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More than two centuries since New Bedford’s founding, the city still has plenty new to offer.
What was once the whaling capital of the world is today a bustling downtown, where historical activities, artistic performances, seaside festivals and much more take place throughout the year.
For residents and visitors alike, the New Bedford Seaport Cultural District is just about the best place to experience it all.
Here’s a look inside.
Photo: North Water Street in New Bedford by Tim Grafft
Dedicated in March of 2014, New Bedford’s cultural district celebrates all that makes the city unique, with a special nod towards its historic connection to the water. In total, there are 75+ attractions, restaurants and shopping spots packed into the square, which is easily walkable.
At the mouth of the waterfront is the New Bedford Whaling Museum, a fitting overture to the cultural district and the city itself. A monument to New Bedford’s maritime heritage, the museum contains hundreds of thousands of artifacts and art pieces, recounting the story of whaling in an unparalleled way. Here, visitors can also witness complete whale skeletons from four different species, as well as Lagoda, the world’s largest ship model and a mighty impressive one at that.
Photo: Lagoda at the New Bedford Whaling Museum
Just outside the museum is New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, another excellent place to get to know the city. The park’s theater screens “The City That Lit the World,” a tribute to New Bedford’s critical role in America’s growth, and hosts activities year round.
New Bedford famous Working Waterfront is also right in the area, acting as a buffer between the harbor and city streets. Along the waterfront, walkers can set off on a self-guided tour and maybe see some of the city’s enormous seafood haul come home, as New Bedford remains one of the preeminent U.S. fishing cities to this day.
Photo: Shopping around the Working Waterfront
Of course, there’s more to the City that Lit the World than history. The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, helpfully abbreviated by locals as “the Z,” has all kinds of shows throughout the year, featuring the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, New Bedford Festival Theatre and New Bedford Ballet, to name just a few. The city is also home to a variety of art galleries, which explore all different types of media and are well worth a visit.
Photo: The U.G.L.Y. gallery is anything but ugly
In the warmer months, a series of events bring the downtown area to life. The Working Waterfront Festival is one of the biggest, while the Folk Festival and Jazzfest have plenty to keep music fans happy. There’s lots of shopping in the area as well, which is particularly convenient during the holiday season.
Photo: Gallery 65 in New Bedford at night
The itinerary above is more than enough to fill up a few days, but it’s only a slice of what the New Bedford Seaport Cultural District has in store. You can take a more comprehensive virtual tour of the district here. To learn more about the entire city, just click here.
Photo at the top courtesy of Mike Estabrook