Slip back in time to the very founding of America. Walk over the bridge where the “shot hear around the world” was fired. Stand under the balcony where the Declaration of Independence was first read in Massachusetts in 1776. Visit the church where Paul Revere risked his life to warn his neighbors about the pending arrival of British troops.
If you’re a Revolutionary War buff, and even if you just love historical places, visiting Boston has to be on your Top 10 list. It’s wonderful that so much has been preserved for our generation to enjoy.
First on my list was Freedom Trail, a group of 16 historical sites that stretches from downtown Boston to the famed Bunker Hill.
Start in Boston Common, a beautiful 50-acre park that was established in 1634. Today it features a Victorian garden and lagoon where you can take a 15-minute guided pedalboat tour for a unique way to enjoy the city. www.swanboats.com
Before leaving, be sure to stop at Cheers Boston, the site of the popular 1980s TV show Cheers, located right across the street in Beacon Hill. www.cheersboston.com
If you don’t visit Cheers, take the kiddos to the restrooms at the Frog Pond concession area. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile hike, so packing extra water will help, too.
If visiting state capitals is your thing, you’re within walking distance of the Massachusetts State House. You can’t miss the giant copper dome at the top of Beacon Hill. As you pass, you’ll be walking on land once owned by John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
The Park Street Church, which is also on Freedom Trail, is noteworthy because the first performance of “My Country Tis of Thee” was sung by a children’s choir in 1831. During the revolutionary period, the church’s steeple served as one of the tallest landmarks in the city greeting people as they arrived by horse or ship.
Because of Boston’s rich history, you’ll find many prominent people buried at The Granary. The old tombstones are very interesting for their inscriptions. Another nearby church, King’s Chapel, was ordered built by King James II. Its cemetery is the final resting place for many original colonists.
The Ben Franklin statute marks the site of the very first public school in America, which was established in 1635. It also notes the route to Franklin’s birthplace on Milk Street.
A must-see stop on the Freedom Trail is the Old South Meeting House, from where colonists marched to the harbor for the historic Boston Tea Party. Today, it is a museum full of interesting tidbits about the Revolutionary War. Admission is $6 for adults, and $1 for children 6 to 18. www.osmh.org
The balcony of the Old State House is where the Declaration of Independence was formally presented to the citizens of Boston. A cobblestone memorial at the front of the building commemorates the site of the Boston massacre. The Bostonian Society also offers guided tours of the museum and gallery. Admission is $10 for adults, and children under 18 are free. www.bostonhistory.org/?s=osh
Nearing the halfway point of the Miracle Mile, take time to relax at the famed Faneuil Hall. A popular revolutionary era gathering place as well as a major marketplace, today it still serves as a market and a great place to stop for a drink, a snack or a full meal. There are 14 restaurants and 36 food vendors inside the Quincy Market Colonnade. National Park rangers present historical talks every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. http://www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com
For a real historical experience, walk an extra block to the Union Oyster House, America’s oldest continuing restaurant, which once counted Daniel Webster as a frequent guest. Their specialty is oysters, but the clam chowder is excellent. www.unionoysterhouse.com
Paul Revere’s home is located a short distance away from Faneuil Hall. It is the oldest building in downtown Boston and dates back to 1680. It has since been restored as a museum. Because Revere was a silversmith, you can watch artisans create beautiful jewelry and other silver art on site. The lines are rather lengthy during summer months, but the price is reasonable at $3.50 for adults and $1 for children 5 to 17. www.paulreverehouse.org
A few blocks away, you’ll come to Revere Mall along the route he took to get to Old North Church to help sound the alarm about the approaching British soldiers. The church, which is still used as such today, is open daily for free guided tours. You’ll see the pews where Revolutionary War heroes spent their Sunday mornings. Sorry, you can’t visit the balcony, but a gift shop, which supports the church, offers all sorts of Boston gifts and revolutionary trinkets. www.oldnorth.com
The next stop is Copp’s Hill Burying Ground where thousands of people were laid to rest, many in unmarked graves overlooking Boston Harbor.
Take a breath and lace up your walking shoes for the final leg of the Freedom Trail is a one-mile hike across Boston Harbor the Charleston Navy Yard and home of “Old Ironsides,” the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat in the harbor. Officially known as the USS Constitution, you can take a free guided tour and learn how ocean battles were fought in hot, tight compartments. A nearby museum offers stories of historical sea battles and a glimpse of equipment used during that era. Admission is through suggested donations, but are not required. www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org
Since you’ve come this far, you might as well continue all the way up to Bunker Hill, the site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War. If you still have strength in your legs, climb the 294 steps to the top of the monument and enjoy some spectacular views of Boston, the harbor and surrounding area. www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/bhm.htm
If you love the Revolutionary War, you can’t visit Boston without making a 20-mile side trip to Concord, Mass., where British troops engaged Minutemen in the first skirmish of the war. The “shot heard round the world” was fired across a bridge located at the Minute Man National Historic Site. The area also features a splendid bike path through a wildlife refuge. www.nps.gov/mima/index.htm
Other things to do
If the Revolutionary era isn’t your cup of tea, there is still plenty of things to do in Boston. Consider some of these:
- Boston Duck Tours — Who needs to walk when you can ride a duck? Using World War II amphibious landing vehicles, this tour takes guests through downtown Boston and past many historical sites, then converts into a ship for a unique tour of the area along the Charles River. Suitable for all ages, tickets are $35.99 for adults, $29.99 for $24.99 for kids age 3 to 11, and $10.50 for children under 3. www.bostonducktours.com
- Boston Children’s Museum — This world-renowned facility is known for its pioneering science exhibits where kids of all ages can learn, play, create and build. www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org
- Boston Museum of Science — This popular hands-on museum features a butterfly garden and dinosaur collection as well as a live animal care center, space travel exhibit, an a display showcasing the technology employed by Pixar to make movies like Toy Story. Kids and adults alike will find this to be a fascinating place to visit. www.mos.org
- Boston’s North End — If you relish Italian food, Boston’s North End won’t leave you disappointed. With more than 100 exquisite restaurants offering everything from fine dining to casual pubs, you’re sure to find something to delight your palate. www.northendboston.com
- Fenway Park — In an era of megastadiums, step back in time to the early 1900s when baseball was in its infancy as a professional sport. Not only can you take a tour of the legendary ballpark, and get an up close view of the Green Monster that eats home runs, you can enjoy watching the Red Socks play a day or night game. http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum — Study the life and presidency of John F. Kennedy as well as learn about the space race and his involvement in the burgeoning civil rights movement. Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for teens and free for kids 12 and under. www.jfklibrary.org
- Harvard University — Stroll the grounds of America’s oldest university, pronounced “Haaavaaad” on a self-guided walking tour or a student-led tour, both of which are free. www.harvard.edu/visitors/tours
- Spirit of Boston — There is no better way to view the Boston skyline and the world-famous harbor than through a dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Boston. It’s pricey with adult tickets starting at $67.90, but the food is excellent and most cruises feature live entertainment. Strolling along the deck and enjoying the sunset and twinkling lights of the city is a memorable way to cap a trip to Boston. www.spiritcruises.com/boston
- Walden’s Pond — Visit the site that inspired legendary author Henry David Thoreau and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Now a state recreation site, visitors can enjoy hiking, biking and swimming. You can even visit a replica of Thoreau’s one-room cabin. For more information, click here.
Where to stay
There are no campgrounds or RV parks in Boston itself, but there are several in the surrounding area. In fact, some campgrounds offer shuttle services downtown, which means you can avoid the pricey parking fees to drive into the city.
Normandy Farms Campground — The property dates back to 1759, but the campground is one of the premier award-winning RV parks in America. It features multiple swimming pools, an 18-hole disc golf course, a very large bike park, a creative arts center and a full wellness center. The “Freedom Tail” dog park will keep Fido busy and active for long periods. In fact, people can arrange to keep their dogs in rather large kennels right on site so they can enjoy a full day of touring. www.normandyfarms.com
Minuteman Campground — Ideal for families, this RV park offers full hook-ups as well as water/electric and tent sites. Cabins are also available for rent. www.minutemancampground.com
Wompatuck State Park — This campground offers 232 wooded campsites, 140 of which have electricity. Located 35-minutes from Boston, it also features 12 miles of paved bike trails and plenty of hiking trails. Be sure to take a sip of water from the fresh Mt. Blue Spring. For more information, click here.