If it’s been a while since you’ve been in school, the exact details may not come quickly to mind. But crack open any American history book, and you can quickly confirm what foggy 7th-grade memories are suggesting: that Boston was indeed the setting of many a pivotal event during the American Revolution.
Crack open any book dedicated to health, and you can confirm a second sneaking suspicion: these rumors you’ve heard about the restorative value of a little exercise are true. It’s good for the body and works wonders banishing the blues, stress and a host of other ills.
Lastly – and you don’t need a book to verify it – nearly all freedom-loving people hold this truth to be self-evident: any activity involving education, exercise or a combination of the two becomes more infinitely more intriguing when cannoli are added to the itinerary. No doubt about it.
- You’re looking for free things to do in Boston, and…
- A nice mid-length walk sounds refreshing, and…
- You like looking at pretty old Boston attractions that are loaded with historical significance, and, lastly…
- If you’re human (and, therefore like cannoli), may we suggest...
A walk upon "Ye Olde Freedom" Trail!
OK… so it’s just called the Freedom Trail. (It was initially conceived of in 1951, so it’s too young to wear “Ye Olde” – or pearls, for that matter – without looking a tad awkward.) And you may or may not think of 2.5 miles as “mid length.” But the trail is blessed with 16 historical stops, each rich with historical wonder, and Mike’s Pastry is situated at the approximate halfway point. They make out-of-this-world cannoli.
Beginning at Boston Common (free) in downtown Boston (from the hanging of witches to Judy Garland’s largest concert ever, it’s always been a happening place) and ending up at the Bunker Hill Monument across the Charles River in Charleston (the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution – and also free), the trail is demarcated by a narrow strip of bricks (so simple!) and passes by the following sites that are both noteworthy and easy on the eyes.
This way to FREE… dom
- Massachusetts State House (free) – The seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a mighty fine example of Federal architecture. And, Holy Mackerel – thar be a Sacred Cod inside.
- Park Street Church (free) – Constructed in 1809, this lovely structure missed the boat on American Revolution by a few years, but it hosted the premier performance of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and was also the site of Edward Beecher’s first public speech against slavery. Patriotism and Abolition? You’ve got a secure place on the Freedom Trail, young church. Not to worry.
- Granary Burying Ground (free) – Founded way back in 1660, this cemetery is the final resting place of Paul Revere, Crispus Attucks and Declaration of Independence signers Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine. Stop by, pay your respects and take a moment to appreciate those who’ve made freedom possible.
- King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground (free) – This stone structure was completed in 1754, but sat vacant during the Revolutionary War. Sometimes, you’ve got to respect a structure’s right to sit one out. The church’s bell – which hails from England – cracked in 1814. Thankfully, patriot Paul Revere was on hand to recast it, and the very same bell has been ringing ever since. Waste not, want not, we say. The Burying Ground? It predates the church by over a century – and it’s even mentioned in the Scarlet Letter.
- Benjamin Franklin Statue (free) – A true genius who invented everything from lightning rods to bifocals – and a patriot who was instrumental in securing munitions from France during the Revolutionary War – this founding father embodied what it means to be an American. Do great things, and you might be immortalized in bronze.
- Old Corner Bookstore (free) – Built in 1712, this structure was occupied by an apothecary during the American Revolution. Good thing, as war is one of the leading causes of cuts and scrapes which, if left untended, could lead to infection. It now houses a Chipotle Grill. Go figure. Visit, but don’t spoil your appetite. For there are cannoli in your future.
- Old South Meeting House (not free, unless you’re under five years old – but never more than $6, no matter how many years you’ve accumulated) – On December 16th, 1773, 5,000 colonists gathered here to organize a party. A tea party, that is. We get along so much better with the British these days, don’t we?
- Old State House (free if you’re 18 or younger, and not more than $10 for the rest of us) – Now a museum featuring Boston Massacre exhibits, this building was constructed in 1712 and was the seat of the colonial government. The Boston Massacre occurred outside the building, on Devonshire Street.
- Site of the Boston Massacre (free) – A wigmaker’s apprentice harasses a British soldier. A crowd joins in. Soldiers open fire, and the event is widely publicized – further motivating colonists to rebel against the British.
- Faneuil Hall (free – but there’s so much to buy) – Once again, we caution you to save your appetite: The “Cradle of Liberty” (Samuel Adams and other patriots gave speeches promoting independence here) is chock full of food vendors. Patience. Distract yourself with the site’s excellent people-watching opportunities.
- Paul Revere House (One if by land – and $1 for visitors 17 and under – and two if by sea – well, actually it’s $5 for adult visitors) – This is not the structure where the lantern signals emanated from, but Mr. Revere did live here during the revolution. The house was built in 1680, making it the oldest in downtown Boston.
- Mike’s Pastry (cash only) – Of course, Mike’s isn’t giving their cannoli – or their lobster claws – away for free. The establishment lies 374 feet off of the Freedom Trail, but each of those feet will contribute to your efforts to keep your exercise in line with your pasty intake. If you plan to make your Freedom Trail excursion a round trip, we encourage you to make a second visit.
- Old North Church (free) – The British chose to invade by sea, and thus, two lanterns were hung. This is where it happened. If you weren’t derelict in your victualing duties, you should be finding yourself staring up at the steeple in wonder between bites of live-giving cannoli.
- Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (free) – Founded in 1659, this cemetery is Boston’s second oldest. Wander amongst the headstones and wonder about the lives that were lived. How did people live back in the days before ready-made pastries were available? Hard times, they were.
- USS Constitution (free) – This three-masted heavy frigate – named by President George Washington and launched in 1797 – is the world’s oldest commissioned ship afloat. “Old Ironsides,” as she’s known, has seen action in the Quasi War with France, the Barbary War (pirates!) and the war of 1812, and was a training ship during the War of 1812. She still sails once a year – enter the lottery draw for your chance at riding along.
- Bunker Hill Monument (free) – We’ve covered this, haven’t we?
Now that you’re done, you could take an Uber back to your where you started – but that would mean missing out on another cannoli stop.
Walking it is, then.
Now that you’ve got “What to do in Boston?” covered, it’s time to book the perfect place to stay. A Stay Alfred Boston Vacation Rental is just a few minutes’ walk away from Boston Common, and it beats staying in a hotel by a mile. By 2.5 miles, even. We hope you enjoy your stay in Beantown!