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Since 1958, seeing many of the great historic sites in Boston has been as simple as following the red line on the sidewalk. This red line connects the sixteen sites on what is known as the Freedom Trail.
Following the 2.5-mile red-brick Freedom Trail, you can walk through America’s early history. This is a must-see for families who love history.
School-age children and older who are interested in the past will enjoy seeing where the Boston Tea Party began, the site of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, where John Hancock and Paul Revere are buried, and more.
This city has so much history that we can only begin to touch the surface of all of the historic sites in Boston.
Freedom Trail Tours
A walk on the Freedom Trail is easy to do just by following the red brick line that marks the trail, or you could take a Freedom Trail tour for a better experience.
- The Freedom Trail Self-Guided Tour is an inexpensive tour with a self-guided GPS map, a list of stops, audio narrations, and written text explanations of each stop.
- The Boston Freedom Trail Tour is a 90-minute walking tour with a professional costumed guide who will tell you about the history and events at each site.
- The Revolutionary Story Walking Tour includes a historian guide, humor, restrooms, a midway coffee and snack break, and a visit to twelve Freedom Trail sights.
No matter which tour you choose or if you walk the trail on your own, The Boston Freedom Trail is a fun and educational trip to the past.
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Historic Sites On The Freedom Trail
We’ll begin this tour from Boston Common. Boston Common is 44 acres of open land and America’s oldest public park, which John Hancock’s mansion once overlooked.
Originally used as a common grazing area for livestock owned by the townspeople, the Common became a training field for the militia. Then, during the occupation of Boston, it was used as a British Army camp.
The Common has hosted hangings, duels, public celebrations, and political speeches but is now enjoying a quieter time in its history as a fine place for a picnic.
Massachusetts State House
The first building on the Freedom Trail is the State House. Built in 1798 on John Hancock’s cow pasture, the State House was acclaimed as one of the more magnificent buildings in the country.
Although the dome is now covered in 23-carat gold leaf, it began as a wooden dome and was later covered with copper to prevent leakage.
The golden dome now tops the building, which is home to the governor’s office and has served as the seat of Massachusetts’ state government since its opening in 1798.
Park Street Church
The second building is the Park Street Church which was founded in 1809. This is where William Lloyd Garrison made his first public address of note against slavery in 1829.
On July 4, 1831, the song “America,” well known as My Country ‘Tis of Thee, was first sung at this church. The Park Street Church still has regular weekly services.
Granary Burying Ground
The next stop is the Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place for many of America’s well-known patriots, such as Samuel Adams, Peter Faneuil, Paul Revere, and John Hancock.
The building of the King’s Chapel began on this church in 1688 by the Royal Governor. He built it on the town burial ground because no one would sell him land to build a non-Puritan church.
The interior of King’s Chapel is considered the finest example of Georgian church architecture in North America.
The King’s Chapel Burying Ground was Boston’s only burying place for nearly 30 years. Some of Massachusetts Bay Colony’s finest citizens rest here.
John Winthrop, the Colony’s first governor; William Dawes, Jr., who rode with Paul Revere to Lexington and Concord; and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower in Plymouth Colony, are just a few of the early settlers resting here.
Benjamin Franklin Statue
Outside the Old City Hall is a statue of Benjamin Franklin. Take a moment to notice the plaque below it to mark the site of the country’s first Public School, Boston Latin, founded in April of 1635.
Boston Latin is listed as one of the top public schools in the United States and is the top school in Massachusetts.
The Old Corner Bookstore
The Old Corner Bookstore building was built in 1718 and is the oldest commercial building in downtown Boston. The building was turned into a thriving bookstore in 1828 and is now a retail space.
Threatened with demolition in 1960, the building was spared and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is now under consideration as an official Boston Landmark.
Old South Meeting House
Much history has been made within the walls of the Old South Meeting House. This building began as a Puritan house of worship and is the building from which a group of outraged citizens, led by Samuel Adams, began the Boston Tea Party.
Inside, you will find a permanent display entitled “Voices of Protest,” which tells the story of the people that have made history here.
The Old State House began as the British governing headquarters in Boston. In 1770, the Boston Massacre took place just outside the doors of the Old State House. The actual site of the massacre is now marked by a ring of cobblestones acting as a traffic island.
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Boston from the balcony of the Old State House. Today, this building holds a museum of Boston history.
A perfect stop for lunch is the next building on the Freedom Trail. Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 by Peter Faneuil and given to the town. For over 250 years, Faneuil Hall has been a meeting and marketplace for the people of Boston.
The first floor served as a marketplace for local merchants to sell their goods, which is still used today.
The second floor served as the town meeting hall where “No taxation without representation” was declared. This is also where Wendell Philips, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglas spoke to the people of Boston about abolition.
Paul Revere’s House
Late one night in 1775, a silversmith left his warm hearth to ride as far and as fast as he could to spread the word that the British were coming. That night began at the next stop on our tour of Boston.
Explore Paul Revere’s house to gain an interesting glimpse into what everyday life was like for the Reveres during America’s Revolutionary era.
The Old North Church
One is by land and two if by sea. The Old North Church is where Robert Newman displayed two lanterns to warn of British troop movements.
This signal started the ride of Paul Revere and others to warn colonists that the British were coming. The Old North Church is the oldest in Boston and continues to serve its Episcopal congregation.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the final resting place of many merchants, artisans, craftsmen, and free African-Americans. It is also the strategic point from which the British trained their cannons on Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The next stop on the Boston Freedom Trail is on the waterfront. The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.
The U.S.S. Constitution was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” when, during the war of 1812, cannonballs fired at her from the H.M.S. Guerriere bounced off her sides.
You can learn more about this historic ship at the U.S.S. Constitution Museum.
The next place you’ll visit is Bunker Hill. The Bunker Hill Monument is a 221-foot granite obelisk that sits on the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution.
The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first time a Colonial army held its own against the British army and the first major battle of the American Revolution.
Black Heritage Trail
Adjacent to the Freedom Trail, the Black Heritage Trail is an interesting and educational side trip. The Heritage Trail begins at the Visitor Center in Boston Common and ends at the USS Constitution.
What is the Heritage Trail in Boston?
The Black Heritage Trail is a 1.6-mile walk through the famous Beacon Hill neighborhood. The trail traces the history of a Black community that flourished on and near the north slope of Beacon Hill before, during, and after the American Civil War.
You will see the Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial, which marks the intersection of the Freedom Trail and The Black Heritage Trail, and much more along this route.
Boston is a modern metropolitan city with a bright future, but the city’s history is very important to America’s colorful history as a whole.
Walking the Freedom Trail is a trip into our past that everyone should take. There are few experiences like it.
Tip: for a uniquely Boston experience, take the famous Duck Boat Tour on the Charles River to see some of the sites along the freedom trail from a different perspective.