Boston National Historical Park: Freedom Trail

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

The Freedom Trail runs through Boston and Charlestown in the Boston National Historical Park. It is a 2.5 mile red brick path running past a collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers, most from the American Revolutionary period. There are 16 official stops on the trail with plenty to see in between.

We were in Boston for a long weekend for a U2 concert and found ourselves following the freedom trail over the course of a few days in our travels. The red brick path made it pretty hard to get lost in town.


While waiting for a table in Boston’s North End, we followed the path up the block and used the half-hour wait time to explore the Old North Church. This was the launch point for Paul Revere’s ride. Because its steeple is the tallest in Boston, patriots in Charlestown were warned that the British were advancing across the Charles River by the appearance of two lanterns shining from the highest point.


We followed the Freedom Trail behind the church, through Paul Revere mall, to his statue in front of St. Stephen’s. Then it was time to hurry back to the restaurant for some good Italian food.


We had lunch at Quincy Market one day and afterwards walked over to Faneuil Hall.  Faneuil Hall is an official stop on the Freedom Trail because it is considered the birthplace of free speech. It is the site of America’s first Town Hall meeting and continued in this capacity for over two centuries. Did you know that new American citizens are still sworn in here?


We also picked up parts of the trail by riding a hop on, hop off sightseeing bus. Our bus pass included admittance to the Boston Tea Party Museum. This is not part of the National Park, nor is it on the Freedom Trail, but it is an excellent re-enactment of the catalyst for the American Revolution.


When you enter the museum, you are assigned the role of a person who lived in Boston in the 1700s. In character, you attend a meeting where you are incited to rebel against ‘Taxation Without Representation’ . The tour proceeds through various aspects of the conflict, moving through the building and out onto the docks. For the grand finale, you board the reconstructed ships and throw fake tea over the side! Sounds hokey, but really it was fun…grade-A edutainment!


After the Tea Party, we walked back to the Freedom Trail and over to Kings Chapel. Kings Chapel is an Anglican Church ordered by the king in the late 1600s. No one would sell land to build a non-Puritan church, so the King built it on the city’s burial grounds.


There’s a statue of Benjamin Franklin next door. We usually associate him with Philadelphia and his role in the birth of democracy there. But he was actually born and raised in Boston.


Finally, we headed towards the Boston Common. On the way we passed the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill. The distinctive dome has been many things. It started out as wood. Paul Revere then plated it in copper. The government covered the dome in gold leaf in the 1800s, but then it painted grey during WWII. Now it is gilded again. It is the oldest building on Beacon Hill and the State government still conducts its business there.


Boston Common is America’s oldest public park, dating back to the 1600s.


We loved the “Make Way For Ducklings’ sculpture. I read that story many times to my daughter when she was little.


We passed through Winthrop Square while walking the trail between the Navy Yard and Bunker Hill. Winthrop Square is a small park and was the site of colonial militia training grounds.


Location: Boston & Charlestown, MA
Designation: National Historical Park
Date designated/established: 1975
Date of my visit: July 15, 20