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!

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Prescott SAdams & OldNorthChurch on Boston Freedom Trail




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Long Wharf – the Heart of Colonial & Revolutionary Boston

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From the beginning, Boston was a town linked to the sea, with its success dependent on maritime trade and industry. And, its most important gateway to the sea in colonial times was Long Wharf. Originally called Boston Pier, Long Wharf construction began in 1711 (when Boston was the largest city in the Colonies), completed by 1715, and at its peak was almost 1,600 feet in length, 54 feet wide, and capable of docking up to 50 vessels. It was, by far, the largest and most significant wharf in Boston and was to play a major role in Boston’s economic and Revolutionary history.

Bonner’s 1722 Map illustrating Long Wharf & the Old State House

The heart of Colonial Boston was the Town House, Boston’s official town hall, which was at the base of King Street (King Street’s name was changed to State Street after the Revolution). The first Town House was built in 1657 and burned down during the Great Fire of 1711. It was replaced by the current “Old State House” in 1713, and was the location for the British Government until they evacuated Boston 1776. From the Town House, a viewer could look directly down King Street to the end of Long Wharf, see ships coming and going, and keep the pulse of the town.

Paul Revere’s 1768 Engraving of British Troops Landing on Long Wharf

As illustrated in the famous Paul Revere engraving above, British Troops landed on Long Wharf to help enforce the Townshend Acts in 1768. The oldest structure remaining on Long Wharf today, dating from around 1760 is a building that served as John Hancock’s “counting house” (primary place of business), who in, addition to being the famous signer of the Declaration of Independence, was one of the richest men and a leading merchant in Boston. Today John Hancock’s counting house is the Chart House restaurant.

British troops departed from Long Wharf when they left Boston in March of 1776. It was the landing place for the ship from Philadelphia bringing the Declaration of Independence (first read to the citizens from the balcony of the Old State House on July 18the 1776), privateers and blockade runners sailed from its docks, and its warehouses held military stores.

Water Shuttle Landing on Long Wharf

Today, Long Wharf is a great place to gather tourist information, take cruises of the harbor, and is the docking location for the water shuttles to the harbor islands and the Charlestown Navy Yard (USS Constitution). For an excellent posting on Long Wharf from a series by the National Park Service on maritime Boston, click here. The Aquarium is located at the end of Long Wharf.

High-Resolution Photos from Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide

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One of the great frustrations in publishing an eBook is that the publisher is megabyte constrained – e.g., there is an incentive to keep eBooks small.

High resolution photos use up a lot of megs.  So, to keep things small, the photos in the eBook are either 800 x 600 or 640 x 480 and have been compressed. They are illustrative and fine for an eReader, tablet or phone, but this resolution does not do them justice as photographs.

The gallery below contains the photos used in the “Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide – Tips, Secrets & Tricks” eBook in 2048 x 1536 format compressed to +/- .5 meg each.  I’ve also include a few pictures that simply did not fit or that are representative of what you will see on and around the Freedom Trail. If anyone is interested in one in native format, 4000 x 3000 +/- 5 meg each, email me and we’ll figure something out.

Warmest regards,


Old South Meeting House – Freedom Trail Stop 8 Overview

Old South Tower Meeting House - Freedom Trail Stop 8 - 1729

Old South Tower Meeting House – Freedom Trail Stop 8 –

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Home of Rebel Dissension

As Boston’s largest building in the Colonial period, Old South was the site of many important gatherings and became the emblematic home of the Patriot cause.

Admission $6, seniors & and students $5, Children (6-18) $1 – AAA/WGBH discount

Open Daily all year: April 1 – October 31 9:30-5; November 1 – March 31 10-4

Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve Day, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Official website

National Park Service website


Handicap access: wheelchair accessible, listening devices available

Public transportation: State Street (Blue/Orange Lines), Government Center (Green Line) and Downtown Crossing (Red Line).

Plan about 1/2 hour to view the interior and the exhibits.

For more about the Boston Tea Party, click here

Background Information

The Old South congregation was created when a group of dissenters split off from the First Church in 1669. Their original meeting house, a simple cedar sided building, was built on a part of what was the corn and potato patch of John Winthrop – the first Puritan leader. After Winthrop died, the land was owned by influential preacher John Norton. It was donated to the congregation by John’s widow, Mary.

The original meeting house was the site of Benjamin Franklin’s baptism, which took place on a wintry night in January of 1706. The first meeting house was torn down in early 1729. The current structure, based on Christopher Wren’s work in London, was dedicated in April of 1730.

The new meeting house was the largest building in Boston and was host to many significant meetings. As the conflicts with England amplified during pre-Revolutionary years, it became known in London for its role as a key place for Colonial protests. Almost every significant Patriot leader held court here – including James Otis, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Dr. Joseph Warren.

Perhaps the most famous meetings associated with Old South are those that preceded the Boston Tea Party. At the final meeting, over 5,000 townspeople (1/3 of Boston’s population at the time) heard Samuel Adams say “Gentlemen, this meeting can do nothing more to save the country.” Legend has it that this was the signal for about 100 Patriots dressed as Native Americans to march to Boston Harbor and begin the Boston Tea Party.

Old South Pews & Pulpit

Old South was such a symbol of Patriot dissension that during Boston’s occupation during the Siege of Boston (1775-1776), British troops ripped out the pews and pulpit and used them for fuel. It was filled with dirt and turned it into a riding school for the British Cavalry. After the war, it took almost eight years to raise the money to refurbish the Meeting House to make it usable as a place of worship.

Old South was almost destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872. Soon after the fire, it was soldand the congregation moved to Copley Square in Back Bay. Today it is a museum and one of the most important and interesting stops on the Freedom Trail.

Benjamin Franklin’s Birthplace

Site of Ben Franklin's Birth

Site of Ben Franklin’s Birth

The site of Benjamin Franklin’s birthplace is just across the street from Old South at the location of the current 17 Milk Street. Ben was the eighth child of the ten children of Josiah Franklin and his second wife, Abiah. (Overall, he was the fifteenth of seventeen for Josiah.)

Today it is an office building.


Granary Burying Ground – Freedom Trail Stop 4 Overview

Sam Adams & Boston Massacre Victims in Granary Burying Ground

Sam Adams & Boston Massacre Victims in the Granary Burying Ground

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Resting Place of Patriots

Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground is the final resting place for three signers of the Declaration of Independence (John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine), nine Massachusetts governors, Paul Revere, the Boston Massacre Victims, Ben Franklin’s parents and, according to legend, even Mother Goose.


Open daily 9 AM – 5 PM

Official website


Handicap access is via the entrance at the end of Tremont Place. Go past the main Tremont Street entrance, turn left on Beacon Street and left into the alley at Tremont Place. Enter through the gate on the right at the end of the alley.

No rest rooms.

Public Transportation: Red or Green lines to the Park Street Station.

Plan about 15 minutes to walk through.

Background Information

The Granary Burying Ground is the third oldest in Boston, behind King’s Chapel and Copp’s Hill Burying Grounds. It is on land that was once part of Boston Common and takes its name from the town granary that was located next door at the current site of the Park Street Church. There are about 2,300 identifiable graves, but estimates of the actual number of people buried run between 5,000 and 8,000.

You will notice that the graves are nicely laid out in neat rows. This is not the way people were actually buried. They were buried quite haphazardly and often several deep. The stones were moved to their current configuration much later. Therefore, the headstone you are standing before likely has no relation to the body that lies beneath it.

There are three types of graves: the headstone or footstone is the most common. The table tombs look like tables and have the bodies buried in a vault underneath the table stones. The vaults were the most expensive and often favored by wealthy families. They typically hold several bodies even if there is only one name on the vault.

As you enter the graveyard, the first thing you will notice is the large Franklin cenotaph in the center of the cemetery. This obelisk marks the grave of Benjamin Franklin’s parents, Josiah and Abiah. Ben Franklin was born in Boston in 1706, but left for Philadelphia when he was 17. He died there in 1790 and that is where his remains are buried. The obelisk is surrounded by several other members of the Franklin family.

Taking a left turn immediately after entering the burying ground, you will find the stone of James Otis Jr. on the right. Otis was one of the most brilliant and important pre-Revolutionary thinkers. Otis was not a revolutionary in the mold of Samuel Adams, but instead remained a loyal British subject.

In 1761, it was Otis who delivered the famous and impassioned four hour legal case that questioned the legality of the Writs of Assistance. John Adams later said that hearing Otis’s argument was critical in influencing him to join the Patriot cause. After 1761, Otis suffered from increasing mental illness and became less influential as a Patriot leader. Otis died in 1783 at age 58.

John Hancock Memorial Stone

John Hancock Memorial Stone

John Hancock Memorial

Proceeding toward the rear of the cemetery, there is a white pillar on the left that marks the grave of John Hancock (1737-1793). This pillar is a replacement for the original monument, which was stolen in the 1800’s.

There are many rumors regarding what might have happened to Hancock’s remains as the grave remained open for some time when the original marker was stolen. One rumor has asserted that the ring-laden hand that Hancock used to sign the Declaration of Independence was cut off and stolen!

Next to John Hancock’s pillar is a stone that reads “Frank, servant to John Hancock, Esq.” Frank died in 1771 and, given the absence of a last name, was likely Hancock’s slave. It is obvious that Hancock held him in high regard.

At the end of the path is the table tomb of Peter Faneuil (1700-1743). Faneuil was one of Boston’s richest merchants and personally paid for the building of Faneuil Hall (Stop 11). Unfortunately, he died of dropsy at only 43 years, only six months after Faneuil Hall was completed.

Paul Revere Memorial

Paul Revere Memorial

Paul Revere Gravesite

Proceeding down the rear path towards the center of the cemetery is the square white marble Paul Revere monument. In addition to his famous duties as a messenger for the Patriot cause (he made at least 18 official rides with destinations that included Portsmouth, N.H., New York and Philadelphia, PA), he was a silversmith, dental technician, artist-engraver, entrepreneur, gunpowder maker, engineer, copper magnate, iron and brass forger, bell maker – the list is almost endless. He died in 1818 at the age of 83 – one Revere who deserves to be revered. The house Paul Revere lived in at the time of his famous 1775 ride is Freedom Trail Stop 12.

The next grave most tourists visit belongs to Boston’s version of Mother Goose. There is conflicting evidence as to who was the original Mother Goose, but this grave is much visited. This Mary Goose was the second wife of Isaac Goose (also known as Vergoose or Vertigoose), who added her own six children to Isaac’s ten. She died in 1758 at the age of 92.

Continuing your walk around the edge of the Burying Ground and towards the front, pass the perimeter vault of Robert Treat Paine. Paine was one of the most influential Patriots, serving in the Massachusetts General Court, the Provincial Congress and representing Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. He was one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. He died in 1814 at the age of 83.

Samuel Adams & Boston Massacre Victims

Continuing to the front row, pause before the monument of Samuel Adams, who died in 1803 at the age of 81. Adams was the single most important influencer of the thoughts and actions that led to the American Revolution. There is a statue of Adams behind Faneuil Hall, and a wonderful John Singleton Copley portrait of Adams hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts.

Next to Adams’ stone is the memorial for five of the Boston Massacre victims – Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks, and Patrick Carr. Also buried here is Christopher Seider, who was killed 11 days before the Massacre by a British customs officer. Seider’s murder inflamed the already volatile tensions between the Patriots and the British. After his death, Seider was proclaimed a martyr and Samuel Adams orchestrated his elaborate funeral, with over 2,000 people in attendance.


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, – 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.