The Freedom Trail
Trip Start Feb 17, 2012
3Trip End Feb 19, 2012
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A clear blue sky day on Jet Blue had us arriving ahead of schedule with just barely one hour in the air between Dulles and Boston. Although a taxi is not the cheapest way to get from the airport to your hotel, you should probably never rent a car if you are visiting Boston and you probably don’t want to try navigating the subway system for the first time with luggage from the airport to your hotel. So, the $37 taxi ride to our hotel was the first of our in-town vacation expenses
I chose a hotel in the "Back Bay" area that was within walking distance of the John Hancock Tower, where I would receive my training. It was also within walking distance of an expansive set of indoor and outdoor malls, wonderful restaurants, Boston Commons (the start of the Freedom Trail) and only a block from the Copley subway stop.
The Back Bay was once a stagnant pool of water behind the Public Garden. It was filled in starting in 1857. It now holds some of the most exclusive real estate in Boston including Beacon Hill. I chose the Marriot Courtyard Copley Square (aka 88 Exeter) over several other more modern and equally convenient hotels because it was in an older, historic building and seemed to emit the vibe more of a boutique hotel rather than the several ones attached to the enormous inside mall infrastructure in the area. It had a small hotel feel, the staff were very friendly and helpful.
After unpacking, we headed off down Boylston Street to explore the famous Freedom Trail. Along the way we hit a few sites. The first was the Old South Church. The Old South Church was designed in the Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1873. It is home to one of the older religious communities in the United States and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It served as one of the original meeting places of the Sons of Liberty during the Revolutionary War period.
Basically caddy-corner, across the street sits the Trinity Church which is sited at the foot of the John Hancock Tower
Further down Boylston Street we came upon the entrance to the Public Garden which leads into Boston Commons. The Boston Public Garden is the largest and oldest botanical garden in the United States. Established in 1837, the 24-acre garden was formerly an enormous salt marsh. This is a great starting point for any tourist or person who finds themselves in Back Bay. In the center of the rectangular-shaped garden is a 4 acre pond. In the center of this pond stands the world's smallest suspension bridge, built over 100 years ago. As we exit the park and enter Boston Commons, our destination was the Boston Common Visitor Center where we purchased a Freedom Trail map and began our self-guided tour.
The Freedom Trail is a red (mostly brick) path through downtown that leads to 16 significant historic sites. It is a 2.5-mile walk from Boston Common to Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Simple ground markers explaining events, graveyards, notable churches and other buildings, and a historic naval frigate are stops along the way. Several sites are free, many request donations to assist with the upkeep of the site. he trick to staying on the trail is to follow the red brick road. This can, at times, be quite a challenge as entire areas become red brick and you make the wrong turn. It helps to have a good map.
We grabbed lunch at Lambert's Marketplace. A wonderful deli, with fabulous affordable selections and adequate seating
The first stop on the Freedom Trail is Boston Commons. The “Common" is a 50 acres central public park. Dating from 1634, it is the oldest city park in the United States. The Public Garden and The Common were lovely. However, I’m sure much more vibrate and crowded in the spring. Mid-February is clearly not peak tourist season in Boston!
The next stop is the Massachusetts State House. This gold domed building is situated on 6.7 acres of land on top of Beacon Hill. It was built on land once owned by John Hancock - Massachusetts's first elected governor.
We passed Park Street Church (constructed in 1801) and entered the Granary Burying Grounds. Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground is the cities third-oldest cemetery. It is the final resting place for many notable Revolutionary War-era patriots, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere, the five victims of the Boston Massacre and possibly Mother Goose! The cemetery has 2,345 graves, but historians estimate as many as 5,000 people are buried in it. This is largely due to the fact that coffins were not used – only shrouds – and families were buried on top of each other.
King’s Chapel was the next stop. King James II ordered (in 1688) that land be seized and the first Anglican Church was constructed. In 1749, the original wooden structure was too small for the congregation and so this Georgian chapel was constructed around the original church
Our next stop was at the Old South Meeting House. It was built in 1729 and is the second oldest church in Boston. It gained fame as the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party. On December 16, 1773, 5,000 colonists gathered here. It was the largest building in Boston at the time.
The trail led us next to an unexpected site – A Holocaust Memorial. The design utilizes uniquely powerful symbols of the Holocaust. The Memorial features six luminous glass towers, each 54 feet high. The towers are lit internally to gleam at night. They are set on a black granite path, each one over a dark chamber which carries the name of one of the principal Nazi death camps. Smoke rises from charred embers at the bottom of these chambers. Six million numbers are etched in glass in an orderly pattern, suggesting the infamous tattooed numbers and ghostly ledgers of the Nazi bureaucracy. The six towers recall the six main death camps and the six million Jews who died.
Nearby is the nation’s oldest Tavern. We navigate our way through a market in order to stay on the trail. Based on a recommendation from our daughter Kelsey, we stop at Mike’s Pastry for a mid-afternoon snack of their famous cannoli’s
Our next stop was at Paul Revere’s house. This wooden structure, dating back to 1680, is downtown’s oldest building still in existence. Paul Revere purchased it in 1770 when he was 35 years old. Revere was living at this house the night he set forth on April 18, 1775 to make his momentous ride to Lexington that would be immortalized by Longfellow's famous poem Paul Revere's Ride. At any given time during his residence Revere would have shared this house with his mother, and between five and nine of his children (he had 16 in all) and one of his wives.
Christ Church would be our last stop on the Freedom Trail. Also known as Old North Church, this is the oldest standing church building in Boston. It first opened its doors to worshippers on December 29, 1723. Its 191 foot steeple is the tallest in Boston and because of its prominence would play a dramatic role in the American Revolution.
For those of you looking at a Freedom Trail map, you will see that we skipped a few spots and did not complete the trip. We had decided to hit the highlights – mostly inside locations - with a plan to return, perhaps, and fill in what we had missed over the next few days. Due to the frigid weather that followed, that did not happen
Our return to the hotel would be on the famous Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway system. The song– “Did he ever return, No he never returned, And his fate is still unlearn’d” – kept playing in my mind as we braved North America's first subway (1897). So we purchased two “Charlie” tickets (“Poor Old Charlie” – “he may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston”…). The Charlie tickets were easy to buy at a machine using credit cards. A ride is $2, no matter where you get on and where you get off. Anyone who has navigated a typical city subway system should feel comfortable on the old “CTA”.
For dinner, Casey had selected and made reservations at the “Atlantic Fish Company”. This restaurant was very convenient to walk to from our hotel. It became a favorite. We ended up having dinner there all three nights in a row. The seafood specials were perfect. The freshly shucked local oysters were out of this world and the vegies – perfectly prepared.
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