Walk the Freedom Trail and Experience over 250 years of History

The Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond

Every city has its iconic landmark. In Boston, it’s the Freedom Trail: an instantly recognizable 2.5-mile walking route of red-brick path inlaid on city sidewalks connecting 16 Revolutionary-era historic sites from the Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1974, Boston National Historical Park was established. The National Park Service opened a Visitor Center on State Street where they give free maps of the Freedom Trail and other historic sites as well as sell books about Boston and US history. Today, people walk on the red path of the Freedom Trail to learn about important events that led to independence from Great Britain.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History nerd that I am, I can’t get over how much has happened in such a small area. I love that you can take your time walking it. 

Traveling on the Freedom Trail shows you how small historical Boston was. The trail is free, and clearly marked and you can walk at your own pace. Be sure to wear your comfy shoes as you’re in for an awesome hike.

Old State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Common and Public Garden

The Freedom Trail kicks off at this iconic park that dates to the 1630s when it was a common cow pasture for the Massachusetts Bay Colony and sits adjacent to the Boston Public Garden. Both are still beloved and used public spaces where you might see yuppies jogging, sunbathing, or catching a free run of Shakespeare on the Common performances in the summer. Brand-new hotel The Newbury’s rooftop Italian restaurant, Contessa is currently the hottest dining reservation in Boston and it offers one of the best views of the Public Garden.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park Street Church

This historic church sits in the heart of the city’s Ladder Blocks, a prime neighborhood for wandering thanks to its outstanding examples of 18th- and 19th-century commercial architecture spanning the city’s historic Theater District from the Omni Parker House Hotel to a historic Stone Mason Grand Lodge. The area includes everything from Victorian Gothic and Spanish Baroque to Art Deco design. It’s here that you’ll find Brattle Book Shop, one of the country’s oldest antique book shops located steps from the Common.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old North Church

A five-minute walk from this oldest church building in Boston (built-in 1723) is the North Bennet Street School, a private vocational school established in 1881 where the crafts of cabinetry, jewelry making, locksmithing, piano technology, violin maintenance, and preservation carpentry are still taught. The school operates from a fabulous gallery store where you can find hand-bound books, marbled papers, and furniture pieces for purchase.

Union Oyster House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

King’s Chapel

One of the city’s best-kept secrets is the Bostonian-loved Athenaeum, a members-only library dating back to 1807. For a small donation, you can tour the premises which house more than 100,000 volumes of books, 100,000 paintings, and one of the most significant collections of primary materials from the American Civil War. Head to the fifth-floor reading room for one of the city’s most gracious, elegant spaces, and some serious perusal.

Paul Revere Statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Public Market

You’ll find an indoor, year-round marketplace featuring about 30 New England artisans and food producers housed under one roof offering fresh foods, prepared meals, crafts, and specialty items. Residents and visitors alike can find seasonal, locally sourced food from Massachusetts and New England including fresh produce, meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, seafood, baked goods, specialty items, crafts, and prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Everything sold at the Market is produced or originates in New England, as the seasons allow.

Paul Revere House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paul Revere House

Oh, the North End. What’s not to love about Boston’s little slice of Italy? You can hardly take a step down Hanover Street without crossing a must-eat restaurant or café and it’s tough to go wrong. Directly on the trail, you’ll find local go-to’s like Bricco and Mare Oyster Bar as well as the homey Mamma Maria, a restaurant set in a restored townhouse in North Square. Take a few steps off the Freedom Trail at Battery Street and you’ll find All Saints Way, a famous and privately owned alley filled with religious trinkets and memorabilia that pays homage to the neighborhood’s Roman Catholic roots. And another few minutes off the trail at waterfront Commercial Street is Boston Sail Loft, a classic preppy dive bar overlooking the water that’s perennially packed with locals.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

U.S.S. Constitution

Launched in Boston in 1797, USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat and earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere. You’ll find three of the neighborhood’s favorite eateries just minutes from Old Ironsides. Try local, seasonal plates at Dovetail, wood-fired pizzas and craft beers at Brewer’s Fork, as well as croissants and other treats at an outpost of the local-loved cafe chain Tatte.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bunker Hill Monument

You’ve finally made it to the Freedom Trail’s terminus: Boston’s most iconic obelisk and the site of the Revolution’s first major battle. And likely you’re going to save your shopping for the end of the schlep because Charlestown has no shortage of adorable boutiques. Your hit list should include needlepoint pillows and Bunker Hill Flag valet trays at Place & Gather; local pottery, alpaca throws, and hand-dipped candles at Monroe Home & Style; and fresh flowers and bath products from Junebug. By visiting even just these three shops here in this tiny corner of Boston, you’ll get a great sense of what this region’s many artisanal makers are up to.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

When you think about Boston, Harvard and M.I.T. are the brains of the city and its soul might be Faneuil Hall or the State House or the Old Church. But I think the pulsing, pounding heart of Boston is Fenway Park.

— John Williams

The Storied History of Old Ironsides

Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!

USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Naval officers and crew still serve aboard her today. The USS Constitution is operated by the United States Navy, a partner to the National Parks of Boston. Across the pier from Constitution in Building 22 is the USS Constitution Museum. The Museum serves as the memory and educational voice of the USS Constitution and provides engaging and hands-on experiences for all visitors. Here you can explore how the ship was built, sailed, and preserved.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located inside Boston National Historical Park as part of the Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown and part of Boston’s Freedom Trail, USS Constitution is open for public visitation, FREE OF CHARGE, throughout the year.

Before independence, the thirteen American colonies enjoyed protection from pirates and foreign navies under the British Royal Navy. However, once the United States gained recognized independence the young nation had to defend itself. Congress authorized the construction of the six warships in the Naval Armament Act of 1794. These warships became the new United States Navy. Each of the six was built at different seaports along the eastern coast.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The wooden-hulled, three-mast USS Constitution was launched from Hartt’s shipyard in Boston’s North End on October 21, 1797. It was designed to be more heavily armed and better constructed than the standard ships of the period.

The ship served initially in the French-Quasi war and later became the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet fighting its first engagement against Barbary pirates of North Africa.

Related: Boston Freedom Trail

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The greatest glory for USS Constitution, however, came during the War of 1812. It was during this war in the battle against the HMS Guerriere the ship earned the nickname Old Ironsides when the crew of the British ship noticed their canon shots simply bounced off the ship’s strong oak hull they proclaimed: “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!”

Later, it continued to serve as a flagship in the Mediterranean, African, and Pacific fleets into the 1850s. During its time as African Squadron flagship, it captured its last prize, the slave ship H.N. Gambril in 1853. It was also a training ship during the Civil War and carried freight to the Paris World Fair of 1878 until it finally retired from active service three years later continuing light work until designated a museum in 1907.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The USS Constitution received numerous visitors over the years but deteriorated and required extensive restoration work again. President Roosevelt placed the ship on permanent commission in 1940 which protected the vessel somewhat from further deterioration and it was assigned to serve as a brig for officers awaiting court-martial.

The funding for true restoration finally came in the 1970s in preparation for the US Bicentennial celebrations. Indeed, an entire tract of land in Indiana was set aside to supply the white oak needed for repair work. The grand ship sailed again leading a parade of tall ships through Boston Harbor for Operation Sail firing its guns for the first time in over 100 years.

Boston skyline from USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most comprehensive and historically accurate restoration to date occurred from 1992-1996 and the ship sailed under its power for its 200th birthday in 1997 then again in 2012 to commemorate its victory over the HMS Guerriere that earned its nickname. A further restoration project was conducted from 2007-2010 which returned the ship as accurately as possible to its original War of 1812 configuration.

Boston skyline from USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the ship keeps a crew of 60 officers and sailors to aid in its mission to promote understanding of the US Navy’s role in war and peace. The crew is all active-duty Navy sailors—an honorable special duty assignment. It is also crewed, maintained, and restored by the civilian Navy staff of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

Related: Lucky A: USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to the USS Constitution itself, there is also a museum you can visit which has a lot of interesting artifacts and exhibits covering the history of the landmark. Whether you’re interested in period artwork, arms, and armament from the time, navigation equipment that was used hundreds of years ago, or historic texts describing the story of Old Ironsides, there’s plenty to see here that will please any history buff.

There are almost 2,000 different artifacts and 10,000 archival records you can see at the USS Constitution Museum. There is simply no way I could describe them all here, so check the USS Constitution Museum Collection list to find out what you can see on your visit.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know before you go

The USS Constitution is located at the end of the Freedom Trail. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the Copp’s Hill Burial Ground. One can walk there easily by following the Freedom Trail.

An excellent way to get there is by using the MBTA Water Shuttle which is a bargain at $3.25.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have an MBTA Subway Pass it is free and is a short boat ride over to Charlestown which also doubles a scenic harbor cruise.

A shuttle departs from Boston’s Long Wharf at the New England Aquarium and will whisk you over to the USS Constitution in 10 minutes.

Related: Corpus Christi: City by the Sea

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The USS Constitution is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis during their operating hours. Be aware that visitors must pass through a security inspection and show federal or state photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport before embarking on USS Constitution. Visitors under the age of 18 do not require a photo identification card.

Worth Pondering…

Old Ironsides

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!

   Long has it waved on high,

And many an eye has danced to see

   That banner in the sky;

Beneath it rung the battle shout,

   And burst the cannon’s roar;—

The meteor of the ocean air

   Shall sweep the clouds no more!

—Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935)

Boston Freedom Trail

The famous Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick trail through Boston’s historic neighborhoods that tells the story of the American Revolution

Boston, a large, metropolitan city packed with revolutionary history, cultural venues, and sophisticated shopping and dining opportunities. A jaunt around “town” is like opening an American history textbook.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston has some of the worst driving and parking on the East Coast; its winding, angled roads meandering like the old cow paths they originally followed. But, don’t let this deter you; you will be rewarded many times over.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston had been a thriving city long before the United States itself existed. Founded in the 17th century, Boston has been the center of attention in New England since the colonial period. Today, Boston continues to boast some of the best attractions to be found in the Northeastern US. As the “Cradle of the Revolution”, Boston is full of history like no other city in America. For over 350 years, some of the world’s greatest patriots, writers, thinkers, athletes, and artists have called Boston their home, leaving an indelible mark on this incredible city in the process.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A trip to Boston is necessarily a trip into American history. Boston was the center of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s, and the monuments to those glorious times still stand.

Faneuil Hall (1742) was a meeting place for revolutionary leaders, and it now houses dozens of shops and restaurants. Built by wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1741, this imposing structure is the place where the Sons of Liberty proclaimed their dissent against Royal oppression.

Old State House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old State House (1713) was the site of the colonial government and is open for tours.

The oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston, the Paul Revere House (1680) today serves as a museum.

Paul Revere House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The oldest church in the city of Boston, the Old North Church (1723), and its famous signal lanterns are still in use.

The site of the Boston Massacre where five colonists died in 1770 has been preserved.

The First Public School was in Boston; some of its graduates include Sam Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built as a Puritan house of worship, the Old South Meeting House (1729) was the largest building in colonial Boston. No tax on tea! This was the decision on December 16, 1773, when 5,000 angry colonists gathered here to protest a tax…and started a revolution with the Boston Tea Party.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjacent to King’s Chapel (1688), the first non-Puritan church in the colonies, the Granary Burying Ground has the graves of patriots John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

USS Constitution (Old Ironside), The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even the Boston Tea Party is commemorated in a floating ship museum, not far from the floating museum aboard the USS Constitution, America’s first great warship. Launched in Boston in 1797, America’s Ship of State earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On our National Park ranger-led tour, we visited sites along the Freedom Trail and heard about the American Revolutionary story, the people who lived here, their courage, and what they risked striving for freedom.

State House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Freedom Trail, the red-brick line through the city takes us on a tour of 16 sites in Boston’s history for two and a half miles, including Boston Common, the State House, the Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel, the site of the first public school, Old South Meeting House, the Old Statehouse, the Boston Massacre Site, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Freedom Trail was created in 1951 to set recognize and set aside a cluster of historically significant building and locations in downtown Boston.

We began our 90-minute ranger-led tour at the Old State House and concluded at the Old North Church, five sites along the Freedom trail that highlights Boston’s role in the American Revolution. The other sites, prior to and following our ranger-led tour, were on our own.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.

—Samuel Adams

Honoring Memorial Day the Revolutionary Way

What better way to honor those who served their country than to visit a national park that preserves the places where they fought?

History buffs may recognize Saratoga National Historic Park as the site of the turning point of the American Revolution or Valley Forge National Historic Park as the site of George Washington and the Continental Army’s 1777-1778 winter encampment. Anything related to Boston and that memorable tea party may also come to mind when thinking about the Revolutionary War.

But how many would recall places such as Cowpens and Guildford Courthouse as significant locations during America’s national history?

Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

As we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, take time this Memorial Day holiday to commemorate the sacrifices made for a revolutionary idea. Explore some of these lesser-known, but profoundly significant, landmarks that witnessed the beginning of a new nation.

Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dig a little deeper into American history and you will find a wealth of other national parks and programs throughout the U. S. that are equally exciting. This Memorial Day, take a moment to learn more about the incredible men and women who have fought for and supported America throughout its history.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From the soldiers that fought in the French and Indian War to the men and women who sacrificed their lives on Flight 93, Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their life for freedom and remember the significance of their actions. 

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sites of Remembrance

The National Park Service has the honor of preserving battlefields, military parks, and historic sites that commemorate and honor the service of American veterans.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

What better way to honor those who served their country than to visit a national park that preserves the places where they fought?

The American Revolution

USS Constitution (“Old Ironside”), Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Fought from 1775 through 1783, America’s Revolutionary War resulted in the independence of the United States of America. Battles were fought from Maine to Florida and as far west as Arkansas and Louisiana. Places such as Bunker Hill, Cowpens, and Yorktown entered the American consciousness and lexicon, and are today preserved by the National Park Service, allowing visitors to stand in the spot where the Founding Fathers debated whether to break away from England, or where patriots fought.

Boston National Historic Park, Massachusetts

Paul Revere House, Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Boston had been a thriving city long before the United States itself existed. Founded in the 17th century, Boston has been the center of attention in New England since the colonial period. As the “Cradle of the Revolution”, Boston is full of history like no other city in America. For over 350 years, some of the world’s greatest patriots, writers, thinkers, athletes, and artists have called Boston their home, leaving an indelible mark on this incredible city in the process.

A trip to Boston is necessarily a trip into American history. Boston was the center of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s, and the monuments to those glorious times still stand.

Saratoga National Historic Park, New York

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


Site of the first significant American military victory during the Revolution, the Battles of Saratoga rank among the fifteen most decisive battles in world history.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Here in 1777 American forces met, defeated, and forced a major British army to surrender, an event which led France to recognize the independence of the United States and enter the war as a decisive military ally of the struggling Americans.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cowpens National Battlefield commemorates a decisive battle that helped turn the tide of war in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. On this field on January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan led his army of tough Continentals, militia, and cavalry to a brilliant victory over Banastre Tarleton’s force of British regulars.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The battle at the “Cow Pens,” one of only a few successful double envelopments in history, is recognized by historians as one of the most important of the American Revolution. Coming on the heels of a patriot victory at nearby Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, Cowpens was the second successive staggering defeat for British forces under General Charles Cornwallis.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This Memorial Day remember those who fought and died for our freedom.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost