Boston for History Buffs: These Sites Transport You Back in Time
By Jessica Polizzotti
Boston Local Expert
Boston is overrun with exciting opportunities to explore America's past. But history did not stop happening when the Revolution ended.
Today, a visit to Boston brings history to life through guided tours, mapped routes and even self exploration where you can bump into folks dressed in Colonial garb and ready to respond to the questions you may have. It is easy to connect with the past while exploring Boston in the present.
Although a modern city, Boston remains true to its roots. Keeping up with architectural maintence, carefully preserving artifacts and opening up relevant spots to tourists looking to gain insight into Boston's role in shaping history.
Best of all, many of Boston's historical sites are free of charge. A walk along the Freedom Trail lets you explore on your own or with a guide and stops at several of the best historical sites.
An hour's drive to Plymouth, MA brings you back to the time of the Pilgrims where you'll get an inside look at what life was like for early settlers.
Boston is a truly history buff's city to explore.
Harvard University is America's oldest University, Founded in 1636 it was named for its first patron, Reverend John Harvard. Enjoy a stroll around the grounds on take the free, guided historical tour of the campus and its most famous landmarks. This student led tour offers an overview of the history of the university while stopping at sites like the Widener Library, Memorial Church, University Hall, Fogg Museum and the John Harvard Statue. With a location like Harvard, visitors can easily enjoy all Harvard Square has to offer when done touring the University grounds. Here you'll find an eclectic mix of those who call Cambridge home roaming the streets including talented street performers, and students enjoying area restaurants, bars, music venues and stores. (617-495-1573, 617-495-1573)
Granary Burial Ground
The Granary Burial Ground is a small cemetery that serves as the final resting place for a number of people whose acts and/or character changed American history. Situated near a pre-Revolutionary grain storehouse, the cemetery houses the graves of such historical figures as Paul Revere, John Hancock, citizens killed in the Boston Massacre, and the woman whose tales provided her the moniker of "Mother Goose." Other notable graves include those of Benjamin Franklin's parents and Sam Adams. A stop on the Freedom Trail, you can visit as part of a tour or on your own and learn a little about Boston History. (617-523-3383)
Bunker Hill Monument
This 221-foot granite obelisk remembers the Battle of Bunker Hill. Rangers provide details about the history of the crucial battle, and seasonal musket-firings add a note of authenticity. A stop on the Freedom Trail, the Bunker Hill Monument is not for those who prefer to see the sites from a seated position as one of the best parts of a visit to the monument is making the 294-step climb to the top for breathtaking views of Boston. Two little-known facts: the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill, and the Bunker Hill Monument is actually located atop Breed's Hill. The true Bunker Hill is a quarter-mile from the monument. (617-242-5601)
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
The Boston Harbor Islands are unique part of the National Park system. 12 ready to explore islands offer a variety of activities for an active island adventure like checking out historic sites, spotting wildlife, taking a hike, getting in the water on a kayak or for a swim, sharing a picnic, doing some fishing and even camping. The islands can easily be explored on your own, but to enhance your visit you may want to partake in one the programs or tours offered on each. A short boat ride is all it takes to spend your day off the coast of Boston having your own island adventure. ((617) 223-8666)
Old North Church
This is the spot where the famous signal warned residents of Cambridge that the British were approaching by sea with two of Paul Revere's lanterns on the night of April 18, 1775. The oldest church building in Boston, Old North Church still remains an active Episcopal church. Allowing visitors not only the chance to tour the site, but even attend mass if they so choose. Designed by William Price from a study of Christopher Wren's London churches, you'll find private benches boxed in with family names that help paint a picture of the past. An excellent museum is hidden in the back of the gift shop next door. (617-523-6676, 617-523-4848)
Plimoth Plantation attracts quite a few visitors, and for good reason, this living history "museum" brings 17th Century America life. See what day to day living was like for the Pilgrims and meet the Native Americans they met upon arrival. You'll be placed in a time you have only previously read about as you enjoy your day living amongst those who settled America. Hoards of school kids visit each year as there truly is no better way to experience the tale of the first settlers than to see it here. Dining options reflect a style of food you may have found during that time period. (508-746-1622)
Paul Revere House
Situated along the Freedom Trail, this two-and-a-half-story wooden house in Boston's North End served as the home of Paul Revere when he set out on April 18, 1775 for that famous ride toward Lexington. Built around 1680, and now recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the Revere House is the city's oldest building. A self-guided tour takes visitors through the home, which features colonial-era furniture as well as original silver made by Revere himself. The size of this home will surprise visitors and attest to the fact that people were built smaller all those years ago. Set in North Square, you'll feel the history on the cobblestone street before you even enter the home. (617-523-2338)
Climb aboard Old Ironsides and see why this ship was able to live through its time at war. Constructed in the North End using bolts, spikes and other fittings from Paul Revere's foundry, "Old Ironsides" is steeped with Boston history. One of the US Navy's six original frigates, the USS Constitution did not lose any of the 40 battles in which it participated. Currently the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat, this impressive craft is open for free guided tours, which are narrated by the USS Constitution's active-duty sailors themselves.Turning annually, on the fourth of July, Old Ironsides remains a marvel on Boston Harbor. (617-242-7511)
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Although it was not just one night that led patriots to take matters into their own hands to begin a fight for freedom, it was the continued lack of freedoms and representation that brought about the Tea Party. Here, you can relive the catalyst to the American Revolution and see memorabilia from the time and event. The museum holds insight into America's path to becoming a free country. This tour is an interactive experience that starts with a meeting at an Old South Meeting House replica led by actors in period garb and continues onto recreated vessels where you'll be come a Patriot and participate in tossing tea into the sea. After getting to know the ships themselves you'll move into the museum where short films depict the Tea Party and its aftermath. After your tour visit Abagail's Tea Room for a tea tasting. (1-855-TEA-1773)
Boston's Freedom Trail
A wonderful way to see Boston! Put on comfortable shoes and experience the 2 and 1/2 mile route full of historical information. The trail starts at Boston Common but can easily be picked up at any point along the way just by following signs throughout the city. The path allows you to visit sites important to the city's history, including the Paul Revere House, the statue of Benjamin Franklin, and the site of the Boston Massacre. Should you have any questions, the men and women dressed in colonial attire will be glad to answer them. Guided tours are available for a fee. (617-357-8300)
About Jessica Polizzotti
Born and raised in Boston, Jessica knows her city like the back of her hand. Always looking to uncover something new, Jessica keeps up on the latest and greatest Boston offerings. Although Jessica has been a world traveler since her teens, her favorite trip may always be her Italian honeymoon. Living in a city that allows her to experience a change in seasons equals an opportunity to enjoy a shift in activities. As the old New England cliché says, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.”
Read more about Jessica Polizzotti here.