“Here ye, Here ye, the freedom trail begins!” This is the initial call of the freedom trail guides who dress in the colonial garb of the 17th century while piloting their tours through three centuries of U.S. history. The trail is a two and a half mile walk winding through downtown Boston and includes 16 stops along the way, each peppered with explanations from the official guide on how contemporaries would have experienced the city.
Tickets are available at a small cottage-like vender about a half-mile walk from the Park Street station. Make sure you wear sturdy footwear, especially in the winter, and that you carry an umbrella (tours operate regardless of the weather conditions). Tours depart promptly every hour on the hour from 11:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. so make sure you show up a few minutes early.
The tour begins in Boston’s most historic park, the 50-acre green of the Boston Commons, dubbed “the Commons” by local residents. The park remains the oldest publicly owned land in the United States, which in its earliest days was used for grazing livestock and public hangings by the Puritans. From the Commons, the tour continues through the city stopping at notable locations such as the Granary Burying Grounds, the Old North Church, the Old South Meeting House, the State House, King’s Chapel, and Faneuil Hall.
Don’t miss the Granary Burying Grounds built in 1660 where the remains of revolution-era figures such as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and James Otis are buried. Especially outstanding is the headstone of John Hancock who humorously created his own coat of arms featuring an up-turned hand below three roosters, visually representing the sounds of his own name.
Also buried in the Granary Burying Grounds are five victims from the Boston Massacre who were shot by British soldiers defending the customs house in 1770, a major event that sparked the Revolutionary war. The location of the massacre (now a Bank of America) is the second to last stop on the tour and boasts a view the largest commercial loading dock in the 18th century, would have extended in the colonial era.
Need a place to rest your feet and fill your belly after the tour? Enjoy a meal of typical New England fare at the oldest restaurant in the country, the Union Oyster House. Open to diners since 1826, this was former president John F. Kennedy’s favorite place to eat in Boston has a plaque marking his favorite booth.
If you desire a global selection of eats, try Quincy Market, built in 1826 as an extension of the Faneuil Hall marketplace. The original marketplace was donated as a gift to the city by Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant and notorious bachelor. Today the marketplace serves as a favorite watering hole for the working lunchtime crowd, boasting 35 food stalls with cuisine from around the world.
End your day with a cannoli (an Italian pastry with a crunchy outer shell filled with heavy cream) from Mike’s Pastry in the North End, a short walk from Faneuil Hall, and a stroll along the Boston Harbor waterfront where four centuries of captains would have docked their ships.