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Following Boston's Freedom Trail
More than a route of historic sites, the Freedom Trail is a 2½-mi walk into history, bringing to life the events that exploded on the world during the Revolution. Its 16 way stations allow you to reach out and touch the very wellsprings of U.S. civilization. (And for those with a pinch of Yankee frugality, only three of the sites charge admission.) Follow the route marked on your maps, and keep an eye on the sidewalk for the red stripe that marks the trail.
It takes a full day to complete the entire route comfortably. The trail lacks the multimedia bells and whistles that are quickly becoming the norm at historic attractions, but on the Freedom Trail, history speaks for itself.
Begin at Boston Common. Get your bearings at the visitor information center on Tremont Street, then head for the State House, Boston's finest piece of Federalist architecture. Several blocks away is the Park Street Church, whose 217-foot steeple is considered by many to be the most beautiful in all of New England.
Reposing in the church's shadows is the Granary Burying Ground, final resting place of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. A short stroll to Downtown brings you to King's Chapel, built in 1754 and a hotbed of Anglicanism during the colonial period. Follow the trail past the statue of Benjamin Franklin to the Old Corner Bookstore site, where Hawthorne, Emerson, and Longfellow were published. Nearby is the Old South Meeting House, where pretempest arguments, heard in 1773, led to the Boston Tea Party. Overlooking the site of the Boston Massacre is the earliest-known public building in Boston, the Old State House, a Georgian beauty.
Cross the plaza to Faneuil Hall and explore its upstairs Assembly Room, where Samuel Adams fired the indignation of Bostonians during those times that tried men's souls. Find your way back to the red stripe and follow it into the North End.
Stepping into the Paul Revere House takes you back 200 years—here are the hero's own saddlebags, a toddy warmer, and a pine cradle made from a molasses cask. Nearby Paul Revere Mall is a tranquil rest spot. Next to the Paul Revere House is one of the city's oldest brick buildings, the Pierce-Hichborn House.
Next, tackle a place guaranteed to trigger a wave of patriotism: Old North Church of "One if by land, two if by sea" fame—sorry, the 154 creaking stairs leading to the belfry are out-of-bounds for visitors. Then head toward Copp's Hill Burying Ground, cross the bridge over the Charles, and check out that revered icon the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides."
The photo finish? A climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument for the incomparable vistas. Finally, head for the nearby Charlestown water shuttle, which goes directly to the downtown area, and congratulate yourself: you've just completed a unique crash course in American history.
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