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A Free Walking Tour of New Bedford with Something for Children

Updated on April 24, 2011
Park Visitor Center 33 William Street
Park Visitor Center 33 William Street

National Park Visitor Center

The National Park Visitor Center located at 33 Williams Street in downtown New Bedford, will be the starting point of our walking tour. There is free parking available on many side streets. Be careful because there is also metered parking and two close parking garages if you desire. The park is free and open 7 days a week from 9 to 5.

The visitor center has an official film, “The City that Lit the World.” The lighting of the world refers to the oil from the whaling days that was used in oil lamps. The film is only 22 minutes long and well worth the time. The film is started near the top of the hour.

The National Park Visitor Center also has several informational booklets. One that is for children is titled, the ‘Junior Ranger Activity Booklet.’ It is free and full of activities like, a crossword puzzle, questions, unscrambling words, and a treasure map. The booklet has the children looking for items such as; American flag, plaque on a boulder, whales’ tail, sundial, harpoon fence and weather vanes. A great fun way to get children to look at architectural details and to get them to sharpen their observational skills and to get them involved in active learning.


Notice each window is different
Notice each window is different
That is how he advertised his work
That is how he advertised his work

Brick Salesman


Beside the visitor center is the Corson buildings. They are now part of the National Park. The three story structure was built in 1875 and 1884. Temple S. Corson was a brick layer and maker. He used the building to display and advertise his expertise.  Originally the building had a cast-iron storefront with Queen Anne and Gothic style details.

A resting spot for seamen
A resting spot for seamen
Praying for a safe voyage
Praying for a safe voyage
Belgian Blocks
Belgian Blocks

A Place to Sleep and Pray


The Mariner’s Home is the oldest build in the historical district.  It is a Federal style building constructed in 1790.  Originally it was the home of William Rotch. The Mariner’s Home is not open to the public. The home provides a place to stay for transient seamen.  The home is owned and operated by the New Bedford Port Society.


Seamen’s Bethel is a clapboard church built in 1832. It was a place of worship that whale men would visit before and after completing a whaling voyage.  Part of the film, “Moby Dick” was filmed inside.  The Bethel was redesigned and rebuilt after a fire in 1867.


So you can hear the horses coming


Some of the streets in New Bedford are made of cobblestone.  This is true and it is also false.  The streets are a combination of cobblestones and Belgian blocks.  Cobblestones are a rounded river rock, varying in size from 3 to 8 inches long. They are placed in an irregular arrangement.  Belgian blocks are granite blocks cut to regular size to be tightly fitted and laid in concrete.  They were first used in 1880’s as ballast on ships. Most of the streets a Belgian blocks and the few cobblestones are not original.


Old original entrance to Whaling Museum
Old original entrance to Whaling Museum

Whaling Museum


The WhalingMuseum is located in the heart of the historical district on Johnny Cake Hill.  The museum is open 7 days a week from 9 to 5.  Adult admission is $10.00 and children ages 6 to 14 are $6.00.


Oldest Custom House in Nation
Oldest Custom House in Nation

Oldest Custom House in Nation


The United States Custom House was designed by Robert Mills.  It is a rectangular, two-story white granite building with a hipped roof.  It is the oldest continuously operating custom house in the nation.  It has been a working station since 1836.

Freestones--Originally Citizen National Bank  1877
Freestones--Originally Citizen National Bank 1877

Plenty More to See



New Bedford, Massachusetts, “The Whaling City,” has a host of tourist activities; New BedfordWhalingMuseum, New BedfordArt Museum, New BedfordFireMuseum, Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Gardens, Buttonwood Park Zoo, Gallery X, Ocean Explorium, the Working Waterfront and the Fishing docks with over 200 vessels. Be sure to take an extra day and visit some of the other sites.


Weathervane on Seaman's Bethel
Weathervane on Seaman's Bethel
Weathervane on Whaling Museum
Weathervane on Whaling Museum

The Weathervane Chase

Depending on the direction of the wind, the whaling ship might be sailing towards the white whale.  Or the white whale maybe on course to hit the ship. The two vanes on across the street from each other.


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