A Short Trip to The Old World
The New World started here in New England, and the region has been a sort of crossroads and entry point for the rest of the world for centuries. Perhaps nowhere is that influence of other cultures, customs and traditions more overtly found than in the communities of New Bedford and Fall River, thus giving those of us who are only a short distance away, a wonderful opportunity to step into a world of history, culture and cuisine.
Truly understanding New Bedford means truly understanding the history that shaped the world-famous port. Originally settled when the land was purchased from the Wampanoags in 1652, the port did not become a significant whaling entity until the mid 1700s, where until that time, most whaling was accomplished from the shore. As the construction of the ships improved, whalers were then traveling the full extent of the globe and returning with the knowledge and goods of far away lands. Introduction of the railroad in the 1840s completed the connection between the North American continent and the rest of the world.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum, arguably a national treasure, is the consummate organization to not only present the history of whaling, but the organization also does a great job of continuing the presentation and understanding of the region’s maritime culture, from yesteryear, as well as tomorrow. Stepping inside the museum, one is immediately transfixed by the skeleton of KOBO (King of the Blue Ocean) a blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. Big is a “thing” at the museum, as they also have the world’s largest whaling ship model that is available for full exploration aboard. Whether or not you have been to the Whaling Museum before, and despite your age or your background, a visit is guaranteed to inspire, educate and more than likely amaze. Their programming includes an ever-changing roster of exhibits, but also guest speakers on a wide range of topics from history, culture, marine biology and even world-class sailors, still salty from international competitions. After visiting the museum this summer, Brian T. Allen from the National Review wrote, “I’ve never been in a place that does history, adventure, industry, and reinvention better.”
New Bedford Whaling Museum
You’ll have many “WOW” moments at the Whaling Museum, where stories of the South Coast region come to life through art, history, science, and culture. Marvel at massive whale skeletons, learn what you can do to help keep oceans healthy, climb aboard the world’s largest ship model, and learn the story of New Bedford’s whaling industry.
In addition to whaling, or perhaps as a result of it, the fishing industry of New Bedford proudly contributes to the global seafood supply chain. As a port of significance, New Bedford was ranked No. 1 as the most lucrative fishing port in 2019, a recognition that has continued for 20 consecutive years. That’s something KnowSeafood’s owner Daniel McQuade knows (pun!) a little something about. Both McQuade and his co-founder Paul Neves worked in the fishing industry for decades, and now they leverage those close connections and understanding of how to deliver the highest quality seafood, as they sell to consumers across the world. As they put it, “To get seafood any fresher, you would have to go to the boat.”
Co-Founders Daniel McQuade and Paul Neves worked in the seafood industry for decades before founding KnowSeafood in New Bedford. Drawing on their deep experience and connections in the industry, they started KnowSeafood to combat fraud and unnecessary additives bringing unparalleled levels of trust, transparency, variety, and quality to seafood-loving consumers who care where their food comes from.
New Bedford is quickly developing a culinary reputation not only for a wide variety of great restaurants, but also as a great place for food entrepreneurs who are starting cottage industries. One of those creators is the Mad Good Cookie Company. Founder Jon Piwowarczyk, not only has the word “Wow” in his name, it also happens to be the response from many who try his delicious cookies. Crispy on the bottom, firm to the touch and soft in the middle, his cookies are regulars when it comes time to pass out awards from many organizations across the region. Currently available via mail order, you may also find his delicious creations at local fairs and festivals.
Mad Good Cookie
Mad Good Cookies, simply put, are the best cookies that you’ve ever eaten! Lori Greiner from Shark Tank has even recommended them on her Instagram and Twitter account. Mad Good Cookie has won many awards at several Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fairs and does not use any additives or preservatives.
They ship nationwide at madgoodcookie.com.
If a festival is to your liking, New Bedford is absolutely the place to be. The cultural diversity of the city has spawned generations of Portuguese Festivals, Azorean Festivals and most recently, Brazilian Festivals. Sadly, the 2020 pandemic has taken its toll on many of those celebrations that have become harbingers of the seasons for generations of residents and visitors alike. However, New Bedford is home to a remarkably successful and enduring event entitled AHA! Representing the city’s Art, History and Architecture, the monthly celebration that occurs the 2nd Thursday of each month has been attracting visitors and participants for over 20 years. Director Lee Heald was instrumental in the creation of AHA! in 1999 when she wrote the grant for the first AHA! while she was the executive director at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Heald says the socio-economic impact of every dollar invested into AHA! has had over an 800% return. The cultural diversity of the city has spawned a vibrant arts, music and culinary scene that provides a perfect backdrop for the monthly celebration which is predominantly in the historic section of town where the Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Art Museum, restaurants, galleries and eclectic retail shops line the cobblestone streets.
AHA! New Bedford
AHA! New Bedford is where the city’s Art, History and Architecture come alive on the 2nd Thursday of the month. These free, cooperative events invigorate the region’s cultural scene. Using the power of the arts and community, creativity and collaboration AHA showcases New Bedford’s vibrant, multicultural talent and make arts and culture accessible to local and regional neighbors as well as visitors to this historically significant, authentic seaport.
One of those artistic souls, Anthi Frangiadis, is an architect by trade, a lover of everything artistic by happenstance, and recently relocated her artisan showroom, The Drawing Room, from Marion to North Water Street in New Bedford. “When I first opened The Drawing Room,” Frangiadis says, “I wanted to provide space to showcase unique art in hopes it would help get the creative juices flowing for my architectural clients.” In fact, the various artistic wares found at The Drawing Room have found their way into many of Frangiadis’ commercial and residential projects. Today, work which represents 25 different artisans makes The Drawing Room a must-stop for any trip to New Bedford.
The Drawing Room
The Drawing Room is a carefully curated art & design shop located in historic downtown New Bedford, featuring original work by dozens of New England artisans who create paintings, pottery, jewelry, artful gifts, and home furnishings, plus Farrow & Ball paint and wallpaper. Stop in and discover something beautiful.
Shimmer, another stop over on Union Street, offers a curated collection of beauty products for the entire family, including the home. Looking for a gift for those that seem to have it all? How about a gift of health and well-being? Their helpful staff are pros at finding the right products for the right person.
A curated collection of the best in clean beauty. Shop non-toxic, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly brands in beauty, wellness, and home care. The Shimmer team will help you find your new favorite product or customized gift set, and you can even schedule a private beauty consultation with a makeup artist.
Farther down Route 195, another historic city, Fall River, also makes a great destination. Like New Bedford, the history of the city has informed the community’s personality; as diversity, European culture and imported products and services have woven the tapestry that is now Fall River. Battleship Cove, perched on the banks of the Taunton River and under the shadow of the Braga Bridge, is a living maritime museum as well as a war memorial. The USS Massachusetts, a highly decorated battleship, is at the core of the memorial since it is there largely because its crew fought to have it memorialized instead of having it junked for scrap. Now the structure of the ship actually contributes to a safe harbor that is a popular destination for cruising pleasure craft.
The city’s mills turned out textiles and other valuable goods for centuries, and were at the center of many of the residents’ lives. Today, like so many historical industrial centers, the mills have become artist studios, retail showrooms and other light manufacturing. One such building is the home to the Narrows Center for the Arts, a robust music venue which also provides studio space for artists, and two ever-changing exhibit spaces for some of the most eclectic rosters of art installations this side of New York City.
As you spend the day (or evening), venturing into all there is to see and do in the area, sustenance will be on your agenda. For those serious about what a coffee can and should be, Pink Bean is the place to land. With a headquarters located in Somerset, and another location in the city, their signature beverage, the Mojo, will get your own motor running. But a visit wouldn’t be complete without sampling something from their healthy and tantalizing menu.
Offering organic coffees, specialty drinks, fruit & vegetable smoothies and delicious breakfast sandwiches, Pink Bean has been featured as “Best of” in multiple publications including Southcoast Almanac. With many choices for vegan or gluten free diets you’ll find some of the best food in the Southcoast right here at their Fall River or Somerset location.
If for no other reason, a trip to Fall River is not complete without a stop at Portugalia. The jaw-dropping European provisions market is truly a trip across the Atlantic. Founder Fernando Benevides had the brilliant idea to sell “good” coffee out of his garage over 30 years ago. That foray into sharing his love for authentic, high-quality foods and beverages he had come to love while growing up in the Azores, has grown into a second-generation family business which his son Michael and his daughter Jennifer now take the helm. In 2013, Michael and his parents entered the next phase of their dream when they constructed a new marketplace on Bedford Street. The fresh produce and baked goods, along with a bustling deli and prepared foods section, are all reminiscent of a European marketplace where quality and choice are surpassed only by the personal service. Aisles packed with rows and rows of European versions of familiar staples, as well as a few unfamiliar, make filling a shopping cart only too easy. Behind a 40-foot-long wall of glass is the O Fiel Amigo, a temperature-controlled room that offers a glimpse into the old-world preparation of salt cod. Beer, wine and spirits round out the selection of groceries, and a small café offers Portuguese baked goods, great coffee, (Fernando would have it no other way) and a place to catch-up.
No matter which way you go on Route 195, either north or south, a trip to New Bedford or Fall River is a quick way to get to the old world.
Julie Craven Wagner is the editor at Cape Cod LIFE.