A must-do when visiting Boston with kids, the Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail that leads to 16 historic sites, every one an important piece of the road to American freedom. I’ve heard of families worrying this tour would be too dull for kids, but we didn’t find that to be true at all! Not every site garners kids’ full attention, but it’s ok to gloss over a few in order to fully investigate the ones that interest your group most. Allow older kids turns navigating along the red brick path and reading aloud about the stops along the way, and you’ll be surprised at how much time they spend learning more.
If you opt to go the self-guided route (which I recommend if you have young kids whose interest may web and wane), you can start and end anywhere, but it’s best to begin at Boston Common. There you’ll find a useful visitor information center, where you can pick up a Freedom Trail booklet with descriptions of the sites you’ll see and a map to mark your progress along the trail.
The whole trail could take you half a day if you stop to enter the various sites (which you definitely should!) or longer if you also stop for a meal or shopping. The map is useful mostly to alert you to what you’re looking it; the trail is well marked in red brick, so you can’t get lost or go wrong. For our family, the highlights were Paul Revere’s house (which you can tour), the Granary Burying Ground (where many American revolutionaries, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Ben Franklin’s parents are buried, among others), and the U.S.S. Constitution, moored near the end of the trail (and also open to visitors). In fact, the promise of boarding ‘Old Ironsides’ is what kept Toby (age 6) going for the last half mile or so! Once there, touring the ship is free (though wait times do exist in the middle of the day during high season).
Date last visited: June 2011
Admission costs:The trail is itself is free as well, but you’ll pay small admission prices to visit Paul Revere’s House and the Old State House. (I recommend both, and you can buy a combination ticket.) ‘Walk into History’ tours are also available for $13 for adults, $7 for children if you’d like a guide, but they run 90 minutes and don’t include the whole route (plus may be over the heads of kids 10 and under). Audio guides are great for older kids, however: you can get them for $15 at the Visitor Information Center at Boston Common.
Tip:A stop at the National Park Service building (across from site of the Boston Massacre near Faneuil Hall) is a must if your kids have National Park Passports to stamp. You can also pick up great maps there.