By Rita J. Egan
I had a few vacation days in the fall, and I decided to use them to visit Boston, Massachusetts —a city that I have wanted to visit for decades. Walking in Boston's history didn't disappoint.
Before my trip, I posted a message on Facebook asking friends for tips when it comes to visiting Boston. One popular piece of advice was to make sure I followed The Freedom Trail. I took that advice, and I’m glad I did. For a place with so much history, the idea of a trail is genius.
The Freedom Trail is 2 ½ miles through the city of Boston where tourists can find 16 historic sites along the way. To make it easier, a red line on the sidewalks guides history buffs along the trail. For those who aren’t big fans of walking, there are a few transportation options to check out the sites. For those who want to know all the details, tour guides are available for a fee to lead you along the way and tell you all the exciting details.
When I was in Boston, my travel companions and I opted for walking. It was a beautiful day for the walk. From what I could see of the trolleys and Duck Boat tours passing by, it looked like tourists got a good deal from their guides. Plus, with the trolley, ticket holders can hop on and off whenever they want.
Before our walk, we needed some fuel, so we had lunch at the Bull & Finch Pub. The bar, located below street level, was the inspiration for the ‘80s television show “Cheers.” We were pleasantly surprised by the food. After eating, we checked out the television show set replica, located on the first floor. A “Cheers” souvenir shop is also on the first floor along with photo ops, and a mural of the cast. When you go, make sure to look for the name plaques showing where the "Cheers" characters would have sat.
After eating our hearty lunch, we were ready for the Freedom Trail, featuring historic parks, churches, burial grounds, meeting halls and more. From the Bull & Finch Pub, we headed to Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, and one that reminded me of Central Park in New York City. If we had had more time, I would love to have sat down somewhere, taken in all the beauty and people watched.
Right outside of the park, there’s humanmade beauty to be taken in. The detail of the Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial is amazing. The sculpture commemorates the first all-black regiment in the Civil War and is outside of the park across from the Massachusetts State House.
My favorite stop was Paul Revere’s house. Nestled among modern buildings, Revere’s former home dates back to 1680. It is one of the oldest homes in the North End. When Revere purchased the house, he, his first wife, mother, and five surviving children lived in two bedrooms. That’s one of the things I love about historic sites such as this. I learn about how things were done in the past and realize how easy my life is compared to those who lived centuries ago.
After the tour of the house, we checked out the small museum where visitors can see wares the silversmith crafted and discover that Revere was much more than his famous ride in 1775.
We also stopped by two cemeteries, Granary Bury Ground and King’s Chapel Bury Ground. When you take time to stroll through any burial ground, you're bound to get a lesson in local history. In Boston, you don't need to be from the city to recognize many of the names on the tombstones. Granary is the perfect example of this with graves for Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, the victims of the Boston Massacre and more. We found the etching of a skull with wings on many of the graves interesting. It reminded us of the Dia de Los Muertos designs you see today, but it turns out it’s a soul effigy which depicts the soul flying to heaven.
We also wandered around Faneuil Hall Marketplace where we had a chance to do some shopping while surrounded by Boston's history. While we managed to stop at a few places along the Trail, we didn’t hit everything. Of course, we did start early afternoon. If you begin in the morning, there should be no problem covering the whole Freedom Trail by foot.
While in Massachusetts, we did venture outside of Boston. I'm a New Kids on the Block fan, so a trip to the original Wahlburgers in Hingham was on my list of things to see. Wahlburgers is the restaurant owned by Donnie Wahlberg, actor and member of NKOTB, actor Mark Wahlberg and their brother Paul, who is a chef. The family is originally from Dorchester, MA. The food was good, but unfortunately, there was not one Wahlberg around!
After dinner, we walked around Hingham. It was a beautiful, cool Friday night, so we were surprised it was so quiet there. But we didn't mind having Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy and Talbots pretty much to ourselves.
We had dessert at Alma Nove, which is also owned by the Wahlberg family. After tasting delicious desserts like homemade peanut butter ice cream and cookies and cream ice cream, I have to say I was disappointed we didn't have dinner there. Next time I'm in the Boston area though, Alma Nove will be on my list for a must-have meal.
And, I will be back in Massachusetts. Walking in Boston's history - part of The Freedom Trail and stopping by Hingham was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a state filled with so much history and beauty.
By the way, one last tip about my trip I must share that those who live on Long Island will appreciate. Take the ferry! For Boston, we left from Orient Point, so we would have less driving on the side when arriving in New London, Connecticut. Or, you can take one out of Port Jefferson which goes to Bridgeport, Connecticut.