A visit to Boston, MA is the stuff of legend, and not just because of the Boston Celtics. You’ve heard all about Boston’s importance in the American Revolution and the growth of the nation. Find out exactly how and why when you embark on the Boston Freedom Trail. This walking trail, identifiable by its red-brick path, winds through 2.5 miles of Boston’s history and lore. Don’t worry; if you’re not up to walking, you can access many of the locations on the trail via public transit or car. There are 16 historical sites on the Freedom Trail in Boston, and while you can start anywhere, we’ve highlighted some of our favorites below.
You’ll start your historic trek at the USS Constitution, located at 1 Constitution Road in the Charlestown neighborhood. This ship, launched in 1797, was one of the first American frigates; it fought the French, the British, and pirates over the course of her career, and earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” when a cannonball bounced off her hull instead of through a sailor’s head. The Constitution does have a dedicated parking lot in the Nautica Garage, so if you’ve driven over, you’ll have somewhere to stash your extra water bottles and that life-sized cutout of Benjamin Franklin you bought for Aunt Matilda, the family history buff. Once there, you can tour the old vessel, participate in activities to get a feel for the seafaring life, and watch re-enactors scramble around in the rigging. As an added bonus, the ship’s copper fastenings were made by none other than Paul Revere. Speaking of which, your next stop is the…
What do you know about Paul Revere? Yeah, he had that famous midnight ride, but he was also a prominent silversmith, eventually branching out into bronze and copper and crafting parts for the warships of the era. The three-story Paul Revere House, originally built around 1680, is located about 2 miles south of the Constitution, at 19 N. Square. Paul’s pad has been restored to its 17th century condition and provides an intimate look at life in that era. Check out the kitchen where Paul ate his supper the night before his ride, and tour the rooms that once housed Paul, his wife and children, as well as his mother, Deborah. Yes, Paul Revere lived with his mom.
If you’d like a little spookiness with your history as you’re exploring Freedom Trail sites, head just over a half-mile north. Soon enough you’ll be at the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street. This hallowed ground’s first bodies were interred in 1660; the location takes its name from the grain storage that used to be nearby. Among the Bostonians buried here are John Hancock (yes, that one), Samuel Adams (alas, there is no beer in there with him), and Paul Revere (his mom is there, too). Unsettling fact: While there are some 2,300 grave markers, rough estimates suggest there’s over 5,000 actual bodies buried in this quiet, relaxing public space.
Shake off the heebie-jeebies left over from the Granary and head to Boston Common—you can’t miss it if you go west on Tremont Street. It’s called “Common” because it was a common pasture for livestock from its inception in 1634 through 1830. The Common has housed Redcoats, been the site of executions, and acted as a communal party ground (though usually not after an execution). It’s now home to several memorials and is a popular place for locals and visitors to hang out. Go ice skating at the Frog Pond in the winter, ride the Frog Pond Carousel in the summer, and be on the lookout for the occasional costumed living-history events.
Just in case we haven’t hammered the point home enough, Boston is an important place in American history. The Freedom Trail has a number of other locations for you to visit, so look up the Freedom Trail Map on your smartphone or computer to get the entire list. Travel well, and enjoy the (midnight) ride!