Your Destination Guide to Boston

Destination Guide Boston - Your Destination Guide to Boston, MA

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Walk the Freedom Trail

Walk the Freedom Trail
Walk the Freedom Trail

© renée mudd

Boston visitors can experience some of the most treasured, historical sites of the American Revolution by walking the Freedom Trail, a red-brick 2.5 mile path that leads to 16 nationally recognized historical markers. As one of the oldest cities in the country, Boston has a rich culture and history, much of which can be traced back to its colonial beginnings. Every visitor to the city should walk the Freedom Trail, experiencing the museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, and the ship where some of the most significant activity of our nation's early history unfolded.

The Freedom Trail Foundation officially established the trail in 1958. Some of the 16 stops include the Boston Common, America's oldest public park; Granary Burying Ground, resting place of revolutionary icons John Hancock, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere; and the Old South Meeting House, where the Boston Tea Party rebellion was organized by Sam Adams and the site of the Boston Massacre, which ignited the Revolutionary War. Faneuil Hall, Boston's first public market was also where early Americans began protesting against unfair British taxation. See the lanterns that were used as a warning to revolutionaries of coming British troops at the Old North Church. Other notable stops include the Bunker Hill Monument, where the first major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought and the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat that contributed most to the US victory in the War of 1812.

What makes the tour so unique is how the historical stops on the trail are integrated into the buildings, shops, and restaurants of modern-day Boston; it's a moving, indoor-outdoor museum, allowing visitors to experience some of the most fascinating history of the Revolutionary era by standing on the steps where the patriots once stood and walking through the same streets they did, feeling the same wind and seeing the same foliage that our revolutionary forbearers felt while they plotted and fought for a new nation, putting yourself in their footsteps, literally. The foundation offers a wide variety of tours, from a colonial pub crawl for the beer-lovers to the exploration of early African-American patriots. Feel free to walk the Freedom Trail at your own pace and stop in between for coffee breaks and leisure time to enjoy Boston. All in all, make sure to bring your walking shoes, camera, and appreciation for history.

Stops on the Freedom Trail

The Boston Common: Located squarely in downtown Boston since 1634, Boston Common is one of the oldest features of the city with plenty of lore to go along with it. Obscure laws, dating back to Revolutionary America, are unenforced now but still remain on the books: Duels to the death were allowed on the Common, but only on Sundays and only if the governor was present; crossing the Common without a shotgun was illegal, for fear of wandering bears. Read more

The State House: The Statehouse was built in 1798 on land owned by the state's first governor, John Hancock, and has undergone many additions and improvements since. Despite all of the marble floors, murals and statues, the most notable feature is still the famous golden dome which can be spotted from most elevated parts of Boston. Read more

Park Street Church: While strolling down Park Street, you can't help but notice a white steeple peering over many buildings and peeking in-between alleys. The closer you get, the more vibrant and alive this 200-year-old brick and white trim structure becomes. Located right next door to historic Granary Burial Ground, the Park Street Church is one of 16 stops along the Freedom Trail. Read more

Granary Burying Ground: Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground is Boston's third oldest cemetery and home to some of its most important historical figures, such as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. Despite its location in downtown Boston, an eerie peace exists in its shady corners and old, cracked gravestones. Many people come here throughout the day to get lost in Boston's history of Revolutionary War patriots and Declaration of Independence signers, and can spend hours wandering amongst the majestic trees and crooked tombstones trying to read the names on the 2,345 graves. Read more

King's Chapel and Burying Ground: Besides water for drinking and roads for moving around, all new cities need one thing as they grow—a place to inter their dead. Early 1600s Boston was no exception. King's Chapel Burying Ground, the city's first cemetery, was founded in 1630. Because of its city's role in the American Revolution, King's Chapel Burying Ground holds the remains of many important people, including John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts; William Dawes, who accompanied Paul Revere on his famous ride; William Emerson (father of Ralph Waldo); and Dr. Comfort Starr, founder of Harvard University. Read more

Benjamin Franklin Statue/Boston Latin School: Benjamin Franklin is historically noted as an author, politician, inventor, scientist, statesman, diplomat, and, above all, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His advancements in science and everyday living include the lightning rod, bifocals, and the formation of the first lending library in America. His name and likeness appear on our currency, town names, and a statue on Boston's Freedom Trail. But despite all this, he is also a notorious school drop out. Read more

Old Corner Book Store: The name might suggest a place to pick up an old, out-of-print copy of your favorite classic, but as you arrive at the Old Corner Bookstore, don't let the lack of books disappoint you. After all, you're at the place where some of the most cherished American authors have breathed and gathered inspiration: wind back the clock some hundred and fifty years and your visit here might have led to an encounter with Nathaniel Hawthorne or Ralph Waldo Emerson. Read more

Old South Meeting House: If the embodiment of free speech could manifest in a building, the Old South Meeting House in Boston might get your vote as number one. For almost three centuries this building has been a catalyst for radical ideas–from the Puritans' early outspoken views on religious freedom, to such extreme thoughts as gaining independence from the Brits and forming a country based on democratic principles. Read more

Old State House: As the main venue for the stormy debates leading up to the Revolutionary War, the Old State House in Boston might have been the most significant building in America for its role in the outcome of the organized New World. The early gatherings of Boston's great patriots shaped the political ideas and the vision of an America independent from England. The revolutionary movement formed within these walls, and the Old State House became the heart of political ponderings for the colonies as a whole. Read more

Site of the Boston Massacre: When you embark on the Freedom Trail in Boston, you should be ready for the gory along with the glory of our past. At the site of the Boston Massacre, all you'll find today is a simple ring of cobblestones marking the spot where the street fight between a patriot mob and British soldiers played out on March 5, 1770. However, with a little imagination and the help of a passionate storyteller, you can envision the rage and bloodshed of that evening. Read more

Faneuil Hall: If you come across Peruvian panpipe players, rows and rows of delectable food stalls, and cobblestone walkways, you have found the Faneuil Hall area. Walk down the stairs from Government Center, and from here, you have only a ten-minute walk to the North End and Downtown Crossing. Read more

Paul Revere House: "The British are coming!" is usually the first thought that comes to mind when you think about Paul Revere, but there is certainly more to the fabled Revolutionary man. Perhaps you knew he was a silversmith for over 40 years, but did you know that he was a practicing dentist? Father of sixteen? Hardware store proprietor? In any case, he remains a prominent historical figure to Boston. His house, built in 1680, still stands tall at 19 North Square as the oldest building in the downtown area. Read more

The Old North Church: Step into the Old North Church and watch your history books come alive. You may recall from middle school the well-known rhyme "one if by land, two if by sea," about the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere. The light signal was held here in the steeple of Boston's oldest religious building, formally known as "Christ Church in the City of Boston." Constructed in 1723, this church stands sturdy today at 193 Salem Street, appropriately located in Boston's North End. Read more

Copp's Hill Burying Ground: Founded in 1659 by the city of Boston, this historic burying ground was named after William Copp and his family, a local shoemaker in the area who settled on the land around 1635. The grounds boast views of the Bunker Hill Memorial and the USS Constitution in the distance, is one of the last stops along the Freedom Trail, and is the second oldest burying ground in Boston. Read more

Bunker Hill Monument: "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes," ordered Colonel William Prescott on June 17, 1775, at the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution. On that fateful day, hundreds of under-trained, ill-equipped American colonists battled against overwhelmingly powerful British forces on this famous hill. Although the revolutionaries lost the battle, their strong showing resulted in over 1000 British casualties, letting the Redcoats know that the Americans were a formidable threat. Read more

USS Constitution: There is a certain romance about wooden ships, one that has increased in the past century as their numbers have decreased. Columbus "discovered" America in a wooden sailing ship; the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic in one, too. And of course, there is the USS Constitution—a relic from a different era, a different kind of warfare, and a different-looking world. But the Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides," is unique in that she still floats today, a concrete example of an imagined past that visitors to Boston can and should visit to understand more about American history. Read more

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