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Fall River MA Guide

Fall River MA has rich maritime hand manufacturing istories and plenty to show for their former prosperity, much of it huge (like battleships).

Visitors examine the cannons on the USS Massachusetts battleship

Close to world-famous Cape Cod is lesser-known Southeastern Massachusetts, with the cities of Fall River and New Bedford.

About Fall River

Because of its natural harbor, ample waterpower, and a moist climate ideal for working thread, Fall River (map) became a world-class textile-weaving center.

Huge mills (factory buildings) made from blocks of the local granite were built everywhere, making an awesome scene of industry and wealth.

But in the 20th century, the textile and shoe-making businesses began moving to the southern states, and Fall River's industry foundered. The stately mill buildings, unoccupied, fell into decay.

Prosperity has returned to Fall River, and now many of the impressive granite mills produce finished apparel; others turn out rubber products, foods, and paper. Fall River has also now found a new role as a factory-outlet shopping mecca.

The town's Government Center, built on the airspace over I-195, is a symbol of Fall River's resurgence and adds its impressive appearance to that of the great mills.

Today most visitors come to Fall River to shop in the many factory outlet stores, and to visit the World War II battleship and submarine docked at Battleship Cove beneath the Braga Bridge which carries Interstate 195 across the Quequechan River toward Providence RI.

Fall River's other claim to fame—which it has not been able to live down in over a century—is the celebrated Lizzie Borden murder trial of 1892, in which Lizzie, a young Fall River girl, was tried for chopping up her parents with an axe.

It's good to remember that the poor girl was acquitted. The guilty party was never found.

Battleship Cove

Most people speed through Fall River on their way from Providence to Cape Cod or from Boston to Newport RI, and when they do, the sight they stop to see is Battleship Cove, 5 Water Street (map), the world's largest naval ship exhibit, featuring the World War II battleship USS Massachusetts and other great ships (and submarines), American and foreign.

The USS Joseph P Kennedy, Jr, a World War II destroyer, is here, as are the cruiser USS Fall River, the submarine USS Lionfish, heavily-armed wooden PT boats, and many other vessels both American and foreign.

But the star of the exhibit is the mighty USS Massachusetts, the battleship berthed here as a memorial to Massachusetts men and women who were killed in World War II.

You can tour both above and below decks on all the ships. You can even climb on the mammoth cannons capable of lobbing a one-ton shell nearly 20 miles (32 km).

For lunch, have a meal or a snack in the wardroom of the USS Massachusetts.

Included on the Battleship Cove ticket is the nearby Marine Museum (see below) with over 150 ship models featuring a 28-foot, one-ton model of the SS Titanic.

Battleship Cove is right next to Fall River Heritage State Park, good for a picnic, and just north of the Marine Museum, also worth a look. Local history exhibits are in the Park Visitor Center just north of Battleship Cove.

Getting There

From I-195, follow the signs for Battleship Cove (sometimes just the silhouette of the battleship is on the sign). The road system is complicated, and turns and exits are tricky, requiring some quick lane changes, and signage is only minimal, so be fully aware and quick-witted as you drive.

Coming from the center of Fall River (ie, from the east), take I-195 Exit 5, as though going north on MA Route 79. Merge, then turn left under Ma Route 79/138 following a sign reading "To 195". Headed south, you'll see the ships in Battleship Cove.

Marine Museum at Battleship Cove

The Marine Museum at Battleship Cove, 70 Water Street (map), just southwest of Battleship Cove, under the highway, has a number of fascinating shipping exhibits, includingone of the world's largest collections of Titanic lore.

Certainly the most popular is the one-ton, 28-foot (8.5-meter)-long scale model of the SS Titanic, created in 1952 for Twentieth-Century-Fox's movie about the Titanic tragedy.

Other beautiful ship models and maritime artifacts detail the history of the Fall River Line, which ran luxury steamboats between Fall River and New York City from 1847 to 1937. Yet another exhibit follows the history of steam power at sea.

Factory Outlet Shopping

Fall River is a mecca for those who love factory-outlet shopping, because the revival of apparel manufacture here has led to the opening of dozens of huge factory-outlet stores.

Billboards on I-195 trumpet that it is the "largest factory-outlet center in New England!"

Signs lead you off the highway to the "Heart of Fall River's Factory-Outlet District," with over 90 outlet stores. If you follow the signs, will you really save money? Yes, a definitive yes!

I'm a skeptical shopper, and not a particularly enthusiastic one, but when I went to check out this factory-outlet district, even I was impressed. I ended up buying shirts, underwear, belts, and other items at very, very good prices.

Quality can be either tops, or just under, or factory seconds, or worse. But in the store where I bought, quality was clearly marked, and prices were excellent on all of the different grades.

What can you find here? When it comes to clothing, everything! Shoes, sweaters, raincoats, accessories, designer labels, coats, handbags, jewelry, children's clothing, cosmetics, luggage.

Branch out a bit and you'll find kitchenware, gifts, furniture, braided rugs, curtains, crystal, candy and nuts, greeting cards and giftwrap, toys, towels, linens, baskets, brass--even wallpaper.

This is definitely a town in which you can shop till you drop.


Fall River is 15 miles (24 km) west of New Bedford MA, 51 miles (82 km) south of Boston MA, 17 miles (27.5 km) southeast of Providence RI, 24 miles (39 km) north of Newport RI.

Fall River has always been an important transportation point (map). For nearly a century, from 1847 to 1937, a railroad-and-steamboat route named the Fall River Line connected Boston and New York City. Trains carried passengers from Boston to Fall River, where they boarded steamboats bound for New York.

The nearest that trains come to Fall River is now Providence, so you get to Fall River by car or bus:

By Car

Fall River is easy to reach, as it stands at the confluence of several major highways, including I-195, MA Route 24, and US Route 6. (This also means that traffic in the city is usually intense.)

By Bus

Peter Pan Bus operates several daily buses between Boston's South Station Transportation Center and Fall River, a two-hour journey.