Whether you explore on your own or take one of the popular guide-led Freedom Trail tours, combine views of Boston historical attractions with a unique way to experience the oldest parts of the city.
Whether you're searching for insights into Boston history, an informative walking tour of Boston, or simply an introduction to the city, Freedom Trail tours provide a memorable way to explore the beginnings of America liberty.
All kinds of Freedom Trail tour options are offered, ranging from groups led by professional costumed guides to self-guided explorations along the red brick path.
Choices for touring the Freedom Trail range from free (self-guided with a map, or led by a Park Ranger) or fee-based. Each option offers benefits, and you can't really go wrong, whichever you choose. Here's an overview of each option:
Pick up an excellent free map of the Freedom Trail at the Visitor Information Center on Boston Common (near the Park Street T station) or the National Historical Park Visitor Center at 15 State Street in Downtown Boston. You can also download the free map here.
Walk along at your own pace. Start and stop wherever you like. Walk fast and cover the whole trail in a couple of hours, or visit just a couple of sites, perhaps detouring for some super shopping in Faneuil Hall Marketplace or for a steaming cup of cappuccino in the North End - it's your choice!
Boston Common in Downtown Boston anchors one end of the Freedom Trail, and Bunker Hill in Charlestown anchors the other. You can start at either end, or at any point in the middle.
The Freedom Trail is not a loop - so if you walk from one end to the other, you will not be close to where you started. Fortunately, all of the sites are reasonably close to the T. The free Freedom Trail map shows nearby T stations.
Downtown Freedom Trail sites - Start at Boston Common, and immediately detour across Charles Street to see Boston's Victorian-era Public Garden - beautiful any time of the year, plus it's a "must" if you're traveling with children who'll want to see the Make Way for Ducklings statues and go for a Swan Boat ride. Cross back over Charles Street (or, if you love antiques, stroll down it for another detour into Beacon Hill, where many of Boston's best antique shops line the 6 or 8 (depending on which side you count on) Charles Street.
Join a free guided tour given by Rangers from the National Park Service.
The tours start in Boston Common, last 90 minutes, and include some but not all of the sites. Inquire about schedules at the Visitor Information Center or the National Historical Park Visitor Center.
The Rangers are quite knowledgeable, and give a good tour.
Also, if your children are the age where you may unexpectedly need to leave the tour in order to find bathroom facilities (the State House, Old State House, Old South Meeting House, and Faneuil Hall Marketplace are your best options), you won't have to regret dropping out of a pricey tour.
Several different groups give guided Freedom Trail tours, and the cost varies. Typically, the tours last 1-2 hours and include some but not all of the sites. Many of the tour guides are knowledgeable historians as well as skilled actors and entertainers. Some wear Colonial costumes.
I often eavesdrop for a few minutes when I walk past one of these groups, and am impressed by the value and entertainment they deliver.
Take a Boston city tour, such as the popular Boston Duck Tours. You'll drive by several Freedom Trail sites, as well as a lot of other places. The tour conductor will point them out and perhaps tell an anecdote. You'll only get a glimpse as you go by (assuming that traffic is moving), but you can explore the sites later on foot if you want to see them in more detail.
Don't, however, try to see the sites by driving by them yourself. The Freedom Trail is designed as a walking tour for good reason. Boston's narrow, winding streets make car maneuvering difficult, at best, plus not all sites can be seen by car.
If you plan to explore only part of the Freedom Trail, pick one of the neighborhoods and focus on the sites in that area. If you have young children with you, this is a much saner approach than trying to complete the whole Trail.
In the Downtown section of the Trail, Faneuil Hall Marketplace makes a great focal point. You can see Faneuil Hall itself with the famous grasshopper weathervane, admire the statue of Sam Adams, explore the shops, and and enjoy the food in Quincy Market.
Other Freedom Trail sites are nearby, plus you're close to the Holocaust Memorial, Haymarket (Friday and Saturday only), and parts of Harborwalk along the waterfront. The Rose Kennedy Greenway is nearby, in case you want to detour over to the North End or go have lunch in Chinatown.
In the North End section, Paul Revere's house gives an interesting glimpse of how people lived in the late 1700s. If you're on this part of the Freedom Trail, you'll want to spend time walking around the North End.
Hanover Street, right around the corner from Revere's house, is lined with tempting restaurants and bakeries, and if you turn north at Cross Street and then right onto Salem Street, you'll find even more.
You can also find some of the city's best seafood and Italian restaurants in this neighborhood. After a final espresso, you can cross the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and walk past Haymarket to Faneuil Hall.
If you decide to focus on the Charlestown Freedom Trail sites, the easiest - and most scenic - way to get there is to take the MBTA ferry from Long Wharf. Tickets are $2 each way, and even less if you use the T's "CharlieCard."
As you walk from the USS Constitution in the Charlestown Navy Yard to Bunker Hill, take a small detour down Main Street. You'll pass the Warren Tavern, great place for lunch or dinner for over 200 years, as Paul Revere and George Washington could attest . . . if they were still alive.
Open: You can visit outdoor Freedom Trail sites such as Boston Common and monuments all day, every day. The graveyards are open during daylight hours.
Indoor sites open for specific hours and close on some days, so call or check the website for each site that you want to visit.
Churches still in use for worship have services on Sunday and sometimes at other times which you're welcome to attend; they are not available for Trail tours during these times.
Accessibility: Although many of the sites are wheelchair accessible, some are not due to their age and historical preservation restrictions, so check in advance at each site if applicable.
Cost: Most of the sites are free. The churches gratefully accept contributions to help with maintenance. Three (Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Paul Revere's House) charge small fees. Fees for 2010 range from $3.50-$7 for adults, with reduced rates for children, seniors, and students.
Locations: Downtown Boston, North End, and Charlestown. See details about each site for more specific information.
Closest T stations to each end of the Freedom Trail:
Parking your car:
If you arrive in Boston by car, you'll need to park it. Parking in Boston tends to be expensive. Choices near the ends and middle of the Freedom Trail include:
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