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.

Value

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 (trolleytours.com), 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!

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 Visit Planning Video

Posted this as an intro for folks planning to visit the Freedom Trail.  Hope that it is helpful to visualize the trail length and breadth as well as some of the Stops.

Enjoy and have a great visit.

 

Freedom Trail Map & Tour App w/Auto Translate – Free!

Freedom Trail Boston Map & Tour App

 

The Freedom Trail Map & Touring App is now available on Google Play as well as Amazon  It is based on the interactive Google Map created for the Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour Guide – Tips, Secrets & Tricks eBook.

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The app is much faster and easier to use than the browser version and it exposes all the most powerful features of Google Maps including street mode, local search, directions, and local transportation information. The map itself contains all 16 official Freedom Trail Stops and over 50 additional interesting sites on or close to The Freedom Trail.

An innovative ability for international travelers is the web-based auto-translate feature.  By selecting auto-translate on selected map entries, users with internet-access will access a web site where they can elect to read the entry in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean and other languages.

The app is the perfect companion for planning or when walking The Freedom Trail.

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,

Steve

USS Constitution – Freedom Trail Stop 15 Overview

Old Ironsides at the Charlestown Navy Yard

Old Ironsides at the Charlestown Navy Yard

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Undefeated in 33 Fights

USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides,” is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.

Free admission, but visitors must show a valid ID and pass through security to visit the ship and enter through the National Parks Service Visitor Center. The Visitor Center has an introductory film and interesting exhibits that cover the Navy Yard and the Constitution.

Nov. 1- March 31 Tues-Sun 10-4; April 1-Sept. 30 Tues-Sun 10-6; Oct. 1- Oct. 31 Tues-Sunday 10-4; Closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years

A wait is generally required to take the worthwhile USS Constitution tour.

Official National Park Service website Phone: (617) 242-5601(617) 242-5601

Official USS Constitution website

617-242-5670617-242-5670

Handicap access to the ship is via a ramped gangplank to main deck. The deck has 1/2″ raised ridges. Navy personnel can assist. The lower decks are down steep staircases.

Restrooms are in the Visitor Center

Public transportation: Green or Orange line to North Station (in Boston proper). Alternative, 93 Bus to Sullivan Station Bunker Hill.

Plan at least an hour to view the Constitution, including a tour.

Background Information

The Revolutionary War officially ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. In 1785, the United States sold its last remaining naval vessel due to a lack of funds. The same year, two American merchant ships were captured by Algiers.

Eight years later, in 1793, Algiers captured eleven ships and held their crews and cargo for ransom. The new nation was undergoing one of its first tests.

Waking up to the need to protect its interests, Congress authorized the Naval Act of 1794. This act allocated the funds to build six frigates that were to become the start of the US Navy. Four of the frigates were designed to carry forty-four guns, and two were to carry thirty-six guns.

The USS Constitution was the third of the six original frigates. She was built, starting in November 1794, across the river from its current berth, at the Boston shipyard of Edmund Hartt.

The Constitution’s design took into account the reality that the United States could not match the European states navies’ heavy “ships of the line.” The much smaller US Navy needed to be strong enough to defeat other frigates, yet fast enough to avoid fights with heavier ships.

Her design was unusual for the time in that she was very long and narrow, and mounted heavy guns. She also had a diagonal rib scheme for extra strength. The primary materials were pine and oak, including southern live oak from Georgia. Live oak is extremely dense, heavy and hard, and is the reason that the Constitution could survive heavy cannon shots without damage. This unique design was to be proven many times in battle.

Originally designed for forty-four guns, the Constitution was often equipped with fifty or more. During the War of 1812, she carried thirty 24-pound cannons on the gun deck (one level down from the upper deck), twenty-two 32-pound carronades (shorter range cannon) on the upper deck and two chase guns each at the bow and stern.

Peace with Algiers was announced in 1796, and construction was halted before any of the ships could be launched. Prompted by President George Washington, Congress agreed to continue funding the three ships closest to completion – the USS United States, Constellation, and the Constitution. The Constitution finally slipped into the waters of Boston harbor in October 1797.

The Constitution served briefly during the Quasi-War with France from 1798-1800. During this conflict, she served three tours of duty in the West Indies and participated in several actions. She returned to Boston in 1801 where she was put into reserve. Prior to her next duty service, her bottom was resheathed with copper from Paul Revere’s factory – the first copper rolling mill in the United States.

In 1803, under Captain Edward Commodore Preble, she sailed to Africa’s northern coast to confront Barbary ships during the First Barbary War. There she participated in multiple actions, the most significant being the Battle of Tripoli Harbor. She was on station during this conflict for over four years, not returning to Boston until 1807.

The Constitution’s most famous actions took place during the War of 1812. In August, about 700 miles east of Boston, the Constitution met the British frigate, the HMS Guerriere. Within about 35 minutes, the Guerriere was a wreck and too damaged to be salvaged. After transferring the wounded and prisoners to the Constitution, the Guerriere was set afire and blown up.

It was in this fight that the Constitution earned the nickname of “Old Ironsides.” When many of the Guerriere’s shots were observed to bounce harmlessly off her hull, an American sailor reportedly exclaimed “Hussah, her sides are made of iron.”

On December 29 of that year, the Constitution fought and defeated the HMS Java off the coast of Brazil. The Java was defeated in about two hours. As with the HMS Guerriere, she was too damaged to be captured had to be destroyed at sea.

The Constitution participated in several other actions, including the defeat of the HMS Pictou, and the capture of HMS Cyane and HMS Levant. The Levant was later recaptured by the British. The Constitution also had two cat-and-mouse escapes from superior British squadrons. She additionally captured a number of British merchant vessels.

After the War of 1812, the USS Constitution served in the Mediterranean squadron. This service was mostly uneventful, but there were notable discipline issues regarding the behavior of the crew while in port.

The normal service life for a ship during this period was ten to fifteen years. When the Constitution was thirty-one, a service order was put in to request money for repairs. Catching wind of the request, a Boston newspaper erroneously reported that she was about to be scrapped. Within two days, Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “Old Ironsides” was published. The ensuing public outcry incited efforts to save her, and the refurbishment costs were approved. The USS Constitution made the first use of Dry Dock 1.

Most of the Constitution’s subsequent duties were ceremonial. She ferried ambassadors ministers to new posts and performed various patrolling duties in the Mediterranean, South America, Africa and Asia. Just prior to the Civil War, she became a training ship.

There were attempts to make her seaworthy once again to attend the Paris Exposition of 1878, but these were unsuccessful. In 1881, she was deemed unfit for service. The Constitution was finally returned to the Charlestown Navy Yard in 1897.

In the early 1900’s, there were several attempts to refurbish her, but all failed. In 1905, the Secretary of the Navy suggested that she be towed out to sea and used as target practice. Public outcry prompted Congress to authorize $100,000 for her restoration. By 1907 she began to serve as a museum ship with tours offered to the public.

Since that time she has undergone multiple refurbishments and cruises, including a three-year, 90-port tour of the nation that started in 1931 and transited the Panama Canal in 1932. Her most extensive refurbishment was from 1992 to 1995. She sailed under her own power in 1997, in honor of her 200th birthday.

The Constitution typically makes one “turnaround cruise” each year during which she is towed out into Boston Harbor to perform demonstrations, including a gun drill. She is then returned to her dock, where she is berthed in the opposite direction to ensure that she weathers evenly. Attendance on the turnaround cruse is based on a lottery draw and is a highly prized ticket.

 

Freedom Trail Tour Guide – Maps, Sites, Tips & Secrets

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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 companion Apps – use with the Guide or 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

 

What is The Freedom Trail?

Freedom Trail Logo Boston

Welcome to The Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is the largest attraction in New England, with over three million visitors a year. It is fun, walkable, accessible, family-friendly, engaging, and a bargain. You can see it in 1/2 a day, or spend several days and still want more.

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And, Boston has everything you might want in a destination – world class museums, fantastic restaurants, shopping, sports, music, theater and history. It’s a unique and charming place that can feed almost any passion. There are great options for almost any budget, even a bargain lobster lunch.

So, what is it? The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red brick path  (mostly brick – some lines are painted) that connects 16 significant historic sites, referred to as “Stops” throughout this blog.  The Trail 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.

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.

In addition to the official Stops, there are many “unofficial Stops” you pass as you traverse the Trail, or are very near by. Most unofficial Stops are directly associated with Revolutionary Boston and The Freedom Trail, but some are simply interesting places.  Many folks include them in their Freedom Trail visit.

So, how should you plan for your visit, and for how long? The posts on Planning to Tour, Part 1 and Part 2, will give you an overview of all the official Stops, a sense of how long it takes to visit each, and alternative itineraries for 1/2, full and two day tours. Use this free custom Google Map to help visualize your visit – it is practically a full blown self-touring guide in itself. For a complete view of The Freedom Trail, get a copy of the “Freedom Trail Boston – Ultimate Tour & History Guide – Tips, Secrets & Tricks“.

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 Freedom Trail presents the essence of Revolutionary Boston and brings its amazing impact to life.

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

The Freedom Trail Tour Planning – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I provided an assessment for the time needed to visit each of the 16 official Freedom Trail Stops. In this post, I’ll suggest itineraries for 1/2, full and two day tours. If you can, plan for a full day (or more), especially if you want to spend time visiting any particular Stop. However, if it’s all you have, a 1/2 day is still fantastic, and it takes two days for an in-depth visit.

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Below find alternatives for 1/2 day, full day and two day visits. Use the custom Google Map referenced here to help you visualize what you are seeing and help as you walk your tour.

Most of the downtown Stops are close together. Walking directly from Boston Common (Stop 1) to Faneuil Hall (Stop 11) is only about .6 miles (1 km) and takes less than 15 minutes. Walking from downtown Faneuil Hall to the Paul Revere House in the North End (Stop 12) takes 10-15 minutes, but you pass through the Blackstone block, one of my favorites and a great place for a lobster lunch.

The Charlestown Stops (USS Constitution and Bunker hill) 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. If you can, save energy for the climb up the Bunker Hill monument, the view from the top is spectacular on a nice day.

Sam Adams & Boston Massacre Victims in Granary Burying Ground

Sam Adams & Boston Massacre Victims in the Granary Burying Ground

To review, the official stops are:

Stop 1 – Boston Common.

Stop 2 – The Massachusetts State House.

Stop 3 – Park Street Church.

Stop 4 – Granary Burying Ground.

Stop 5 – King’s Chapel.

Stop 5a – King’s Chapel Burying Ground.

Stop 6 – Boston Latin, Old City Hall, Franklin Statue.

Stop 7 – Old Corner Book Store.

Stop 8 – Old South Meeting House.

Stop 9 – Old State House.

Stop 10- Boston Massacre Site.

Stop 11 – Faneuil Hall and National Park Service visitor center.

Stop 12 – Paul Revere House.

Stop 13 – Old North Church.

Stop 14 – Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.

Stop 15 – USS Constitution and the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Stop 16 – Bunker Hill Monument.

1/2 Day Tour Recommendations:

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 Recommendations:

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.

Two Day Recommendations:

For a two day visit, combine both of the full day recommendations. It is worth the time if you can spare it.

What would I do?

If I could fit in a flexible half day, especially with kids, without question Option 5. This requires planning to fit in the National Park Service ranger tours, but is absolutely worth it. Start at Faneuil Hall  and enjoy the 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 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 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 European feel. Don’t miss a Faneuil Hall tour or visiting 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).

Have a great visit.

The Freedom Trail Tour Planning – Part 1

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The entire Freedom Trail is only 2.5 miles long, but seeing it all in one day is difficult,  especially if you want to spend time visiting any particular Stop. To help you plan your visit, I’ve provided a quick assessment for each of the official 16 Stops, its significance to the Revolutionary period, and the recommended time needed for a visit. Where relevant, I’ve also mentioned unofficial Stops you will pass along the way.

It is highly recommended that if you have a Smartphone, download the FREE app for the iPhone, here; for Android, here. This is a tremendous resource for the Freedom Trail, or for other areas including Harvard Square, Copley Square, Lexington & Concord, and even Adams National Historical Park.  Add-on the premium content, which covers many many additional sites and auto-downloads pre-Google translated versions in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese or Japanese!

In Part 2 of this series, there are specific recommendations for 1/2, full and two day tours. Use this custom Google Map or Android app to help visualize and plan your tour.

Paul Revere Pew in Old North Church

Revere Pew in Old North Church

Stop Review:

Note: Most of the downtown (Stops 1 through 11) are close together. Walking directly  from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall is only about .6 miles (1 km) and takes less than 15 minutes.

Stop 1 – Boston Common. A great old park, but unless you want to walk around the park 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 Massachusetts 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 Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Mother Goose, the Boston Massacre victims, 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.

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 topology. 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 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 in 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 about 15 minutes. Purchase the $1 pamphlet that illustrate the highlights.

Stop 14 – Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. An 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 USS Cassin Young will take another 1/2 hour. Walking around the Navy Yard area is also a pleasure, and there are a few restaurants in the neighborhood. 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.

 

 

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.