For some reason we tend to hang out on the west side of the U.S.A. So it is always an adventure when we decide to head east to explore the history that this part of the country has to offer. This particular visit found us in one of my all-time favorite places – BOSTON!
There are LOADS of things to see and do – the majority of them within walking distance if you stay at a hotel in the city! And that is one of the reasons it ranks as one of my favorites – it is truly a “walking” city. There are no RV parks within the city limits but there are a few options within a thirty mile radius – not too awful if you choose to drive into the city to explore. Check www.rvparkreviews.com for a list of Boston area options. While there are so many places to visit while here, this post is all about the things to see and do along The Freedom Trail. Contact Info: 617 357-8300 / www.thefreedomtrail.org
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile route that meanders its way throughout the city while passing SIXTEEN historically significant sites including museums, churches, cemeteries and more. Sometimes a painted red line and other times a red brick path, it is easy to follow and provides a terrific way to explore this area rich with history from our country’s revolutionary past. You can pay for a guided tour (sometimes led by costumed interpreters) that will take you to a few of the stops or you can explore like we did – on our own! We broke the route up into two days and followed the route spending as much or as little time as we liked at each stop.
The route begins with site #1 at Boston Common Park in the center of town. Whether you go the paid/guided route or whether you’re embarking on the route on your own, this is a good place to start. Here is a list of stops, in order per the map above, to keep you oriented:
- Boston Common
- State House
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel
- Benjamin Franklin Statue at the Boston Latin School site
- Old Corner Bookstore
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Boston Massacre site
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- Copp’s Hill Burial Ground
- U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides)
- Bunker Hill Monument
1. BOSTON COMMON:
Boston Common has a rich history dating back to the early 1600’s when it was originally used as grazing ground for livestock. Later it was used as a militia training field and a British Army camp during Boston’s occupation. It has also been used to hang pirates and publicly pillory criminals!
The area has also been a place noted for public speeches from the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Gloria Steinem and even Pope John Paul II. Today the grassy and shady respite in the midst of the bustling city often features concerts and performances. It connects to Boston’s beautiful Public Garden – home of the famous swan boats.
The Public Garden also features stunning statues, lovely flowers, and probably my favorite thing is the tribute to children’s author, Robert McCloskey. A life-sized bronze statue of a mother duck leading her ducklings along a brick pathway serve to commemorate his story set in this lovely park – “Make Way for Ducklings”. Contact Info: Boston Common Visitor Center / 139 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02111 / 617 635-4505 / www.boston.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/emerald-necklace
CHEERS BAR: (not a stop on the trail)
This is obviously NOT a historical stop on the Freedom Trail. But the Cheers Bar is right across the street from Boston Common/Public Gardens and you are in the neighborhood. And really, who doesn’t love a bar where “everybody knows your name”? So, of course, you’ve got to stop. In all honesty, it was great fun visiting the bar made famous by Sam, Carla, Cliff and Norm, even if it didn’t look anything like the bar on the TV show. The facade of the bar certainly brought back sweet memories from twenty-five years ago, (yup – twenty-five years ago), but the interior is small and crowded and nothing like we remembered from the past. Nonetheless, it is a great walk down memory lane for fans of the show and they do serve pretty good bar-type food. Be sure to check out the second floor where you can find portraits and artifacts from the show as well as a gift shop with lots of Cheers memorabilia. Contact Info: 84 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108 / 617 227-9605 / www/cheersboston.com
2. STATE HOUSE:
This palatial capital building located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood is where senators, state representatives, and the governor conduct business today. It was built in 1798 on land that was a cow pasture belonging to John Hancock. The dome of the State House was originally constructed of wood, was later overlaid with copper by Paul Revere, and in 1874 was covered with 23-karat gold leaf, giving it the dazzling appearance we see today. Contact Info: 24 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02133 / 617 727-1100 /https://malegislature.gov/StateHouse/
3. PARK STREET CHURCH:
The steeple on the beautiful Park Street Church towers notably on the city’s skyline and when the church was first built, it was the first thing visitors would spy on their way to Boston. Many ideals of social justice began right here in this church – prison reform, women’s suffrage, and anti-slavery protests all took place within these walls. And in 1831, the song “My Country Tis of Thee” was sung here for the very first time. Contact Info: 1 Park St., Boston, MA 02108 / 617 523-3383 / www.parkstreet.org
4. GRANARY BURYING GROUND:
It is interesting to be walking down an inner city block and happen across a cemetery. And this cemetery, the Granary Burying Ground is FULL of patriots from our country’s revolutionary past. Famous Americans such as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere are buried in this urban graveyard. Established in 1660, there are 2,345 headstones in the cemetery, but it is estimated that twice that many are buried here as most could not afford a memorial stone during these years. Contact Info: Tremont St., Boston, MA / 617 635-7361 / www.boston.gov/cemeteries/granary-burying-ground
5. KING’S CHAPEL & BURYING GROUND:
The churches in this era often had a cemetery located right next door and King’s Chapel is no different. Many noted Bostonian’s are buried in the King’s Chapel Burying Ground including Mary Chilton – she is said to be the first woman to step off of the Mayflower! The church was founded in 1686 with the current stone chapel being built in 1754. Other items of note are the pulpit – it is the oldest continuously used pulpit and I always find the family pews interesting – square and serving to hold an entire family during worship. Another interesting fact is that the church bell was made by Paul Revere in 1816 and still rings from the belfry today! Contact Info: 58 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02108 / 617 523-1749 / www.kings-chapel.org
6. BEN FRANKLIN STATUE / BOSTON LATIN SCHOOL SITE:
This statue of one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, stands at the site where the Boston Latin School once stood. Franklin attended the public school and it still operates today, but now in the Fenway neighborhood. Established in 1635, it was only open to boys and did not allow girl’s admission until 1972. Contact Info: 45 School St., Boston, MA 02108.
7. OLD CORNER BOOKSTORE:
The Old Corner Bookstore was built in 1718 as an apothecary shop. It was not until the 1800’s, though, that the location established it’s literary history when it served as THE center of American book publishing. Famous writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Mark Twain – to name a few – all published here during that time. Quite the lineup! During the 19th and 20th century the building operated as a bookstore – oh, how I wish it still did! It was slated for demolition in 1960 but was saved by the historical society and today is a …. Chipotle. NOOOOO!!!!! Today only a small interpretive sign next to the door serves to remind us of it’s historic past. Contact Info: 3 School St., Boston, MA 02108 / www.thefreedomtrail.org/freedom-trail/old-corner-book-store/
8. OLD SOUTH MEETING HOUSE:
This beautiful structure, built in 1729, has always been a location where the status quo has been questioned and discussed. In fact, in 1773, the Old South Meeting House was where the Boston colonists gathered to plan and organize the Boston Tea Party to protest the tax on tea. It was Samuel Adams that gave the secret signal to toss the tea into the harbor. While originally being a location to challenge British rule, even today, it is a place for the free exchange of ideas. Contact Info: 310 Washington St., Boston, MA 02108 / 617 482-6439 / www.oldsouthmeetinghouse.org
9. OLD STATE HOUSE:
The new state house at the beginning of the Freedom Trail houses the Massachusetts state capitol today – this Old State House, built in 1713, was the seat of British Colonial power during the days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was in this building that Boston patriots like John Hancock and Samuel Adams encouraged rebellion and first brought up the notion of self-government. Another matter of historical interest, is that it was directly in front of the Old State House where the Boston Massacre took place when soldiers opened fire on protesters. Today the building houses a museum. Contact Info: 206 Washington St., Boston, MA 02109 / 617 720-1713 / www.bostonhistory.org
10. BOSTON MASSACRE:
It was March 5, 1770 and the colonists of Boston were angry over the occupation of the British and took to taunting the soldiers outside the Old State House by throwing snowballs and rocks and calling them names. The soldiers, growing frustrated by the onslaught, opened fire on the unarmed crowd injuring six and killing five of the colonists. The illustration below was created by Paul Revere when he labeled the incident a “bloody massacre”. This fueled the rebellion that eventually led up to the Revolution. The British soldiers were tried for murder and were actually defended by none other than John Adams. While Adams was indeed a supporter of the Revolution, he was also a believer of law and held firmly that all men had the right to be defended and receive a fair trial. Contact Info: 206 Washington St., Boston, MA / www.bostonmassacre.net/
11. FANEUIL HALL:
During the Revolutionary era, Faneuil Hall consisted of a meeting place on the upper floors for leaders such as Samuel Adams and George Washington. It was while meeting in the rooms on these upper floors that patriots, such as these, gathered to grumble over the British rule and toss around terms such as “cradle of liberty” and “no taxation without representation”. The bottom floor of the hall consisted of a marketplace for the townspeople.
Today, not much has changed in the way of tenants. The upper floor now houses a Visitor’s Center and still has meeting rooms that, over the years, have hosted speakers such as Susan B. Anthony, later Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and still later Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy. The lower level still houses merchants vending their wares, but nowadays in the form of a modern shopping venue. In fact, the shopping extends to four areas: Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market and the North and South Markets – all full of vendor carts, souvenir shops, restaurants and pubs, as well as street performers such as jugglers and musicians. Contact Info: 4 S. Market St., Boston, MA 02109 / 617 523-1300 / www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com
DURGIN PARK: (not a stop on the trail)
This is a restaurant located in Faneuil Hall – NOT an official stop on the Freedom Trail – Durgin Park is a good place to sample some quintessential New England fare. Established in 1827, it keeps with it’s historical roots in that you might find yourself sitting at a long, communal table with other diners. The waitstaff often have surly attitudes but you just laugh and go along with the atmosphere. This is a great place to order up some corned beef cabbage, lobster rolls, steak or try out their oyster bar. And don’t forget the New England Clam Chowder. Or the Boston Baked Beans. Or the Boston Cream Pie. Contact Info: 340 N. Market St., Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA 02109 / 617 227-2038 / www.arkrestaurants.com/durgin_park/
UPDATE: We are SOOOO sad to report that Durgin Park has CLOSED as of January, 2019.
UNION OYSTER HOUSE (not a stop on the trail)
This is the last NON Freedom Trail stop that I will include in this post. But since it is so close to Faneuil Hall I would be completely remiss in NOT mentioning the award-winning Union Oyster House. This is the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant with continuous service in the whole USA! The restaurant was established in 1826 but the building itself dates back to the 1630’s – making it a legit National Historic Landmark. They serve lunch and dinner with a full menu consisting of soups and salads, steaks and seafood, and a famous oyster bar. Interesting Union Oyster House facts:
- Daniel Webster was a very regular customer who always partook of oysters and brandy.
- Before becoming a restaurant, the building housed a dressmaker’s shop on the first floor and a print shop on the second floor. Later it was a pay station for the Continental Army.
- The Union Oyster House started the trend of the semi-circular oyster bar.
- They invented the TOOTHPICK!
- There is a booth upstairs where John F. Kennedy always enjoyed his oysters. It is memorialized with a plaque.
Even if it’s not time for a meal, at least stop in for a cup of clam chowder – this place reeks of history! Contact Info: 41 Union St., Boston, MA 02108 / 617 227-2750 / www.unionoysterhouse.com
12. PAUL REVERE HOUSE:
This famous stop in the North End neighborhood – the Paul Revere House – was built in the late 1600’s making it the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston. Paul Revere bought it in 1770 and resided here with his family. He lived here on April 18, 1775 when he made his famous ride. Today the historic site is a museum and gift shop. Contact Info: 19 North Square, Boston, MA 02113 / 617 523-2338 / www.paulreverehouse.org
13. OLD NORTH CHURCH:
“One if by land, two if by sea” – these words were made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride”. And it was in the steeple of this Old North Church where the lantern was hung signaling that the British were, indeed, marching to Lexington and Concord. The church was built in 1723 and today houses a museum where daily tours and demonstrations take place. Worship services are held on Sunday. Contact Info: 193 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113 / 617 858-8231 / www.oldnorth.com
14. COPP’S HILL BURYING GROUND:
This cemetery located high on a hill in the North End neighborhood was occupied by the British during the Revolution. The soldiers fired on Charlestown from this vantage point during the Battle of Bunker Hill and took delight in using the graves of the colonists for target practice. The remnants of the bullet holes can be found in many graves today. Several notable Bostonian’s are buried here in Copp’s Hill including the Reverands Cotton and Increase Mathers of Salem Witch Trial fame and Robert Newman – the patriot who, on the night of Paul Revere’s ride, hung the lantern in the steeple of the North Church to warn of the advancement of the British. Contact Info: Hull St., Boston, MA 02113 / 617 635-7361 / www.celebrateboston.com/sites/copps-hill-burying-ground
15. U.S.S. CONSTITUTION:
The famous vessel, the U.S.S. Constitution, was launched in 1797 and nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. During the battle, cannon fire appeared to bounce right off the sides of the ship earning her the moniker. The ship’s hull is not iron but actually 3 layers of wood contributing to her strength and examples can be seen in the excellent museum located on site. The museum is highly interactive with exhibits that combine history, science, technology, and the democratic process in telling the story of this historic ship. And it’s free (there is a fee to tour the ship). The U.S.S. Constitution is still, today, a commissioned ship with a crew of officers and enlisted personnel. This is truly a unique tour to take while walking the Freedom Trail. Contact Info: Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA 02129 / 617 426-1812 / www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org
16. BUNKER HILL MONUMENT:
The Bunker Hill Monument memorializes the “David and Goliath” battle known as the Battle of Bunker Hill that took place on this hill on June 17, 1775. This was one of the early battles between the colonists and the powerful British army. The patriots were ill-equipped but held their own, inflicting twice the number of casualties and injuries on the British than they themselves suffered. While they ultimately lost the battle due to running out of ammunition, they gained momentum in the way of confidence which bolstered their resolve in their revolt. You can climb to the top of the monument for a great view of Boston. No elevator, just 294 steps – go ahead, it’s worth it – and you have Boston Baked Beans to work off! There is also an informative museum across the street and check for the ranger talks – they often tell the story of the battle with entertaining character and drama. Contact Info: Monument Square, Charlestown, MA 02129 / www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture
Whew – you made it! Long walk, huh? It’s a trek, that’s for sure, but with so many varied and historical spots along the way – once you’ve done this, even if you don’t do anything else – you can truly say you’ve DONE Boston! And as I mentioned before, this is a great route to split up into two or three days. Or more. After all of this, you definitely deserve a REWARD – so how about taking in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park? And guess what? You can walk there too! Contact Info: 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215 / 877 733-7699 / www.mlb.com/redsox/
Click HERE to see our Travel Scrapbook about Boston …
So have you ever been to the great city of Boston, Massachusetts? Did you visit any stops along the Freedom Trail? We would love to hear about your visit in the comments below!