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Bring History to Life on Boston’s Freedom Trail

by Barbara Rogers

Oct 11, 2017

Lei Xu | Dreamstime


To kids, history is often just that — things they read about in school, with no relation to today. Standing in the places where historic events actually happened can change that, especially if kids hear stories that bring those long-ago people to life.


Boston’s Freedom Trail gives parents a unique opportunity to “travel” through some of the most iconic events in America’s struggle for independence. You don’t need to walk the entire three-mile trail, nor stop at every single site. You can spend longer at places that spark kids’ interest and move on from those that don’t. All along the way, stop to enjoy today’s Boston, watching street performers or savoring gelato in the North End.

USA, Boston , North End, Paul Revere Statue, Old North church, Modern Pastry

Photo by: Stillman Rogers

Begin at the Visitor Center in Boston Common, where you’ll find brochures on the sights. For a lively and entertaining look at the Freedom Trail, you can join a tour with a costumed guide. But with one of the brochures in hand, you can stick to your budget and be your own guide. Follow the Freedom Trail’s red line in the pavement past the State House (you can go in on weekdays, but it’s not especially interesting for kids) and down the hill to Old Granary Burying Ground. Kids will have heard of some of the people buried here: Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and John Hancock.


At the historic King’s Chapel, just beyond is a somewhat spooky Burying Ground, the city’s oldest, with the graves of two Mayflower passengers and signs telling some interesting stories. One of the Mayflower passengers is Mary Chilton, the first woman to step ashore.


Kids may recognize the Old State House from a print of the Boston Massacre that’s often in history books, showing British soldiers firing into a crowd of protestors. Five people were killed that day in 1770 and the Colonists’ outrage was one of the sparks that led to the Revolution. You’ll have to pay to see the artifacts inside, mostly relating to the Revolutionary War and maritime history.

Boston Massachusetts, the Fanuel Hall, Quincy Market, North and South Market section,

Photo by: Stillman Rogers

Kids will be more interested in Faneuil Hall, although maybe not for historical reasons. Built in 1740-42 as a market, Faneuil Hall still has vendors on the ground floor, below a council chamber that was the meeting place of revolutionaries. Today it’s the nucleus of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, worth a stop to grab a bite and watch the entertainers that keep it a lively place. Be sure to look for the bronze fruits and vegetables imbedded in the pavement as you continue on to the North End.


Old North church in Boston, Mass.

Photo by: Stillman Rogers

The North End has been home to immigrants since the early settlers, most recently to Boston’s Italian community. Stop to treat the kids (and yourself) to pignoli cookies or other Italian goodies at Modern Pastry on Hanover Street. Paul Revere bought his house on North Street in 1770 and lived here with his family for 30 years. Paul Revere House is restored to its late 17th-century appearance and displays family possessions and examples of Revere’s silver work. It’s the oldest house in downtown Boston.


Old North Church is Boston’s oldest, dating from 1723. It played an important role in Paul Revere’s famous ride on the night in April 1775 when the sexton hung two lanterns from the tall steeple to signal Paul Revere that British troops were on the move. Revere rode famously from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams the British planned to arrest patriot leaders and seize the ammunition stored there.

The Freedom Trail continues across the bridge to Charlestown Navy Yard, home of the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides). It’s currently undergoing repairs and is not open for tours, but the WWII destroyer USS Cassin Young is interesting to tour if the kids’ energy is still up to it.


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