The Freedom Trail is a two-and-a-half-mile path through Charlestown and Boston chronicling some of the most important landmarks in American history. There are 16 official historic sites located on the trail, which has been around since 1958. Visitors can follow the red bricks that lead from various historical sites including churches, graveyards, and the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel!
There is no “right” way to walk the freedom trail, which is one of my favorite parts about it. It spans from the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown to Boston Common (check out the Freedom Trail map). People meander along the trail at their own pace, stopping to spend some time in sites that interest them as well as check out other fun spots along the way. Below, I’ve highlighted my favorite landmarks on the trail and divulged some of the best kept secret spots people should visit along the way.
The Boston Common: Established in 1634, Boston Common is the oldest public park in America. This is where thousands of British “Redcoats” camped out while Great Britain was occupying Boston in 1775. Since then, it has served as a place to exercise freedom of speech and public assembly, as well celebrate important victories in American history. In the summer, be sure to walk through and check out students lounging to take a break from their studies or people playing with dogs. In the winter, ice skate on Frog Pond and enjoy a hot chocolate!
And when you’re in the Common always keep your eyes peeled for Boston sports star Tom Brady who has been known to spend some of his down time in the Common as well.
Boston Latin School: The oldest public school in America, Boston Latin count among its alumni some very noted figures, including my very own father. Other alumni are Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Paine—although only 3 of them graduated! Does anyone know which one of those Declaration of Independence signers was a high school dropout? Hint: There’s a statue of him outside the school.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace: Sometimes referred to as the “Cradle of Liberty,” Faneuil Hall is located next to Boston’s North End and the waterfront of Boston harbor. It is famous both for being the site of many protests against the Intolerable Acts during the American Revolution and the birth site of the famous phrase “No taxation without representation.” It is now home to a variety of shops and restaurants, but the best part of Faneuil Hall is catching an occasional street performance. From unicyclists to magicians to break-dancers, there is always someone entertaining the crowds on the cobble-stoned streets of the market.
Granary Burying Ground: Be sure to check out the third oldest graveyard in Boston, established in 1660. Located right next to Boston Common, Granary Burying Ground is the resting place of many Massachusetts mayors, governors and clergymen. There are 2,345 gravestones and tombs but experts estimate there are over 5,000 people buried in Granary! Among the most notable, Samuel Adams, Crispus Attucks, Peter Faneuil, Mother Goose, John Hancock and Paul Revere have all been laid to rest in the famous cemetery.
USS Constitution: By far my favorite spot on the Freedom Trail, the USS Constitution is an amazing piece of history. The ship is the oldest commissioned warship naval vessel still afloat. First launched in 1797, the Constitution was one of six original ships authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. After a battle with the HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812, the ship earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” for the way the cannonballs seemed to bounce effortlessly off the wooden panels of the ship’s sides. The Constitution has traveled to the West Indies, Brazil and West Africa for all of the Barbary wars and currently sits in Charlestown Navy Yard. After checking out the ship, be sure to sneak a peek into the USS Constitution Museum or grab lunch at nearby Tavern on the Water—a great spot to sit on the deck and enjoy a beautiful view of Boston Harbor and a lobster roll!
The Bunker Hill Monument: On July 17, 1775, an American general yelled the now infamous phrase “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” This phrase has now become synonymous with the Battle of Bunker Hill. Interestingly enough, the majority of the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on nearby Breed’s Hill in Charlestown and was the first major battle of the American Revolution. The 221-foot granite obelisk commemorates the loss of Dr. Joseph Warren who bravely fought in the battle, a beloved patriot leader and Charlestown resident. Climb all 294 steps of the monument to get a great view of Boston. To cool off, at the bottom be sure to check out the ice cream truck that has been parked at the monument every summer for almost 25 years—just ask for Uncle Mitch!
For more information on the Freedom Trail and to plan out your visit, go to http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/index.html.