USS Constitution

Tour "Old Ironsides" in the Charlestown Navy Yard

Photo of USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) in Boston Harbor -
USS Constitution docked in Charlestown's Navy Shipyard - Bunker Hill Monument in background

One of the most interesting sites on Boston's Freedom Trail and always a huge favorite with keds and teens, the USS Constitution offers free tours conducted by its Navy crew members.

You get to see the top deck, gun deck, and berth area, plus you get the thrill of walking around this magnificent ship built in 1797, the oldest commissioned warship still afloat anywhere in the world.     

Best of all are the guides' stories about life aboard the ship 200+ years ago, tidbits about her legendary battles, and explanations of the Constitution's important role in American history.  Adding to the authenticity, crew members wear 1812-style uniforms. 

Located in the Charlestown Navy Yard close to Downtown Boston, the USS Constitution spends most of the year anchored wharf-side, easily accessible to visitors who join the 30-minute tours. 

Here's everything you need to know about visiting and touring the USS Constitution, where to stay nearby, the fascinating history of this famous ship, more fun things to do near the Charlestown Navy Yard, and best times to visit.

Note:  USS Constitution will temporarily close to the public between April 27 and May 19, 2015 in order to be prepared for being put into dry dock while repairs and restoration take place from 2015-2018.  The Constitution will reopen for free public tours on June 9, 2015. 


Cruises and Tours to the USS Constitution

Whether you want to join one of the Navy tours of the Constitution or just view it from the water, several Boston sightseeing tours include Old Ironsides while showing you many other interesting attractions at the same time.

Boston USS Constitution Cruise

This narrated seasonal (April-November) cruise takes you to see the Constitution up close, along with the Bunker Hill Monument, Boston Tea Party Boat, and the Old North Church.  Best of all, you have the opportunity to disembark at the Charlestown Navy Yard and tour the ship and the nearby Naval Museum.  More about the USS Constitution Cruise »

Total Boston Experience

Choose this tour when you want to experience the best of Boston, Lexington, Cambridge, and Concord in 1 day!  In addition to your visit to the Constitution, you'll tour famous Boston sights and charming neighborhoods, stroll around Harvard Square, and follow Paul Revere's route to Lexington and Concord.  Find out more about the Total Boston Experience Tour »

Boston Sunset Cruise

You'll see spectacular views of the Boston city skyline, fascinating scenes along the North End, and finally, the Constitution and Bunker Hill monument silhouetted against the evening sky, just like my photo at the top of the page.  To make your sunset cruise even more special, you'll hear the Constitution's sunset cannon salute.  More about the Sunset Cruise »

Tall Ship Cruises

Want to experience sailing aboard a historically accurate tall ship, just like the spectacular schooners that once plied the waters of Boston Harbor?  Several modern but historically accurate tall ships offer memorable cruises daily from June to September.  Find out more about tall ship cruises »

Check for discount and half-price tickets for these cruises


Where to Stay near the USS Constitution

Marriott Residence Inn in Charlestown, MA Constitution Inn In Charlestown's Boston Navy Yard Photo of Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel in Boston's North End near Charlestown
Marriott Residence Inn - Waterfront Location
Constitution Inn - Navy Yard Hotel
Battery Wharf - In nearby North End
More hotels in the nearby North End


Did You Know . . .

The Charlestown Navy Yard, home to the USS Constitution, dates back to 1800 and closed as a Naval shipyard in 1974.  

At that time, 30 acres of the Yard became preserved as a park.   In addition to touring the Constitution, you can also visit World War II destroyer USS Cassin Young, where park rangers offer free tours.  Want to learn more about both ships?  Visit the USS Constitution Museum, dedicated to presenting the history of Old Ironsides.

Every July 4th, the Constitution appears in Boston Harbor as part of the huge Harborfest celebration.  Additional turn-around cruises occur a few more times each year.

Photo of USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) in Boston Harbor -
USS Constitution in Boston Harbor on her annual turn-around cruise


How the USS Constitution became "Old Ironsides"

The 204 foot-long, wood-hulled Constitution launched in 1797, sporting copper fastenings designed and fabricated by Paul Revere, 3 enormous masts topping as high as 220 feet, and a crew of 450-500.  The magnificent vessel spent her first years defending American shipping interests by fighting Barbary pirates off the North African coast.

Designed to combine speed with fire power, the Constitution fought numerous battles against the British during the War of 1812. 

After defeating 5 British warships and capturing numerous merchant ships, her moment of glory came during a fierce battle against the mighty British frigate HMS Guerriere.  The two frigates collided and nearly capsized but they still continued to fight.

By the end, the Constitution had pulverized the Guerriere - but most of the Guerriere's shots and cannon balls simply bounced off the hull of the American ship.  When she returned to port in Boston, cheering crowds re-christened her "Old Ironsides."

The frigate's biggest battle came in 1830, when plans to scrap the aging wooden ship inspired poet Oliver Wendell Holmes to write his famous poem, "Old Ironsides."  Public outcry kept her in active service until 1855, and after extensive restoration, she now serves as a museum ship.

Photo of USS Constitution giving a 21-gun salute In Boston Harbor near Castle Island -
The Constitution giving a 21-gun salute in Boston Harbor, seen from Castle Island


The USS Constitution's Contribution to History

The War of 1812 is sometimes called "America's second War of Independence," and although the Constitution's victories at sea actually did not make a substantive difference in the war's outcome, they played a huge role in the young country's confidence in its ability to prevail for a second time against England.

Children and teens love touring this ship - and so do adults.  For many, getting to go aboard "Old Ironsides" turns out to be the highlight of the Freedom Trail.

Photo of USS Constitution dockside in the Charlestown Navy Yard -
USS Constitution dockside in the Charlestown Navy Yard

Essentials:  USS Constitution
  • Location: Boston National Historical Park in Charlestown Navy Yard, 1 Constitution Road, Charlestown, MA (Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, north of the North End)
  • Open (June 9, 2015 until restoration completes in 2018):  
     -  Tuesday - Friday, 2pm - 6pm
     -  Saturday - Sunday, 10am - 6pm
     -  Note: These days and hours may change due to the restoration work; hours are also typically somewhat shorter during the winter months
      -  Parts of the ship normally open to tour may be closed during the restoration
      - Tours start about every half hour until 30 minutes before closing time, and they last about half an hour
  • Cost:  Free admission, and free tours by the U.S. Navy
  • Boston Insider Tip:  To avoid long lines, arrive when or before the ship opens for tours; lines typically get longer throughout the afternoon
  • Getting there:
    - Closest T station is Orange Line: North Station - you'll cross over the Zakim bridge, cross the Charlestown bridge, and then follow the red line of the Freedom Trail until you reach the Charlestown Navy Yard where the ship is located.  The walk will take you about 15-20 minutes.  If you're going to come by T, check out the detailed walking directions on the Navy's website:
    - Driving & parking - You cannot park next to the ship, and nearby curbside parking is limited/impossible to find in this area - so your best bet for parking near the USS Constitution is in one of these lots and garages:
    - Nautica Parking Garage - Phone: (617) 723-1488
    Constitution Road, opposite the Navy Yard Visitor Center. Validated parking is available at the USS Constitution Museum
    - One Constitution Center (a.k.a. Constitution Marina) - Phone: (617) 242-1965
    Constitution Road, next to Residence Inn Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf
    - Flagship Wharf - Phone: (617) 241-7640
    In front of Ship Yard Park in the Charlestown Navy Yard


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