My first purchase in Boston was a freedom Trail guide detailing all 16 of the official historical sites and some side stops worth your interest. The Trail was our primary tourist goal for our Fall 2016 trip to the Boston area and it kicked off our homeschool American History tour. The Freedom Trail appealed to me because I wanted my kids to have a hands-on learning experience walking the same streets as some of our founding fathers and those who dedicated their lives to bring our country to independence.
The logistics of walking the trail is easy. It is marked by red bricks inlaid in the sidewalks. Forgive the pun but you just have to follow the red brick Road (or sidewalk). You could follow the trail without having a guide book or a paid tour but I loved the insight the guide (we used a book ) provided and it helped us relate why each site was important historically. I feel without the guide book we would have missed out on some of the details of each site’s significance. I chose the book over a paid tour so we could take our time and adjust our schedule as we went. It was a hefty walk for my five-year-old. And breaking it up into two days helped us to enjoy it while also getting the full experience. We did the trail in its entirety from start to finish beginning at the Boston Common.
When Starting at the Boston Common, you weave your way through America’s oldest public park. The park was lovely. The fountains, the green space, all of it was well taken care of. And the locals of Boston are very neighborly and kind. It was a quick walk from the train station. There were a few street vendors. And a hop on hop off bus tour office located on the grounds. The Swan boats in the lagoon were a lovely touch. My kids loved the fountain.
Situated adjacent to Boston Common is the Massachusetts Statehouse. You can get a tour of the Statehouse. My kids weren’t really interested at their young age and I worried about burning them out too quickly on day one. So we skipped the tour with every intention of coming back and doing another day (unfortunately there were so many things Boston had to offer we are saving this tour for another trip). We continued our walk.
Taking a stroll by the Park Street church we made our way to the Granary Burying Ground, Boston’s third oldest cemetery. Here we got to see Paul Revere’s gravestone, the final resting place of the five victims of the Boston massacre, as well as the graves of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Payne. My kids favorite part was looking for the grave of Mary Goose i.e. Mother Goose. Though Mary wasn’t the first Mother Goose (nor the last I’m sure) it was a great way to kick off the search for historical celebrities on the freedom Trail. At this point my kids only had a vague concept of Paul Revere, but Mother Goose they knew.
We then made our way to King’s Chapel. It’s a beautiful little early Anglican church with opportunities to walk in and browse where our forefathers celebrated their faith. And the king’s Chapel burying ground (not truly affiliated with the King’s Chapel ) is the final resting place of Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower, and other historical figures.
Our next stop was the statue of Benjamin Franklin at the original Boston Latin school. Though the school is no longer based in this location, Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended. Boston Latin was a free public school to the rich and poor (if you were a boy).
The next stop was the old corner bookstore where you can pick up a book…. I mean a burrito. As Chipotle has taken over the lease and use of the building. We did not go inside. And the kids were not impressed. My five-year-old started getting the impression that Chipotle was the founding fathers food of choice. We moved on.
The old South meeting House was next on our list. There was an entrance fee but we enjoyed our time there.
The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in Boston. To me this was one of the prettiest buildings on our tour, other than the churches. We enjoyed our tour here with the gift shop. Outside is the site of the Boston massacre. Tastefully marked with plaques on the ground. This is where we ended our first day on the Freedom Trail. Conveniently located under the old Statehouse is the state Street station on the Metro blue and orange. This Metro stop gave us great access in and out of the city and the ability to pick up right where we had left the trail.
But before we called it quits for day 1 (as it was still early afternoon) We then took the side jaunt to the Boston tea party Museum and Abigail’s teahouse. George Washington’s favorite tea, anyone?
We walked a few blocks down Congress Street to the Fort point Channel, across the bridge, to the Boston tea party Museum and ships. This is literally my favorite part of the entire trip to Boston. The guided Museum tour through the ships and the dock were fantastic. It was such a hands-on experience for my kids they still reenact dumping tea in the harbor at home. Abigail’s Tea House was also a fantastic treat. We bought a Tea sample cup which allowed us to taste all the different teas they had to offer. Plus we had a light lunch with sandwiches, soup, and pastries on the side. Abigail’s is a quick service dining establishment with a historical flair. I would definitely go back to the tea party Museum and Abigail’s, a commendation I do not give many places. How many times can I say fantastic and you still believe me? Well whatever the number is double it because this was a fantastic Museum and eatery.
After tea we headed north walking along the harbor sidewalk enjoying the newer parts of Boston. The kids loved looking at the architecture and having a camera of their own to enjoy taking pictures.
We hopped on a Metro train near the aquarium before the evening rush hour and headed back to our hotel. We had a great first day.
We started with a Metro ride to the State Street train station. We picked up right where we left off in the freedom Trail heading towards Faneuil Hall and Quincy market. I had been to Faneuil Hall and Quincy market 20 years prior, but it never ceases to amaze me. Save your appetite, there’s plenty to eat and experience at this location. And it’s a great place to pick up a souvenir and get your national Park stamps.
Just up the way though not on the freedom Trail is the Union oyster House and we couldn’t help but stop here and eat at this historic restaurant. It wasn’t quite time for lunch so we ordered some lobster ravioli and clam chowder. We stopped to look in the Green Dragon Tavern but didn’t stay since it really is a bar and not quite the place to feed a seven and five-year-old. We finished up in this area by winding through Haymarket, an open air fruit and veggie market on the weekend. If I was a Bostonian I would have definitely been picking up my weekly groceries because the prices could not be beat. We didn’t stay in Haymarket long because the rule is if you touch it you buy it and with two Littles I didn’t trust their fingers to stay in their pockets or to not get lost in the madhouse.
We continued our jaunt to the north end following the red brick path. I was most excited about Paul Revere’s house. It’s the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston and is the only home on the freedom Trail. But for a trailblazing horseman like Paul Revere, I could not imagine a more interesting house for a man who had 16 children. We literally went through it three times. It wasn’t really a spectacular house but it was so interesting to be in the home of a successful working man from that time period. A picture of what he had to lose if the Revolution hadn’t succeeded.
By this time it was lunch, so we backtracked a little bit to Boston’s version of Little Italy to get some great Italian cuisine. You won’t need me to tell you that the North End is rich with cultural infusion but none seem to be felt as strongly as the Italian cuisine clustered in the north end. We had lunch at a quaint little Italian bistro with white tablecloths and fantastic coffee. I wish I could remember the name but you literally can’t trip in the North End without falling face first into a bowl of spaghetti. So even if you don’t eat where we did you will find something completely satisfying.
Continuing our journey we made our way to the Old North Church. The walks between sites were longer by this point but the views did not disappoint. There were so many interesting things to look at. The kids really enjoyed their time immersing themselves in the old world look of Boston.
The Clough house is not on the freedom trail’s 16 listed sites but it is a great Printing and Chocolate shop. We were able to see a man use the Gutenberg press to create documents much like the early documents of our country were created. The owner of the shop, a kindly gentleman, was dressed in period clothes and diligently shared how, why, and where he acquired such fantastic printing materials. You have to stop there. It smells like chocolate and old books. It is a pure endorphin release as soon as you walk in the door.
The North Church was lovely and for added drama we watched national treasure the night before so the kids would have some context of why the old North Church is significant. Though I will say my five-year-old was looking for an actual treasure at this location. Luckily his attention span is short and feeling he was a part of a historical discovery was enough of a treasure. There was a great gift shop here we didn’t spend a lot of time in.
We walked by the Copp’s Hill burying ground taking a short stroll around, but by this point we had seen so many graves it started to feel redundant. Across the street, our guidebook pointed out the narrowest house in Boston called the skinny house only 10 feet wide at its widest. The Kids weren’t really interested in the home but I found it hysterical. Yes people still live there. Maybe a second full day of walking and keeping little people hydrated had a little bit to do with the hysteria though. Check it out as you walk by. The Zillow sale price on this property was $900,000 as of 2017.
The last two stops on the Freedom Trail are Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution . We did not make it to Bunker Hill. Boston was experiencing a heat wave and they closed the entrance to the monument over a certain temperature. We could have walked to see it in person but my children are so young we might as well just look at pictures on the Internet. Instead we spent more time at the USS Constitution Museum. We toured the ship twice and went to the Museum. It was fantastic. so many hands-on activities. so many incredible Museum employees. We were even able to sign copper plating that will be used to restore the Constitution hull. The boat old Ironsides was in dry dock while we were there because the ship that old needs work at regular intervals. Learning about the Maritime history of the United States was fascinating. Side note don’t forget your government issue ID or they won’t let you on the ship.
When we just couldn’t stand any more fun we grabbed an uber and headed back to the hotel.
The Freedom Trail was tons of fun. It was a fantastic jumping off point for the Boston trip and I feel like the kids experienced a little slice of hands on history.