rather dramatic. An enlarged photo of a whaling ship takes up the wall behind the desk, and for a moment you feel as if you’re onboard – sailing away.

Main Floor New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

Carved from a former department store and then office building, the commercial meets maritime vibe is evident on the main floor. Though the soaring industrial ceiling could potentially make the massive space seem stark and cavernous, the room is divided into seating areas, a hopping bar, and restaurant: cozying it up quite a bit. (FYI – the 70 rooms on five floors are serviced by one slow elevator, so, hoof it upstairs or be patient.)

Suite New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

Tidy, contemporary guest rooms are each configured differently. Some have original hardwood floors, and long narrow entry halls, with brick walls and lots of windows that overlook the distant harbor (over city rooftops).

Long view from New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

Pared down bathrooms are pristine with granite sinks and subway tiled showers.

For dining – see Food/Drink section.

Rooms Rates $110-$259 include Continental Breakfast

STAY: New Bedford Fairfield Inn and Suites. The Mavens don’t usually extoll the wonderment of chain hotels, but this is one of the few exceptions. In punchy blues and orange hues, this establishment hard by the working docks took a big leap of faith when it opened several years ago.  Now, rooms are nearly 100% occupied in season, because more and more tourists traveling to Boston or the Cape or who come off the high-speed Vineyard/Nantucket Ferry across the street are choosing to stay overnight.  With helpful friendly staff, this franchise feels more like a B&B, offering a free shuttle within a five-mile radius, free Wi-Fi, a small fitness room that overlooks a sparkling indoor pool and complementary hot breakfast.  Rates – $129 to $269 – vary with size of room and season includes internet, hot breakfast, parking, tea and coffee 24/7, and complimentary shuttle.

STAY: Orchard Street Manor. A former 1845 Captain’s home “on the hill,” Orchard Street Manor is filled with antique gleaned from the world travels of hosts Al and Suzanne Saulniers. Enjoy hot homemade muffins and fresh fruit salads each morning in a unique oval dining room, and great insider information about New Bedford from your gracious hosts.  $125-$250 per night includes gourmet breakfast.

New Bedford, Massachusetts, once the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick, now tells the story of America's whaling history. With new hotels, trendy wine and beer bars, and the most profitable commercial fishing fleet in America, this Getaway is perfect for history buffs and Melville fans who wish to explore a working waterfront, and be well-fed in the process. #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

Fairhaven, MA: Ambrosial Scallops and Astonishing Architecture

Fairhaven MA High School

WHY GO.  Fairhaven MA wasn’t a company town; it was a lucky town.  Henry Huttleston Rogers, President of six (out of 13) Standard Oil Trust Companies (who happened, also, to be a major benefactor of Mark Twain), was overly magnanimous when it came to his hometown, endowing it with public buildings that rival those in the greatest European cities. Sharing a harbor with New Bedford, Fairhaven has also been a center of shipbuilding since the 1700’s. High profile vessels, ferries, fishing boats and freighters come here for repair. This town is also famous for something quite unique; it was where the very first Japanese person to ever live on US soil found a home – back in 1843. In addition, Fairhaven is a pilgrimage site for Seventh Day Adventists, as one of the Church’s founders, Joseph Bates, was born and raised here. This trip, which can be paired easily with New Bedford across the Historic Route 6 Bridge, brings Rogers, Twain, shipbuilding and Japanese-American History together in an enlightening, unexpectedly entertaining Getaway.

Things To Do In Fairhaven, MA

VISIT: Fairhaven Visitor’s Center. Set inside a 1798 One Room Academy, you’ll find relics from Fairhaven’s far as well as recent past. A collection of Gold Bond tins rest inside glass shelves – Fairhaven was the manufacturing home of Gold Bond Power from 1909-1985, when, according to a local  “it was just four or five guys packing the stuff” in a small factory by the river. In addition, Atlas Tack Co. turned out millions of these office staples (favored, too, by school pranksters) in Fairhaven from 1867-1985. Most industry has left this seaside town, but one industrious guy is still plugging away; the One Man Band Fairhaven Tourism Director, Chris Richard. Unless Richard is out giving one of his entertaining costumed walking tours, you can find him at the Fairhaven Visitor’s Center.  Anyone who makes this town their base for even a day or two is bound to meet him. Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri., Sat. 8:00am-4:30PM. Weekly Huttleston Marketplace every Sat. June-Sept. 10-4.  Guide dressed in Victorian man's business suit for walking tour of Fairhaven, MA #Massachusetts @GetawayMavens

WALKING TOUR: Henry Huttleston Rogers Tour. With pocket watch in his Victorian businessman striped vest, Chris Richard (Thurs, Bob Foster on Tues) leads this illuminating 90-minute walking tour of Roger’s life and legacy in Fairhaven. Partners with Rockefeller in the successful Standard Oil Co, Rogers was purportedly ruthless in business but gentle and generous with his homies. He befriended and financially supported Mark Twain and funded Helen Keller’s education in addition to “creating an EPCOT in this little Yankee seafaring town.”  The French-Gothic Town Hall, dedicated by Twain, the Italian Renaissance Millicent Library – built in memory of Roger’s daughter who died at age 17 – and the English Perpendicular Gothic Unitarian Church, a 15th Century Cathedral with 1 ¼ ton cast bronze doors, are among the incredible buildings you’ll visit.

Notes and letters handwritten by Mark Twain hang above a periodicals case at the Millicent Library in Fairhaven, MA #Massachusetts @GetawayMavens

If you are a Mark Twain groupie (like this Maven), you’ll thrill to see his handwritten notes to the Library Trustees, as well as his Town Hall dedication speech just hanging out above a periodical cabinet in the Millicent Library. Just ask the friendly folks at the desk, and they’ll point them right out. Henry H. Rogers Walking Tours, Tues and Thurs. mornings, 10:00 a.m. June through September. Free.

Fort Phoenix Fairhaven MA

TOUR: Pirates & Privateers Presentation at Fort Phoenix. (Formerly the Minuteman Tour). Attacked and destroyed by the Brits on September 5th 1778, Fort Phoenix “rose again” and went on to guard Fairhaven during the War of 1812 and the Civil War as well. It’s a swell setting for this myth-busting presentation about pirates and privateers back in those days. Abby Black, whose husband died at sea, explains how she dresses in men’s clothing and serves as a doctor onboard.  Mr. Church tells historical stories about being a ship’s cook, and Andrew the Powder Monkey climbs on a cannon and explains how it’s fired. Chris Richard MC’s, with a “magic trick” at the end. Fridays, June-September, 10am. FREE. 

New Bedford Fairhaven Hurricane Barrier

SEE: New Bedford Hurricane Barrier. The hurricanes of 1938 and 1954 nearly decimated New Bedford and Fairhaven, so in 1962, the Army Corps of Engineers built this bad boy.  At twenty feet tall and 3.5 miles long, the Hurricane Barrier is so large, you can see it from many vantage points – in fact, it is the largest manmade stone structure on the East Coast. Besides via boat going through the 150 ft wide gates, or from a helicopter, your best view of the exterior barrier wall is from Fort Phoenix.

Joseph Bates Boyhood Home Fairhaven MA

VISIT: Joseph Bates Boyhood Home, Co-Founder of Seventh Day Adventist Church. First a Merchant Ship Captain, and then a follower of William Miller, Joseph Bates suffered a “Great Disappointment” when Miller’s prophecy of a Second Coming did not happen on the first, and then the second appointed date.

Interior Bates Home Founder of 7th Day Adventists Fairhaven MA

Bates surmised that when Christians began to celebrate the Sabbath on the first, not the seventh day of the week, it threw Miller’s calendar completely off. To rectify this, he called for worship on Saturday, becoming the “Father of the Sabbath Message.” There are currently millions of Seventh Day Adventists all over the world. Bate’s newly renovated boyhood home is open for guided tours through rooms with original floors and 18th century wallpaper and another (in a space added on at a later date) designed like a ship’s hold.

Ruins of 1676 Fireplace behind Bates Home Fairhaven MA

Don’t miss the stone ruins of a ten foot wide fireplace behind the house. This is all that is left of the thatched roof cottage built by Thomas Tabor, son-in-law of Mayflower passenger, John Cooke. Cooke lived with his daughter and son in law for a time, and might very well have warmed himself by the fire here. It remains a mystery why William Wood built a home inches from the ruins in 1742 ( which was then sold it to Bates, Sr in 1793). Tours April-October (by appointment) relate stories of those who lived here and their influence worldwide.  Home of first Japanese person to ever live in America, Fairhaven, MA #boston #lovelylocal #bostondaybook #cambridge #thesinclair #harvardsquare #gglocalgems #igersboston #igersnewengland #neverstopexploring #pursuepretty #pulseofboston #harvardsquarefave #thatsdarling #vscocam #scenesofnewengland #cambma #visitma #bostondotcom #Massachusetts #lifeinboston #ig_boston #igersboston #winningmeover #discoveraround #communityfirst #seeyourcity

VISIT: Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House. In 1841, Whaling ship Captain William Whitfeld discovered 14 year old Manjiro Nakahama shipwrecked on an uninhabited Pacific Island.  Bringing the Japanese boy back to America with him, the widower Whitfield arranged to have Manjiro stay with a local family, and sent him to The Old Stone Schoolhouse to learn English.  After ten years, Manjiro returned to Japan where he was influential in urging his country to trade with the United States. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Manjiro became an instructor in navigation and ship engineering at the Naval Training School in what is now Tokyo. Though relations were strained with Japan after WWII (to say the least), in 1987 Crown Prince Akihito – now Japan’s Emperor – visited Fairhaven in memory of Manjiro and to promote peace between communities.  June-Labor Day, Sat, Sun noon-4pm.

Old Stone Schoolhouse, Fairhaven, MA #Massachusetts @GetawayMavens

SEE: Old Stone Schoolhouse. A touchstone for the Japanese, and Fairhaven’s oldest school, this is where Manjiro Nakahama, learned English. He returned to Japan and acted as an interpreter for Western visitors.Tours by appointment only.

Euro of Phoenix Fairhaven MA

SHOP: Euro/Phoenix. What began as a ships supply store for fisherman changed when owners started adding “gifty stuff.” Now, Euro is a virtual general store, with clothing, shoes, home goods, cards, gifts, toys, pet items, and anything else you’d ever want or need. 
Scallops, asparagus, corn salad and cheddar smashed potatoes plated at Margaret’s Restaurant, Fairhaven, MA Old Stone Schoolhouse, Fairhaven, MA

What To Eat In Fairhaven, MA

Margarets Fairhaven MA

EAT: Margaret’s Restaurant. It’s just a little 43-seat place, but first bite of Margaret’s grilled scallops, sweet and juicy, and fresh from the boat out back, and you’ll be hooked. Established by a scalloper of Norwegian heritage, Margaret’s also excels in crepe-like buttery Norwegian Pancakes – the best choice for breakfast. File under “find.”

EAT: Elizabeth’s.  It’s Margaret’s – but a bit more upscale and with a liquor license. Owned by the same people.

Where To Stay In Fairhaven, MAFDR's Grandparents home, now a Bed and Breakfast in Fairhaven, MA #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

STAY: Delnano Homestead, Fairhaven. FDR’s grandparent’s home is now an upscale B&B. Stately and fine, you’ll be immersed in history as you stroll the same backyard in which young Franklin frolicked.  $130-$160 per night.

STAY: Seaport Inn. Right on the waterfront, this motel-like lodge is undergoing renovations, with rooms updated to clean and modern standards. Rooms from $129-$179.

Lowell MA: America’s Industrial Revolution Began Here

Lowell National Historic Park Visitors Center Lowell MA

WHY GO: A monument to American Industry and Ingenuity, Lowell National Historical Park, in Lowell MA, 30 miles from Boston, is unlike any other U.S. National Park in that it takes up sections of a still thriving (or, as the case may be, reviving) city. This unconventional National Park was established in 1978 to tell the story of innovations in water-powered technology and engineering as it pertained to the Textile Industry in Lowell; the first planned Industrial City in the USA. In the 1820’s, a time when America, like many countries, was transforming from an agrarian society into a nation of manufacturing centers, Lowell’s industrial boom was a model for other growing metropolitan areas in the country.

Power Looms Boott Mills Museum Lowell NHP MA

A town that rose and fell several times, Lowell was hometown to beatnik, Jack Kerouac, and, surprisingly, James McNeill Whistler, the artist best known for painting his Mother. The city is now drawing young people and empty nesters looking for less expensive city living in mixed-use housing and neighborhoods. More tourist-friendly infrastructure is planned. A new boutique hotel (working name, Athenian Hotel) is being built across the street from the National Park Visitor’s Center, great restaurants are opening up, downtown shops sport fanciful signage, and live music fills the air in summertime. It doesn’t hurt that Lowell has been a movie set on several occasions – The Invention of Lying with Ricky Gervias and Jennifer Garner (2009), and The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams (2010) – a true story based and filmed in Lowell. See Lowell the Maven Way and read on….

Things to Do in Lowell MA

Diorama of Lowell Mills Boott Mills Museum Lowell MA

TOUR: Lowell National Historical Park Visitor’s Center. In the early years of the Industrial Revolution, venture capitalist Francis Cabot Lowell and power-loom inventor, Paul Moody, envisioned a whole city dedicated to the production of textiles, after having observed factory towns just getting off the ground in England. Lowell established a small textile mill in Waltham MA, on the flat Charles River, but died before his business partners discovered a better place to situate a manufacturing center. The nearby Pawtucket Falls, with its 32 ft. drop, was a superior  source of energy that could sustainably power a whole city’s worth of textile looms. Named for its visionary backer, and as the apotheosis of cutting edge technology, Lowell Massachusetts attracted the attention of other businessmen, of course, but also luminaries of the day, like Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842 to scope out this model city.

Boott Cotton Mills Museum Lowell NHP MAl

Lowell mill owners discovered an untapped workforce in the surrounding farms: young women 16 and 17 years old, who could work long hours for low wages. As a Utopian experiment, and considered “the Silicon Valley of its day,” this Factory Village in the country was, according to historians, revolutionary for the time (1821 – 1836). Young “Mill Girls” would be lifted out of poverty, gain financial independence, live in supervised Boarding Houses, be fed, clothed and watched over, and spend hours doing tedious work at the machines.

Boott Mills Model Lowell National Historical Park MA

In its heyday, Lowell had 10 textile mills, thousands of looms, six miles of canals, and was a template for other industrial cities. First equipped with belt and pulley systems, and then with water driven turbines, the mills employed as many as 6,000 girls from New England farms who worked six days a week from 5am-7pm in dangerously stifling rooms filled with airborne lint.

Mill Products Lowell NHP Lowell MA

As textile costs declined, the mills cut wages, hiked boarding rents, and began hiring less expensive immigrant labor. The steam engine changed the mill industry entirely. No longer requiring waterfalls to power the mills, they could be located anywhere. Many moved South. By the late 1950’s, industry had all but abandoned Lowell. But in the 1970’s the city was recognized as a U.S. National Park based on the Golden Age of the American Industrial Revolution and a radical idea that came to typify the Nation.

Lowell Loom Cloth Lowell NHP Visitors Center Lowell MA

The National Park Visitor’s Center presents a 15-minute orientation video and exhibits about the Lowell Mills, Jack Kerouac, James McNeill Whistler, and the deep diversity of this immigrant city. From here, you’ll want to see the attractions below – and don’t forget to buy a dishtowel ($4.95) still being made on last century’s machines in Boott Mills – a ten-minute walk from the Visitor’s Center. (In season, there’s a free trolley that takes you here and to other points of interest within the park). Guided tours, talks, and canal boat tours leave from Visitor’s Center. Allow 30-45 minutes here, open daily 9-5, free.

Boott Cotton Mills Museum Lowell MA

TOUR: Boott Cotton Mills Museum. Part of the National Park, Boott Mill (pronounced “boot”) is the last remaining fully intact textile mill with working machines, left as a “Weave Room, circa 1920.” It’s thrilling to walk into this vast space to see and hear the contraptions that drove a whole industry.

Loom mechanic, Juan Viera, Lowell National Historical Park MA

The first section showcases the endless number of machines on which millworkers toiled. But be sure to walk to the back, where machine “fixers” and operators, like Juan Viera, watch over these noisy pieces of equipment still churning out bolts of fabric (sold in the Visitor’s Center Gift Shop).

Textile History Boott Mills Museum Lowell NHP MA

Head upstairs to the museum exhibit, which follows cotton processing from raw materials to product output – and a historic timeline from the 1700’s to the 1950’s. Interestingly, during WWII, these mills turned out parachute material, and later became Wang Computer offices.

Lowell Riverwalk Lowell MA

Stroll along the Lowell Riverwalk – an esplanade on the Merrimack River behind the Boott Mills complex, to see firsthand the water source from which canals were built to power the mills. Recommended time one hour, Open Nov-March Mon-Thurs12-4, Fri – Sun 12-5, April – May daily 9:30-5 $6 adults, $3 kids,

Mill Girls Exhibit Lowell National Historical Park MA

TOUR: Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit (in Boott Mills Complex). This small museum, in a former boarding house, provides a glimpse of what life was like for young mill girls, with dining room tables set for 16, and bedrooms crammed with beds and personal items. Waves of foreigners (read: cheaper labor) began to replace these girls, so this museum also has an engaging exhibit about the Immigrant Experience in Lowell – a fascinating overview of what was happening in industrial cities all over the country. Open Nov-March Wed-Sun, 1:30-4, daily 1:30 other times of year. Free.

New England Quilt Museum Lowell MA

VISIT: New England Quilt Museum. It makes perfect sense for a Quilt Museum to be situated in a city known for textile manufacturing where Mill Girls often quilted as a pastime. In the refurbished 1840’s Lowell Institute for Savings building, the New England Quilt Museum is worth a visit if you are at all into textiles, fabric art, and, of course, that most social of activities, quilting. Researchers will find a well-stocked library, culture vultures will appreciate the far out and sometimes bizarre contemporary textile creations, and hobbyists will be happy with the great Gift Shop, which stocks everything a quilter needs.

Nancy Messier Heart Quilts New England Quilt Museum Lowell MA

Though there is no permanent exhibit, ten exhibitions a year rotate items from the museum’s antique quilt collection, and showcase Amish, Mennonite, and other PA Dutch creations. Some, from the late 1800’s look positively contemporary. Quilts can be fanciful – as in the case of Nancy Messier’s small animals and hearts designs, as well as controversial. The current show – a gripping exhibition on gun violence in America – will make you rethink this assumed “little ole lady” pursuit. Open Tues-Sat. 10-5, in addition, open Sundays May- Dec. 10-4, $9, under 12 free.

Whistler House Museum Lowell MA

VISIT: Whistler House Museum of Art. Built in 1878 on a side street, this was James Whistler’s birthplace and boyhood home. Born in 1834, he lived here until moving with his Civil Engineer father to Russia in 1843. The Lowell Art Association purchased the home in 1908 as its permanent base, and turned it into a museum in the 1980’s.

Copy of Whistlers Mother by cousin Edith Fairfax Davenport, Whistler Art Museum Lowell MA

James Whistler disavowed Lowell as his hometown, (to say that he did not keep it n dear to his heart is an understatement) and spent most of his years in Paris and London, where, in 1871, he painted the famous portrait of Mom. Whistler’s Mother now hangs in the Louvre Abu Dhabi (though owned by the Musee D’Orsay in Paris).

Interior Whistler House Museum of Art Lowell MA

Visit this 1823 home to see the best of New England Art from the 19th and 20th centuries on three floors, but mostly to gaze on the only permitted copy of Whistler’s Mother, painted by his cousin, Edith Fairfax Davenport, in its original dimensions and paint colors. The copy dominates the museum’s orientation room, where you’ll learn that Whistler’s original name for the painting was “Arrangement in Grays and Blacks.”

Bathroom Whistler House Museum of Art Lowell MA

Upstairs, there are sunlit visiting artist studios, the art of Arshile Gorky – “The Father of Abstract Expressionism” – and some of Whistler’s original etchings in his boyhood room. Plus – another reason to visit – one of the nicest visitor’s bathrooms I’ve ever seen in a museum: bright and airy Victorian décor complete with burnished copper-line bathtub. Awesome. Open Wed-Sat. 11-4, $8.

Western Avenue Studios Lowell MA

GO: Western Avenue Studios. Over 300 artists occupy personal studios on 5 floors of this former factory warehouse, and it is a hoot to wander up and down the corridors, and engage with artisans creating everything from “Steam Punk” Recycled Objects (Bruce Wood #427), to clothing designers, painters, jewelry makers, and so much more.

Loading Dock Gallery Western Avenue Studios Lowell MA

If you don’t have time to spend, get a taste of many artists at the communal Loading Dock Gallery, which provides a representation of all forms of creative and fine art. Open Wed-Sat 12-5:30, Sun 12-4, free. Open House first Saturday of every month.

The Brush Art Gallery and Studio Lowell MA

STOP: The Brush Art Gallery and Studio. This artist collective in the National Park Visitor’s Center complex encompasses a warren of galleries and artist studios. There’s everything from jewelry and quilts, to sculptures to paintings. It’s worth a pop-in to see if any piece of art calls to you.

Where to Eat in Lowell MA

Cobblestones of Lowell MA

EAT: Cobblestones of Lowell. “The Rock,” Mark Wahlberg, Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Oprah, Billie Jean King, the Williams Sisters…. If you are a celebrity filming a movie or playing a sport in Lowell, you’ll eventually end up at this iconic restaurant, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary on June 4, 2019. Situated between the Arena and 2,800-seat Lowell Memorial Auditorium, and at a Lowell Trolley stop, Cobblestones is a convenient place for a meal.

Salmon Burger and Garlic Truffle Fries, Cobblestones of Lowell MA

But what keeps it in business is the pleasant atmosphere, clubby bar, and very good food. Movie buffs will recognize the place from the Gervais-Garner flick, The Invention of Lying (2009), parts of which were filmed here. The menu offers traditional fare – burgers, salads, steaks, chicken, and seafood at reasonable prices (entrees $16-$36). But don’t miss the excellent Truffle Garlic Fries – a tumble of thin golden fries topped with a mound of diced garlic. It’s garlic-lovers heaven.

EAT: Locals recommend Fuse Bistro for comfort food, eclectic pub Warp & Weft , Blue Taleh, and Life Alive (for vegans).

Where to Stay in Lowell

Lobby Groton Inn MA

STAY: Until the new Athenian boutique hotel opens, we recommend you stay 15 miles away at the brand new Groton Inn in Groton MA.

Combine this Industrial Revolution getaway with two that zero in on the American Revolutionary War – both within a 20 minute drive: Lexington MA and Concord MA

Lexington MA: America’s Revolution Began Here

WHY GO: Lexington MA is the best place in the USA to learn about the origins of our country and to celebrate Patriot’s Day. So, tell the truth: if you’re not from The State of Massachusetts, did you even know about Patriot’s Day before the movie about the Boston Marathon bombing came out? You’re not alone. Patriot’s Day, a State holiday that falls on the Monday closest to April 19th, commemorates the first armed rebellion in what became America’s War of Independence, which began in this small MA town 16 miles from Boston.

Fake News 1775 Lexington MA

Though the “Shot Heard Round the World” refers to an episode at the North Bridge in Concord MA, the actual “first shot,” albeit accidental, occurred between two hair-triggered sides in the early dark before dawn in the town considered to be the “base of the resistance,” and “The Birthplace of American Liberty:” Lexington MA. And although Lexington is all about the American Revolution, it’s got some surprisingly excellent restaurants and one Top Hotel of the World – a 22-room Relais & Chateau inn that allows visitors to absorb history without sacrificing luxury. Follow along…. (and to round out your getaway, plan a day or two in Concord.)

Things To Do in Lexington MA

Witness House Battle Road Concord MA

STOP: Minuteman National Historical Park Visitor’s Center, Lincoln. Located between Concord and Lexington, the Minuteman NHP Visitor’s Center interprets the opening battle of the American Revolution on the 5 ½ mile Battle Road which encompasses 11 historic “witness” buildings, informational signage, and pull-outs for parking off busy Route 2A. The Visitor Center offers exhibits, theater, orientation and ranger programs, and should be for stop # 1 for anyone interested in the timeline of events on the first day of the Revolutionary War. Open daily April 1 – Oct 31st 9-5, free.

Lexington MA Visitors Center Gift Shop

GO: Lexington Battle Green and Visitor’s Center. *Please note that the Visitor’s Center will move temporarily to Cary Hall downtown until the completion of the new Visitor’s Center in its present location on the Green. See a meticulous diorama of the drama that took place right outside the door at around 5am on April 19th 1775: the first forcible armed resistance to the Crown in the War of Independence. History in a nutshell:

The Colonists were proudly English during the French and Indian War when British Redcoats and well-armed Colonial militias fought side by side. But the war drained England’s treasury, and in 1763, the government began to tax the colonies for the first time. The colonists groused about these long-distance tariffs. To enforce them, England sent troops into Boston in 1768. The “Boston Massacre” of 1770 got Colonial blood boiling.

Downtown Lexington MA

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, in protest of Taxation without Representation, dumped $1.7 million (in today’s dollars) worth of tea into Boston Harbor. In response, in 1774, the British Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts, effectively closing Boston Harbor and prohibiting assembly in Meeting Houses. Colonial Official, General Thomas Gage sent for 3,000 British soldiers to enforce these new policies, so, American resisters moved to Concord, 18 miles away, forming a provisional government boosted by a large stockpile of arms. It was this stockpile that the English were after when they made their way to Boston’s outlying towns.

Hancock-Clarke Parsonage Lexington MA

On April 18th, Paul Revere and 40 other “Riders” warned locals at the Hancock-Clarke House of a British march, 700- 800 strong, first to Lexington and on to Concord. A “training band” of 77 men, under the command of Captain John Parker, mustered on the Lexington Green and waited (then grew tired in the wee hours, and retired to Buckman Tavern (see below).

Buckman Tavern Operations Desk Lexington MA

At around 5am, British finally arrived, and locals on the green, armed with muskets as a show of force, were ordered to lay down their weapons. Someone – it is still not clear whom and on which side – fired a shot, and both side panicked. Some militiamen ran, but some fired back. At the end, 8 colonists were dead and one Redcoat was wounded.

Minuteman Statue Lexington Green MA

From there, the “Regulars” (Redcoats/Brits) marched in victory to Concord, getting to the North Bridge, where they were outnumbered four to one, by 9:30am. The Redcoats retreated back to Boston, fighting a growing number of militiamen along the way. By the end of the running battle, 273 British and 95 Colonial soldiers were killed. Of that day, George Washington wrote in his diary, “On the morning of April 19th, the first blood was spilt in the dispute with Great Britain,” and a few days later, John Adams visited Lexington and remarked, “The die is cast, Rubicon passed.”

Revolutionary War Monument Lexington Green MA

Two of the most photographed structures in Lexington are on the Green: the Minute Man Statue and the Revolutionary War Monument, built in 1799. Seven of the 8 militiamen who perished that April morning are buried beneath this granite obelisk, claimed to be the oldest war memorial in the USA. Visitors Center open daily April-Nov. 9-5, Dec-March 10-4, free. Free tours of the Green on weekends in April and May, and daily from Memorial Day through October.

Buckman Tavern, Lexington MA

TOUR: Buckman Tavern. Even before you enter the rooms of the old tavern, one artifact left from April 19, 1775 should command your attention. The original drum played by William Diamond to muster the town militia to the Lexington Green is very much intact, exhibited in a glass case among other remnants from that morning. After Paul Revere’s midnight warning, the Redcoats hadn’t appeared, so after a few hours, the band of militiamen dispersed. The “drumbeat to arms,” called all within earshot back to formation on the Common around 5am.

Battle Drum Buckman Tavern Lexington MA

In 1775, there were two licensed taverns in Lexington, which were generally patronized by men. But this one, owned by John and Ruth Buckman, had a gentler side, with an elegant tea and hot chocolate parlor for women. In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, men gathered in the Tap Room to discuss business and politics.

Mens and Womens Parlors Buckman Tavern Lexington MA

But women, too, were involved in “The Cause,” and showed their patriotism by shunning imported goods, growing their own tea, and holding a screw-England “Spin-In” on the Green. (On August 1769, 45 women took their spinning wheels to the Town Common and turned out homespun flax cloth).

Mens area Buckman Tavern Lexington MA

Looking outside, it’s remarkable to think that our country’s War of Independence began right here, though there is one physical proof of that fact – a bullet hole in the front door made by a British musket ball during the Battle. Audio-self-guided tours, $10pp. Open April-Oct. 9:30-4.

Hancock Clarke Parsonage Lexington MA

TOUR: Hancock-Clarke House and Parsonage. This was the first house at which Paul Revere and William Dawes stopped to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were guests of Reverend Jonas Clarke, that “the regulars are out.” The British forces had begun their march from Boston to Concord.

Adams Hancock Room Hancock-Clarke Parsonage Lexington MA

Built in 1737 for Reverend John Hancock, grandfather of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, the parsonage belonged to Clarke (who moved in 1755 after J. Hancock’s death), and his family during the Battle. A tour begins with a terrific recently made 15-minute video that explains the timeline of that day, and tells the story of the buildup to the Battle on April 19th. Adams and Hancock were staying here when Revere and Dawes arrived in town at midnight, and were able to flee before “the regulars” could capture them. The Green Room upstairs, where Adams and Hancock stayed before escaping, looks as it did that night, complete with a table where the two would have been discussing evacuation plans.

Lexington Green Battle MA

Imagine the chaos of the night when the Riders got there. A letter from Reverend Clarke’s daughter describes the battle scene out of her window. In the aftermath, she, along with other townspeople, walked to the Green to help the wounded and bury the dead. Open April-Oct 10-4, $10.

TOUR: Liberty Ride Trolley Tour. This 90-minute tour, running along the Battle Road Scenic Byway from Lexington to Concord, is narrated by guides in Colonial garb who recount the events of the morning on April 19, 1775. Runs April and May weekends only, daily Memorial Day to Last Sunday in October, $28 adults, $12 kids.

VISIT: Munroe Tavern. A mile outside of town, this is where the British took refuge after retreating from North Bridge in Concord. In 1789, George Washington had a meal here. Check website for dates open and entry fees.

VISIT: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. This unique, ok, quirky, museum tells the story of Freemasonry throughout American History. Open Wed-Fri. 10-4, free.

The Crafty Yankee Lexington MA

SHOP: The Crafty Yankee. All kinds of Yankee made ceramics, woodwork, jewelry, glass, clothing and more. A fun shop to browse.

Where to Eat in Lexington MA

Breakfast Artistry on the Green Lexington MA

EAT: Artistry on the Green at Inn at Hasting Park. Artistry is on the plate as well, in this fine, American cuisine restaurant. Starting with an “amuse bouche” that could double as a piece of pop art, order Mushroom Risotto ($32), Cauliflower Steak ($24), Clam Chowder, Roasted Broccoli Salad ($14) and other tweaked New England fare. You will be duly impressed.

Love at First Bite Lexington MA

EAT: Locals also love Love @ First Bite for excellent Thai food in an adorable space (lunch specials at $12 are a bargain), Mario’s Italian Restaurant for casual but down-home good Italian, and Lexx for eclectic fare.

ICE CREAM: Abbott’s Frozen Custard. If you question the existence of a decent chocolate mint frozen custard, be prepared to gain a few pounds putting that doubt to the test. Abbott’s makes the best version of that flavor I’ve ever mmm’d. Period.

Where to Stay in Lexington MA

Suite 22 Inn at Hastings Park Lexington MA

STAY: Inn At Hastings Park. A Relais & Chateaux Inn, IAHP is Lexington’s only luxury hotel and a Maven Favorite. You can read a full overview of it HERE. 

Though the “Shot Heard Round the World” refers to the North Bridge in Concord MA, the actual “first shot” occurred between two skittish sides in the town considered “The Birthplace of American Liberty:” Lexington MA. And although Lexington is all about the American Revolution, it’s got some surprisingly excellent restaurants and one a Relais & Chateau inn that allows visitors to absorb history without sacrificing luxury. #Travel #AmericanHistory #NewEngland #RevolutionaryWar #Luxury #Getaway

Concord MA: Of Walden Pond, Little Women, and The Shot Heard Around the World

Old North Bridge Battle Concord MA

WHY GO: By the rude bridge that arched the flood/ their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/here once the embattled farmers stood/and fired the Shot Heard Round the World. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1837

Patriot’s Day, April 19th, commemorates the first act of rebellion in what became America’s Revolutionary War. And though it began a few miles away, in Lexington, the history books peg its origins – “The Shot Heard Around the World” – to the Old North Bridge in Concord MA.

Walden Pond State Reservation Concord MA

But visitors also converge on Concord for its concentration of famous authors and poets. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women here. Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne lived and are buried here. And Henry David Thoreau was born and spent over 2 years on the shores of Walden Pond, yep, right here.

Authors Ridge Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Concord MA

Thoreau’s 1847 essay, Civil Disobedience, calling for citizens to protest unjust government policies by refusing to pay federal taxes, has echoes of that first act of American resistance in 1775. There must be something in the water (or the Pond) in Concord MA. Come to feel that vibe – by staying in an inn, built in 1716, that witnessed the original Patriot’s Day, and pay your respects to those iconic American authors and poets at their homes and gravesites. The Mavens tell you all about it here…. (you can round up a getaway by staying a night or two in Lexington as well).

Things to Do in Concord MA

Louisa May Alcott Orchard House Concord MA

TOUR: Orchard House, Home of Louisa May Alcott. Known as the home in which Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1868, the Alcott Family moved into this home on the cusp of the Civil War in 1858 and they lived here for twenty years. Louisa’s father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was one of the principal players in the Transcendentalist Movement, along with Concord neighbors, Henry David Thoreau (who, as a land surveyor, initially surveyed the property for the Alcott’s), and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Alcott’s were a family without money who, after living in 27 other places, threw open their home to the needy. As social reformers, they took in workers, educators, and others on the forefront of social change.

Henry David Thoreau Concord MA

Alcott based Little Women on a cheered up version of her home life. In fact, though the deep truths of the family were darker, the spirit of the Alcott family was very much alive in its portrayal of songs, dances, storytelling, and dramatics. Sometimes kooky and definitely unconventional for their time, Bronson and his wife, the social activist Abby May, encouraged their four girls to be independent and free thinkers.

During the Civil War, Louisa moved to Washington DC to serve as a nurse in a Union hospital. May Alcott, an artist, was fortunate enough to learn from Lincoln Memorial sculptor, Daniel Chester French, who also fashioned the bust of Bronson that sits in his study. May’s paintings can be seen throughout the house, hanging on the walls, and in some cases, sketched directly on them. The window-facing desk that Bronson built for Louisa in her bedroom is still there, and visitors can just imagine her, after the War, writing Little Women while staring outside at the beautiful landscape.

Orchard House Gift Shop Concord MA

The Alcott’s fortunes changed when Little Women almost instantly became a best seller. George Healy, who painted the White House portrait of Abraham Lincoln, also painted the portrait of Louisa that now hangs in her room. Louisa hated how she looked in it, as the typhoid and pneumonia she contracted during her time in DC had taken a toll on her health through the rest of her life. Louisa never married (though ironically, several marriage proposals have occurred in this home lately), and she left her estate to her sister Anna’s youngest son, John Pratt.

Your tour begins with an orientation video in May’s former art studio, and progresses through the house stocked with 85% of the furnishings and artifacts from the Alcott family. “This home is like a Rorschach Test,” says a docent. “People relate to different aspects of the book and find their own family here.” International visitors bring Little Women, translated into many languages, along with them. One bookshelf in Louisa’s room is lined with copies in Japanese, Hebrew, and other tongues – gifts from foreign guests. April – Oct. Mon-Sat 10-4:30, Sun 11-4:30, Nov-March Mon-Fri11-3, Sat. 10-4:30, Sun.1-4:30, $10 adults, $5 kids.

Walden Pond Visitor’s Center Concord MA

GO: Walden Pond Visitor’s Center at Walden Pond State Reservation. Henry David Thoreau took one pond (out of hundreds in the region) and made it iconic. The gorgeous LEED-built wood and glass Walden Pond Visitor’s Center is a fitting structure to honor this American naturalist, as is the stunning and intelligent 20-minute high definition orientation video that weaves interviews with David McCullough, Bill McKibben, and Doris Kearns Goodwin with colorful nature scenes. The building and video are worth coming here to see, even if you don’t plan to walk around Walden Pond.

Thoreau Walden Pond Concord MA

Thoreau, the son of a pencil-maker, was born in Concord MA in 1817, and tried his hand at many careers. Repulsed by the society’s mandate to “succumb to a life of quiet desperation,” and concerned about the way civilization was deteriorating in the face of the Industrial Revolution, he impelled readers to “look, stop, listen.” Adhering to the Transcendentalist Movement of the day (which espoused that God was found in nature rather than in churches), Thoreau built a 10’X15’ house on the banks of Walden Pond and lived there for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days, documenting his observations in his signature book, On Walden Pond. “Our lives are frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify,” he wrote. Grounds open daily dawn to dusk, parking $8 in season, Visitor’s Center and Thoreau Shop, free, open daily 10-5.

Audio Box North Bridge Concord MA

VISIT: Old North Bridge. Park across the street, and walk to the bridge, passing on your way a hand-cranked audio box to hear the story of what happened on the bridge right up ahead. On April 19, 1775, for the first time ever, an American militia was ordered to fire on British soldiers in what came to be known as “The Shot Heard Round the World,” ushering in the Revolutionary War.

Battle Road Concord MA

Paul Revere and other message dispatchers rode 16 miles from Boston to warn the outlying towns that 700 British soldiers were marching towards Concord. The Redcoats had planned to destroy military supplies only. But as the townspeople mustered at North Bridge, they saw smoke and assumed that the Brits were burning down the town. As the skittish and angry Colonists advanced, the Redcoats fired into their ranks, killing two. The Colonists fired back – the first time they were ordered to do so. The Redcoats, outnumbered four to one, retreated with the Colonial militia at their heels, “igniting a flame in the hearts of our countrymen. The American Revolution had begun!”

Old North Bridge Concord MA

See the obelisk monument and Minuteman Statue by famous sculptor, Daniel Chester French, on opposite sides of the bridge. The North Bridge Visitor’s Center is ahead up the hill, and shows the film “Treason or Liberty.” Open April-October daily 9:30-5, Nov-Dec. Tues-Sat 11-3, free.

The Old Manse Concord MA

VISIT: Old Manse (near North Bridge). Famous for its literary history, this was home to minister William Emerson, his grandson Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was the honeymoon home of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. Open April-October, $10.

Louisa M Alcott Grave Concord MA

GO/PHOTO OP: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – Author’s Ridge. You’ll find the graves of Concord authors, Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau on a hill overlooking other burial places in this garden-like cemetery. Look for small signs indicating “Author’s Ridge,” park, and walk up a stone path. The graves can be distinguished from others by tokens left around the tombstones – a mosaic of pens, pencils and pine needles. Open daily dawn to dusk, free.

Concord Museum Concord MA

GO: Concord Museum. Going through renovation, this museum will reopen in late Spring 2019. Singular exhibits include the “One if by land, two if by sea” 1775 Lantern, Emerson’s study, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond desk, and much more – a can’t miss museum. Open weekends only for now, $5. Check website for reopening details.

Minuteman Visitors Center Lincoln MA

DRIVE: Minuteman National Historical Park, Lincoln. Though the Visitor’s Center is in Lincoln MA (between Lexington and Concord), there are waypoints and plaques all along the 6 mile “Battle Road” where you can pull off and imagine both the British Army and the American Militia marching and clashing along the way. Grounds open sunrise to sunset.

The Wayside Concord MA

VISIT: The Wayside. You can tour the home of the Alcott family from 1845-1852 and the only home that Nathaniel Hawthorne, who named it The Wayside, ever owned from 1852-1869. Harriett Lothrop, author of the “Five Little Peppers,” (pen name Margaret Sidney) and her daughter, Margaret Lothrop, lived in and preserved The Wayside from 1883 to 1965, when it became part of Minute Man National Historical Park. Open June-Oct, Thurs-Mon 9:30-5:30.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Home Concord MA

VISIT: Ralph Waldo Emerson House (across from Concord Museum). Home of the author from 1835 until his death in 1882 – with original furnishings. Open April – October, Thurs-Sun, guided tours only $9.

Thoreau Farm Concord MA

VISIT: Thoreau Farm: Birthplace of Henry David Thoreau. Open Sat. and Sun. May-Oct, Tours 11, 1, and 3pm.

STOP: Concord Visitor’s Center. Stop in for local information and guided tours. Open April-Oct.

Where to Eat in Concord MA

80 Thoreau Concord MA

EAT: 80 Thoreau. This fine foodie favorite is located on the 2nd floor of the Concord Train Station, and it’s as fun to see the chefs bustle in the open kitchen as it is to watch Boston commuters pour out of trains outside. The one-page menu changes frequently with the seasons and ingredient availability. My Spiced Sweet Potato Soup ($12) was an exceptional complex melding of tiny cubes of cheese, slivers of hot peppers, and the crunch of pine nuts in a puree of spicy warm sweet potato. That and several helpings of the crunchy-chewy warm bread would make a satisfying meal. But adventurous eaters will want to try other items – like the Rye Pappardelle – thick ribbons of pasta, firm to the tooth, topped with mushrooms, hazelnuts, and toothsome sauce.

Colonial Inn Restaurant Concord MA

EAT: Concord’s Colonial Inn. New England fare in one of the country’s most historic inns.

Where to Stay in Concord MA

Colonial Inn Concord MA Exterior

STAY: Concord’s Colonial Inn, Concord MA. For travelers seeking an authentic American History overnight, there’s no better place to bed down in Concord Massachusetts than Concord’s Colonial Inn and Tavern, which was a “Witness Building” on the first day of America’s Revolutionary War. The oldest of the inn’s original three structures, now the front desk and gift shop, dates back to 1716 and was an arms and provisions storehouse for the local militia. A Maven Favoriteyou can read a whole review here.

Patriot’s Day commemorates the first act of rebellion in the Revolutionary War. Though the first shot occurred few miles away, in Lexington, history places the Shot Heard Around the World at the North Bridge in Concord MA. Visitors also come to Concord for its iconic authors and poets. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women here. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne are buried here. And Henry David Thoreau made Concord’s Walden Pond famous. @GetawayMavens #VisitMA #AmericanHistory #Patriots

Concord’s Colonial Inn, Concord MA: A Most Patriotic Stay

Colonial Inn Concord MA Exterior

For travelers seeking an authentic American History overnight, there’s no better place to bed down in Concord Massachusetts than Concord’s Colonial Inn and Tavern, which was a “Witness Building” on the first day of America’s Revolutionary War. The oldest of the inn’s original three structures, now the front desk and gift shop, dates back to 1716 and was an arms and provisions storehouse for the local militia.

Colonial Inn Hallway Concord MA

The office and home of Dr. Timothy Minot, Jr. was located on the western side of the building, and during the Battle of Lexington and Concord, he used what is now the Liberty Room (restaurant) as a hospital, one of his bedrooms (now #24) as his operating room, and another as the morgue (#27). It is for this reason – based on reports of guests who’ve stayed in those rooms – that the Colonial Inn is considered one of the most haunted hotels in America. In spite of this, I enjoyed one of the longest, deepest, least disruptive, and most restorative sleeps I’ve had in months here.

1900 Guest Ledger Colonial Inn Concord MA

Concord’s Colonial Inn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, sits in the center of town overlooking a rotary and a memorial obelisk. A rambling, multi-building complex, it’s tough to tell where it begins and ends, having been extended over the years. At its core, however, is that feeling of Colonial-era America – made even more poignant because the North Bridge – the site of the “Shot Heard Around the World” – is just down the street a half-mile away.

First Impressions of the Concord’s Colonial Inn

Colonial Inn Reception Concord MA

Reception – in a small, traditionally decorated lobby – is very friendly and casual. While checking in, you’ll probably encounter plenty of community members who come here for meetings, luncheons, and celebrations. A lodging that caters to locals like family is evidently very much loved and admired.

Hallway Tap Room Colonial Inn Concord MA

As a patched together series of buildings, the labyrinth of hallways and stairways gets very confusing, so it’s no surprise that many guests get lost here. Not to worry, however, as there’s always someone around who can help and point you in the right direction!

Rooms at Concord’s Colonial Inn

Colonial Inn Guestroom Concord MA

Guest rooms, renovated in 2012, are now upscale, cozy and fresh. The Prescott Wing, added to the original three structures in 1960, feature less costly rooms with antique reproductions, and are still plenty charming. Mine, with white hip-high wainscoting and walls the color of moss green mixed with mustard yellow, formed an elegant cocoon. Each is equipped with 42” flat screen TV, complimentary water, landscape, floral and Minuteman art, and very comfortable beds.

Colonial Inn Bathroom Concord MA

The bathrooms have been redone with contemporary tile, gleaming white sink, bright light, and a mosaic-tile shower. They are small, but immaculate.

Dining at Colonial Inn

Liberty Room Colonial Inn Concord MA

Choose from a warren of rooms – but be sure to have a drink in the old original Tap Room, where for years only men – and at least one horse (a story in itself) – were allowed.

Colonial Inn Restaurant Concord MA

Have breakfast, lunch, or dinner in Merchant’s Row Dining Room, a drink and bites in Village Forge Tavern, or a meal in the Liberty Room, which served as both a storehouse and hospital on April 19th, 1775,

Just the Facts

Off-season midweek can see rates as low as $109, and can go up to $550 in season for a 2 bedroom suite, includes parking, wi-fi, and morning coffee.

Bewitching Salem, MA

Salem Witch Museum

WHY GO: The phrase “Witch Hunt” has been flung around pretty cavalierly lately, but here, in Salem MA, where it actually happened, the last Witch Trials in the New World will forever be held up as a cautionary tale of mass hysteria, religious fundamentalism, and unbridled power run amok. In January 1692, accusations of witchcraft and Devil worship began in the home of contentious Reverend Samuel Parris and by September, as he felt more and more disrespected, and his sermons grew more and more sinister, nineteen residents were hung and one pressed to death beneath stones for these “crimes.”

Wynott’s Wands Salem MA

The Witch Trials were all about regular people caught up in an insane lie, pointing fingers at each other to stay alive. (In the Devil’s crazy calculus, if you were accused, but then accused someone else, you’d save your own skin.) Where did the objects and stereotypes of witchcraft originate? During the Middle Ages, everyone cooked in caldrons; “eye of newt” and “wing of bat” were most likely plants used for medicinal purposes. And why is Salem now Witch Central? Blame the TV show Bewitched.  Elizabeth Montgomery and her twitchy nose filmed 8 episodes in Salem in the summer of 1970, which garnered great public interest in this New England town. Laurie Cabot – the first “official Witch of Salem” saw a burgeoning tourist market, and opened Salem’s first Witch Shop in 1971. Now, the flying witch is the town’s emblem, the football team is, yep, the Salem Witches, and even cop cars sport the crone-on-broomstick.

Hex and VampFangs Salem MA

Learning about the Witch Trials, and the tragic consequences in the very place it happened is one (but not the only reason) to visit Salem, MA. Stay to hear from real witches of today, to go on a night or day walking tour, and learn how Salem MA went from a town without witches to one with 900 practicing witch residents. To avoid crowds, come during shoulder season and try to keep away in October when Salem brims with broomsticks and pointy hats.

Things To Do In Salem, MA

Salem Witch Museum Salem MA

VISIT: The Salem Witch Museum. A first stop for Salem newcomers interested in an overview of the Witch Trials, this museum accurately depicts what happened here in 1692 via an absorbing multi-media presentation.  It seems a bit like payback to locate this tragic tale of religious and gender persecution in the 1846 First Church of Salem, but the setting makes for a riveting performance.  A new exhibit, about Witch Hunts in our own time (McCarthyism, Japanese Internment during WWII and blaming the AID epidemic on the gay community) adds another dimension. Open daily 10-5 with extended July, Aug. and Oct hours, $13 adults, $10 kids. 

Cas Tour Guide Salem Night Tour

TOUR: Salem Night Tour. In October, up to 1,300 tourists per night take this 1 hour 20 minute “Haunt and History Tour.” (Off-season averages 80 visitors per night). And even on a frigid 20 degree Wednesday winter’s eve, 11 people showed up (mostly from Australia) for this completely outdoor walking tour, which proves that seasonal temps have nothing on the popularity of Salem’s witch history and it’s purported hauntings.

Graveyard Salem Night Tour Salem MA

While Salem Night Tour Guides are steeped in the Witch Trials and local lore, each is free to guide in his or her own unique voice. One of the best is Cas, a striking 6 ft tall professed “history nerd” and ghost skeptic with a sharp, dramatic wit.

Salem Night Tour MA

Cas, dressed in a witch-like hooded mourning cloak, expounds on only the most documented ghost stories, as she guides you from cemetery to former dungeon sites, to the place where a man was “pressed” to death by boulders to elicit a confession, all the while narrating chilling, spooky stories about four-year-old prisoners, evil cops, and the mystifying fire of 1914 that wiped out the town, but began at the location of the Witch Hanging Tree. Tours nightly Nov-March 6pm Sun-Thurs 8pm Fri-Sat, April-Oct 8pm nightly begin at 127 Essex St. (Remember Salem), $15 adults, $10 kids.

TOUR: The Witch Walk. Tom Vallor AKA “Tom the Tour Guide,” who asserts that one is born a witch and after coming to that conclusion, must “come out of the broom closet,” is one of many who live in Salem. Appearing like an Amish rocker with hair to his waist and a healthy chin beard, mild-mannered Vallor begins his 90-minute walking tour asking, “why would real witches want to flock to a place known for executing women and men who were not witches at all?” The answer comes slowly, circuitously, over the course of the tour, which begins with a quick ritual – a Circle of Magic (“Like a Star Trek force field”) using burning sage, a sword and magic words – and ends after a visit to the 1637 Burying Point and Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Along the way, he tells tales about Salem in the 1600’s, habits of the Puritans, and stresses the fact that real witches have been vilified wrongly throughout history. When it comes down to it, Tom’s tour is a lesson in tolerance and levelheadedness.

Black clapboard house - last surviving house connected to the Salem Witch Trials

VISIT: The Witch House; The Witch House is the only surviving structure from the period, and though it’s been painted black (from a nice pea-green), and no witches were ever accused or brought here, its has some ties to the trials; it was the home of Witchcraft Trial Judge Jonathan Corwin.  A guided tour will bring you through rooms decorated as they would have been in the 17th century. Each room provides information on the Witch Trials, superstitions, midwifery, and offers a good idea of women’s lives at the time. Open daily mid-March – mid Nov. daily 10-5, $10.25 adults, $8.25 kids. 

Hope Hitchcock Witch Pix Salem MA

DO: Witch Pix Costume Studio. This is no “saloon gal” dress up tourist trap. For anyone – male or female – who comes to Salem for the witch history, a portrait studio session at Witch Pix and resulting photos are the best souvenirs you can buy. The experience itself is a hoot – beloved by families, bachelorette & entourage, engagements-to-be, High School Grads, Game of Thrones fans, and drag queens alike – with lots of sequins and sparkle, faux fur “pelts”, and um, leather get ups for a certain demographic.

Owner Hope Hitchcock stocks her studio with a huge variety of capes, dresses, and artisanal pointed hats that customers can choose to don (over clothing) for their portraits. The act of choosing is fun enough (and yes, you are helped), but it’s in the photo studio itself that things get really camp, with props like glowing crystal balls, flying brooms (and requisite fan), cauldrons, and skulls. RSVP Encouraged, though walk ins welcome. Photo shoot for 1-5 people results in over 70 digital images. Packages, including a 15-30 minute professionally conducted photo-shoot with chosen costume start at $41 for one Pix Print to $141 for all digital images and four Pix Prints.

Leanne Marrama Hex Old World Witchery Salem MA

DO: Tarot Card Reading with Leanne Marrama at Hex Old World Witchery. It only takes 15 minutes to discover your destiny, according to the awfully nice clairvoyant, Leanne Marrama. Salem Witch and Italian Strega, Leanne, reads your Tarot Cards, asks a few questions and then has you ask about your own concerns. An “intuitive,” she couches everything in the positive, so even a crisis might offer a challenging opportunity. This is a great exercise, even for people who don’t believe in these things, as it leaves you with a sense of optimism – or at least a course of action – especially after a parting hug. 15 minute Tarot Reading $40, 30 minutes $75, Mediumship (speaking to those who have “crossed over”) $75 for 30 minutes.

Voodoo Candles Hex Witch Shop Salem MA

SHOP: Hex Old World Witchery. For all your Voodoo, Dousing, tea and witch’s cape needs.

Tim Maguire, owner, Wynott’s Wands Salem MA

SHOP: Wynott’s Wands. Moved from the waterfront to this Essex St. location next door to Remember Salem, and, though now owned by Tim Maguire, still keeps the Wynott’s name. Are you an aspiring Harry?  Need a specific wand?  Choose among the largest selection of wands (most cost $22.95) this side of Diagon Alley.

Remember Salem Salem MA

SHOP: Remember Salem. The meeting place for Salem Night Tour. Back in the 70’s the TV show, Bewitched, drove a good percentage of Salem tourism. The Harry Potter books and movies are inspiring a whole new generation to visit the country’s center of witchcraft and wizardry.

Crow Haven Corner Salem Witch Walk

MOR TOURS: Other tours of Salem include Hocus Pocus Tours, history with nods to the movie (parts of which were filmed here), Salem Witch Walk – with an authentic town witch, Haunted Footsteps Tour, Black Cat Tours – which promises to cover more ground than any other walking tour, Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours, and  Spellbound Tours, which takes a ghost-hunting a paranormal exploration approach.

Bewitched Statue Salem MA

SEE: The Bewitched Statue. Due to a mysterious studio fire in Hollywood, production of the hit TV show, Bewitched, moved to Salem for three weeks in 1970.  Known as the “Salem Sagas” the show’s presence here brought national attention to Salem and kicked local tourism into high gear.  It’s been high-flying ever since.

FAMOUS FESTIVAL: Salem Haunted Happenings. If you don’t mind elbow-to-elbow crowds, join thousands of visitors for thousands of events from October 1st to Halloween, including Ghost Tours, Pirate Forays, and other ghoulish attractions.

Skulls, flags, talismans, notes on occult alter

SHOP: Three shops offer everything an amateur or professional witch may need.  Crow Haven Corner, Hex Old World Witchery (see above), and Omen are all witch-approved. There are  potions, spell kits, crystals, alters, and poppet dolls galore.

Veggie and Tomato Gourmet Pizza with medium thick crust

EAT: Flying Saucer Pizza Co.  So, it’s not quite witch food, but will Star Trek, Aliens and Pugs in astronaut suits do?  Find sustainable locally sourced chewy-crust pizzas, fourteen local beers on tap, and inexpensive wine in this funky space. Monday night is “Nerd Trivia Night,” just in case you were wondering. Gourmet pizzas $11 – $22.

Looking for hotel and restaurant recommendations? Check out our companion piece, Salem MA Without Witches.

Quick Weekend Getaway In Atlanta GA For Curious First Timers

WHY GO: When Super Bowl LIII plays in Atlanta, Georgia it will be at the still shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Next door, the third largest convention center in the United States, Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) anchors the downtown entertainment hub that’s only a 15-minute Lyft ride from one of the world’s busiest airports. Many of Atlanta’s most popular attractions, hotels, and restaurants are concentrated within strolling distance Centennial Olympic Park, although you can hop on the Atlanta Streetcar to reach even more within a 2.7 mile loop. Big-city glitz wraps this metropolis with gleaming skyscrapers and a cosmopolitan polish, but at heart, Atlanta retains the feel of a charming Southern town.

Couple walks in Centennial Olympic Park with Atlanta GA skyline in background.

Things to Do in Atlanta GA

VISIT: Georgia Aquarium. When complete in 2020, the $100 million, 104,100-square-foot expansion will add an immersive shark exhibit to what was already the world’s largest aquarium from 2005-2012.

VISIT: Atlanta Botanical Garden. Set next to the Piedmont Park, a multi-use green space in Midtown, the botanical collections cover over 30 acres devoted to Southeastern flora as well as rare collections such as that of the Fuqua Orchid Center. Spring through Autumn, drop in on Thursday evening Cocktails in the Garden for specialty drinks and live music in a fairytale setting.

Visitors looking at Civil Rights March exhibit at Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site Visitor Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

TOUR: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Begin with the orientation video and informative displays in the Visitor Center before touring the several buildings and gardens, over 35 acres, that are part of the site. Note that the Birth Home Tours do sell out, plan to go early.

VISIT: Center for Human and Civil Rights. This educational museum is well worth at least a 2-hour visit to learn about the struggle for equality in America; it’s a good complement to touring the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site for understanding the civil rights movement within the context of global human rights.

African American couple views mural about education and Black History in Atlanta GA.SEE: Atlanta Murals. Atlanta has one of the most colorful and diverse mural collections in the country, and it’s growing. In anticipation of Super Bowl LIII, the city is adding 30 murals inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. Check the Atlanta Street Art Map for directions and artist links, as well as self guided walking tours, encompassing the city’s extensive public art works collection.

Employee hands out free cans of soda at beginning of World of Coca Cola tour in Atlanta GA.

World of Coca Cola visit begins with a free can of soda.

VISIT: World of Coca Cola. If you’ve ever dropped into Club Cool at Disney World’s Epcot, you may already be familiar with the soda sampler. Kids (and many adults) grimace over the unusual soda flavors that are popular around the world. Expect even more variety (and weird flavors) at the Taste It! Beverage Lounge. Plan on at least two hours to get through the bottling works display, marketing exhibit, 4D Theater, and interactive Secret Formula Vault. Consider the VIP Guided Tour to avoid long lines and delays.

VISIT: College Football Hall of Fame. More than just a homage to the best of the best college players, the 95,000 square foot venue holds a 45-yard indoor football field with Touchstone Tunnel and Skill Zone Course.

CNN SignTOUR: CNN Studio Tours. Choose from a variety of experience options from Behind the Scenes to live studio options requiring background checks. Reservations highly recommended for specialty options.

TOUR: Southern Food Walk. The city boasts several food tours, some combining history and tastings. The Southern Food Tour stands out by offering 15 food tastings at 7 locally owned restaurants, with a look at the role food played in city history.

Girl rides scooter in front of Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta GA.

GO: The App transportation movement is in full force in Atlanta with a full assortment of electric scooters, bike sharing, and mopeds from Lime, Bird, and Muving. Use with caution, and do consider traveling with helmets.

SAVE: Atlanta CityPass. See five top Atlanta attractions–Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, CNN Studio Tours, Zoo Atlanta or Center for Civil and Human Rights, and College Football Hall of Fame or Fernbank Museum of Natural History–for $76 adults ($61 child.)

Front facade of The Food Shoppe in Atlanta GA.

What to Eat in Atlanta GA

VIEW: Sun Dial Restaurant. It’s hard to beat the view from atop one of Atlanta’s tallest buildings, but the Westin Peachtree Plaza’s premier dining venue goes all out by maximizing window-side seating in a three-level restaurant that revolves 360 degrees. Delicious farm-to-table fare, an extensive wine list, and signature cocktails ensure a truly special dining experience.

Tasting Menu: Staplehouse. Doing good and being good, meals at Staplehouse benefit the Giving Kitchen, serving restaurant workers in crisis. With seasonal tasting menus described as transcend, this is one of those bucket list restaurants that warrant repeat visits.

CHEAP EATS: The Food Shoppe. Nothing is really cheap in downtown Atlanta, but dishes here are relatively affordable and the location can’t be beat (one block from Centennial Olympic Park. Expect typical creole fare; the Shrimp & Grits, Mac n’ Cheese, and made-from-scratch Jambalaya are outstanding. There’s only a couple of tables indoors, consider doing take out.

Westin Peachtree Hotel Tower view from Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta GA.

Where to Stay in Atlanta GA

STAY: Westin Peachtree Plaza. The plusses: central location, very friendly staff, amazing view, indoor pool, onsite Starbucks, decent size room (for an urban hotel,) and all that one expects from the upscale Westin brand. Only drawback was the $48/night parking fee (not uncommon in major cities,) and that the entire computer system was down upon our midnight arrival, leading to long lines at checkin. (It’s hoped that this was an unusual occurrence.)

HISTORIC/BOUTIQUE: Ellis Hotel. Luxury with a dash of whimsy, some of the hotel’s more unusual offerings include specialty floors for Women Only or Dog Lovers.

Big-city glitz wraps this metropolis with gleaming skyscrapers and a cosmopolitan polish, but at heart, Atlanta retains the feel of a charming Southern town.

Springfield MA: From Dr. Seuss to Basketball With Great Beer and BBQ

Basketball theme continues on the streets of Springfield MA

WHY GO: When Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote, “Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!  There are points to be scored.  There are games to be won, he just may have been spinning lyrics about his own hometown, Springfield MA. You can score points at the National Basketball Hall of Fame, see the “Organ of Muskets” at America’s first National Armory built just after the Revolutionary War, and discover other Springfield innovations at the Springfield Museums. Springfield might not leap to mind as a great overnight getaway, but we’re asking you to give it a chance. Visit the Basketball Hall of Fame then stay for remarkable history, great homemade Bratwurst, authentic Louisiana fare and the best barbecue this side of the Mason Dixon line.

Things to Do in Springfield MA

Visitors shoot hoops on large court at the Basetball Hall of Fame in Springfield MA

VISIT: Basketball Hall of Fame. Basketball has come a long way since Dr. James Naismith invented the game at Springfield College in 1891. You’ll find everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the sport and the people who play it at the Basketball Hall of Fame. With an eye-catching design that attracts motorists from speedy Interstate 91, the slick planetarium-looking structure draws Michael Jordan wannabes and driveway slam-dunkers alike. In the expansive lobby, visitors stand in athlete’s footprints while watching videos of season highlights. And the regulation-size Center Court hosts clinics, shooting competitions and skill challenges. Try to palm a basketball, compare your “wingspan” with that of Kevin Durant’s impressive 7’5”, watch AM Sports Radio 1450 announcers and interviewees through the lobby window, and pay tribute to your favorite players in the “World’s Premier Basketball Museum.”   $20 adults, $14 kids. Daily 10-4.

Watch Sport Radio 1450 broadcasting from Basetball Hall of Fame in Springfield MA

VISIT: The Springfield Museums. I was originally going to shove all four Springfield Museums into one paragraph, but then I visited them and realized that lumping them all together takes away from the individual quirkiness of each. Begin in the happy, Dr. Seuss-ified Visitor’s Center and purchase tickets to all four museums and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. $15 adults, $8 kids, Tues – Sat. 10-5, Sun. 11-5.

Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums, Springfield MA

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden and Museum. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel grew up in Springfield MA and much of what he did and saw here ended up in his illustrations and writings. His father was a brewer who was forced to find a new career after Prohibition, bought a zoo, and allowed little Ted a run of the place. It’s no surprise, then, that Dr. Seuss’s fantastical creatures stem from this time in his life. Learn about Seuss’s roots at the newest museum on the quad and then plan a photo op with Geisel or The Cat in the Hat or Horton or any of the several dozen Seuss characters planted in this wonderful sculpture garden.

Science Museum. It’s got your stuffed animals (and not the plush, bedtime kind if you know what I’m saying), including an orphaned polar bear named Snowball, who lived at the Springfield Zoo for 29 years before standing, in perpetuity, at the entrance to the museum. Stop into the gift shop and look over the door to find what might be – at 26 feet – the biggest taxidermied Python on record.  In the world.  There are plenty of live critters here as well, and if you’ve got a few minutes, it’s worth a peak.

Tiffany Windows illuminate the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum in Springfield MA

George Walter Vincent Smith Museum. Opened in 1895, in an era when wealthy eccentrics built public institutions to showcase their eccentric collections (in this case, Asian art, arms and armor including the largest assembly of cloisonné outside of China), the building itself is architecturally significant. Built in the style of an Italianate Villa, the stained glass windows are all original Tiffany, casting a dim golden glow in the magnificent foyer.

A selection of American and European Art throughout the centuries at the Fine Art Museum, Springfield MA

D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. Situated in a 1930’s Art Deco building, the Museum has assembled the usual suspects – Remington, O’Keefe, Winslow Homer, European artists, etc. – and the country’s only permanent gallery dedicated to art created to grace the homes of the middle class, the lithographs of Currier and Ives.

1928 Rolls Royce from Springfield MA Auto Plant, Museum of Springfield History

Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. Opened in 2009, this is the newest of the Springfield Museums and the one you’ll want to devote the most time to, especially if you are connoisseur of vintage motorcycles, Smith and Wesson pistols or candy-colored Rolls Royces.  In the former New England Telephone and Telegraph building, you’ll find artifacts from all the companies once (and still) headquartered here, including the largest collection of Indian Motorcycles in the world.  Based in Springfield, Indian manufactured the most commercially successful bike in the world, reaching its pinnacle with the iconic 1928 Scout.

The best known Indian Motorcycle, the Scout, at Museum of Springfield MA History

You’ll also find a gorgeous green 1928 Rolls Royce, built during the 10 years (1919-1929) that the English automaker moved production to Springfield, MA.  The Museum also houses the largest collection of revolvers and pistols (1,500), from Springfield’s still operating Smith and Wesson Company, including four engraved by Tiffany, and the Model #1 dated 1858. The game of Basketball, Milton Bradley’s Checkered Game of Life, Friendly’s Ice Cream, and Breck Shampoo also got their start in this western MA river city, which once again is attempting to reinvent itself while honoring its past.

Exterior shot of former Arsenal Storage building at Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Springfield MA

TOUR: The Springfield Armory. In 1843, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow compared the double-musket racks at the Springfield Armory to an “Organ of Muskets” in his poetic lamentation of gun use:“when the death-angel touches those swift keys.” Commissioned by President George Washington in 1777, America’s first Federal Arsenal “carried out manufacturing, storage, repair, testing and development of arms for the US Army” until 1968. During its heyday – World War II – 15,500 workers (42% women!) churned out hundreds of thousand of M1 Rifles per year.

Organ of Muskets at Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Springfield MA

Now a National Historic Site housing the world’s largest collection of American military guns, the Armory does not glorify gun culture, but deftly informs visitors about the technological innovations gleaned from weapons production over the years and the fact that “Springfield citizens worked diligently to provide our military with the best infantry weapons necessary to safeguard the nation.”  Featuring machinery and exhibits about gun-making (look for enlarged photos of women missing fingers – a common industrial pitfall pre-OSHA), ballistic tests, evolution of firearms, rare models,”mishaps,”  an array of gatling guns, and one remaining “Organ of Muskets,” that is arguably the most photographed exhibit here, the Armory presents a sobering overview of what our soldiers use in battle.

Best Places to Eat in Springfield MA

Bar room crammed with beer steins at Student Prince and The Fort Springfield MA

EAT: Student Prince and Fort. A local landmark, this doubly named restaurant has been dishing out schnitzel and other excellent German chow since 1935.  Crammed with 2,000 beer steins and an impressive collection of corkscrews in several bar and dining areas, SP&F was listed among “Twenty Legendary Restaurants in the USA” by Gourmet Magazine. Still family-owned, still making their own delectable Bratwurst ($11.95), and still mixing “Salad with Roquefort” ($6) tableside, this warm and welcoming restaurant keeps traditions alive while inventing new ones. Of course, German beer is the signature beverage, but if you’re looking for a sweet alternative, ask for the “Ice Cream Drink,” ($8.95), a mixture of Grand Marnier, Galliano, and other liqueurs.

Mural on the wall of Theodore's Booze Blues and BBQ, Springfield MA

EAT: Theodore’s Blues, Brews and BBQ. After a recent change of chef, the preposterously good southern BBQ should take first billing, rather than third.  Yes, Theodore’s was once named the Best Blues Club in the country by the esteemed Blues Foundation, and wonderful murals of blues musicians cover the walls, but you cannot leave Springfield without trying Theo’s Short Ribs (“the bacon of beef”), St. Lewis Ribs ($13.95 for half rack), or Pulled Pork with delectable homemade Carolina Mustard in this purportedly haunted old printing factory. Apparently, Ghosthunters taped a convincing episode in this very place.

Modest exterior of Chef Wayne's Big Mamou, Springfield MA

EAT: Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou. Located in a space you’d likely pass by (or actively avoid), it would be a shame if you did.  Anyone who appreciates Big Easy seasonings will find some of the best Cajun food in the country in this unassuming open-kitchen café wedged between a parking lot and a furniture discount store on a wide, busy road. My personal favorite is the “Chicken Mississippi” ($8.95) – a stew of cubed chicken, al dente onions and spinach in lip-smacking broth.  So good, you’ll ask for more cornbread to sop it up.

View of Bell Tower from Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place, Springfield MA

Where to Stay in Springfield MA

MGM Springfield MA Sign

STAY: MGM SpringfieldNot just for gamblers, this new “Resort casino” is contributing to the revitalization of downtown Springfield. A “Maven Favorite” you can read all about it HERESpringfield MA Pin

Oh, Say Can You See Baltimore MD?

WHY GO: The Flag. Yes, ours. The one we sing about in the Star Spangled Banner was sewn and originally sent up the pole in Baltimore. So a visit to the “Monumental City” wouldn’t be complete without seeing where Old Glory was stitched and flew proudly.

Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD

Chances are you’ve been here already – at least to the more commercialized Inner Harbor where the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center the Baltimore Maritime Museum, and a myriad of shops and restaurants draw year round tourists like ants to a picnic.

But this Getaway takes you to some lesser known attractions and neighborhoods: to a Dentistry Museum that features George Washington’s teeth; the Birthplace of American Railroading (and its corporate office, now a boutique hotel); the Jewish enclave of Lombard Street.  You don’t have to look very hard to find historical and “Offbeat” Baltimore. For a longer stay, combine this Getaway with an Arts and Neighborhood focused visit.

Things to Do in Baltimore MD

Star Spangled Banner Museum, Baltimore MD

VISIT: Star Spangled Banner Museum. Before you even step foot inside, consider that the flag built into the front wall of the building is the same size as the one observed by Francis Scott Key on September 14, 1814 as he penned The Star Spangled Banner from a boat just off Fort McHenry. When war was declared two years earlier, the Army in Baltimore requested an “ensign” large enough to see from afar. But, who would stitch it? Mary Pickersgill’s family had a long history of sewing “colors” and sign flags for merchant ships (quite possibly competing for the same jobs as Betsy Ross up in Philadelphia). For this purpose Pickersgill was asked to craft an American Flag 30 ft. X 42 ft, with each stripe two feet wide and 15 stars two feet each from tip to tip. With just a few aides, she managed to get the job done in six weeks.

Flag House, Mary Pickersgill Home, Baltimore MD

A visit to this museum complex includes a tour of Pickersgill’s original circa 1793 home in its original location, exactly where she spent those 6 weeks sewing the fateful flag. With floorboards and windows over 200 years old, and samples of Old Glory folded in her workroom, it’s a thrilling look at a perspective of US History we don’t ordinarily consider. The flag that Mary made still exists, though you won’t find it here. To see it, you’ll have to head down to Washington, DC and the Smithsonian Museum.  Museum open Tues. –Sat. 10-4, $8 adult, $6 kids.

Fort McHenry, Baltimore MD

VISIT: Fort McHenry. Baltimore owns a “key” place in our nation’s history: the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British in the War of 1814 inspired an observer, Francis Scott Key, to write the words that would become our Star Spangled Banner.  One of the most uplifting moments of the tour comes just after watching a short movie in the Visitor’s Center when you are invited to stand to sing the national anthem as curtains open to reveal an American flag flying right outside. It’s worth visiting Baltimore for that spine-tingling moment alone. Open daily 9-4:45, $7 adults, kids free.

Mount Vernon Garden Baltimore MD

TOUR: Baltimore Trolley Tour. We’d ordinarily steer you clear of these kind of touristy things, but at least this 90-minute tour takes you out of the Inner Harbor and exposes you to other, lesser known Baltimore neighborhoods, while allowing for a bit of history. Sure you’ll hear all about attractions of the Inner Harbor: the USS Constellation, which was the last all-sail ship, used as a Naval Academy Training vessel, and the Reginald Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture – the latest museum to open there. On the cobblestone streets of Fells Point, you’ll learn about the mustering site for Massachusetts Civil War recruits, the bar favored by Edgar Allan Poe, and the row of homes that Frederick Douglas purchased after escaping slavery disguised as a seaman. “When I left Maryland, I was property.  When I came back, I bought property,” he was purported to have said.

Washington Monument, Mount Vernon Neighborhood, Baltimore MD

You’ll drive through Little Italy, “Cornbeef Row” – the Jewish section and home to the third longest-standing synagogue in the United States, and the monument studded Mount Vernon, arguably the most beautiful area of Baltimore.  The 178-ft. marble column and statue of George Washington, completed in 1829, was the first monument in the country to honor a United States President. When acting President, John Quincy Adams, came to town, he called Baltimore, “The Monumental City,” and the name stuck. The adjacent gothic spire Methodist Church and a central city garden creates a tableau that appears elegantly European. “This area unfortunately gets lost in the whole harbor thing,” say in-the-know guides.  Tours, $27 adults, $16 kids,  run from Visitor Center 10:30 and 12:30 daily.

1890 Crowned Teeth National Museum of Dentistry Baltimore MD

VISIT: Samuel Harris National Museum of Dentistry. There may be other Dentistry Museums (who knew?), but this one, opened in 1996 on the University of Maryland campus, is the largest in the country most likely because the world’s first dental school, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, debuted here in 1840. At first, you may think a museum dedicated to a dreaded medical procedure would be blah, boring, or even trigger-stressful, but I ended up staying much longer than the 20 minutes I’d allotted because it is so fascinating.

The most prominent – and myth-busting – artifact here is an actual set of George Washington’s dentures. And they are not made out of wood, as countless teachers have taught us. Made of sculpted bone and hinged wire, they were so uncomfortable, Washington had to have new ones made often.

Andy Warhol Art National Museum of Dentistry Baltimore MD

Walk in to find a stained glass window of the “Patron Saint of Tooth Sufferers,” Apollonia, from a church in Wales next to portraits of same by Andy Warhol. Visitors are invited to “Share Your Smile” – via digital camera that snaps a photo and then adds it to the roster of rotating toothy faces above. There’s a “Guess The Smile” interactive that questions your ability to identify a celebrity based just on his or her grinning mouth.

Traveling Dentist Tools National Museum of Dentistry Baltimore MD

Prior to the mid 1800’s, dentistry was not considered a part of the medical field. Most small towns did not have a practicing dentist, and so traveling dentists were required for those suffering from tooth pain. On display is a “well-supplied traveling dentist’s outfit, carried in saddlebags” for those small rural communities.

Queen Victoria Teeth Scaling Set National Museum of Dentistry Baltimore MD

Learn interesting Victorian-age particulars about dental health – such as the not so surprising fact that the upper class displayed wealth by owning personalized sets of tooth scalers (implements that scrape plaque from teeth). In fact, Queen Victoria’s mother-of-pearl-handled set is on exhibit here.

Doc Holliday National Museum of Dentistry Baltimore MD

The museum owns one of the only authenticated photos (if not the only photo) of Dr. John Henry “Doc” Holliday performing a dental procedure in 1875. That well-preserved photograph was discovered while cleaning trash out of a classic car in 1991. Open Mon-Fri 9-4 (last admitted at 3pm), $7 adults, $5 kids.

Jewish Museum of Maryland Baltimore MD

VISIT: Jewish Museum of Maryland. In 1960, the Maryland Jewish Historical Society was formed to save the Lloyd Street Synagogue, the first built in Baltimore in 1845, to house the Orthodox Baltimore Hebrew Association. The Synagogue is now part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland with its poignant permanent exhibit, “Voices of Lombard St.” Stories are told through poster-sized photographs, text quotes and objects. Though specific to Jewish life in Baltimore, the exhibit speaks to a more universal immigrant experience, where newcomers are totally out of their element and ethnic groups must help each other:

Jewish Museum of Maryland Baltimore MD

“My grandparents had no life after they got here. They were unfit for American life. And I think this was common among these immigrants. Their purpose was to open up the world to their children.” – Joseph Hirschmann. “The Haves had to help the Have Not’s. It was a simple matter of justice.”

Lombard St Jewish Museum of Maryland Baltimore MD

Anyone – Jewish or not – who grew up in Baltimore’s Jewish neighborhood will experience a strong sense of nostalgia here. “I thought the whole world was Italian and Jewish,” wrote a Lombard St. resident. Exhibits illustrate the prevailing customs of Baltimore’s Jewish population: there’s a picture of a fish in a bathtub, exemplifying the practice of keeping carp fresh before being ground and cooked as gefilte fish, along with a photo montage of markets and butcher shops right before the  Jewish Sabbath and holidays.

Market Day Jewish Museum of Maryland Baltimore MD

Soon, though stories of Yiddish Theater and deli’s give way to riots and drugs that ultimately forced Jews to move to safer places. Plan to spend a half hour or more here if you want to read all the signage. Even if you didn’t live here, and have no connections to Baltimore, it’s an emotional look at an immigrant group who made the best of a new country and new world. Open Sun-Thurs 10-5, $10 adults, $4 kids.

B & O Museum, Baltimore MD

VISIT: B&O Railroad Museum. Conceived as a new technology to compete with the New York Erie Canal, the 1827 Maryland State Legislators granted a charter to build a “road of rails” between Baltimore and the Ohio River. This 40-acre museum tells the story of railroading from the place of its origins. Most of the train cars are arrayed within St. Claire’s Roundhouse, which, at 235 feet interior diameter was designed to accommodate the largest passenger cars of the day, and was the largest circular industrial building in the world at the time of its construction in 1884. Enormous train cars radiate like spokes from a wheel inside this colossal building and you can jump aboard each one, and then avail yourself of various tours through the day.  “The War Came By Train” exhibit illuminates the way this new technology influenced the outcome of the Civil War. Outside, walk through retired train cars – some set up with model-train dioramas, others available to ride. $6, adults, $4 kids, Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun 11-4.

Baltimore Water Taxi, Baltimore MD

DO: Take The Baltimore Water Taxi  which ferries beau coups visitors to 17 harbor access points, for just $12 per day.  On an ideal afternoon, it’s the best place to chill out on the water – even if you have no desire to get off.

Best Restaurants in Baltimore MD

Sabatino’s Restaurant Baltimore MD

EAT: Sabatino’s, Little Italy. In all the hoopla about the hottest new restaurants, sometimes its nice to shine light on those that have stood the test of time. Sabatino’s – opened in 1955 and still a Little Italy landmark – is one such “old school” institution, with friendly service, traditional “red sauce” Italian cuisine, and white linen table-set dining rooms. Known for its homemade salad dressing on the signature Bookmaker Salad, Sabatino’s also serves up full and half-orders of Lasagna, Penne Vodka, Baked Ziti, and Eggplant Parm ($15-$19) like Mama used to make. All are hearty, fresh and delicious.

Miss Shirley's Cafe, Baltimore MD

EAT/BREAKFAST: Miss Shirley’s. This is where most Baltimore natives will send you for your morning meal, provided you have enough room in your stomach for some serious eats. With portions designed to share, the savories win out. Battle Of the Brunches bestowed best dish on Crab Cake and Fred Green Tomatoes, though Shirley’s Affair with Oscar – Beef Fillet with Crab has won numerous awards.

Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore MD

EAT: Woodberry Kitchen. Another hotspot in the gentrifying outskirts of town, Woodberry Kitchen is tucked into the repurposed Clipper Mill complex. With an outdoor patio strung with lights, flickering votives,  wood beam interior a hermit’s cabin gone wild, Woodberry has the atmosphere and quality of locavore food that keeps the reservation phones a-ringing.

Fells Point

EAT/DRINK: Pick a place in Fells Point. It’s the oldest section of Baltimore – and charms you with brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets. Fells Point has been Baltimore’s go-to neighborhood for drinking and carousing since 1763. A party every night. With bars named The Cat’s Eye Pub, Ale Mary and One Eyed Mikes, and Bad Decisions, you can’t go wrong stumbling in to any and all.

Where to Stay in Baltimore MD

Hotel Monaco Baltimore Wine Hour, Baltimore MD

STAY: Baltimore Hotel Monaco. The 1906 Beaux Arts Hotel Monaco was initially the B&O Corporate Headquarters and is just three blocks from the Inner Harbor.  A bit more sedate than the typical crazy-cat Kimpton Hotel décor, the multi-nook lobby is a quiet-riot of maroons, dollar-bill greens, and ecru, punched up by flashes of chartreuse where every evening, guests are invited to a convivial complementary Wine Hour. High ceiling guestrooms are perfect lairs for CEO’s and those who like to travel like them. Rich blue leather headboards on Frette linen enrobed beds, red lacquer desks, Poupon-yellow leather walls in dark marble baths, the Monaco caters to lovers of the colorful. And here’s an “offbeat” amenity: if you’re lonely, staff will bring up a companion goldfish to keep you company. Rooms $179-$399, Majestic Suite, $1500. Includes complimentary hosted wine hour, use of bicycles, companion goldfish.

Lord Baltimore Hotel Lobby

STAY: Lord Baltimore Hotel.  Another historic hotel three blocks from the inner harbor, the Lord Baltimore was the centerpiece of upscale Baltimore hospitality when it opened in the late 1920’s. After fading and falling out of favor, Rubell Hotels purchased the property in 2013, redesigning the common areas and most of the guest rooms. Though bathrooms still have a ways to go (bathtub tiles and fixtures have not been replaced), rooms are handsomely masculine and cool – and at this point, reasonably priced for the area. Rooms from $155 per night plus tax.


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