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. ( 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.


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