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The USS Constitution Moored In Boston - Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachussets

Massachussetts: The Freedom Trail

ABOUT THE FREEDOM TRAIL

We have visited Boston on several occasions but had yet to do the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile journey that takes you past many of the significant places associated with the first rumblings of a people who were disgruntled by the rule of the British colonialists. We’d done some of the sights but this time we decided to go the whole way! Walking shoes on, and off went!

The trail is clearly marked by a red line running through the streets of the city. It is quite hard to get lost, buts not impossible! 

There are 16 sites along the way to check out. Some are more major than others and you have the option of going in (often for a cost) and learning more about the history of that particular location. On the day we walked the trail some of the buildings, for example, the Paul Revere House was closed – so check ahead for opening times to make sure that you are not disappointed that the one place you really wanted to visit was closed!

We spent about a half-day walking the Freedom Trail, starting at Bunker Hill. We stopped at a few places for an extended time, paying entry fees to go in. You could easily spend the day doing this.

Below are 10 of ‘our’ highlights from the Freedom Trail.

1. BUNKER HILL MONUMENT

The Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War and predicted the character and outcome of the rest of the war.

It took a force of 3,000 Redcoats three assaults to dislodge the Colonial Militia from a hastily constructed redoubt atop Breed’s Hill in Charlestown. While technically a British victory, the Battle of Bunker Hill proved that Colonial forces could fight effectively against the British. Confusion about the name of the hill where the battle occurred goes back to the battle itself. Colonel William Prescott’s orders were to fortify Bunker’s Hill but he chose Breed’s Hill instead. A detailed map of the battle prepared by British Army Lieutenant Page reversed the two hills. Whatever the original error, the conflict was always known as the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The monument on Bunker Hill, comemorating the first conflict of the Revolutionary War - Freedom Trail
The 221-foot granite obelisk celebrating the Battle of Bunker Hill was completed in 1842

2. USS CONSTITUTION

A short stroll from Bunker Hill is the naval dockyard of Boston. Here you will find the USS Constitution.

Launched in Boston in 1797, USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat and earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere.

The first place you will come across when getting to the dockyards is a museum dedicated to the USS Constitution. Here you’ll find out about the long history of this great ship and maritime history and life during the time she was an active naval vessel. It took us about 20-minutes to explore the museum – we were in a bit of a rush but you could spend an hour or more here!

The USS Constitution Museum at the Boston Naval shipyard
A model of the USS Constitution in full-sail
A gallery inside the USS Constitution Museum

Leaving the museum we headed down to see the mighty ‘Ironsides’ herself. Despite being tamed at her berth she is still impressive and must be some sight when out at sea with the wind in her sails. You are able to climb aboard and wander the deck and go below to the two lower decks.

The USS Constitution moored in Boston
The canons on the maindeck of the USS Constitution
The hammocks belowdecks for the sailors aboard the USS Constitution
The canons on the lower deck

3. COPP’S HILL BURYING GROUND

From the Constitution, we crossed the water and made our way to the Copp’s Hill burying ground, named after shoemaker William Copp, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the final resting place and burying ground of merchants, artisans, and craftspeople who lived in the North End.

Some notables buried in Copp’s Hill are fire-and-brimstone preachers Cotton and Increase Mather, two Puritan ministers closely associated with the Salem witch trials, and Black Freemasonry founder Prince Hall. The burying ground also holds Old North Church sexton Robert Newman, the man who hung the lanterns on the night of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and Edmund Hartt, builder of the USS Constitution.

Copp's Hill burying ground in Boston's North End

4. OLD NORTH CHURCH

Close to the Copp’s Hill burying ground is the Old North End Church. Visit the site that launched the American Revolution! Built in 1723, Boston’s oldest church is best known for the midnight ride of Paul Revere and “One if by land, two if by sea.” 

The Old North End Church is the oldest in Boston
The simple interior of the Old North End Church

5. PAUL REVERE HOUSE

We walked to the Paul Revere House, knowing it was closed that day to visitors. It is run by an independent non-profit. Check their website for the opening hours and entry fees.

Built around 1680, the Paul Revere House, owned by the legendary patriot from 1770-1800, is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston and also the only official Freedom Trail historic site that is a home.

6. THE NEW ENGLAND HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL

This memorial is not part of the Freedom Trail (although it has a definite connection to liberty) but it is right on the route and in our opinion is worth checking out as you pass by.

The New England Holocaust Memorial

7. FANEUIL HALL

Often referred to as “the home of free speech” and the “Cradle of Liberty,” Faneuil Hall hosted America’s first Town Meeting. The Hall’s vital role in revolutionary politics had not been part of its original plans, but it became home to an intricate collection of events that shaped the nation’s history.

Sadly, Faneuil Hall was also closed the day we visited. Faneuil Hall is owned by the City of Boston and operated as a visitor center and historic site by the National Park Service.

The National Park Service Visitor Center is located on the market (first floor) and the lower level of the building. The Great Hall is located on the second floor.

Faneuil Hall

8. OLD STATE HOUSE & BOSTON MASSACRE SITE

I have grouped these two together as they are colocated. The Boston Massacre site is at the intersection of State and Congress Streets in Downtown Boston, outside of the Old State House. 

On March 5, 1770, after months of tensions due to occupation and taxation, Bostonians and Redcoats clashed in the streets of Boston. What ended with five civilians killed by gunfire, Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr, led to the rallying of Bostonians against the Crown and the evacuation of troops in Boston. They would not return until 1774.

The marker for the site of the Boston Massacre outside the Old State House

Through Massacre, Revolution, and fire, the Old State House stands as the oldest surviving public building in Boston. Built in 1713, the building served as the centre of civic, political, and business life.

You can go and explore inside the building on a self-guided expedition or join a tour.

The Old State House in Boston

9. GRANARY BURYING GROUND

Established in 1660, some of America’s most notable citizens rest here. Named for the 12,000-bushel grain storage building that was once next door, the historic burying ground has approximately 2,300 markers. There is a discrepancy between the number of headstones and the number of people buried in the Granary – it is estimated there are over 5,000 Bostonians who have made the Granary their final resting place. ​At one time the Granary was part of Boston Common, and the livestock that grazed the Common handled landscaping at the burial ground as well. During the Victorian era, the headstones were reorganized into neat rows to make way for a modern innovation of the time, the lawnmower.

The Granary Burying ground was the final resting place of many of the notable figures involved in the Revolution

10. MASSACHUSETTS STATE HOUSE & BOSTON COMMON

The end of our walk along Boston’s Freedom Trail was at the Massachusetts State House and Boston Commons.

Designed by Charles Bulfinch, the ‘new’ and current State House has served as the seat of the Massachusetts government since its opening in 1798. Holding the legislative and executive branches, it sits adjacent to the former site of the historic Hancock mansion.

The Massachussets State Building
Across from the Massachussets State House is a Civil War Memorial in honour Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment

Across from the Massachusetts Statehouse is Boston Common. Established in 1634, Boston Common is America’s oldest public park. Puritan colonists purchased the land rights to the Common’s 44 acres from the first European settler of the area, Anglican minister William Blackstone. 

It is a great place to relax and cool off with an ice cream or cold drink after your trip along the Freedom Trail

In summary …

  • If you want to walk the whole Freedom Trail and plan to make stops along the way to get a fuller experience of some of the sights then plan to spend at least a half-day doing so.
  • The trail is mostly flat so no hills to worry about, but you will be trudging on concrete for many hours so wear some comfortable shoes.
  • The Boston weather can vary from frigid, snowy weather in the winter to hot and humid in the summer and everything in between so plan accordingly.

Planning your visit to the Freedom Trail

How you experience the Freedom Trail is up to you. We decided to do the complete trail starting at Bunker Hill and finishing at Boston Common. We could have done it the other way around or started somewhere along the route and done it over several days. 

We also decided to do this as a self-guided tour but you can opt to join an organized tour group to get a more in-depth perspective of the history around the sights and their context in the events leading to the Revolutionary War. 

Best time to visit Boston

The best time to visit Boston is from June to October. Mild autumn weather makes touring around on foot a joy. And even though summer brings in swarms of tourists and expensive hotel rates, the sidewalk cafes, baseball games and outdoor concerts make it worth a trip. Winter is chilly, so pack a warm coat and a pair of boots if you decide to see Beantown sprinkled (or immersed) with snow. Another incentive for wintertime: you might catch a great deal on a hotel. If winter is too cold for you but summer and fall’s hotel rates fall outside your budget, try visiting at the start of the spring season.

Other things to do whilst in Boston

1. ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM

At once intimate and unparalleled in its grandeur, the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum draws on the art collection of its eponymous founder. Within a Venetian-style palazzo, surrounding an elegant courtyard decorated in verdant plants, masterpieces hang next to architectural elements Gardner purchased from Europe. The ambience of the museum itself is a treasure, and the wonders it holds offer a one-of-a-kind experience. If you’re lucky enough to be in Boston during the third week of the month, soak up the museum’s monthly Third Thursdays event, when neighbours come together to sip champagne, listen to lively music in the courtyard, and laugh together over gallery games.

2. BOSTON TEA PARTY MUSEUM

At the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, you can be a part of the famous event that forever changed the course of American history through a multi-sensory experience that includes live actors, interactive exhibits, and full-scale replica 18th-century sailing vessels!

3. BOSTON DUCK TOUR

Hop aboard Boston’s Original and World Famous, Boston Duck Tours and enjoy a fully narrated, historic tour of Boston in a WWII style amphibious vehicle that travels on land and water. You’ll be greeted by one of our legendary ConDUCKtors, who’ll be narrating your tour. You’ll cruise by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, it’s time for a Big Splash as your ConDUCKtor drives the DUCK right into the Charles River for breathtaking views of Boston and Cambridge.

 

Where to stay in Boston

1. ELIOT SUITE HOTEL (5-STAR)

Built in 1925, the historic Eliot Suite Hotel is located in Boston’s Back Bay neighbourhood. It offers an on-site sashimi bar and elegantly decorated rooms with down comforters and marble bathrooms.

The Eliot is less than five minutes away from Hynes Convention Center. Nearby shopping includes the Prudential Shopping Center and Newberry Street shops. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is 1,000 yards away

2. THE VERB HOTEL

Featuring an outdoor pool, The Verb Hotel is located in Boston. Free Wi-Fi access is available. Fenway Park is conveniently located 200 yards from the hotel.

The charming rooms at the Verb Hotel feature private bathrooms, air conditioning and cable TVs.

Guests at The Verb Hotel are within walking distance from several dining options in the area.

3. MOROCCAN BOUTIQUE GUEST HOUSE

Featuring uniquely decorated suites, Moroccan Boutique Guest House is located in Boston.

The property is 2.1 mi from Boston Common, 2.7 mi from Copley Square and 3.6 mi from Fenway Park.

The Monument Restaurant and Tavern is located just steps from the property and serves wood-fired pizzas, steak, seafood; brunch on weekends.

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