Tips for Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts

Paul Revere's tombstone Boston MassachusettsWith one full day in Boston, Massachusetts, my husband and I had to figure out how to get our fill of this storied city. How in the world can you cram 250 years of revolutionary history into less than 24 hours?

We were tipped off about the Freedom Trail in Boston before we arrived, and now that I’ve walked it, I also strongly recommend that visitors check it out. Unless you have other specific things in mind that you’d like to do in Boston, spending the day on the Freedom Trail is a good way to see a good chunk of Boston and learn a little something about America’s history.

The Basics:

The Freedom Trail is about two-and-a-half miles long and takes the average visitor two or three hours to complete. We spent a fair amount of time at each of the 16 historic sites along the trail, so the 2-3 hour estimate wasn’t relevant to our travel style. Rather, we spent the better part of our whole day in Boston on the Freedom Trail.

It is free to walk the Freedom Trail, and visitors can hop on and off of it as they please, so if you find yourself a bit bogged down by history, feel free to detour into the side streets for a different diversion.

The Freedom Trail is marked with a red brick or painted trail for the entire duration of the walk, so you don’t have to rely on a map or GPS trail.

At each of the stops along the Freedom Trail there are placards that explain the highlights. These might be significant headstones in a graveyard or tidbits on historical background for certain buildings. In any case, you don’t have to pay anything to get something out of the walk, but if you would like a little more context, stop by the visitors center in the Boston Common for a pamphlet with more detailed information. There have been several written, and they range in price from $1.00-$8.00. An additional option is to take a tour with a guide outfitted in period clothing. These cost nothing but a tip.

Hat and rope on uss constitution boston massachusettsOur Tips for the Freedom Trail:

Most of the sites along the trail are free but some have a small entrance fee or ask for a donation. Paul Revere’s home, for example, costs a few bucks to visit. Pick and choose those you are most interested in and don’t sweat missing any of the sites.

The USS Constitution is a weird combination of active naval yard and national park. It is also free to tour. You can either take a self-guided or guided tour. The self-guided option just lets you walk around the top deck of the boat. The guided tour is free and leaves every 30 minutes; this tour goes below the deck, allowing guests to explore the lower regions of the boat. I recommend you take the extra time to take the guided tour.

There are a lot of great hole-in-the-wall Italian diners in the North End of Boston. Take a break near stops 12, 13 and 14 to grab a fat slice of gooey pizza.

Wear comfortable walking shoes! Simply by it’s nature, a trail of this nature requires lots of walking, but chances are you’ll probably stray from the marked trail as well. It helps to be prepared with shoes you can stand for a full day on your feet.

There is a national park visitor center near the Boston Massacre Site, so those who collect National Park Service passport stamps can get them there.

6 Responses to “Tips for Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts”

  1. Katharine

    A tip for families with small kids/people with mobility issues: There are several bus companies that also tour the city and basically parallel the Freedom Trail, although you will have to hop off the bus to visit some of the sights that are hidden on old colonial streets (ex. Paul Revere’s House). The buses do have a cost, but when we purchased our tickets on-line we got a special price on the 48-hour ticket and were able to use the tourist buses as our transportation for the weekend.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Thanks for the insight, Katharine. Good to know!

      Reply
  2. Steve

    Love all the sights along the Freedom Trail…I actually covered this route for my hiking guidebook. Your right about the great Italian food in the North End…Old Ironsides is interesting to tour as well!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I’m not familiar with Old Ironsides, so thanks for the tip!

      Reply
  3. Joel

    Steve, when when you say, “Old Ironsides is interesting to tour as well,” are you talking about the USS Constitution as that is her nickname, or is there something else to tour that has that name? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jason

      Old Ironsides IS the USS Constitution. There’s no separate site by that name.

      Another tip—Bell In Hand Tavern (on Trail in between Faneuil Hall and the trek to Paul Revere’s House; it’s right next to Union Oyster House) is excellent! Great food, great Sam Adams beer (get Oktoberfest if there in the fall), a must visit. Warren Tavern (couple blocks south of Bunker Hill Monument) is another great stop to eat. Both lay claim to oldest or longest continuing tavern in America.

      Reply

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