Faneuil Hall, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market– are all located close together on Congress Street. Faneuil Hall, a red brick building that dates back to 1742 and you can still feel what it was like back in the 1700’s when it was a busy marketplace and meeting place. It still is! Faneuil Hall is where Samuel Adams and his fellow revolutionaries gathered during the years 1764 to 1774 to protest the British taxing them without representation leading on to the ‘Boston Tea Party’ and Revolutionary Wars. Faneuil Hall subsequently became known as the “Cradle of Liberty”. There are a lot of different shops and food places and there is still a buzz about the place with a mix of tourists and locals, as well as entertainment happening at different times too. The markets – North and South Markets, as well as Quincy Markets are all close by. The granite and glass Quincy Market building has lots of restaurants and food places and is a good place to just drift along and see, feel and hear whatever is happening at the time. The famous Union Oyster House Bar is at 41 Union Street.
Freedom Trail – this trail starts at the Visitor Center in Boston Common and you follow a red brick or painted line marked on the pavement that takes you past many of the Historic sights. You can either just guide yourself, take a walking tour with a tour guide to explain what you are seeing, or even do a hop on-hop off Trolley tour too. Officially, the Trail takes around 3 hours to walk along, depending on how many stops you take, but it can also fill in a whole day too. You can also start at the beginning of the Trail at the Visitor Information Center (148 Tremont St) on Boston Common, or at Faneuil Hall look for the Bostix Booth, which is about 1/3rd of the way along the Trail, which leads the Financial Center and North End, across the Charles River to Charlestown where you will see the Bunker Hill Monument, the Commandant’s House and USS Constitution Museum, ship itself and another Visitor Center. There’s a lot to see along the trail. There is also another trail called the Black Heritage Trail leading from the Common that also leads past significant places connected to the history of African Americans in Boston in the historic Beacon Hill area. (See afroammuseum.org/trail). The first Africans to arrive in Boston came as slaves in 1638. It was not until 1780 that slavery ended in Massachusetts.
Boston Common – A common is a traditional old English term used to describe an area of land set aside in a Village for all people to use, be they commoners or not, young or old and in different villages the Village Common might be used as a meeting ground, to play cricket or even to graze sheep or cattle on it. The Boston Common dates back to 1634 and besides its use for grazing cattle, it was also used to set up a gallows for public hangings. Here you will find a number of monuments, a bandstand, the Brewer Fountain, Prescott House, the Frog Pond and the Central Burying Ground ( Boylston Street side), where there are Patriot and British Redcoats headstones that date back to the Boston Tea Party and the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary Wars.
There are many park areas in Boston, and the main Public Garden is just to the west of the Common. It was first opened in 1837 and covers 24 acres of grounds, with the Botanical Gardens, George Washington Statue and the peddle powered Swan boats (See swanboats.com )that take you onto the Lagoon here during the summer months, that first began operating here in 1877. The gardens reflect each of the seasons, making it a good place to go particularly during the Fall when the leaves change color, but also during the Spring when the flowers come out.
Massachusetts State House – this is the “new” State Capitol Building, built in 1798 and it is just next to the Common on the Trail. If you look closely at the top of the building you might be able to see a gilded wooden Pine Cone, on top of the cupola roof to symbolize the importance of logging to Boston. Inside the building which houses the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Government is another wooden sculpture of a giant Cod Fish, which relates to the importance of cod fish and fishing in the State. There are tours of the building. Tel: 617 727 3676.
The Old State House is located at the corner of State and Washington Streets, not far from Faneuil Hall and dates from 1713. It was here in front of the Old State House that the Boston Massacre occurred when the British Redcoats fired on the crowd of patriots, killing 5 of them and it is also the place where in 1776 the words of the ‘Declaration of Independence’ were first read out.
Park Street Church – at 1 Park Street dates back to 1809 with the church built the following year.
Granary Burying Ground and King’s Chapel Burying Ground – both of these Burying Grounds have tombstones dating back to Boston’s early history, making interesting reading of the inscriptions. The King’s Chapel is an Anglican Church built by the British in-spite of protests from the Puritans.
Old South Meeting House – (and museum) Here you can get a feel and understanding of the days when Samuel Adams stood here and spoke about ‘Freedom’. Also learn about the secret signal he was able to send, without being noticed, triggering the ‘Boston Tea Party’. Also close by are the Irish Famine Memorial sculptures, a memorial in honor of the 100,000 Irish men, women and children who died in the Irish Potato famine in the 1840’s.
Old City Hall – 45 School Street. Here you can see a statue of a donkey and also of Benjamin Franklin outside the building, a French Empire style building that dates back to 1865, when it was first used as the City Hall, a role that it performed until 1969.
Blackstone Block – is the block of small cobblestone laneways between Union, North and Blackstone Streets, and here you will find small bars, taverns and interesting small shops.
Holocaust Memorial – 98 Union Street. Here you will see 6 glass columns that illuminate at night, each representing the 6 death camps where 6 million Jewish people died. It is worth seeing the website nehm.org to read the story of this Memorial, a chilling yet remarkable story of survival.
Paul Revere House – 19 North Square was the home of the silversmith and Patriot, Paul Revere. The house was built in 1680 and the one next door, the Pierce-Hichborn House in 1711. The Paul Revere house is small and is run as a museum, with Paul Revere having lived here from 1770 to 1800.
Old North Church – 193 Salem Street was built in 1723, and this is where Paul Revere had the sextants hold up lanterns to signal the way that the British were likely to attack. One light to signal they would come by land and two lanterns if by sea. You will also see a sculpture of Paul Revere on his horse outside the Church and nearby you will see another Burying Ground, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground that dates back to 1659. You will now be close to the Charles River, and the freedom trail crosses over the Charlestown Bridge here to City Square Park where there is a Soldiers and Sailors Monument and also the Warren Tavern (2 Pleasant Street) that first opened its doors in 1780. Here you could enjoy some Irish band, an apple pie or your favorite tipple.
Bunker Hill Monument and Museum – here you will see a 221 feet high granite tower that was built between 1827 and 1843 to commemorate the 1775 Battle that took place here between the Patriots and the British Redcoats. The monument has 294 steps to the top, with a museum next to it that tells the story of Bunker Hill and the battle that took place.
USS Constitution – Commandant’s House, Museum and the ship itself (Old Ironsides) – The USS Constitution was one of first 6 ships built for the newly formed US Navy in 1797. It was built in Boston as a heavy frigate and saw action in the Mediterranean Sea against the Barbary Pirates wars, and then in 1812 against the British. The big 3 mast frigate was only retired in 1881 and became a Museum ship in 1907. It is moored at Pier 1 in the Charlestown Naval Yard on the Charles River. The museum tells the story of the men, the ship and life on-board, with changing exhibitions and a great collection of documents, charts and other information about the ship. It was given the name ‘Old Ironsides’ given that while it had been in battles, cannon balls had never penetrated its hull – the thick walls of timber thought to be like Iron. Charlestown itself is as old as the downtown of Boston, and there are many Georgian style historic buildings here both on the Naval Base and off base too.
BEACON HILL – this area of Boston was named on account of a beacon that stood on the top of the Hill to warn of foreign invasion. The small narrow, cobblestone laneways and brick row houses with beautiful doors and ironwork make this a great place to just wander and see the houses, architecture, and maybe drop into one of the antique shops or restaurants that you find here. Streets to head to are Charles Street (the main street), Beacon, Bowdoin, Cambridge Streets and Storrow Drive. There is a rich African American history here too, and you can take a tour from Faneuil Hall that takes you along the Black Heritage Trial (Tel: 617 742 5415) to see pre-civil war sites and hear their stories. One of the places you will see is the African Meeting House, built in 1806 by free African American craftsmen and the 1835 Abiel Smith School (and now Museum), the first public building erected for educating African American children. These are located at 46 Joy Street.
New England Aquarium – Central Wharf, next to Boston Harbor. See neaq.org This is a big Aquarium where you can see all sorts of fish, turtles, eels and sharks in a giant tank, along with penguins and other marine life.
BOSTON TEA PARTY SHIPS and Museum – 306 Congress Street Bridge. Here you can re-live the moment when tea was thrown into the Harbor, triggering the start of the Revolutionary Wars. Actors create the story. See bostonteapartyship.com
Institute of Contemporary Art – 100 Northern Avenue, overlooking the Harbor. See icaboston.org Tel: 617 478 3100. The Galleries are located in a stunning looking building next to the Harbor. There are changing exhibitions and lots of interesting art to see.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – 280The Fenway. See gardnermuseum.org This museum is located in an old mansion building, and has paintings from masters like Rembrandt as well as other great painters to see.
Skywalk Observatory – 800 Boylston Street. See prudentialcenter.com Head here to get a bird’s eye view of the City from the 50th floor.
FENWAY PARK – 4 Yawkey Way is where the RED SOX baseball team play. You can take a tour of the grounds – Tel: 617 226 6666. The tours leave from Gate D Ticket Booth.
BOSTON MARATHON - The Boston Marathon has become a big event over many years and continues to do so. It is held each April. Its saddest occasion occurred on April 15, 2013 when 2 pressure cooker bombs were exploded within minutes of each other at 671-673 and then 755 Boylston Street at the end of the Marathon. Three people were killed by the blasts and some 264 people wounded, with one policeman dying and others wounded when searching and finding the perpetrators.
Harvard University – is located in Cambridge on Massachusetts Avenue, on the other side of the Charles River from Boston. This is the most famous of all Universities in the United States. It was founded in 1636 and the campus, campus buildings and student atmosphere are all worth taking the time to visit the campus and do a tour to see and hear stories of Harvard from student guides. The Harvard University Information Center is at 1350 Massachusetts Avenue. Tel: 617 495 1573.
Harvard Museum of Natural History – 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge. See hmnh.harvard.edu Tel: 617 495 3045. Quite amazing. A must see. Here you can see the Grand Mammal Hall (incredible), some 950 different bird species and 4000 Glass Flowers of sea creatures. These are just some of the ‘wow, that’s amazing’ moments in this museum.
MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – 77 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. See mit.edu MIT is almost as famous as Harvard University, with its focus on technology, engineering and science and was founded in 1861 and moved to where it is now in 1916. There is some great architecture to see here on campus from Classic Buildings to modern, but the most different building is certainly the Stata Center at 32 Vassar Street. The MIT Museum is at 265 Massachusetts Avenue, and tours leave from Building 7 Foyer at 77 Massachusetts Avenue. Tel: 617 253 4795.
HARBOR WALK – Boston is a working harbor, and there is the Harborwalk that enables you to walk along much of the Harbor foreshore, past wharves, old warehouses, trendy cafes, through parks and really get a feel for this great city. It is best to get a map from the Visitor’s Center and ask about the best place to start your walk.
LONG WHARF – is where you find Ferries that take you to other points of the Harbor and also out some of the islands, go whale watching, head to Salem or some of the other places. If it is good weather, taking a Harbor trip could be one of the highlights of your visit to Boston. Long Wharf was first built in 1710-1721 and once was much longer than it is now, stretching back almost to Faneuil Hall. This gives you an indication of how much land was reclaimed from the Harbor – the wharf didn’t get shorter, the land just grew.
Boston Islands – there were once 38 islands in the inner and outer harbor, but a number are now part of the mainland, while others are just rocky outcrops. During the summer months there are Ferries to take you from Long Wharf in Boston to Georges Island (where Fort Warren is located), Spectacle Island, Lovells( where Fort Standish is located), Peddocks Island (where Fort Andrews is located), Bumpkin, Grape and Thompson Islands. These islands are managed by the National Parks Service, and are set up for camping, walks, bird watching and other activities.
CHINATOWN – South end of Beach Street, just south-west of Boston Common. Boston’s Chinatown dates back to the late 1800’s and is the 3rd biggest Chinatown in the USA, the biggest being in San Francisco and second biggest in New York City. Here you will find around 200 Restaurants, food specialty grocery shops and other businesses.
Children’s Museum – 300 Congress Street. An interactive museum designed for children to have fun and learn at the same time. See bostonchildrensmuseum.org
Museum of Fine Arts Museum – 465 Huntington Avenue. See mfa.org
Boston Opera House – 539 Washington Street. Box office at 19 Clarendon Street. Tel: 617 259 3400. This is a stunning building inside with gold leaf decorative plaster work, 100 feet high painted mural dome ceilings, 350 chandeliers, stairways, archways and other decorative work making this a magnificent venue for Ballet, Opera and other shows. The building and decorative work dates back to 1928 when it first opened for Vaudeville theater shows, and it has been through many hard times, but is now restored to its former glory.
SKI FIELDS – Boston can get very cold in winter, but there are also snow fields close by too, less than 100 miles away including Blue Hills (21 miles away), Ski Ward in Shrewsbury (45 miles), Ski Bradford at Haverhill (52 miles), Nashoba Valley in Westford (35 Miles), Wachusett Mountain (61 miles) and others further west in the Berkshires and Taconic Mountains, one of the best being Butternut in Great Barrington in the Berkshires, close to New York State.
TOURS – there are lots of tours in Boston – everything from whale watching, pub crawls, architecture, photography, shopping and other special interests.
In so many ways Boston is a distinctly different city to others in the country. There is even a Bostonian accent, and a Bostonian clothing and shoe style, with Bostonians all very proud of their city and its heritage.
You can catch a fast Ferry from Long Wharf in Boston to Salem which takes about an hour to get there, or head north by road the 25 miles which should take you about 45 minutes or so depending on traffic. If you can, stay over in Salem to enjoy the evening too.
Salem has a population of around 20,000 people and is best known as the site of the Witch Trials that happened here in 1692-93 when 200 people were accused of being witches, with 20 of them executed by hanging. They were mostly women.
No doubt you have heard the expression “The Devil made me do it”, but if you can imagine people taking this literally, and a Judge and Jury doing so too, accepting dreams and any other strange imaginings, utterings, even having an epileptic fit as clear, irrefutable evidence that the person had been possessed by the devil, then this was the situation facing those poor people who were brought before the Court in Salem in 1692-93, and duly executed or imprisoned.
Today in Salem, the story of the trials, witchcraft, spells, rituals, pirates, magic and mystical forces are celebrated in a myriad of stories, shows, tours and places to see, and these are some of them –
The whole mix of really amazing places to see, like the PEM and House of the Seven Gables, as well as the stories of witches, witchcraft and the squeamish fun that has been created here in Salem, make Salem a very different city to visit. Good food, restaurants and places to stay all add to the enjoyment.
The Pilgrim Fathers as they are called landed in Plymouth in 1620, ten years before the Puritans arrived in Salem and then Boston.
Plymouth is on the coast about 40 miles south of Boston, and there are a number of things to see here too –
Coming to Plymouth really gives you a feel for the early days of English settlement here on the East Coast. Plymouth, being south of Boston is part of the way along the road to Cape Cod too. Again a great part of the United States to see.
I hope you have found the information helpful in finding your way around Boston, Salem and Plymouth.
Happy travelling! Geoff Stuart