If you’re heading to Boston, odds are the Freedom Trail is (and should be!) on your list of things to do. You could easily spend all day, and I do suggest it! Plan for at least two hours to walk and see all the sites, and more like 5 or 6 hours if you want to visit and spend a little time at each historic site. But first, here are some things to note.
Know Before You Go
- There is one very important thing to know about the Freedom Trail: Freedom is not free! This is not a deal-breaker, but it is definitely something to put in the budget and be prepared for! Plan to spend about $47 per adult including suggested donations and admission. Many sites have discounts for kids, and some even let kids in free, so parents, rejoice!
- The entire Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles.
- There is a water shuttle that you can take before or after that goes between the USS Constitution Museum and the Aquarium downtown!
- The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum are not part of the Freedom Trail. Don’t be disappointed!
- It’s a full mile walk from the Old North Church to the Bunker Hill Monument.
- Bring water and possibly snacks, especially if you’ve got the kids in tow.
- There will always be a red line to follow, but those red lines vary! Here is a sampling of the red line you’ll see:
- Also, look for this symbol so you know where to stop. The arrow is pointing in the direction of the site you’re there to see!
Here is a quick run-down of the sites on the Freedom Trail. I’ve noted the prices per adult, but as with any tourist destination, prices are subject to change; discounts may apply. These are in order starting at Boston Common, but you can also start at the USS Constitution (or start an abbreviated Freedom Trail trek at the Old North Church). Either way you go, have tons of fun and enjoy learning more about the country’s rough and ready beginnings!
1. Boston Common (FREE)
The official Freedom Trail Visitor Center is located here (along with bathrooms!), and this is where most people begin. You can pick up a map or other information here, or even arrange a tour. It was founded in 1634 and is America’s oldest public park. Throughout its history it has been a place for people to gather, a place for public punishment, and even a training ground for Redcoats before they set out to Lexington and Concord! It’s still a place people like to gather and enjoy the outdoors and yet still be in the city.
2. Massachusetts State House (FREE; tours inside are free but must be arranged in advance)
While this building was not completed until 1798, this is a significant site because the land it occupies used to be John Hancock’s cow pasture! Also, the now-golden dome was once overlaid with copper by Paul Revere himself!
3. . Granary Burying Ground (FREE; gates open 10:00am-5:00pm daily)
Officially founded in 1660, there are may important Bostonians buried within the grounds, but there is a discrepancy about how many! You will find gravestones for Sam Adams, the Boston Massacre victims, Paul Revere, and more here. Want all the gory details? Ask the costumed interpreter on the grounds!
4. King’s Chapel and Burying Ground (Burying Ground FREE; King’s Chapel suggested donation $3; Open for tours 10:00am-5:00pm in summer, until 4:00pm in winter)
King’s Chapel Burying Ground is the first burying ground within the Boston city limits. Here you’ll find the gravesite of the first woman to step off the Mayflower, Mary Chilton, and other notable Bostonians as well. Interestingly, King’s Chapel itself is not associated with the burying ground! It’s worth stopping in, especially if you’ve never been inside a Colonial-era church building. You can even learn who owned the pews way back when.
5. Ben Franklin Statue and Latin School (FREE)
The Boston Latin School is worthy of your attention, especially if you have kids in your group, because it was the first public school in America, opened in 1635. Well, for boys anyway. Girls got their educations at home. Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended school here: Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and William Hooper. Not all of them graduated, however; Ben Franklin dropped out. You can leave out that detail when you tell the kids about it if you wish!
6. Old South Meeting House ($6; Open April-October 9:30am-5:00pm; November-March 10:00am-4:00pm)
This is one of the sites you will have to pay for—that is an admission charge, not a suggested donation. But if you have even the smallest desire to go inside, it will be worth your while. The Meeting House (not a church, since the Church of England was the only “church” allowed in the British Colonies) was built in 1729 and is home to the beginnings of the Boston Tea Party! They also have a great bookshop around the corner if you just want to browse for a good Revolutionary read.
7. Old State House ($10; Open 9:00am-5:00pm daily, until 6:00pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day)
Many historic events happened here, including several leading up to the American Revolution! The museum is worth a visit to see their significant (a lantern used to signal meeting of the Sons of Liberty) and unique (a vial of tea from the Boston Tea Party) artifacts, but if you just want to peruse the gift shop and pick up a copy of the Declaration of Independence, you can do so without paying admission.
Speaking of the Declaration of Independence, it was first read to Bostonians from the balcony of this building. A definite not-to-be-missed site!
8. Boston Massacre Site (FREE)
This is just outside of the Old State House, marked with a large round plaque and cobblestones. Only 5 people died, so the term “massacre” is a bit dramatic, but it was dramatic times, and Redcoats firing upon private citizens was kind of a big deal!
9. Faneuil Hall (FREE; Open daily 9:00am-6:00pm)
If you stop nowhere else, stop in here. There are some shops and some great maps and information from the National Park Service inside, but the real jewel is the Eads and Gill Printing Office. The gentleman working here is a fountain of interesting information, and you’ll get to see just how pain-staking and time-consuming it was to set type and then print documents—such as the Declaration of Independence! This building is often called “the home of free speech,” which is a fitting place for a printing office!
The gentleman working also had the best explanation for the “long S” that you find in so many historic documents. This history nerd appreciated it, and she thinks you will, too!
10. Quincy Market (FREE; Monday-Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm; Sunday noon-7:00pm)
OK, so this is not an official site on the Freedom Trail, but it sure is convenient for lunch or a beverage! It is historic, but it only dates back to 1825, not prior to 1776. Stop here for lunch, a little something to go, a sweet for later, and definitely for a bottle of water or other beverage!
11. Paul Revere House ($5; Open April 15-October 31 9:30am-5:15pm; November 1-April 14 9:30am-4:15pm; Closed Mondays in January, February, and March)
If you are dying to know more about this midnight rider, you should really check out this house. He was just a regular Paul, a silversmith, who worked hard to support his mother, two wives (not at the same time), and 16 children. It was first built in 1680, making it the oldest structure in downtown Boston, but Revere purchased the home in 1770, just 5 years before the ride that earned him a place in history.
12. Old North Church ($8, includes the Old North Church, Captain Jackson’s Home, Chocolate Shop, Patriot’s Corner, and Gardens; Open April 1-November 15 9:00am-6:00pm, November 16-March 31 10:00am-4:00pm)
“One if by land, two if by sea.” This is the place where two lanterns hung to signal to Paul Revere that the British were coming by sea! When it opened in December 1723, no one could have suspected the role it would play in our nation’s history in 1775! Worth a visit, especially since your admission includes several other buildings and sites on the grounds. Not interested in paying? Check out the gift shop anyway.
13. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (FREE; Open daily 10:00am-5:00pm)
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground holds the distinction of being the largest colonial-era burying ground in town. The British used this burying ground for its high vantage point to keep an eye on Charlestown just across the water, and they also used many of the headstones for target practice. Captain Daniel Malcom’s headstone is particularly marked up as he was a noted “enemy to oppression” until his death in 1769 at the age of 44.
While you’re there, don’t forget to look across the street to the narrow house called the “Spite House”!
14. Bunker Hill Monument and Museum (FREE; For hours, click here)
It’s a 1-mile walk from Copp’s Hill to the Bunker Hill Monument and Museum, so be prepared for that! Don’t worry, the red line will take you all the way there. You can take the steps up to the top inside the monument when weather permits, but the day I went it was too hot to allow climbers. The museum across the street is also free and run by the National Park Service. So be sure to check it out and get the story straight! The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first major battle of the American Revolution, making it an unmissable site on the Freedom Trail.
15. USS Constitution and Museum ($10-15 donation requested; Open April 1-October 31 9:00am-6:00pm, November 1-March 31 10:00am-5:00pm)
The USS Constitution dates to 1797, but she earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812, which some argue was our second war for independence. She is made of wood, but when cannonballs fired at her seemed to bounce off, people started saying it’s as if she’s made of iron! She originally set sail from Boston, and her copper fastenings were made by none other than the hometown boy, Paul Revere. For your planning purposes, visiting the ship is free, though you will have to show a government ID and go through a metal detector. The requested donation comes from the museum a few yards away.
The Best Route for You
There are two efficient ways to do the Freedom Trail; three if you don’t want to cross the river. Here’s a bird’s eye view; please take note of the red line:
Technically there is no “forward” or “backward,” since the sites are in no chronological order! Generally, people start at Boston Common and work their way toward the USS Constitution. This is a good way to go, but you will be with the masses the whole way. You may also find yourself tired before you get to the end, and food options are few and far between on the other side of the river. Bring snacks and especially water with you! And take the water shuttle back to downtown for $3.50 per person so you won’t have to walk back or pay for a cab or an Uber! The water shuttle ride is only 8 minutes, and you’re just steps from the many things to do and sites to see downtown.
If I was to go back and do it over, I would take the “backward” route. Take the water shuttle from the aquarium dock to the USS Constitution dock and start your day there. You will certainly beat the crowds! Wind your way over to Bunker Hill and then across the river, visit the sites as you come to them, and you’ll likely be hungry at just the right time—when you reach Quincy Market. If you take the trail in the forward direction, you likely won’t be hungry by the time you reach Qunicy Market, and you’ll be hunting for food later (i.e. when you get “hangry”). You’ll get to Boston Common with a still-full belly and be ready for a rest in this beautiful green space. You may even want to go a few more paces to the Public Gardens and sit and watch the ducks, or perhaps take a swan boat ride!
3. End at the Old North Church (and Possibly Pick Up Sites Across the River the Next Day)
Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution are certainly worth visiting, but if you’ve got kids with you or you just don’t want to feel at all rushed, plan to visit all the sites in Boston proper one day, then visit the sites across the river another day. Again, it’s a full mile walk from the Old North Church to the Bunker Hill Monument. It’s easy enough to walk back to downtown from the Old North Church, then walk back to downtown and do plenty of other things in town! When you want to visit the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument and Museum, you can simply take the water shuttle there and back!
I hope this guide was helpful! Have tons of fun on your trip to beautiful, historic Boston!
Love this post? Pin it for later!