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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Toeing the Red Line, Boston's Freedom Trail

At 3.2 miles long and with an average elevation gain of 183 feet I wasn’t entirely sure if the kids would be able to manage Boston’s Freedom Trail in a single day.

In the end they did pull it off and even though we would love to have spent more time at many of the sites along the way it turned out to be a memorable, albeit exhausting, day for all of us.

Inner Harbour Ferry
The tour started off with a short ride on the Inner Harbour Ferry. The little, aging, MBTA operated ferry boat snakes in between its larger sisters (Boston Harbour Cruises, Codzilla and Whale Watcher Catamarans) to collect passengers travelling from Long Wharf, home of the New England Aquarium, to the Navy Yard, where Old Ironsides is moored.
Though short, the 15 minute trip provides some stunning views of the Boston skyline.

USS Constitution
After the HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned warship is the USS Constitution, but since Nelson’s Flagship is permanently in dry dock, the Constitution has the honor of being the oldest commissioned warship not only afloat, but still sailing.

Aside from special commemorative sailing events such as Boston Navy Week the Constitution or “Old Ironsides” is usually moored at the Charlestown Navy Yard.

If you get there early you should be able to join a guided tour of the ship, presented by an active-duty sailor, with only a short wait.

Thankfully for us both the gun and crew decks are pretty large, so if you have excited and chatty kids, keep them occupied at one end of the ship and they shouldn’t be much of a distraction to the tour taking place at the other end.
For a great upper-thigh workout, head to the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument. Stroller parking is not allowed in the little building attached, so I ended up lugging the thing all the way up to the top.
The windows at the top are small, plexiglass and dirty so if it’s views you want head to the Prudential. Climb the obelisk purely for the bragging rights.

After the climb you can use the restrooms and enjoy the air-conditioning at the Bunker Hill Museum at the foot of the hill on the corner of High Street and Monument Avenue.
Warren Tavern
About 4 blocks off the Freedom Trail (counting from City Square) on the corner of Pleasant and Main Street is the restored 18th century Warren Tavern. This is a great place to cool off, grab a drink and a bite before heading back out on the Trail.
Look for a more in depth review of this establishment under its own heading.

After the Charlestown Bridge the Trail passes Copp’s Hill Burial Ground (Boston’s oldest after King’s Chapel), the Old North Church, the Paul Revere Mall and the Paul Revere House.

The kids can cool off a bit in the fountains of North End Park before you continue on Hanover Street, past a slew of Irish Pubs and on to Faneuil Hall.

At Faneuil you’ll often spot great street performers who entertain passersby with feats of acrobatics, juggling, music and comedy.

A little further up is Quincy market which consists of three main shopping areas: the historic Quincy Market Building has an inner promenade of dozens of vendor stalls selling just about every American and ethnic food variety you can imagine.

Along the outer walls of the Market Building you’ll find carts and stalls selling arts, crafts, jewelry, clothing and souvenirs.

Surrounding the Quincy Market are North and South Market Streets which, in turn, are bordered by more conventional shops, boutiques and offices.

The downtown leg of the Freedom Trail hosts further sites of historical significance such as the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House with the Boston Massacre Site and the King’s Chapel and Granary Burying Grounds.

Unfortunately by this time the kids were getting tired of the long walk and we skipped most of the sites in this area to head to the Boston Common.

End the day on a high for the kids and spend some time at the Boston Common Frog Pond. There’s a little playground there that is walled off and astro-turfed. It features some water fountains, slides and a bunch of climbing and swinging equipment.

Then head over to the Boston Public Garden and enjoy a relaxing ride on the Swan Paddle Boats. Two adults and two kids will cost you a little over eight dollars for a roughly 15 minute figure-8 tour of the pond.


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