We Tried It: An Overnight Adventure at Historic Plimoth Plantation

"One family takes a trip back in time with this creative vacation destination."
Plimoth Plantation

Photograph by Carl Tremblay

Plimoth Plantation

Photograph by Carl Tremblay

The fence surrounding the perimeter was tall, but I could see the peaks of thatched roofs looming above it. The gate creaked open, and suddenly, here we were, time-traveled back nearly 400 years into a world of candlesticks, open hearths, and dirt floors. "Home, sweet home," said our guide. I gulped.

My daughters, Lila, age 13, and Stella, 9, have long been obsessed with olden days (Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, represent!). The rich history of early America pulls on our psyche, yes, but frankly, it's also about the fashion: Stella loves the bonnets. We'd already visited every history reenactment site within a 50-mile radius, so we were thrilled to learn that Plimoth Plantation, a reproduction of a colonial village just down the road from Plymouth Rock and a two-hour drive from our home, offers overnight stays -- in costume, no less! My husband, Chris, and I were interested in the educational aspect. A guide would be with us every step of the way, helping us put everything we did in historical context. True, Lila would have to put down her iPod, but once she got over her digital withdrawal, I knew she too would enjoy herself.

Which is how our family, plus two friends for the girls, came to arrive at Plimoth on a gorgeous day in early fall (it could hardly have felt more Pilgrim-y).

First, we explored the village on our own in modern-day clothing, observing and asking questions now and again as reenactors went about their chores. They're almost eerie in their devotion to their work; you cannot get them to step out of character no matter how you try (not that we tried hard). Their performance is especially convincing because of the setting, re-created down to the very last detail.

Our time travel began in earnest a short time later, as we met our main guide, Vicki, in the visitor center and donned colonial garb. The outfits were made primarily of wool, with linen undergarments that doubled as nightgowns if one chose to wear them. When you're used to wearing stretchy, sleek, contemporary clothing, 17th-century outfits can feel bulky and, let's face it, kind of dowdy ... right up until the moment when the coifs (Stella's beloved "bonnets"!) were tied onto our heads.

Then something happened. "Whoa, I actually look like a Pilgrim," said Lila, startled -- and despite her purple-streaked hair, she was right. When her friend Giselle's "Maroon 5" T-shirt was replaced with a waistcoat, and Stella's friend Maeve traded skinny jeans for a petticoat, our transformation felt complete.

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