Ok, you don't have to do this the second you get to Nantucket, but you should be planning your trip around this experience. I would budget about a half a day...and if you can go on the early side, then you should take in as many talks as possible to learn as much as you can. It's like this, if you went to a National Park, you should go for a hike, visit the historic lodges and attend a ranger lecture. Well if you go to Nantucket, you should go to the beach, eat seafood, try to go on a sail, rent a bike but you should definitely go to the Whaling Museum.
The town is filled with history, but at the backbone of all that history is the Whaling Museum. I will go back again the next time I visit...there is a lot to learn, but it is fun. It's cool for all ages, but young children might get a little bored. I would start bringing kids when they are old enough to sit calmly during a lecture and who also really like to learn.
Let me say this, the speakers I saw were top notch. It definitely reminded me of visiting a National Park or Monument. More museums should be run this well.
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