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.

 

 

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  1. […] Part 1 of this series, I provided an assessment for the time needed to visit each of the 16 official […]

  2. […] 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 […]