Boston Common (#60 Old Edition, #59 New Edition of Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up) is one of America’s oldest parks and it’s a wonderful place to spend a lazy Saturday morning.
Kids can feed the ducks before scampering around the sculpture dedicated to Robert McCloskey’s Make Way For Ducklings. The swan boats can take you on a leisurely journey around the pond. Or you can just lie on the grass and soak up the sunshine.
Unfortunately, our morning wasn’t leisurely and we had things to do and places to see. And for us, Boston Common was the starting point for a three mile walk through downtown Boston, also known as the Freedom Trail.
This is where my penchant for planning actually cost us, and we gave a de facto donation to some organization. I had planned to take a walking tour with a costumed guide and paid for it online. But miracle of miracles, we were not only on time, but actually running about an hour early.
At the central meeting spot (the beginning of the Freedom Trail in Boston Common), I went in to pick up our tickets and realized a DIFFERENT guide was starting in about 15 minutes.
Hmmm. . . wait an hour or pay for a second tour and leave now.
Time is precious to our family (and there’s not THAT much too do in the park), so we chose to make a donation and paid for the second tour.
Wait a second. This is an almost three-mile walk with lots of history – aren’t my kids going to be bored?
Not if you’ve got a good guide. And oh my goodness, we had a great one. He made history come alive even for my little five-year old.
We tromped through cemeteries, passed by the Paul Revere House (more on that later), and ended just past the Old North Church on the hill overlooking Boston Harbor. Throughout, he wove a tale detailing the beginning of the American Revolution.
At the site of the Boston Massacre, he used my boys as examples of what the kids of the time were doing – throwing sticks and stones at the Redcoats. When we got to the Old North Church, we closed our eyes and imagined a fleet of British ships turning away when they saw the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga.
For those who don’t want to do the entire trail, pick and choose. But may I also suggest bribery?
By the time we hit the Paul Revere House, my little one was flagging, but we were oh so close to the end of the tour. A quick negotiation with him bought us some extra time.
A Boston Red Sox hat? Deal. Throw in a David Ortiz shirt and he promised not to complain the entire day. Done. And the older one? He tends to benefit from his younger brother’s bargaining skills.
By the time we reached the Old North Church, we were tired and more than ready for lunch in Boston’s Little Italy. We backtracked (remember, we missed the Paul Revere House) and ate an ENORMOUS lunch.
With our tummies full, our feet rested, and the hats bought (we held off on the shirts – have to have some form of carrot), we headed over to the Paul Revere House (#379 New Edition).
The Paul Revere House wasn’t in the first edition, and honestly, I’m not sure why it made the second, unless it was a token nod to the Freedom Trail (which SHOULD be in the books).
It is, quite simply, a house.
And because so many people are herded through it like cattle, you get very little time to look and ask questions before you’re shepherded into the next room.
I think we spent about 30 minutes there from start to finish.
And while it was interesting to see the home of an important player in the American Revolution, if you only visit the house without seeing the rest of the Freedom Trail, you lose a sense of what it means.
In other words, it becomes just a house with some really pretty silverware scattered throughout.
While I’m glad we saw it (and knocked it off our list), I’d bypass it if one is running short on time because the next place we went is an absolute MUST-SEE: The USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides.
Thirteen places visited, 487 to go.
Next: Old Ironsides: A Grand Lady of the Seas