|Whaling District, New Bedford, Mass. (photo by Eric H.)|
Several years back, choosing New Bedford, Mass., as one of a dozen distinctive destinations in the United States would have sounded like a real "whale's tale."
Over the past few years, however, New Bedford has seen a remarkable transformation into a historic city worth visiting. What's equally impressive is that this mid-sized southeastern coastal Massachusetts city has continued to be significantly revitalized even during a down economy. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized the turnaround and, thus, honored New Bedford on its 2011 list as one its "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" in the United States. The National Trust cited, most prominently, ambitious city preservation stating, "Thanks to the foresight and determination of the city’s preservationists, visitors can experience life as it was during New Bedford’s whaling heyday. Its historic downtown, defined by cobblestone streets, period gas lamps and authentic 19th and 20th century buildings set the stage, while its Whaling National Historic Park and associated sites provide the narrative. For those more interested in New Bedford’s contemporary commercial fishing industry, visitors can poke along its working waterfront by taking the “dock walk.”
We couldn't agree more. The Whaling District is beginning to rival similar historic New England neighborhoods that get lots of deserved press like the Port Exchange in Portland, Maine, downtown Newburyport, Mass., and Market Square in Portsmouth, N.H. While not quite up to those neighborhoods yet, the Whaling District and many other beautiful sections of New Bedford are certainly worth a look, particularly as the warmer weather approaches. In the Whaling District, we love those cobblestone streets, views of the harbor, old homes, churches (particularly the Seaman's Bethel) and commercial buildings, and the Whaling Museum. All over the place, restaurants and shops are opening. It's so great to see, as New Bedford was one of America's most prosperous cities during it whaling days in the 1800s. The city hit hard times after the whaling industry died, and that is apparent in many neighborhoods to this very day -- but like Providence and Portland, the city is quickly coming back to life as a "destination," and more importantly, as a community. We love visiting here!
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destination program recognizes communities that "offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization." We strongly recommend checking out its latest Dozen Distinctive Destinations, including New Bedford.
For photos of the city, check out our New Bedford Travel Photo Essay at VisitingNewEngland.com. We also wrote an article on the Whaling Museum. When in New Bedford, be sure not to miss this wonderful museum!
Congratulations, New Bedford! You've worked hard all these years and it's great to see myriad signs of life once again gracing the city in the name of revitalization, tourism and just flat-out perspectives of a classic coastal New England community.