Boston’s Freedom Trail – a literal brick-led trail through the city of Boston connecting the dots between 16 historically significant sites. Not everyone living in Boston has traveled it but they all sure do laugh at me when I do. Y’all shut up! I like history, okay? I’ve walked the Freedom Trail a good handful of times but have never hit every single site in one go around, until now. This year, I walked the Freedom Trail from start to finish on America’s most aggressively patriotic day of the year, July 4th. It took five hours, a couple of beers, a cannoli, and the promise of fried clams at the end held dangling out in front of me like a carrot, but I did it.
Now, I know you all don’t have five hours to spare for the sake of historical education so I’ve plucked out six sites to focus on to save you a good amount of time better spent at a pub.
1. Boston Common
The Freedom Trail begins at Boston Common and so should you. What better place to start than at the beginning, am I right? Here you will find convenient parking (a garage under the Common) and the official Freedom Trail information building (free maps!) where you just might run into this guy…
Official historical tidbit: Boston Common was established in 1634 and is America’s oldest public park.
2. Granary Burying Ground
I don’t like to name drop all that much, but do you know who hangs out here? Like, only some of the most important people in America’s history.
Here you can find the graves of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin’s parents who, for some reason, have the largest monument in town, and some guy named Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who was disappointingly not a doctor. Blasphemy!
Take some time and peruse the headstones – they’re quite entertaining. I swear they had to have been hand drawn by colonial toddlers. I’m also always fascinated by what’s written on them, how differently we spell and write things today.
Pro tip: Snag a folder from the guy at the entrance. He puts together interesting packets of information on the highlights of the cemetery and everyone in it (I’m looking at you Mother Goose). Put a dollar or two or ten in the pocket before returning it when you leave.
Inside tip straight from the local’s mouth: Across the street from Sam Adams’s grave is the Beantown Pub. Head here after your visit to the burying ground and order yourself a lager. This is the only place in the world where you can drink a cold Sam Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams.
3. Old State House: Boston Massacre Site
Take a good look at this picture. One of my favorite things about the Old State House is knowing that it was once the tallest building in all of Boston. My other favorite thing is that there is a Silver unicorn on top, so obviously it’s an official government building.
Built in 1713, it was sort of the headquarters for all things American Revolution. It was from that balcony that the Declaration of Independence was first read to the American people in 1776.
Outside the Old State House, pretty much behind that big green box, is the site of the Boston Massacre. Let me clear up the term for those of you who may be unfamiliar. Five people died in the Boston Massacre. Five. Basically, a Redcoat was guarding the State House when some kid insulted his boss. Redcoat hits the kid in the face with his musket. A snowball fight ensues as it does in Boston in March and then five people ended up shot. End scene.
Interesting piece of information: Last year a time capsule was discovered inside the lion statue that tops the Old State House. Inside were pristine newspapers, letters, documents, and some other stuff the historians really went cuckoo over.
4. Fanueil Hall: Quincy Market
Built by rich guy Peter Faneuil (buried at Granary!) in 1741, Faneuil Hall hosted America’s first town meeting. More importantly, Quincy Market houses 31, all delicious, places to eat. Pretzels, gelato, lobster rolls, lobster mac-n-cheese, clam chowder, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, anything you want you can find here. This is a perfect break on your Freedom Trail excursion where the only problem you’ll encounter is choosing where to eat. Seriously, so hard.
5. Old North Church
If you have ever seen Schoolhouse Rock, which I hope you have, or heard any lesson on American history at all, then you know Paul Revere rode his horse through the streets shouting, “The British are coming!” This church is the reason why.
The Old North Church first opened in 1723 and is super tall. That’s important I promise. Paul Revere had his buddies hang out and watch for the advancement of the British troops. If they were approaching by land, they were to hang one lantern in the steeple of the church. If they were arriving by water, they were to hang two lanterns. “One if by land, two if by sea.” Come on, I know you’ve heard that before.
Anyway, they hung two lanterns and, long story short, Paul Revere took a leisurely horseback ride through town. Just kidding, he was probably going nuts at this point because the British were indeed coming. Even though he didn’t actually shout that iconic phrase, he still had some work to do.
Pro tip: One of the best things about the Old North Church is its location in Boston’s North End. The best Italian food this side of the Atlantic can be found at any of the restaurants here so if you didn’t stuff yourself silly on Lobster rolls at Quincy Market, now’s your chance to go crazy. Don’t leave without snagging a “lobster tail” at Mike’s Pastry shop. Yes, the line is always that long. No, there’s no lobster in it. Just get it, trust me.
6. Bunker Hill Monument
The Bunker Hill Monument is the final stop on Boston’s Freedom Trail. If you’re going to start at the beginning, you might as well stop at the end, right?
The battle of Bunker Hill was one of the first official battles of the Revolutionary War. The British actually won this one and the Colonial militia, short on ammo, coined the phrase “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.”
Fun fact: The Bunker Hill Monument is on the hill where the Battle of Bunker Hill took place, yes. However, the battle of Bunker Hill was not fought on Bunker Hill; it was fought on Breed’s Hill. They called it the Battle of Bunker Hill because that was the intended location for the battle but the actual location was changed during the night. Oopsie.
I like visiting the Bunker Hill monument because the hill and surrounding areas are very peaceful. Not many Freedom Trailers make it across the bridge to the final stop on the trail. There are parks and gardens and oh, I forgot the best part.
A block or so away from the Bunker Hill Monument is the Warren Tavern, a historic watering hole and restaurant favorited by the likes of Paul Revere and George Washington. Not to mention, the fried clams are the perfect end to an entire day of historical touristing. The Warren Tavern is one of the most historic taverns in America and the oldest in Massachusetts. A visit here is like stepping back in time – only with proper plumbing.
A visit along Boston’s Freedom Trail is definitely worth your time, but maybe just not all of it. Some sites, like the ones mentioned, are more worthwhile than others, so feel free to pick and choose.
Feeling inspired by the history of Boston? Maybe you just want to try the fabulous lobster tail? Get on Grabr today and find a traveler who can pick up something you’ll love from this amazing city.
Keep up with my crazy, fun adventures by visiting my travel blog, My Wanderlusty Life!
This article was written by Ashley Smith.