Family Field Trips: The Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail, a red brick path winding for 2.5 miles through Boston, is an entirely unique family field trip opportunity. Along the trail you'll encounter historic and educational sites that are mostly significant for their connection to the American Revolution. While the full trail can be a daunting undertaking, your family can have a memorable experience with the help of a little planning.

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Before You Go

The Freedom Trail includes 16 official historical sites, as well as many other places of interest. Official trail stops include churches, cemeteries, landmarks and monuments. It's not essential that you walk the trail from end to end, so before you go, look over the list of sites with your family and consider what you'd most like to visit. Depending on your interests, you may be able to visit sites that are located in close proximity to one another, or travel to remote sites by taxi or subway.

If you choose to travel along the set path, you may need to do quite a bit of walking. It's helpful to wear good walking shoes and dress appropriately for both outdoor and indoor sites. Also, be sure to set the expectation of walking with your child and bring snacks and water. Many areas of the Freedom Trail are near restaurants and other places where you can rest, though some are relatively isolated. With Boston's winding streets, which can be confusing for first-time visitors, planning your trip ahead of time can make your Freedom Trail visit fun and educational.

USS Constitution freedom trail boston field trip american history

USS Constitution

Teaching Moments at the Site

Walking the Freedom Trail is a terrific way to teach your child about colonial America, the American Revolution and the early days of the nation. For a piece of living history, you can visit the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the world. You can also visit the site of the Boston Massacre, which is marked by a ring of stones noting the location of the famous incident. Faneuil Hall, another stop on the Freedom Trail, is both an important landmark for its role as a meeting place during the American Revolution and a popular tourist destination for its shops and restaurants.

There are several cemeteries that serve as the final resting place of some of America's most notable patriots. At the Granary Burying Ground, you can visit the graves of Paul Revere, Crispus Attucks, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Robert Treat Paine, along with Adams and Hancock, are signers of the Declaration of Independence buried at the cemetery. King's Chapel Burying Ground has both Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower, and John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts.

faneuil hall freedom trail american history boston field trip

Faneuil Hall

Outside of the Freedom Trail's official stops are a number of unofficial sites that your family may find informative and fun. For example, The Printing Office of Edes & Gill provides the chance to experience a mock colonial-era printing experience. Located on the Freedom Trail, the printing house includes demonstrations of how the historic press operated and lessons on the role it played in the Revolutionary War.

Freedom Trail

Gary Gregory at the printing office of Edes & Gill. Photo by Elinor Bayliss, 2011.

The Ride Home

After visiting the Freedom Trail, you can discuss with your child the panoply of historic sites concentrated in a small area of Boston. What were your child's favorite places to visit? When you get home, encourage your child to conduct further research into the places he or she found most interesting.

Touring the Freedom Trail can also inspire your child to learn about other locations that played a major role in the American Revolution. You can help your child learn about other spots in Massachusetts, such as Lexington and Concord. You may also decide to visit other historic cities, such as Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

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