Fun at the Tea Party Museum, or Simba (King George III) and Scar (Samuel Adams) Visit Boston Harbor

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The Boston Tea Party Museum is a fun, entertaining, educational, hour-long historical extravaganza. It provides a good overview of Revolutionary-era Boston history, a climb-aboard visit to a recreated tea-ship (complete with simulated tea chest tossing), the chance to see one of two remaining tea chests from the fateful night (pretty cool), holographic-enhanced reenactments of key events and personalities, and a ten minute film of the events of April 18-19th, 1775 (Paul Revere’s Ride, the battles of Lexington & Concord, and the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”). Good fun, but unless you crave Disney-style entertainment or are purchasing a package that includes the Museum, it is pricey.

Is it worth the time and expense? Does Boston need Disneyesque historical entertainment? Is the Tea Party “The single most important event leading up to the American Revolution?” Read on…

The Visit

Boston Tea Party Museum New Identity Card

Boston Tea Party Museum Identity Card

Once you arrive at the museum and have a ticket, you are invited to join the next available tour queue. Tours run every ½ hour and can be pretty full in the summer, so when it’s busy you may want to arrive ½ hour before your desired start. You are then ushered into the “Meeting House” and given a card by a colonial-garbed actor. The card holds the pseudo-identity of an actual revolutionary-era citizen (you may be asked to read a line from card later). Once the meeting starts, and in great in theatrical fashion, your guides explain events leading up to the Tea Party.

[Note that you are kept moving from station to station – there is not much time to linger or explore; virtually every step is choreographed. The guides are well trained, personable, and happy to answer questions, but they speak quickly; pay attention as it is easy to miss something.]

Boston Tea Party Museum Ramp

Boston Tea Party Museum Ramp

Leaving the Meeting House, you proceed down a gangplank to visit one of the replica tea ships. The replicas are close to the actual Tea Party ships and are amazing. On board, you learn more about the ships and their context, then go below deck to experience what life aboard was like – very tight quarters for the eight men who lived aboard, and these must have been awful in rough seas.

Boston Tea Party Museum Ship Deck

Boston Tea Party Museum Ship Deck

(Click for a wonderful Boston Globe video on the recreation of the ships.)

Boston Tea Party Museum Tea Toss

Boston Tea Party Museum Tea Toss

To make it more interactive for the kids, simulated chests of tea are heaved overboard. (A full tea chests weighed well over 300 pounds.)

Boston Tea Party Museum Ship Captains Quarters

Boston Tea Party Museum Ship Captains Quarters

On exiting the ships, and while waiting on the dock for your group’s turn to enter the museum, your guide provides additional context to the events and personalities.

Entering the museum, the first stop is a short holographic reenactment of a conversation between two colonial women – one with patriot, and the other with loyalist leanings. The technology is impressive, but the content seems more for show than substance.

The next room houses the Robinson Half Chest. This half chest (a half-chest contained about 100 pounds) was found by teenager John Robinson the morning after the Tea Party. It remained a Robinson family heirloom until it was purchased by the folks who run the museum. After viewing and learning about the chest, visitors turn around and view a holographic-enhanced conversation between the portraits of King George III and Samuel Adams. This is technically innovative and fun, but a little over the top. The pre-recorded reenactors are entertaining, and what they say is true to the history, but a lot is taken out of context.

The last room, the Minuteman Theater, shows a +/- 10 minute film, “Let it Begin Here,” that dramatizes the events of April 18 and 19, 1775. The film wraps around the audience and is complete with air puffs to simulate musket balls flying by. The tie in is that these events were directly as result of the Tea Party. The reenactments are good and historically accurate, the layout and feel of Lexington Green is particularly good; but the portrayal of the participants is overdone and stilted – the actor portraying John Hancock in Lexington is particularly amusing. (Click for an excerpt.)

After the film, you are encouraged to partake in refreshments at Abigail’s Tea Room & Terrace and visit the Gift Shop, which is stocked with every revolutionary-themed tchotchke imaginable. The only thing missing was the chance to purchase a photo of the visitors with a smiling Samuel Adams reenactor.

Historical Accuracy and Quality

Quite good. The Museum provides a solid and largely accurate overview of the events leading up to the Tea Party and the American Revolution as well as useful context of life in this period. The recreation of the tea ships alone is a marvel and worth the visit.

That being said, the events and people are simplified and hyperbolized – both for effect and to pump up the presentation of the Tea Party as “The single most important event leading up to the American Revolution.” No doubt, the Tea Party was a very key event. But it is not the entire story.

I realize that everyone loves a myth with a hero and a villain (Cinderella vs Evil Queen Grimhilde?) – here Samuel Adams vs King George III. But reality is always more nuanced, and the museum makes only anemic attempts to balance their presentation. While this is not necessarily bad, and perhaps even appropriate for a theatrically-themed venue, it is misleading. Suitable for Orlando or Las Vegas, I had hoped Boston might be more thoughtful, or visitors given time to ponder a counterpoint.


Normal admission is $25 for adults, $15 for children – which means a family of four would pay $80 for a one hour show, not including the encouraged refreshments and souvenirs.

Is it worth it? It depends how much you value this type of entertainment. If cash is tight, there are many better values in town – such as the free Freedom Trail Tours run by the National Park Service, a visit and climb through Old Ironsides, the modestly priced visits to the Old State House or Old South Meeting House, or the behind the scenes visits to King’s Chapel or Old North Church, just to name a few.

If you are considering a visit, a much better deal can be found bundled with the purchase of a ticket from the hop-on-off Old Town Trolley (, which includes admission to the Tea Party Museum. Historic Tours of America owns both the Tea Party Museum and Old Town Trolley, and they also offer packages with admission to the Aquarium, Fenway Park, and other Boston sites that might be on your short list. Check online as tickets are available at a discount.

The Verdict

I had fun and found it worth my time. My visit was fun, participative, educational, and entertaining.

Is it a “must see?” IMHO, it doesn’t fit that category as there are many other places where you will learn and experience more, are more authentic, and are much better values. If I was bringing children, I would weight it a little more positively as its technology and interactivity will hold a child’s attention and memory more than some other sites; but still not in the must see category.

But I had fun, Huzzah!

Le Freedom Trail Boston Guide en français

Conseils Pratiques

  1. Il n’ya aucune raison historique à faire les Stops du Freedom Trail dans l’ordre – organisez votre temps de manière à visiter ce qui vous passionne le plus. Parcourez les descriptions des Stops afin d’aider à évaluer votre intérêt.
  2. Veuillez vérifier afin de confirmer les modifications des heures d’exploitation – il peut y avoir des différences d’accès pendant les vacances, certains stops accueillent des événements spéciaux, ou peuvent être fermés pour rénovation. Voir le lien «Aujourd’hui, dans le parc” dans le Chapitre des Ressources.
  3. Bien que seulement 2,5 miles (4 km) de bout en bout, il est difficile de voir l’ensemble du Freedom Trail en une journée – surtout si vous voulez entrer et visiter l’un des Stops.
  4. Il ya d’excellents tours gratuits offerts par les rangers en uniforme du National Park Service (NPS). Les visites partent des Centres NPS à Faneuil Hall (Stop 11) ou depuis l’USS Constitution (Stop 15).
  5. Boston est une ville à pied, et le Freedom Trail ne fait pas exception. Apportez des chaussures confortables, de l’eau, de la crème solaire etc. Bien que les excellents transports publics de la ville de Boston peut vous emmener à la plupart des Stops du centre-ville (Stops 1-11), ceux de la North End et Charlestown ne sont pas bien déservis.
  6. Une façon amusante et peu coûteuse de se rendre ou de partir de Charlestown et du centre ville est la Navette Aquatique. Celle-ce traverse l’arrière-port entre Long Wharf (par l’Aquarium) et le Charlestown Navy Yard (près de l’USS Constitution).
  7. Les “Trolley Tours” du genre monte-et-descends sont de bons moyens de se déplacer, mais ils ne naviguent pas dans les rues du North End – vous aurez besoin de marcher vers / depuis la maison de Paul Revere, du Old North Church et Copp’s Hill.
  8. Conseils les restaurants: les promos de homard sont souvent disponibles dans le bloc de Blackstone; une aire de restauration est dans le bâtiment principal de Quincy Market (par Faneuil Hall) avec des articles pour tous les goûts; Durgin Park, dans le bâtiment Quincy Market North Market est actif depuis 1827 et sert les mets favoris de la Nouvelle-Angleterre; l’Union Oyster House dans le bloc de Blackstone est le plus ancien restaurant en activité de l’Amérique, depuis 1826; le Chart House à Long Wharf est situé dans ce qui était la maison de comptage de John Hancock, datant de 1760; près de Bunker Hill, le Warren Tavern a été l’un des premiers bâtiments soulevés après que Charlestown ai été brûlée pendant la bataille de Bunker Hill, et a servi à acceuillir Paul Revere, George Washington et Benjamin Franklin; et il y a l’incomparable North End, où vous pouvez trouver n’importe quel type de festin à l’italienne imaginable.

Gardner Museum – Venice In Boston

Courtyard at the Gardner Museum

Courtyard at the Gardner Museum

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For those wishing an amazing and intimate taste of Italy while in Boston, a visit to the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum is a must. Designed to mimic a 15th century Venetian palace, it was opened by wealthy socialite Isabella Stuart Gardner in 1903 to house her amazing collection of European Art. A meaningful visit can take a little as two hours. For the Gardner’s, website, click here.

Isabella Stuart Gardner was born in 1840 in New York City to a wealthy family and was educated in New York and Paris. In 1860 she married John (“Jack”) Lowell Gardner Jr. and they moved to Boston, Jack’s hometown. After the death of their only child in 1865, the couple traveled extensively in Europe. Their favorite destination became Venice, and they were frequent guests at the Palazzo Barbaro, the home of some fellow Bostonians and a gathering place for artistic of American and English expatriates. The Palazzo Barbaro was to become a major inspiration for the Gardner Museum.

After inheriting a large sum from her father in 1891, Ms. Gardner Isabella began to collect art seriously. She and Jack dreamed of building a museum to hold the collection, which was to grow to over 2,500 pieces – including paintings, sculpture, drawings, manuscripts, ceramics, from all over the world. They were unable to accomplish this together as Jack died in 1898.

Soon after the conclusion of the filling in of Boston’s Back Bay, Isabella Gardner purchased land for the museum and, with architect Willard T. Sears, designed a museum that would evoke a 15th century Venetian palace. The museum opened to the public in 1903. Mrs. Gardner occupied a 4th floor apartment above the museum until her death in 1924. She left an endowment of $1 million that stipulated that the collection be permanently exhibited substantively in the manner that she left it. This is what you visit today.

Gardner Museum Nighttime View

Gardner Museum Nighttime View – Old & New

Perhaps the greatest treasure is the old building itself. Certainly, the art, sculpture and other objects are important and fascinating. But, strolling the building, gazing at sculptures and flowers in the pink-hued central courtyard (supplied from their own greenhouses), the substantial yet ethereal sensations you get walking the medieval halls, is a close as one can get Venice and old Europe in the Americas. It is a unique and accessible opportunity.

Boston Gardner Museum's Calderwood Hall

Calderwood Hall at Boston’s Gardner Museum

In 2012 an expansion wing opened, presenting a surprising contrast to the old building. Visitors enter through the new wing – while there, make sure to walk up the stairs and take a quick look at the Gardner’s unique concert venue, Calderwood Hall. Seating only 300 people across four levels, concert goers are never more than one row back from the performers; the acoustics are superb. For concert information, click here – if you can, plan early as concerts are often sold out.