Ultimate Freedom Trail Tour Guide & Apps – Tips, Secrets & More

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“… just the right mix of content to make for a terrific tour…” David J. Asher  “Saved me with visitors from the West Coast…”  Steve S.

Download the free Apps – use with the Guide or by themselves when visiting the Freedom Trail!

For the iPhone                 For Android 

The Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide provides everything you need to bring your visit to The Freedom Trail to life. Use it to plan your visit, as a interactive tour guide, or even as a souvenir! Includes FREE STREAMING AUDIO NARRATION – a personal tour guide in your pocket (requires web access)!

The most comprehensive guide available, by far!

  • Overview and detailed background information for all 16 Official and >50 Unofficial Freedom Trail Stops
  • Side trips to Harvard Square/Cambridge, Lexington, Concord, Adams NHP, & Boston Harbor Islands
  • Available in print or ebook formats.
  • Print version retains ebook features with QR Code access to auto-translate and web materials
  • > 70 photographs, maps and illustrations
  • Auto-translate all major book chapters (with web-access) into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and more
  • Access to additional free information including an interactive Google Map Tour, an Android app and iPhone/Pad app
  • Budget tips including the best free guided-tours, where to find a bargain lobster, historic restaurants, and even a harbor cruise for $3 (children are free)
  • Detailed itineraries for an hour, 1/2, full and two day visits. Learn exactly what to visit with your limited time
  • Child-friendly and family-oriented tips
  • Descriptions of all the events that bring the Freedom Trail to life including the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill – more than is provided by any other tour guide


Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide Updates & Supplemental Information

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This exclusive additional information is for readers of “Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide – Tips, Secrets, & Tricks.”

Additional places to see and visit on or near the Freedom Trail and Historic Boston

Schedule and contact information updates

Map additions, updates and other maps

Budget tips, additional information for the frugal traveler

Miscellaneous information, corrections and tips

World Class places (and personal favorites) around Boston to visit – not Freedom Trail related

Additional places to see and visit on or near the Freedom Trail and Historic Boston

Schedule and contact information updates

  • Today at the Park – Boston National Park Service listing of what is happening each day.
  • The National Heritage Museum discussed on page 66 of the print version and the Lexington & Concord section in the eBook no longer has the “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty” exhibit.
  • King’s Chapel:  Mon, Thu, Fri. Sat. 10-4*; Tues, Wed 10-11:30, 1-4* Last entry 15 minutes prior to close. Please check as the church may be closed due to scheduled or unscheduled services or inclement weather. *=until 5 PM Memorial through Labor Day.
  • Paul Revere house: Open Daily April 15 – October 31 – 9:30 – 5:15, November 1 – April 14 – 9:30 – 4:15,  Closed on Mondays in January, February and March. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Map additions, updates and other maps

This section contains map updates that might be useful.  The maps that I’ve created are updated frequently, so please check to see if there is a new version.

  • This Google map includes places beyond the Freedom Trail & downtown Boston that are mentioned in the book or this Update and Supplemental Information webpage.

Budget tips, additional information for the frugal traveler

Good deals and recommendations on travel, restaurants for the visitor interested in maximizing their finances:

  • There are Free Student-Led & Self-Guided Walking Tours of Harvard Yard available directly from Harvard. For the self-guided tours, click here (includes a PDF map and audio files). For mobile phone versions of the self-guided tour, click here. For information about the free student-led tours, click here.
  • Parking:  Search AAA for parking discounts. I know that Central Parking, which has multiple locations throughout the city, offers printable (or smartphone) coupons.  Those available through AAA are lower priced than accessing direct through Central Parking. Boston Central Parking link is here.
  • A good alternative to traditional hotels (Boston is quite pricey) can be found at Airbnb. Through Airbnb, you can rent rooms or even entire apartments for very reasonable prices. Be sure to make sure the place is near the MBTA or in a neighborhood which offers the kind of amenities you need – including parking.
  • A relative bargain for lodging on Newbury Street ( in very fashionable Back Bay) is the Newbury Guest House. If needed, book parking at the time of reservation – limited and a deal at $20/night.
  • A reminder that the Nautica Garage at 88 Constitution Road, Charlestown is a bargain for parking right near the USShttp://www.stevestravelguide.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1737&action=edit Constitution.  With National Park Service Validation – get it when visiting the USS Constitution, it is $6 for 2 hours, and $10 for 4 hours – enough for a 1/2 day Freedom Trail visit.
  • Eater’s Boston edition is one of the best sources for what is happening food-wise in town. A recent post identifies 18 iconic sandwiches; sandwiches are always a budget meal, and some of these are truly spectacular – I will feature some of these, as well as others I think they missed in other posts.
  • Here is a posting for the Roasted Lamb sandwich at the Flour bakery + cafes. The four Flours are great destinations for surprisingly sensational sandwiches, pastry and quick meals. World-class.

Miscellaneous information, corrections and tips

  • Correction: The National Heritage Museum referenced on page 66 of the print version and the Lexington & Concord section of the eBook no longer has the “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty” exhibit.
  • Correction:  the excellent guided tours given (Battle Green Guides) in Lexington are provided by the Lexington Tourism Committee and not the Lexington Historical Society.
  • Correction:  The Massachusetts charter was revoked by King James II in 1684, not 1686. Sir Edmund Andros arrived in December of 1686.
  • Correction:  The High-Resolution Photo Gallery can now be seen here.

World Class places (and personal favorites) around Boston to visit – not Freedom Trail related

  • Myers+Chang, fantastic Asian inspired cuisine.
  • Huge lobster sandwich at the Beach Plum outside of Portsmouth, NH. Truly amazing!
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Adams National Historical Park

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John Adam's Birthplace

John Adam’s Birthplace in Quincy MA

An easy, rewarding, and often-overlooked Freedom Trail side-trip is to the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy. The park includes the homes of American presidents John Adams (the famous Patriot and 2nd US President), his son, John Quincy Adams (the 6th president), and their descendants from 1720 to 1927. The park is right off of the MBTA Red line and is a simple, quick, and inexpensive trip from Boston. The park is open from mid-April until mid-November. Check their website here or call 617-770-1175.

A visit starts at the NPS visitor center – access to the homes is only permitted via ranger-led tours. Tours run two hours and cost $5 for adults; children under 16 and holders of a National Park Passes are free. Before leaving the visitor center, view the excellent short film, “Enduring Legacy,” that overviews the Adams’ lives and accomplishments.

The first stop is at the presidents’ birthplaces. To start, you will visit the wonderful, sparse, “saltbox” house (c. 1681) where John was born in 1735. Only 75 feet away is the house where John and Abigail gave birth to John Quincy in 1767. That house also holds the law office where John drafted the Massachusetts Constitution, which later served as the model for the US Constitution.

Adams' Old House with Stone Library & Garden

Adams’ Old House with Stone Library & Garden

The next stop is at the “Old House.” Built in 1731, it was purchased by John and Abigail as a more suitable residence after their return from John’s diplomatic posting to London in 1788. The Adams family expanded the home from its original seven rooms to what you visit today. It was also home to John Quincy, his son Charles Francis (ambassador to Great Britain during the Civil War) and their descendants. It served as a summer White House and is full of original family artifacts and art that helps tell the Adams’ story – a real treasure to visit.

Next door to the Old House, set in a beautiful garden,  is the Stone Library, built in 1873. This serves as the John Quincy Adams presidential library and holds over 14,000 books, artifacts and family paintings.

United First Parish Church - Quincy MA - Tombs of John & John Quincy Adams

United First Parish Church in Quincy MA

Across the street from the visitor center, but not part of the National Park, is the United First Parish Church. The Church contains the tombs of John, Abigail, John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams, website here. Founded in 1636 as a branch of the Puritan church in Boston, this is the fourth Church building erected on this site. Designed by Alexander Paris (also designer of Quincy Market), it was completed in 1828, with granite and funding from John Adams. If you have time, take the brief tour of the church and the crypt; a small donation is requested. Tours are available on the same schedule as the National Historical Park, from mid-April through mid-November.

Freedom Trail Ultimate Tour & History Guide – Touring & Suggested Itineraries

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Self-Guided or a Tour?

So, should you take a guided tour or guide yourself? This book contains virtually everything a paid guide will share (actually, a lot more), and allows you to go at your own pace. With the free companion apps, or those available from the National Park Service (covers only the 16 official stops, but is very good, download here), you can have a wonderful visit. However, a group tour can be a lot of fun and may engage you in a way that a self-guided tour will not.

There are excellent free tours given by National Park Service (NPS) rangers. Most of the paid guided tours cost $12-15 per adult (some have senior discounts) and $8-10 for children.

Most tours run an hour or an hour and a half and concentrate on selected parts of The Freedom Trail – such as the downtown portions (Boston Common to Faneuil Hall – Stops 1 – 11), the North End (Paul Revere House, Old North Church & Copp’s Hill – Stops 12 – 14 ), or Charlestown (USS Constitution and Bunker Hill – Stops 15 – 16).

Within these time constraints, the guided tours do not allow you to spend much time within any of the Stops and will often not enter the Stops at all. Almost all will skip entering those Stops that charge a special admission fee (Old South Meeting House, Old State House and the Paul Revere House).

Recommended tour companies include:

National Park Service. The National Park Service (NPS) provides free ranger-guided tours and lectures including two 60 minute tours of The Freedom Trail (one covering downtown, the other the North End – combine them for a more complete visit), the USS Cassin Young, USS Constitution, and Faneuil Hall. They are highly recommended, well done, and the price is right. Some tours are attendance limited and first come, first served, so get there in time to get an admission sticker, usually 1/2 hour before the scheduled start. Call (617) 242 5642(617) 242 5642 for information. For web-based tour information and times, click here.

The Freedom Trail Foundation. The Freedom Trail Foundation is the official voice of The Freedom Trail, and some of the proceeds from their tours goes to support the Trail. They offer a variety of quality tours given by costumed actors. For web-based information, click here.

Boston By Foot. Boston By Foot is a non-profit organization that uses unpaid volunteer guides that are well trained and have in-depth knowledge. They offer a variety of tours, including some geared to children. You do not need an advance ticket, just show up and pay the guide. Their approach is more in depth than many other companies, and they are very good. For web-based information, click here.

There are many other quality tour companies, some with specially tours such as for photographers or historic pub crawls. Search Google for “Boston Walking Tours” or TripAdvisor for “Freedom Trail, Boston.”

Suggested Itineraries

The entire Freedom Trail is only 2.7 miles, but seeing it all in one day will be difficult, especially if you want to spend time visiting any Stop. To help you plan, I’ve provided a quick assessment of each of the official 16 Stops, its significance to the Revolutionary period, and the recommended time needed for a visit.

Beneath the Stop Review section below, you will find itinerary recommendations with alternatives for 1/2 day and full day self-guided visits. For a two day visit, combine two of the day or four of the 1/2 day itineraries. Most of the downtown Stops (1 through 11) are close together. If including a guided tour, plan accordingly based on what that tour covers.

Walking directly from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall is only about .6 miles (1 km) and takes less than 15 minutes. Walking from downtown Stop 11 (Faneuil Hall) to Stop 12 (Paul Revere House) in the North End takes 10-15 minutes. The Charlestown Stops are another 15+ minute walk from the last Stop in the North End (Copp’s Hill Burying Ground), and there is a 10+ minute walk between the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill. There are no MBTA stations convenient to the Charlestown Stops.

Stop Review:

Stop 1 – Boston Common. A great old park, but unless you want to walk around and enjoy the outdoors, there is not much of prime historical importance to see. There is a good playground for younger children at Frog Pond.

Stop 2 – The State House. There are excellent guided tours and it is a fascinating and elegant old building, Plan 1.5-2 hours to pass through security and take the tour. While it is worthwhile, there is not much relating to the Revolutionary period as the State House was built after the Revolution. Take the time to view St. Gauden’s Robert Gould Shaw & MA 54th Memorial across the street at the edge of Boston Common.

Stop 3 – Park Street Church. Closed for viewing except during the summer. Unless you take a tour, it will not take much time. There is little of primary Revolutionary significance.

Stop 4 – Granary Burying Ground. This is the final resting spot for Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, the Boston Massacre victims, Mother Goose and others. Plan about 15 minutes to walk through.

Stop 5 – King’s Chapel. Great old church usually open for viewing. Plan 15 minutes to walk through, more if taking the fun Bell & Bones tour.

Stop 5a – King’s Chapel Burying Ground. The oldest in Boston, plan about 10 minutes to walk through and view the old stones. Not much of Revolutionary significance as the Burying Ground was full well before 1700.

Stop 6 – Boston Latin, Old City Hall, Franklin Statue. Everything is outside (there is no interior viewing of Old City Hall). Plan 5-10 minutes to view the outside plaques. If you want to see the Province House steps, plan for another 5 minutes to walk up Province Street.

Stop 7 – Old Corner Book Store. You will walk by and see the house, which now houses a Chipotle Mexican Grill. Nothing to tour.

Stop 8 – Old South Meeting House. Plan 1/2+ hour to view inside and the exhibits. The Meeting House is interesting given the number of important Revolutionary-era meetings that took place here. There are interpretive exhibits that place the building and its events in history and a good three dimensional map of Revolutionary-era Boston that highlights key locations – fascinating given the city’s changing topography. Check their web site for other programs. Benjamin Franklin’s birthplace and the Irish Memorial are directly across the street and are quick to see.

Stop 9 – Old State House. The Old State House features excellent docent-given tours and talks that cover the building and Revolutionary events. The museum has some good displays and exhibits. Plan about an hour or more to visit and take a tour. Highly worthwhile.

Stop 10- Boston Massacre Site. This is a plaque embedded in the street directly below the balcony of the Old State House. This is a walk-by with a photo opportunity.

Stop 11 – Faneuil Hall. This is a great old and important building. Go inside and enjoy a ranger-led talk (given every 30 minutes). Plan for 30-45 minutes to visit the Hall. The Faneuil Hall Marketplace (Quincy Market) is located next door, and is a good place to stop, get something to eat or shop. Plan accordingly. The new National Park Service Visitor Center is located on the first floor of Faneuil Hall.

Note: From Faneuil Hall, it is a 15 minute walk to the next official Stop, the Paul Revere House, in the North End. On the way, you pass some interesting unofficial Stops in the Blackstone Block area – the Holocaust Memorial, Union Oyster House, Marshall Street, and the Ebenezer Hancock House. The Blackstone Block is also a good, less commercial place to take a break or to eat. Some of the local restaurants feature good lobster specials at lunch.

Stop 12 – Paul Revere House. Built in 1680, it is the oldest structure remaining in Boston. It is a good example of a period dwelling and you will gain insights into Paul Revere’s life. The costumed docents provide interesting descriptions of the house and the Revere family. Visiting is worthwhile, but the house is small, consisting of only four rooms. Plan for about 1/2 hour.

Note: It is about a 10 minute walk through the North End to the next stop. The North End is also an excellent place to stop for lunch. It has a very European feel and many wonderful restaurants.

Stop 13 – Old North Church. A beautiful and important church, the oldest remaining in Boston. A walk through takes 15 minutes, the worthwhile Behind-the-Scenes tour another 30.

Stop 14 – Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. A 5 minute walk up hill from the Old North Church. Plan about 10-15 minutes to walk through the Burying Ground. There are a few interesting graves, a headstone used by the British for target practice, and a nice view of the harbor.

Note: From here there is another 15+ minute walk across the bridge to Charlestown and the next Stop, the USS Constitution.

Stop 15 – USS Constitution and the Charlestown Navy Yard. Visiting the Constitution and the Museum can easily be a half day visit. For the Constitution alone, plan at least an hour to pass through security, view the small museum and take the guided tour of the ship. The very good USS Constitution Museum (different from the small museum attached to the Constitution), is worth another hour. A walk around the WWII Destroyer USS Cassin Young will take another 1/2 hour. Walking around the Navy Yard area is also a pleasure; there is only one restaurants in the Yard. This is a highly worthwhile 1/2 day, especially for children, who will enjoy exploring the ships.

Note: There is another 15 minute walk between the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Bunker Hill Monument and Museum. For a historic lunch, try the Warren Tavern, which is only a short detour between the two sites.

Stop 16 – Bunker Hill Monument. To tour the monument area, plan about 15-20 minutes, unless you plan to make the 294-step ascent to the top. That is a fun activity and provides a spectacular view of Boston and the surrounding area. If climbing the Monument, plan 1/2 hour. To visit the Bunker Hill Museum, which is excellent and best seen before the monument, plan another 1/2 to full hour. The museum features exhibits on the battle and Charlestown history, and has Ranger-guided programs – great for children. If you have time, visit the Museum before the Monument. Highly recommended.

1/2 Day Tour Alternatives

Option 1: (Downtown) Walk by Stops 1 – 3, visit Stops 3 – 5, walk by 6-8, visit 9, walk by 10, and visit 11. Lunch and break at Faneuil Hall Market or the Blackstone Block area.

Option 2: (Downtown and North End): Walk by Stops 1 – 3, visit Stops 3 – 5, walk by 6- 10, visit 11, walk by 12, visit 13 and 14. Lunch and break in Faneuil Hall Market, the Blackstone Block or the North End.

Option 3: (Charlestown – USS Constitution and Bunker Hill): Visit Stop 15 USS Constitution (bypass the Constitution Museum and USS Cassin Young), visit Bunker Hill Monument and Museum. Lunch at the Warren Tavern or at the Navy Yard.

Option 4: (Charlestown, USS Constitution): Spend a full 1/2 day visiting the USS Constitution, the Museum, USS Cassin Young and walk around the Navy Yard. Lunch at the Navy Yard or across the Bridge in the North End.

Option 5: (A little Downtown, free ranger-guided tour, North End, USS Constitution – requires a lot of walking and tour-time coordination): Start at Stop 11, Faneuil Hall, and listen to the NPS Great Hall talk, take the NPS tour that goes to the North End, visit Stops 13 – 15, take the Water Shuttle back to Long Wharf.

Full Day Tour Alternatives

Boston and the North End: Walk by Stops 1-3, visit Stops 3-5, walk by 6-7, visit 8 and 9, walk by 10, visit 11, lunch or break in Faneuil Hall Market, the Blackstone Block or the North End, visit 12-14.

Charlestown: spend a full 1/2 day visiting the USS Constitution, the Constitution Museum, USS Cassin Young and walk around the Navy Yard, lunch around the Navy Yard or at the Warren Tavern, visit the Bunker Hill Monument and Museum.

If you want to visit the entire Freedom Trail in a single day, it is recommended that you combine Options 2 and 3. It will be busy and there is a lot of walking, but you will have a great time.

What would I do?

Without question, if I only had 4-5 hours, I’d recommend Option 5, especially with kids. This requires planning to fit in the National Park Service ranger tours, but is absolutely worth it. Start at Faneuil Hall and attend a Great Hall ranger talk (every 1/2 hour) and get a sticker for the ranger-tour that goes to the North End (currently at 12, 2 & 3 PM – stickers available 1/2 hour prior. Confirm times at the NPS visitor center.) After the ranger tour, visit Old North Church (Stop 13), walk through Stop 14, then walk quickly to Stop 15 and take the USS Constitution tour. Take the Water Shuttle back to Long Wharf (every 1/2 hour during non-commuting hours). Grab lunch where you can.

If I only had half a day, wanted to self-guide, and could not coordinate times for Option 5, I’d recommend Option 2 with a lobster lunch in the Blackstone Block. See as much as you can, and the North End has fantastic character and a European feel. Don’t miss a Faneuil Hall tour or a visit to the Old State House. If you are not from New England, the lobster is not to be missed.

If I had a full day, combine Options 2 and 3. The downtown stops are great and I love the Navy Yard and USS Constitution (it is easy to spend too much time here). Bunker Hill and the Bunker Hill museum are excellent. Have a lobster lunch in the Blackstone Block or grab some character and a Paul Revere Burger at the Warren Tavern in Charlestown (I’d choose the lobster, but it may be too early in your day).

Great Side Trips

In my work with travelers at the National Park, I most often get asked about side trips to Harvard Square, Lexington and Concord. Visitors should also consider the wonderful Adams National Historical Park in nearby Quincy, especially if you have seen the HBO mini-series. The Harbor Islands are a joy – lots of fun, plenty to do, and a great diversion from city activities; not to mention a wonderful ride through the harbor. Go if you have time.

All of these destinations are reachable by public transportation (although getting to Lexington and Concord does take a little work) and can be visited in 1/2 day; although a visit to both Lexington/Concord and the Minuteman NHP requires more, and is worth it. If I only had 1/2 a day, I’d recommend a Harvard Square walking tour; but a close second would be the Adams NHP.

Freedom Trail Ultimate Tour & History Guide Introduction

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Congratulations on your Boston visit – whether for an afternoon, a day or two, a week, or more. Its a great city.

Boston has everything you want – world class museums, fantastic restaurants, shopping, sports, music, theater and history. Its a unique and charming place that can feed almost any passion. And, there are great options for any budget.

If you are interested in its history, especially The Freedom Trail and Colonial Boston, this Guide will help you make the most of your visit. It is full of insider tips, secrets and tricks not known by even the most ardent of professional guides.

For the most complete experience, Smartphone users should download the free companion apps – for Android, click here, or for the iPhone, click here. The apps are invaluable resources, are created specifically to work along side this Guide, or are equally usable as stand-alone apps for touring the Freedom Trail and historic Boston.

You will find everything you need to know about the official Freedom Trail Stops (there are 16 of them), interesting “unofficial” Stops, (I cover over 50 of them), and even the most interesting and historic restaurants. Maps, including an interactive, zoomable, photo-packed Google Map are included. To make the most of your visit, there are itineraries for one-half, one or two day tours.

In addition, I’ve included tips for the most worthwhile side trips to Harvard Square, Lexington & Concord, Adams NHP and the Harbor Islands. There is even a Budget Tips section – Boston is a big city, with big-city prices. There are many tips to moderate your visit’s cost without compromising the fun – and even include a lobster.

[For a YouTube video preview that includes the Stops and sites covered in this Guide, click here. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=A8TzQoOyibk) Keep your pause key handy as the video moves quickly!]

More than just a description of the Freedom Trail Stops, there is also the background history and information you will need to help you more fully appreciate what you visit.

All the information is provided at cascading levels of detail – from simple overviews to detailed descriptions of every Stop and events that include the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Choose just what you want to know, you can always return for more. Finally, there are recommendations for the best internet links and books, much of it free.

The influence Boston had on the thinking and actions that led to the American Revolution was extraordinary. Without Boston and its unique history, the American colonies break with Great Britain may have still happened, but not when and how it did. The Guide brings this to life and helps you to appreciate Boston’s really amazing impact.

Even though I’ve been a Bostonian since 1970 and have always been interested in history, there were three “ahas” that developed as I wrote this Guide. Understanding these helped me appreciate The Freedom Trail much more. They may be of interest to you, and they just might help your visit be more fun.

1) First, Puritan philosophy is at the root of the thinking that led to the American Revolution. Everyone knows that the Puritans who founded Boston left England seeking religious freedom, but they also brought with them their own brand of powerful ideas. Around those ideas they molded a unique religious, democratic, and fiercely independent society that hated outsiders (like the British) telling them what to do. These ideas shaped the leaders that shaped the Revolution – including Ben Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.

2) Second, Boston’s Puritans were able to establish and run their own society only because England neglected them for three generations. By the time England tried to reassert control, it was too late, and they bungled the efforts they did make. The tension, disputes, and outright fighting between the Puritan New Englanders and the Anglican English is the essence of most of the Freedom Trail sites.

3) Third, Boston’s Colonial-era topography played a critical role in historical events. What you visit today is over 50% landfill and many of its hills have been leveled. Places you will walk, such as the area around Faneuil Hall, were actually part of the harbor when Boston was founded. Boston was practically an island – dependent on the harbor for its economy and supplies. When the port of Boston was closed after the Tea Party in 1774, until the Siege was lifted in 1776, the city was completely isolated. Understanding this will provide extra meaning.

The Freedom Trail

The original idea for The Freedom Trail was conceived by William Schofield, a long-time journalist for the now defunct Boston newspaper, the Herald Traveler. In 1951, Schofield had the idea for a walking path that connected Boston’s great collection of local landmarks. With the support of local historians, politicians and businessmen, the Freedom Trail was born.

The Freedom Trail is a 2.7 mile red brick path (mostly brick – some lines are painted) that connects 16 significant historic sites, referred to as “Stops” throughout the Guide. It starts at Boston Common and officially ends at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Most of the Stops are free and many are handicapped accessible, but some may be difficult to navigate for non-walkers. For the few that charge admission, there are discounted tickets available (see the Budget Tips section).

In addition to the official Stops, there are many other interesting things to see and experience near the Trail. These unofficial Stops are often directly related to The Freedom Trail and Colonial Boston, but some are simply interesting places. I’ve made every effort to cover everything relevant in the Guide – if you think I’ve missed something important, please email me and I’ll note it in an update to the custom Google Map and app that compliment the Guide.

Enjoy, Boston is a great city and The Freedom Trail is a national treasure.

How to Use the Guide

The Guide is best read on a Kindle, Nook, iPad, other eReader/tablet, or Smartphone. All important information, including maps, is embedded within the document.

The Guide can provide a more comprehensive experience, however, when read “live,” e.g., connected to the internet. When live, you have access to additional detailed information, including zoomable Google maps, video, and other items to enhance your visit. Embedded within the Guide as well as in the External Links & References section, there are links to the best and least commercial information available. You may wish to download and print selected materials prior to your trip.

If you are using the Guide as your personal tour guide when visiting The Freedom Trail, almost everything you need is provided within the section about any specific Stop. Essential information, including a high-level Stop description, operating hours, costs, phone numbers, web sites, and public transport information is in each Stop’s “Overview” section. More detailed Stop information is in each Stop’s “Background Information” section. Hyperlinks to related information elsewhere in the Guide are embedded. “Unofficial” Stops are listed with the closest official Stop.

The most significant background historical information is found in the Time Line, Boston History and North End sections. If you are reading the eBook for context, it is recommended that you start with those sections.

Budget Tips and the Historic Restaurant Guide are provided at the end of the eBook along with sections on Sources and recommended Related Information.

Hyperlinks to references within the book are generally provided as part of the text. To enhance the Guide’s usability on Smartphones and mobile devices, and there are links back to the Table of Contents at the end of each section. Links to external web-based references are always noted as requiring web access, so that if you are not internet connected you can avoid the unnecessary distraction or data fees.

In the spirit of keeping this Guide small, most of the images are compressed and enhanced for eReader viewing. In the Sources chapter, there are links to the original maps and illustrations so that, if desired, they may be viewed in their original, higher resolution formats.

Free Companion Apps, Maps, & Getting Around

I have created free companion apps for this guide which includes additional information and sites. There are even optional pre-translated versions (via Google-translate) available for download in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese. The optional version also includes 35 additional points of interest in and around Boston. To download the app on Google Play, click here; to download the app for the iPhone, click here.

Below is an extract from one of the most illustrative maps available for The Freedom Trail, the “Park Map with Outline of 1775 Boston Shoreline” from the National Park Service. It is strongly recommended you download this along with the other excellent free maps from the National Park Service website, here. To download this map alone (it will download to your device), click here.

If you have web access, the best map is a custom Google Map, created especially for the Guide, available on the web here. It is fully zoomable, interactive, has detailed touring information, links and photos about each of the official and unofficial Freedom Trail Stops, restaurants and other attractions. The Google Map is a living map – it is being enhanced as I learn more and get tips from readers. It is the perfect companion to this Guide.

If you prefer to pick up paper maps once you reach Boston, they are available at either of the National Park Service Visitor Centers. There is a brand new Visitor Center in the first floor of Faneuil Hall (Stop 11) and one in the Charlestown Navy Yard, right next to the USS Constitution. For web access to the Visitor Centers, click here.

Maps and other tour information can also be obtained at The Freedom Trail Visitor Center on Boston Common (Stop 1). This is run by the Freedom Trail Foundation. For access to the map from their website, click here.

Boston is a walking city, and it is strongly recommended that you walk or take public transportation. Boston has the MBTA, the oldest subway system in the United States (called the “T” by locals). There are T stops close to most of The Freedom Trail Stops, although the Charlestown and North End Stops require moderate walks from the closest station. For a T map and schedules, click here. I’ve included public transportation references in the Overview section for each Freedom Trail Stop. You can also see public transportation references when using the Google Map referenced above.

Auto-Translate the Guide to Foreign Languages

For readers who prefer to read the Guide in a different native language, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and others, I’ve implemented a web-based auto-translate feature. Selecting an “auto-translate” link (embedded in the Guide’s text) will take you to a web page. Just select the language you want by clicking on a flag and view the translated text.

All translations are performed by a standard web-based translation engine, so it may take a second or two to process. And, the translation may not be perfect. But if you don’t read English well, this can help you enjoy more of your Freedom Trail visit.

Auto-translate is available for the Introduction and Touring & Itineraries, Boston Background & History, North End and Budget Tips chapters as well as for the Overview sections of each official Stop.

The first time you access auto-translate links for the Boston Background & History chapter, you will need to enter a password. The password is the first word of the third paragraph in that chapter – be sure to capitalize the word correctly. When using the auto-translate version, the chapter is broken into five parts for easier reading.

Updates, Supplemental Information & Print Version Discount

Additional and supplemental information, new maps, book updates and corrections are available from my website here. I write frequently about Historical Boston and the Freedom Trail, so be sure to check to see what is new.

For readers who want a print version of the Guide (can be easier to use when walking and is a great souvenir), which also contains over 30 additional photos and illustrations, it can be ordered at Createspace at a 25% discount (use code EZL2A2N3 when checking out). Alternatively, it is available at many of the Stops on the Freedom Trail, and at Amazon, website here.


Freedom Trail Maps with Google Map Tour

Any visitor to the Freedom Trail and Colonial Boston will need good maps.  Here are several – all free.

The Google map below was created for the eBook Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour and History Guide. In itself, the map is almost a full tour guide and includes the essentials for all the official, as well as many interesting unofficial Freedom Trail sites. All of the Official Stops come with web-based auto-translate links that allow the user to specify the language for the post. A great feature for non-English comfortable users.

The map also provides information such as operating hours, websites, phone numbers, admission costs and handicap access notes.  There are even listings for the best historic restaurants. Here is a video post that includes all the sites listed in the map.

The map is also available as a FREE full-blown Android app, downloadable from Google Play as well as from the Amazon App Store. The app exposes all the best features of Google Maps and is, by far, the most usable way to use the map. It  performs better than using a browser, is much less awkward, and lets you keep the map easily identifiable and ready to launch.

Use it (at your own risk as travel information is subject to change), enjoy it, and please comment.  Pass the link on to your friends.

View Freedom Trail Map & Historic Boston Guide in a larger map


Next is a series of official Freedom Trail maps from the US National Park Service (NPS).  These are savable, printable,  well done and all paid for by US tax dollars.

The main Freedom Trail Map, which is the same that you will see on the NPS Freedom Trail Guide paper guide, is available here.  It is also available from The Freedom Trail Foundation here.  Additionally, there are other relevant visitor maps available from the National Park Service – for the whole series click here.  In addition to the official Freedom Trail map mentioned above, there is a less detailed Freedom Trail map with an outline of Boston’s harbor line at 1775 – fascinating for historical context.  Click here for the 1775 overlay map.  The series also includes maps for the Charlestown Navy Yard,  Boston Harbor in WW II, a map that shows walking distances between Boston sites (Boston is a very walkable city), and a guide for tour bus parking.


Paul Revere, George Washington and John Adams Face to Face at Boston MFA

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is awesome, and it’s the only place you can see some of the most influential leaders of the American Revolution up close and personal.  John Singleton Copley’s vivid and compelling portraits of Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Hancock and Joseph Warren are intimate and perceptive.  Gilbert Stuart’s works of George Washington are superb, and you can even see the original portrait used as the model for the U.S. one dollar bill.  This is as close as you can get to shaking hands with these leaders of the American Revolution today.

Revere’s Sons of Liberty Bowl with Copley’s Portraits of Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, & Dr. Warren

Located on the first floor of the MFA’s Art of the America’s Wing, the first thing you meet upon entering the gallery is Paul Revere’s 1768 “Son’s of Liberty Bowl.” The silver bowl was commissioned by fifteen members of the Sons of Liberty to honor the Massachusetts House of Representatives for standing up to the British after the Townshend Acts in 1767.  The chain of events set off by the Townshend Acts, and the troops Britain sent to quell the associated Colonial turbulence, was to lead inexorably to the Boston Massacre in 1770 then on to the American Revolution.

The Townshend Acts taxed imported commodities, including paper, glass and tea.  The Massachusetts House of Representatives sent a “Circular Letter” to other colonies asking for their support to protest the Acts – which resulted in boycotts of British goods by Royal colonies.  In Boston, resistance was so intense that British custom officials requested military assistance.  After the HMS Rodney, a 50-gun warship, arrived in Boston harbor, the Colonials rioted and Britain sent 4 regiments of troops to restore order. The presence of the troops led directly to the Boston Massacre.

Directly behind the bowl is Copley’s 1768 portrait of Paul Revere, painted when Revere was thirty three years old.  The portrait was unusual for the period, as it shows Revere without the traditional gentleman’s coat and wig.  (Revere’s family thought it made him look like a workman and actually hid it in the attic.)  The portrait works on many levels, both as a discerning picture of Revere and as a political statement.  Note Revere’s flaunting display of flowing linen shirtsleeves – the linen was manufactured in Boston in direct defiance of British laws.   Flanking the portrait are two cases of Revere’s silver – incredible works of art on their own.

Paul Revere’s Engraving of the Boston Massacre

On the wall to the left of Revere’s portrait you will find four important Revolutionary works, one an engraving and three Copley portraits of Boston revolutionaries.  The engraving is Paul Revere’s highly sensationalized depiction of the March 1770 Boston Massacre.  The Massacre took place after an unfortunate chain of events led British soldiers to fire on an angry Boston mob, killing five and wounding six.  Although hardly a massacre (most of the soldiers were later acquitted of blame) it was to be an important event provoking colonial unrest.  The famous engraving you see was a key piece of Patriot propaganda used to help move America closer to its break with Great Britain.

Sam Adams at 50 in 1772

Next is the 1772 portrait of Samuel Adams.  Adams is shown defiantly pointing to a petition from angry Boston citizens after the Boston Massacre.   The portrait was commissioned by John Hancock to hang in his Beacon Street mansion which was located at the southwest corner of the current Massachusetts State House site.

John Hancock at 28 around 1765

Next is John Hancock himself, painted in 1765 when he was twenty-eight.  Hancock is best known for his flamboyant signature on the Declaration of Independence, and he was a multidimensional architect of the Revolution.   A successful merchant, he was one of the richest people in America and personally funded much of the Boston-based dissension.  He was president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress (the Patriot shadow government that was formed after the Boston Tea Party in 1774), the second Continental Congress, which created the Declaration of Independence, and later served as the first Governor of the State of Massachusetts.

Joseph Warren at 24 around 1765

Further down the wall is the sensitive portrait of Dr. Joseph Warren at the age of twenty-four, also painted around 1765.  Warren was one of the most influential Patriot leaders, and served as President of both the Massachusetts Committee of Safety and the Provincial Congress.   After the April 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, he strongly advocated going to war with Britain.  Even though he had limited military experience, he was appointed a major general.  He died fighting as a private during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.   John Trumbull’s painting “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill” is shown elsewhere in the exhibit.

The exhibition features a number of other Revolutionary-themed works including Copley’s 1796 portrait of John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams and the sixth President of the United States, and John-Antoine Houdon’s 1789 portrait of Thomas Jefferson.

George Washington at 64 “The Athenaeum Portrait” – on the U.S. One Dollar Bill

The next exhibit room features some monumental works by Gilbert Stewart, including the 1796 unfinished portrait of George Washington, known as “The Athenaeum Portrait.”  This painting was used as a model for more than fifty other works, including the image on the U.S. one dollar bill.  Also displayed are Stuart’s portrait of Martha Washington and his idealized 1806 painting of Washington at Dorchester Heights.

Other Revolutionary works in the same exhibit include Thomas Sully’s 1819 huge painting “The Passage of the Delaware” and Gilbert Stuart’s 1805 painting of General Henry Knox.  General Knox led the expedition that brought the cannons used to lift the Siege of Boston.  He then became chief artillery officer of the Continental Army and later Washington’s Secretary of War.  Stuart’s 1823 portrait of John Adams, ninety at the time of the painting, rounds out the exhibit.  Look into Adams’ tired, sensitive eyes.

Stuart’s John Adams at 90

In all, the five rooms of this gallery contain a treasure of colonial furniture as well as many other important paintings from the 18th and early 19th century colonial America.   Visit and enjoy, whether you are a Revolutionary War enthusiast or not.


Photos of Paul Revere Bowl and Gallery Entrance showing Paul Revere and other Copley portraits, stevestravelguide.com – all rights reserved.

Other pictures from Wikimedia Commons – these works are considered public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of the life of the author plus 100 years or fewer.


Boston Founding Enabled by Innovative 17th Century Corporate Buy Out

Guinea from reign of Charles II

As described in my entry on Henry VIII’s influence on the founding of Boston, life in the 1620’s England was becoming very difficult for English Puritans.  This was compounded by extremely difficult economic conditions in the areas of England many Puritans called home.

One group of Puritans, led by John Winthrop, a prosperous lord of the manor of Groton, East Anglia, decided it was time to leave.  Realizing that they were unlikely to receive a land grant from the King, they had to find a way to obtain a grant via non-traditional means.  And ideally, so they could build their ideal society, the land would be free from London’s interference in their affairs.  This was a tall order.

It turns out that in 1628, King Charles had given a royal land grant to the New England Company, who represented a group of merchants who wanted to establish mines and trading posts on the Atlantic coast.  The corporate rights of the New England Company were spelled out in the “Charter of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.”  The Charter had a very interesting omission – it did not stipulate out where the governor (the equivalent of the modern day CEO) and his assistants (the board of directors and management team) were to hold their meetings.  At this time, it was standard operating practice for the management of a company to be in London, and the worker bees to be in the new world operating by remote control – across three thousand miles of stormy ocean.

The grant was for a substantial parcel of land that ran from the Merrimack River, about 40 miles north of Boston by modern day Newburyport, to the Charles River, which runs through Boston.  And, the parcel ran from “from sea to sea.”

In a move very unusual for this time period, Winthrop and his Puritan supporters bought out a controlling interest in the New England Company from the existing shareholders.  To assure themselves the ability to govern free from royal interference, they had the company transfer its management meetings from London to America.  Furthermore, they decided that only those people who were willing to leave England could become shareholders and required that existing shareholders who did not want to move to America sell their shares.  John Winthrop was elected governor and the entire operation, including the physical charter document, moved to America.

This land grant and its innovative corporate charter was the perfect vehicle to use as the foundation for the Puritans’ wide-reaching and ambitious social experiment in the new world.   It was to provide the foundation for the wide range of independent thought and action that was fundamental to the development of Boston and the philosophies leading to the American Revolution.

Guinea photo from the Classical Numismatic Group, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or later.

New Darwin Awards

Pretty funny. Also check out the Darwin Awards website.

Yes, it’s that magical time of year again when the Darwin Awards are
bestowed, honoring the least evolved among us.

Here is the glorious winner:

1. When his 38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during
a hold-up in Long Beach, California, would-be robber James Elliot did
something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried
the trigger again. This time it worked.

And now, the honorable mentions:

2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting
machine and after a little shopping around, submitted a claim to his
insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out one of its men
to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger.
The chef’s claim was approved.

3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a
blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the
space.. Understandably, he shot her.

4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver
found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from
Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the
driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free
ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the
staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies..
The deception wasn’t discovered for 3 days.

5. An American teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head
wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the
injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he
could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.

6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter,
and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled
a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly
provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20
bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer… $15.
[If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?]

7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly.. He decided that
he’d just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some
booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at
the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the
head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of
Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape…

8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed
her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able
to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the
police apprehended the snatcher.. They put him in the car and drove back to
the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there
for a positive ID. To which he replied, “Yes, officer, that’s her. That’s
the lady I stole the purse from.”

9.. The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger
King in Ypsilanti , Michigan at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash.
The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register
without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they
weren’t available for breakfast… The man, frustrated, walked away. [*A

10. When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a
Seattle street by sucking on a hose, he got much more than he bargained
for.. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to
a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man
admitted to trying to steal gasoline, but he plugged his siphon hose into
the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined
to press charges saying that it was the best laugh he’d ever had.