This is the city where the American rebellion began... the Colonists first openly defied the Crown, turning Boston Harbor into a monumental teacup... and where the first major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. Bostonians are fiercely proud of this city and of its buildings. Many of the buildings you see have not been changed since they were erected. Thus, the obvious place to begin exploring Boston is to walk the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail: This is a 2 1/2 mile historic walk from Boston Common to the USS Constitution in the harbor. One will see ample evidence of a city preserving its history. It's best to "walk it", but there is an Old Time Trolley tour available.
• Boston Common: This 360-acre park is the nation's first public park and pasture land (cows weren't banned until 1830). That elm tree at its center was used for public hangings. George Washington paraded through the Common, and his troops camped here. Today the park is a welcome oasis in the midst of a city. The Freedom Trail walk begins at the north end of the park. Find the red line painted on the sidewalk. This marks the trail. Follow this red line down sidewalks, across brick streets and up porch steps.
• Beacon Hill: As you walk toward the State House at the beginning of the trail, you are beginning the ascent of Beacon Hill. It was named for the tallow pot that was set on its summit in the 1600s as a warning device to be lit in times of danger. The summit was steeper in those days. It was leveled at the end of the 18th century to make room for the State House and the fine brick row houses that still stand as the epitome of proper Bostonian residences. If time permits, take a detour from the Freedom Trail and walk down Beacon Street for a look at the Federalist-era mansions fronting the Common.
• Massachusetts State House: Just off Boston Common on Park Street, this domed building was built in 1795. At that time its dome was covered with copper from Paul Revere's mill, but in the mid 1800's the gilded look was added. The House Chamber is presided over by the Sacred Cod, a three-foot-long, hand-carved wooden fish that looks a little like a weather vane and hangs from the ceiling. This symbolized the importance of the fishing industry and has traditionally indicated how the political winds are blowing. (Faces north when the Democrats are in control of the House). Hrs 10:00-4:00.
• Park Street Church: Located at the corner of Park and Tremont streets, an intersection better known as Brimstone Corner for the scalding oratory heard at the church and for the brimstone (used to make gunpowder) that was stored in the church basement. On July 4, 1831, "My Country 'Tis of Thee" was first sung here. Architecturally the church is of interest as the last major structure to be built in the Georgian style in Boston. Dates from 1809.
• Old Granary Burying Gound: Continue walking up Tremont. The streets begin to narrow and the buildings become closer on both sides. This provides a perfect atmosphere to approach the Old Granary Burying Ground. This 17th century cemetery, shaded by trees, looks eerie even during the middle of the day. Adding to the spookiness are the older gray headstones chiseled with frightening images of death heads and skulls, reflecting the Puritans' views. Later headstones carry the softer images of angels and urns and the promise of a pleasant afterlife. Among the notables buried here: Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, three signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Mother Goose (Elizabeth Goose, who told stories to her grandchildren). The Franklin family monument is also here. Ben himself, although born in Boston, was buried in Philadelphia. (Note: In the 1930's, the markers in this cemetery were re-arranged to make maintenance easier).
• King's Chapel: Further north along Tremont at the corner of School Street is King's Chapel, an Anglican church first built in 1686 of wood. It was rebuilt using granite in the mid-1700s, and is the first Colonial church to be built from plans supplied by an American architect. The interior is a fine example of Georgian grace and elegance. Its solid stone mass makes the city's glass skyscrapers seem fragile by comparison. Note: Across the street is the Parker House Hotel. The famous rolls of the same name were first introduced here.
• Old City Hall: Located on the left as you walk down School Street. The statue out front is Ben Franklin. City business has now moved across the street to Government Center.
• Old Corner Bookstore: Cutting down School Street, past flower carts and trinket vendors, you come to the Old Corner Bookstore at Washington Street. It's now called the Globe Corner Bookstore. A century ago this shop housed the famous publishing house of Ticknor and Fields and its clients have included Wadsworth Longfellow, Thomas Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthrone and Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was here in the mid 1800s that owner James P. Fields introduced the concept of royalty payments for authors.
• Old Meeting House: On the corner of Washington and School Streets. It was here, in 1773 that a group of Colonial tax protesters waited for Samuel Adams signal to launch the Boston Tea Party. It is one of the three 18th century Anglican churches remaining in the city. (Note: The site where the colonists threw the tea into the harbor, near present-day South Station, has long since been covered over in landfill operations). Hrs 10:00-5:00
• Old State House: Further up Washington. The Old State House was built in 1717 as the seat of the British colonial government. In front of the building is the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre in which five young Americans were killed in a scuffle with British troops. From its balcony, the Declaration of Independence was first read to the Colonists on July 18, 1776. This is a museum today housing local historical artifacts. Hrs 10:00-4:00.
• Faneuil Hall: Up Congress Street at Dock Square. This 250-year-old hall is still used as it always has been - a marketplace on the ground floor and a public meeting room above. Patriots first spoke of revolution here in the 1700s. Abolitionists denounced slavery here in the 1800s. Today it is still a forum for political speeches. Inside, a wide staircase leads up to the main meeting room, its walls crowded with historical portraits and Americana. It is now about twice the size of the original hall. Hrs 9:00-4:30.
• Quincy Market: Behind Faneuil Hall is a cobblestone area of restaurants and shops called Quincy Market. Notice the three early 19th century arcades.
• Paul Revere's House: From Quincy Market, the trail will lead you through an open-air produce market into the North End which is Boston's Italian neighborhood. Continuing through this area you will come to Paul Revere's house on North Square. His house, built in 1676 is the oldest building in Boston. With its dark, low-slung roofs and narrow spaces it appears somewhat sinister looking. The house has been furnished with period pieces and some of Revere's personal effects. Well worth a visit inside. Hrs 9:30-5:30
• Old North Church: Continuing in the North End, you'll see the steeple of the Old North Church. The white steeple stands out in the sea of the surrounding red brick buildings. Built in 1723 this is the oldest church in Boston and was originally called Christ Church. On the night of April 18, 1775, Revere's friend Robert Newman hung the famous signal lanterns in the church steeple... "...one if by land, two if by sea..." A museum and gift shop adjacent to Church. Hrs. 9:00-5:00
• Copp's Hill Burial Ground: Located just up the hill from Old North Church. This cemetery is full of interesting gray headstones, but the occupants aren't well known. This spot is the highest point in the North End and offers some dramatic views. The British stationed their cannon here during the Battle of Bunker Hill.
• Bunker Hill: Cross the bridge over the Charles River. At Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. It was here in 1775 that Col. William Prescott uttered the famous, "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes". The Bunker Hill Monument is a handsome and climbable granite obelisk.
• USS Constitution: Cut back down to the Harbor for the USS Constitution, the oldest battleship still in commission. It's made of wood but got the name Old Ironsides because as fortune would have it during the War of 1812, cannonballs bounced off its sides. She has been restored so many times that only about 5% of the original vessel remains intact.
Museum of Fine Arts: 465 Huntington Av. This is one of the great museums of the US... perhaps among the top 5. Particularly strong in Impressionists, antiquities. New West Wing. Excellent Museum Gift Shop. Restaurant. For the art lover, this museum is a must see! Hours: Tu-Su 10-5.
Isabella Steward Gardner Museum: 280 The Fenway. Built as a private home by the eccentric Mrs. Gardner in 1902. The museum is filled with her carefully acquired collections of Old Masters, sculpture, and furniture. Some very choice paintings here, but they are hung in the old style... some very high on the walls almost at the ceiling... and it's dark. This museum was in the news in the last 10 years because a major Rembrandt and a major Vermeer were stolen... and they've never been found. During a last visit, the museum left the "spots" bare with the nametag still intact. Not a visitor-friendly museum. Hrs. We-Su 12-5. Closed Mon.
Public Gardens: On Charles Street across from Boston Common. Lush seasonal plantings and stately trees.
Franklin Park Zoo: Located in Franklin Park, the zoo offers 50 acres of outdoor animal habitats and an outstanding aviary
Christian Science Center: An architectural masterpiece. Interesting guided tours.
Cheers Bar: The top TV show featured this bar.
Museum at the John F. Kennedy Library: Off Morrissey Blvd. Dorchester, adjacent to the University of Massachusetts campus. Contains the presidential papers and memorabilia. Hrs 9-5 daily.
Harvard University: Across the Charles River in Cambridge... and the location of the Fogg Art Museum and the Peabody Museum.
Boston Symphony Hall: Corner of Massachusetts and Huntington. Home of the Boston Symphony... and the Boston Pops. Season is October to April. The "Pops" performs outdoors at the Hatch Shell in July.