A Guide to Walking the Freedom Trail: Boston, MA
Everything you need to know to take a self guided walking tour on the Boston Freedom Trail.
Boston, MA is a thriving modern city that is filled with many historical sites and landmarks that hold the city’s rich history of national importance. Boston is home to many great attractions, restaurants, public parks, markets, shops, and is home to the Boston Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long walking tour through the city that takes you to 16 historical sites, including churches, graveyards, meeting halls, and battlegrounds.
There are many great ways to explore the Boston Freedom Trail, from self guided walking tours or public and private walking tours. Throughout the year different immersive and interactive programs take place at the 16 historical sites along the trail.
To begin the freedom trail you can choose from two different starting options: the Bunker Hill Monument or Boston Common. I have done both and collectively have visited all the sites along the trail.
While it can be walked in it’s entirety in a couple hours, the amount of time spent on the trail will be determined by how many of the sites you want to enter, how much time you want to spend at each, and whether or not you stop at other attractions along the way (stay tuned for tips on Boston’s other great attractions!). For our visit we did a self guided tour and took advantage of it by exploring nearby attractions. It took us two days to complete the trail.
The Freedom trail is connected through a thin red brick trail and a Freedom Trail plaque that marks each site of the trail, so it is difficult to get lost.
Like any major city, parking is always a factor and may be difficult to find. Boston is no exception. There are parking garages available at either end of the Freedom Trail-but do note there are fees (and most are not inexpensive). Despite the fees, I would recommend using one of these parking garages for ease of mind.
You can park and start the trail from that end or park and take public transportion to the opposite end and work your way back to your car. If you are planning on doing the Freedom Trail in one day, I would recommend this. You will be back at your car at the end of the trail and not have to worry about making your way back when you are exhausted (and chances are you will be if you spend a whole day walking and exploring Boston!).
Parking near Boston Common
1.) Boston Common Parking Garage-parking is available in an underground parking garage under Boston Common ( 0 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02116). Rates vary depending on the amount of time, but the weekday 24 hr. parking fee is $32, with cheaper weekend and Holiday rates.
2.) One Beacon Garage (1 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108)-$42 for daily weekday rates with cheaper rates available on the weekend.
3.) CityPlace Garage (8 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116)-$33 for weekday and weekend 24 hr. passes.
I would recommend parking in the Boston Common Parking Garage, it will bring you right up (via elevator) to the Boston Common the first stop of the Freedom Trail.
Parking Near Bunker Hill
1.) Nautica Parking Garage (88 Constitution Road, Charlestown, MA 02129) $28 for a 24hr. pass.
2.) Flagship Wharf Parking (197 8th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129) $20 for a 24 hr. pass.
The Sites of the Boston Freedom Trail
1.) Boston Common
Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States, having been founded in 1634. The area has a rich history, including being used to graze livestock until 1830, use as a site for Puritanical punishment (including a whipping post and execution site), and a training and gathering area for the Redcoats. Today the area is a public park with greenery, a pond that is home to ice skating in the winter, a splash pad, and plenty of space from enjoying a relaxing walk through nature or a picnic lunch.
- Location: 139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111
2.) The Massachusetts State House
The Massachusetts State House or “New State House” is the current capitol building of the state and home of the Massachusetts government. Today you can enter and view the building on weekdays and take a self guided tour you or can take a public tour of the building to learn more about the history and daily operation of the building. (Reservations are required and can be made by calling 617-727-3676). We did not take the tour of the building, so I can’t comment further on that, but the photographs I have seen from other travelers are beautiful.
- Location: 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133
- Hours: Weekdays 845am to 5pm, with tours being offered from 10am to 330pm.
3.) Park Street Church
The Park Street Church was founded in 1809 and continues to function today as an active church. Visitors can attend a church service on Sundays or can visit Tuesday thru Saturdays during the summer months. The church stands tall at 217 feet and was once the tallest building and first one visible when approaching the city of Boston.
- Location: 1 Park St, Boston, MA 02108
- Hours: The church is open on Sundays for Sunday service at 8:30am, 11:00am, or 4:00pm.
4.) Granary Burying Ground
The Granary Burying Ground dates back to 1660 and is the final resting place of an estimated 5,000 Bostonians, with some of the most notable Americans in history buried here, including Paul Revere, James Otis, Samuel Adams, the Boston Massacre Victims, John Hancock, and Robert Paine.
- Location: Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108
- Hours: 9am to 5pm daily
5.) King’s Chapel and Burying Grounds
King’s Chapel was the first Anglican church founded in Boston in 1686. The current building was rebuilt around the original structure in 1754. Today you can view the sanctuary and one of America’s oldest pulpits and participate in educational events. Also available the Bells and Bones Tour, a tour that goes through the church’s crypt and bell tower. A Art and Architecture tour is also available and explores the history of the sanctuary’s architecture. For more information on the tours and available times visit the King’s Chapel webpage.
The King’s Chapel burying grounds are located adjacent to the church and was the first proper burying grounds in Boston. It is the final resting place of many notable people, including John Withrop (Massachusetts’s first governor) and Mary Chilton (first woman to step off the Mayflower).
- Location: 58 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108
- Hours: King’s Chapel services are held on Sundays at 11:00am and Wednesday nights at 6:00pm. The Burying Grounds are open daily from 10:00am to 4:30pm.
6.) Ben Franklin Statue and Boston Latin School
The Boston Latin School was the oldest public school in America, being founded in 1635. Boys were educated at the school while girls continued to attend private home schools. Five of the signers of the Declaration of Independence attended the Boston Latin School. The original building is no longer standing, but the school was rebuilt and currently sits in Fenway. The original site of the school is marked by the famous Benjamin Franklin statue and is located near King’s Chapel. The statue is located near Old City Hall, so be sure to check that out while in the area.
- Location: School St. at City Hall Ave, Boston, MA
7.) Old Corner Bookstore
The Old Corner Bookstore is the oldest commercial building in Boston. It was built in 1718 and first served as an apothecary shop. The shop became a bookstore in 1828 and would become home to many famous publishing companies, including Ticknor and Fields. Since then, the shop has been home to many businesses, and currently operates as
- Location: 283 Washington St, Boston, MA 02108
- Hours: The location operates as a Chipotle and is open daily from 10:45am to 10:00pm.
8.) Old South Meeting House
The Old South Meeting House was home to many historic meetings, Puritan sermons, tea tax debates and a final meeting that started the Boston Tea Party. The Old South Meeting House is open today as a public museum.
- Location: 310 Washington St, Boston, MA 02108
- Hours: Daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm.
9.) Old State House
The oldest standing building in Boston, the Old State House was built in 1713. It was the site of the Massachusetts Court until 1798. Today you can visit the building, enjoy a self paced tour, and enjoy performances by costumed staff. You can also visit the Freedom Trail Museum and see artifacts from historic Boston.
- Location: 206 Washington St, Boston, MA 02109
- Hours: Open daily from 9am to 5pm
10.) Boston Massacre Site
The site of the Boston Massacre is marked today with a site marker. The Boston Massacre took place in March of 1770 as a confrontation between British soldiers and a mob of people. The mob was harassing the soldiers when they open fired into the crowd, killing five.
- Location: Corner of State and, Congress St, Boston, MA 02109
- Hours: Open 24/7
11.) Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall was the site of Boston’s first town meeting. It would become the site of many important meetings/debates in the history of the nation’s birth, including protests against the sugar and stamp act. Today Faneuil Hall is open as a marketplace with many stores and restaurants.
- Location: 4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109
- Hours: 10:00AM to 9:00PM Mon.-Sat., and 11:00AM to 7:00PM on Sundays.
12.) Paul Revere House
The home of the famous patriot still stands and is open for daily tours. View the home and learn about the history of Paul Revere, Boston, and the birth of America on a public tour. Also available at varying times are living history presentations, music, and craft demonstrations. Tours are available at $5 for adults, $1 for children 5-17, and discounted for students at $4.50.
- Location: 19 N Square, Boston, MA 02113
- Hours: 9:30 AM to 4:15 PM daily with extended hours in the summer months
13.) Old North Church
Old North Church is the oldest church in Boston and is the church in the famous midnight ride by Paul Revere. The Old North Church campus is made up of the church, five gardens, Captain Jackson’s historic chocolate shop, Patriots’ Corner, and the Old North Church Bookshop.
Guided tours are available that takes visitors through the footsteps of Paul Revere when he rang the church bells. Also available is a Bones and Burial Tour. Tours range in price from $4-$8. Visit their website for more information on the tours and tickets.
- Location: 193 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113
- Hours: 10 AM to 4 PM Wednesday through Saturday and Mondays, closed Tuesdays, and open Sundays from 12 PM to 4 PM.
14.) Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Copp’s Hill Burying Grounds was Boston’s largest colonial burying ground and dates back to 1659. The burying grounds was also used by the British to train their cannons during the Battle of Bunker Hill. Notable burials include Edmund Hartt (builder of the USS Constitution), Robert Newman (placed the lanterns at Christ’s Church on the night of the midnight ride), and Prince Hall (anti-slavery activist). Admission is free.
- Location: Hull St, Boston, MA 02113
- Hours: 9 AM to 4 PM daily.
15.) USS Constitution and Museum
The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship that is still floating. The ship was launched in 1797 and was used in the war of 1812. Today you can visit both the museum and jump aboard the ship. While the museum and ship are free to visit, donations are accepted. All visitors of the USS Constitution who are 18 and older must have valid ID to enter the ship.
- Location: Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA 02129
- Museum Hours: Daily from 9 AM to 6 PM in Spring/Summer and 10 AM to 5 PM in the fall/winter months
- The Ship: Closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the Fall/Winter and open 10 AM-4 PM Wed. thru Sat., Closed Mondays in the Spring/Summer, open Tuesday-Sunday 10 AM to 6 PM.
16.) Bunker Hill Monument
The last stop (or first-depending on which direction you choose to go in) is the Bunker Hill Monument. Bunker Hill is the site of the first major battle in the American Revolution that was fought on June 17, 1775. The Bunker Hill Monument now sits at the site to commemorate the battle. You can climb the monument free of charge, but you have to get a pass from the Bunker Hill Museum. Passes are available on a first come, first serve basis.
- Location: Monument Sq, Charlestown, MA 02129
- Hours: Daily 10 AM to 5 PM
Tips for Walking the Freedom Trail with Kids
Both times that I have walked the Boston Freedom Trail I brought my daughter with me (the first time she was about 18 months and the second 4 years). Both times she enjoyed it, so it is definitely something you can enjoy with a family. Here are some tips to make the experience more enjoyable:
Give yourself extra time
Naturally it is going to take longer to get through the Freedom Trail with young children (as with anything!). Avoid having to rush through by packing to much into too short of a time frame. Realistically with kids I would recommend splitting the trail in to two days and taking plenty of breaks.
Skip the Tours
While you may enjoy some of the tours, they may not be appropriate for younger children. Some of the tours can be long and if discussing the history of the location (let’s face it) boring for children. Spend more time in the outdoorsy locations where the children will have more freedom and can run (such as Boston Common or the cemetaries (for some reason my daughter has a fascination with leave and they were a highlight for her).
Bring Plenty of Fluids
Walking the Freedom Trail, especially in the summer months, can make for a long day and if you (and the kids) don’t stay hydrated it will make it even longer and less enjoyable. To save money pack a bag and fill it with water or juice that you can bring along the trail with you.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
There is a lot of walking along the Freedom Trail. Make the day a little easier and more enjoyable for you and the children by wearing comfortable shoes. Don’t wear flip flops! Some of the streets are cobblestone streets, so you won’t want to wear high heels that may be difficult to navigate the cobblestone with.
Take Part in a Living History Experience
Some of the stops along the trail offer living history experiences and interactive exhibits that kids will love, including the Old State House and Faneuil Hall. Do some research before your trip and find out which locations are offering what during your visit. It will get the kids more involved and create a more enjoyable experience for all.
Print Out a Map for Your Child
Prepare your child/ren for the trip by talking about it and printing out a map to discuss all the places you will visit. Bring the map with you so that they can follow along. My daughter absolutely loves being in control of the map anywhere we go.
Public Tours of the Boston Freedom Trail
Both times that I have walked the Freedom Trail I opted for a self guided tour. I feel that it provides more freedom and the ability to visit each location at my own pace. However, a self guided tour is not for everyone and there are benefits to a guided tour. Here are some of the guided tour options available for visitors:
1.) Walk Into History Tour-a 90 minute tour that takes you to 11 of the 16 stops of the Freedom Trail, starting at the Boston Common and ending at Faneuil Hall. The tour will give you a history of the locations as you visit them one by one. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
2.) Historic Pub Crawl Private Tour-a 90 minute tour through the taverns of Blackstone Block. You will be lead by a costumed guide while enjoying local brews. The tour is a private tour, costing $42 an adult, with a minimum payment of $250.
3.) African American Patriots-a 90 minute tour that explores the history of African American patriots involved in the American Revolution as you explore many of the sites along the Freedom Trail and in addition some sites that are significant in the history of the African American Patriots. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
4.) Revolutionary Women-a 90 minute tour that explores the role of women in the American Revolution while visiting many of the stops along the Freedom Trail. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
5.) North End Tour-a 90 minute walking tour that highlights the stops along the North End Freedom Trail, including Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, along with some other historic places in Boston’s oldest neighborhood. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
6.) Lantern Tour-a 90 minute walking tour that explores the darker side of the Freedom Trail’s history, including sword duels, pirates, and the punishment and execution of convicted witches. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12 (although please note this tour is not recommended for children under 12).
For more information on the available tours and to purchase tickets click here.
- The Freedom Trail Web page-for complete information of the Freedom Trail visit their main web page for information on the sites, available tours, and information on planning your visit.
- The Freedom Trail App- Search for “Freedom Trail Walking Tour” in your app store to download the app, which features a map of the freedom trail, images, descriptions and history of the sites, and youtube videos of the sites. Don’t just see the sites, learn about the history of the sites.
- Freedom Trail Brochure
- Interactive Freedom Trail Map
- Printable Map of the Boston Freedom Trail