The city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, also known as ‘The Whaling City’, has so much to offer visitors. Historically speaking, the architecture has centuries of stories to tell. From the whaling industry and underground railroad, to it’s commercial fishing history, the waterfront blocks of town make up a National Historic Park. As you walk along the cobblestone streets, back dropped by antique architecture, it’s clear to see there is a rich history here, as you explore New Bedford.
To this day, Downtown New Bedford (or DNB as it has come to be refered) is still very much a bustiling hub. Many folks arrive into town, using it as a quick stop over as they make the ferry commute over to Martha’s Vineyard. However, DNB is really worth a few extra hours of your time, if not an entire weekend! Read on to learn more about the five best ways to explore New Bedford.
“The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to live, in all New England...all these brave houses and flowery gardens came from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. One and all, they were harpooned and dragged up hither from the bottom of the sea.”
~Herman Melville, “Moby-Dick”
New Bedford has a rich Portuguese history which contributes to some highly delectable bites. You can find everything from malasadas to chourico around town. Additionally, thanks to the town’s coastal orientation, you’ll find plenty of seafood, as well as various other flavours. You’ll also find some great stops if you’re looking to partake in an adult beverage, or two. There is a brewery and a couple cocktail bars within walking distance of the ferry.
Looking for drinks of the non-alcoholic variety? There’s also a coffee roaster, a bubble tea spot and a pressed juice joint. There really is something for everyone when it comes to culinary offerings as you explore New Bedford. If you’re feeling a little more international, you’ll find Thai, Asian and Mexican options as well.
Hot Tip – looking for a rooftop view of the town? Make your way to the top floor of the Elm Street Parking Garage or head over to Play to enjoy a bite or beverage while you take in the sights (and order the rice krispy treats ;).
Downtown New Bedford is a hive of small business activity! These shops offer a wide range of items from vinyl records to all natural cosmetics. There are clothing stores ranging from thrifty thread to new and modern garb. You’ll even find an assortment of nautical themed gift shops to pick up a souvenir or two. If antiques are more your thing, you’ll find a selection of them here too.
Unbeknownst to many, the city is also rich in modern street art and contemporary sculptures by local and traveling artists. Dive into the verdant New Bedford art scene, a completely FREE form of entertainment if you’re in town. From permanent murals to temporary installations, there are pieces all over town causing a buzz. Some of them are out in the open and easy to come by. Other pieces are less obvious, depending on where you find yourself. If you are planning to explore the street art scene, head over to our ‘Self-Guided New Bedford, MA Art Walk‘.
As we mentioned previously, New Bedford has some deep roots, dating back to the 1800s. If you find yourself in the area, definitely make the National Parks Service at 33 William Street your first stop. They offer free historical walking tours daily in the summer season, a great way to explore New Bedford!
At one time, New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world. Large wooden ships would tie up at it’s docks and sail for months to years on end. The globe traveling ships were in search of whale oil, a valuable commodity in the US of the 1800s. These days, you won’t find these tall wooden ships or any whale oil, other than what is on exhibit at the New Bedford Whale Museum. Here you’ll find plenty of pieces from days of old and marvel at full size whale skeletons that hang overhead. The museum is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon, and to learn about all things whale over the last couple hundred years.
The massive fishing industry here is what drew me to the area originally, for work. New Bedford is the largest commercial fishing port in the US., with over 1 million pounds of seafood moving through it everyday. Not only to the fishing vessels go in and out here, there are also several processing and shipping facilities along the waterfront, just south of the downtown area. What kind of seafood you ask? The most popular landings here are sea scallops, so be sure to stop into a restaurant and order some fresh off the boat. You won’t be disappointed.
The city of New Bedford was also a critical stepping stone in Black History. There is a complete trail of historic plaques around town describing the key players during the slave revolution, including Frederick Douglass. Be sure to head over to our post on New Bedford’s Black History.
Walking around downtown can be like taking a step back in time. Some of the buildings that are distributed around town are still the image they were back in the 1800s, and have been well maintained over the years to preserve their local historic value.
Looking for something really neat? The swing truss bridge that connects New Bedford to Faihaven is a unique piece of architecture. Opened in 1900, it’s one of few still in operation on the US East coast.
If you find yourself in New Bedford on the second Thursday of the month (any month) you’ll want to check out ‘AHA’! This Art, History and Architecture (hence AHA) night will give you the perfect opportunity to cover all of your bases to explore New Bedford. Are you on Instagram? Be sure to look up @dnbinc for all the latest happenings in Downtown New Bedford. And you can use these hastags during your visit #thisisDNB #discoverDNB #exploreDNB #doitDNB
Planning to spend the night? The New Bedford Harbor Hotel is our pick! We trust you’ll enjoy your stay!
Have you ever considered a trip to New Bedford, Massachusetts?