Looking ahead to the Mayflower at 400 festivities

The old harbor of Plymouth, England, where the Pilgrims departed on the Mayflower for the New World in 1620. | Dennis Lennox

The commemoration is still a little more than a year away, but the official program for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s sailing for the unknown of the New World has been released.

The Mayflower 400 program includes over 500 festivities, celebrations and other programming in three countries — England in the United Kingdom, the United States and also the Netherlands — over the course of a year. The events begin with the Illuminate light festival in November 2019 and conclude with what is sure to be an impressive ceremony on September 16, 2020, which will be 400 years to the day when the Mayflower departed Plymouth, England.

“The Mayflower voyage was one of the most influential journeys in global history and a defining moment in the shared history of Britain, the U.S. and the Netherlands,” said Adrian Vinken, chairman of Mayflower 400. “This program not only stands to strengthen our transatlantic links yet further, but will enable us to drive education and awareness through arts and culture.”

While there is still plenty of time you should start considering possible trips, as hotels in and around the unofficial Mayflower 400 capital of Plymouth will sell out by the big day.

The perfect trip involves flying into London and then following the Mayflower 400 trail across England with a rental car. Yes, you could do a group tour, but a personal trip will be a much better experience. Regular readers of this column know I did the trip earlier this year and wrote about it in four installments. (Read: On the Pilgrim trail across England, 400 years after the Mayflower: Part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.)

Not only did I discover the real story of the Pilgrims beyond the kitsch and commercialism of American Thanksgiving, but my journey to the 11 destinations on the Mayflower 400 trail also gave me an opportunity to discover centuries of history before and after 1620. It took me to cities, towns and villages across England that I otherwise wouldn’t have visited, which is just what Vinken emphasized when launching the commemoration’s program.

“We know that visitors from [the United States] are interested in finding out about their history and Mayflower 400 will draw more tourists to our shores as they come to experience the once-in-a-lifetime events taking place next year,” said Sally Balcombe, chief executive officer of the national tourism agency Visit Britain. “The US is our most valuable inbound visitor market and these historic celebrations are also a fantastic opportunity to promote our outstanding tourism products and experiences, driving growth in tourism and boosting the local economy.”

And just what kind of boost do organizers hope for? They’re estimating as many as 1.4 million visitors will come to the United Kingdom because of Mayflower 400. Needless to say, it’s a big deal.

Spires and Crosses, a travel column exclusive to The Christian Post, is published every week. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter and Instagram.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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