I am not surprised at the variation of reviews since when we were there there were clearly people who didn't get the idea of the experience-whether they did not attend the orientation, are too used to being entertained or what I was unable to tell.
I have been going to Plimouth Plantation since 1976 and last week was my 8th visit. I have been delighted to watch as it grows and adds new information (and changes, as we have become more honest about the experience of the settlers and native people.) When I first started going the area for the native people was non-existent. This time it has grown even from my last visit 12 years ago. While there was one reenactor who seemed to be bored with his job we talked with the most charming, informative and delightful 15 year old I have met in awhile. He was excellent! I actually think the role the Wampanoag's have to play is more difficult as they are trying to represent both the original members of Hobbamock's village as well as speaking from a modern day perspective AND they are battling what are still quite deeply ingrained ideas that many of us Americans have about the "savages" who met the settlers. You won't see any there who look like the crazy little characters who inhabit the Thanksgiving performances at grade schools.
The settlers ,as well, are not at all as we learned about them in school (and the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth has a very good display dealing with the changing understanding regarding this) They speak in the dialect of the area that particular settler came from in England. They dress as they would have in the 17th century. They have only chickens and goats because those were the only animals they could bring on Mayflower.
I have taken children as young as 3 (who tried valiantly to explain to a settler what a tractor is) and have gone with my mother who is in her 80's. I would say, however, that anyone whose child must be in a stroller should not go, as the child will not get anything (except a sunburn in summer) and you will have difficulty navigating the paths. However, part of the experience at Plimouth is to understand just how difficult it was for the settlers. Imagine having to do the work when the house is stifling-or freezing and having young ones in tow. Imagine trying to grow crops when there is too little/much rain. One of the brilliant things about Plimouth is that the "settlers" stay in character. I heard one person last week ask how long they lived. The settler's answer was "Well, no-one knows how long they will live, only God can say that." He went on to talk about the people who died the first winter and this opened the discussion up to others to ask about it. My son (12) was fascinated as this gave him an understanding about how new and difficult this experience really was for the settlers. I had a long conversation with several women who discussed the differences between the Separatists and members of the King's Church, how they got along as friends even with this basic disagreement-(which gave a good understanding of why this enterprise worked-especially compared to the later problems as Puritans began to immigrate and impose their views on all.) They also taught me that while gossiping is not good a woman then would have called her friends her "gossips" a word that comes from God's siblings. There was also another woman player who was from a boat that shipwrecked there on its way to Virginia colony.
It might help to have some previous understanding of the history of the Pilgrims but at every visit I have been able to listen to conversations with other visitors. If you are too shy to ask questions or don't know what to ask, even simply looking around and seeing what they did and didn't have (including hindsight) can give anyone something to take away. An alternative is to look at some of the stuff at the Plimouth Plantation website before you go and maybe form some questions from there.
Several of the reviews above give a good account of the procedure-I will add that :
-the combo ticket (with Mayflower II) is worthwhile
-we did the 2 sites on 2 different days
-you can buy the tickets online which saves a lot of time if there is a line
This place is one of the best places in the world for gaining an understanding of another time and place and how thinking then has changed or stayed the same as today.
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