By now, we all know the story. The Pilgrims piloted the Mayflower across the Atlantic Ocean and landed at Plymouth Rock in the New World (now Massachusetts). Shortly after arriving, they met Native Americans and had a feast that became the first Thanksgiving dinner.

But is this how things really happened? Is Plymouth Rock real? If so, how big is it? Curious minds are WONDERing! What’s the truth?

According to legend, Plymouth Rock is the large glacial erratic stone that the Pilgrims first stepped upon when they landed at Plymouth in 1620. Historical documents from that time period, however, make no mention of the rock.

No written reference to the rock can be found until over 120 years after the Pilgrims’ landing. Nevertheless, the people of Plymouth Colony believed for hundreds of years that Plymouth Rock was the site of the Pilgrims’ landing. Their beliefs may have been based upon claims by those who had known some of the passengers on the Mayflower.

A rock historically identified as Plymouth Rock has been a fixture along the shore of Plymouth Harbor for many years. In 1774, the Plymouth townspeople used a team of oxen to move the rock from its original location at the base of Cole’s Hill. Unfortunately, the rock broke into two pieces as a result of their efforts.

The bottom portion of the rock was left in its original location. The top portion of the rock was displayed in various areas over the course of the next hundred years. In 1880, the two pieces were reunited and the date “1620” was carved into the rock.

Over the years, many people chipped off pieces of the rock as souvenirs. Some estimate the portion of the rock now on display — and protected — along the Plymouth waterline is only a third of the top portion of the original rock.

So is Plymouth Rock the first solid piece of land the Pilgrims stepped on in the New World in 1620? Probably not! Historians believe the Pilgrims first landed near Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod in November 1620 before moving on to Plymouth.

In any case, Plymouth Rock symbolizes for many the struggles and the hardships the Pilgrims faced in boldly coming to the New World to start a new life. It represents freedom and the desire for a better life. It still attracts almost one million tourists every year to Pilgrim Memorial State Park.

34 Join the Discussion

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  1. That video was so cute and funny! I knew about all of that because in 2nd grade I did a report about it.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about turkey.

    • What a great guess, Wondergirl101! We hope you’re eating turkey today on this very special Thanksgiving! We are thankful for all our Wonder Friends and all the great Wonders we have! Your report on Plymouth Rock sounds AWESOME! :)

  2. Cool wonder I Never knew How Plymouth Rocks were So Big. I Knew Today’s Wonder Was Going To Be Out About Turkey Day. Happy ThanksGiving Wonderopolis!

    • Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Wonder Friend Jana! We are oh-so-glad that you’re WONDERing about Plymouth Rock with us today! :)

  3. WoW! I had no idea what in the world Plymouth was until now. Thanks for the video and the description!!!!!!!!!!!! Have a HAPPY GOBBLE GOBBLE DAY!
    Sincerely Danielle :) :) :)

    • Thanks so much, Danielle! Happy Turkey Day to you, too! We are thankful for all the great Wonder Friends we have, including you! :)

    • Great question, Stefanie S! We hope you read our Wonder today to find out if anyone really knows…! Happy Thanksgiving, Stefanie S! :)

  4. I thought it was cool. I don’t get the end when the two ladies do it, but it’s still good. By the way Happy Thanksgiving! Also I will make an awesome video on youtube.

    • Hi Arielle! We are so glad! What was your favorite fact that you learned? Happy Thanksgiving to you! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

    • It does sounds like the song, doesn’t it Emily? We think it’s a fun way to remember about Plymouth Rock! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  5. I have a connection!!!!!! I went on a cruise. I went 3 places, and every place that I went was my first time. And also I got a souvenir everywhere I went so that I could remember that 2 weeks. It is just like what the pilgrims did. They landed and knew when people saw the Plymouth Rock. It reminds people about that day just like the souvenirs did for me. And I liked the video.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How big is Plymouth Rock?
  • When did the Pilgrims land in Plymouth?
  • What does Plymouth Rock symbolize?

Wonder Gallery

Plymouth RockVimeo Video

Try It Out

Are you an explorer at heart? Would you like to have been one of the pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower? What do you think life on board the ship would have been like?

What about when you landed in a new world? Do you think you would have been excited? Or scared? Or maybe both?

Put on your imagination hat and daydream about what it might have been like to have been one of the first people to set foot on an unexplored continent. Put yourself in the shoes of a pilgrim and imagine how you might have felt.

When you have a sense of what you think it might have felt like, write a letter to your parents “back home” to let them know what life has been like on the high seas and now on solid ground. What challenges did you face? What obstacles did you overcome? What unexpected joys did you experience?

When you’re finished, share your letter with your Wonder Friends on Facebook. We can’t wait to read your letter!

Still Wondering

By exploring myths surrounding the Wampanoag, the pilgrims and the “first Thanksgiving,” ReadWriteThink’s Myth and Truth: The “First Thanksgiving” lesson asks children to think critically about commonly believed myths regarding the Wampanoag Indians in colonial America.

Wonder What’s Next?

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