If you’re visiting Boston for the first time, and you only have a few hours to spend, what could you do to get the most from your visit? One suggestion is to go downtown and take a walking tour on the Freedom Trail.
After visiting Acadia National Park in Maine, I continued my New England road trip south bound through Massachusetts. I planned on stopping for the night near Newport, RI, but on the way, I wanted to stop somewhere in Massachusetts. I thought one place I couldn’t miss is the biggest city in New England, Boston. I had been to Boston a couple of times before for business trips, but never for leisure. So I thought at least I should stop there as it was on the way to my next destination. As I looked for activity that I could do in a few hours there, I found out about the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walking path in downtown Boston that takes you to several historical landmarks where some key events in the American Revolution occurred. The path is marked with redbrick line that you can trace starting at the Boston Common. You can get a map at the Information Center and do a self-guided tour, or like I did, join a 90-minute guided walking tour that starts at the Information Center in the Boston Common area and ends at the Faneuil Hall. The tour runs every hour, rain or shine, led by a tour guide dressed in the period attire (and typical role play an important historical figure).
During the tour, you get to learn about the historical landmarks and some of the key figures in the American Revolution (people like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams). I think doing the tour is definitely worth the time and cost as it allows you to learn more than simply looking at the sights and reading printed materials. You can ask questions about the city history that you probably won’t find in any guide books. For example, why are the streets in downtown Boston laid out in somewhat confusing pattern? (It’s because those streets started as walking paths created by farmers herding their cattle). And you get more in short time if you have time constraints like I did.
Near the end of the tour at Faneuil Hall, if you’re hungry, you can check out another historic landmark, the Union Oyster House. The restaurant was established in 1826, earning it the distinction as the oldest operating restaurant in the United States. There you can get some traditional New England fare like clam chowder or broiled scrod. The food might be a little bit on expensive side, but I think it’s worth it for the experience.
The photo below was taken as we started our walking tour at the Boston Common. You can see the redbrick line on the trail and our guide leading the group at the front walking in the rain (by the end of the tour, the rain actually turned to snow). The building with the golden dome in front of us was the Massachusetts State House. The photo was nothing spectacular, but I think it conveys the sense of place and captures the experience of being part of the walking tour. This is an example of one point to keep in mind in recording a travel experience. Sometimes you have situations where it’s less than ideal to take photographs with DSLR (like in this case, we were walking in the rain, and one of my hands was holding an umbrella). In such situations, it’s helpful to have a backup plan like carrying a small point-and-shoot camera, and it’s better to take photos anyway even in less than ideal situation so you would still have a record of your experience.