Our family has taken on several ambitious adventures throughout our years of traveling. I share the ones that turn out disastrous because they are usually good for a laugh. But I also like to share the ones that go better than one would expect. I hope to inspire other families to take on similar travel challenges.
Recently our family spent a few days in the Boston area. Unfortunately my husband needed to work while we were in town. This left me exploring an unfamiliar city on my own with 2 kids. Coming up with things to do in Boston with kids was the easy part. There was no shortage of ideas. However, the one thing I knew we couldn’t miss out on doing was the one thing that made me the most nervous. The Freedom Trail is a highlight of the city. But it’s also a 2.5 mile route!
Among my concerns doing it alone with 2 kids: What if we get lost? Will I feel safe? Can I find bathrooms, food, etc. in appropriate time windows? Is this going to be too much for my 5-year old to walk? Will this actually be a fun day for all of us? The answer to those questions…Thankfully the path is marked with red brick which makes it fairly hard to get lost. I felt safe the whole time. There are lots of bathroom and food options along the route. We did a lot of walking, but we spaced it out which made it manageable for my 5-year old. And finally, it was one of our best days ever and TOTALLY worth it!
Now that I’ve justified (and hopefully inspired) you to do the Freedom Trail with your kids, here are a few tips:
- Plan to spend most the day (10-4ish). It’s probably do-able in half day without kids, but I think it would be miserable to rush through the experience with kids in tow.
- Start as close to Public Garden/Boston Commons area as possible. You will walk a ton and don’t want to add steps at the beginning.
- Visitor Center (Stop #1) in Boston Commons will be crowded since that is where everyone starts. I ran in for a map that I paid a few dollars for and then we got underway. You also have the option of taking an official tour that leaves from this location.
- Assuming you start out around 10, the Quincy Market is a great place to stop for lunch. It’s a food court plus some restaurants. Once you get across the river there aren’t as many food places along route. This area is also a good place to use bathroom.
- Unless your kids are just fantastic, it’s probably a good idea to abbreviate the earlier stops. We chose to skip the burial grounds and just looked at the chapels/churches. We read the description of these places during our lunch break. I found it easier to capture the children’s attention when we were seated rather than to try to force it on them while we were on the trail.
- If you have a National Park Passport (here) you can get it stamped several times throughout the Freedom Trail. The locations are: Old South Meeting House, Paul Revere’s House, Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution.
- There are a few stops you can pay to enter or you can just view from the outside. The fees are fairly minimal; however, depending on your budget and children’s attention span- it’s absolutely not a mandatory expense. Our family opted to pick one stop to pay admission.
Once you cross river, the trail splits in two directions. I recommend going towards Bunker Hill first. Stop in visitor center across the street to get tickets if you want to walk to top of monument. The tickets are free, but must be picked up at Visitor Center. This is also a great bathroom stop!
- Walking to the top of the monument is really awesome. But it’s not easy. The stairs are very steep and the space is tight. Going down was much more challenging for my 5-year old. While I highly recommend making the climb if you’re able, this is not an activity for anyone with physical limitations.
- Lastly, you’ll need to backtrack a bit to go to the USS Constitution. On weekdays the battleship opens at 2:30 (10 on weekends) and you can get on board the ship. It’s free, but you’ll need to show ID. My kids loved climbing around on the ship and this was definitely a highlight of the Freedom Trail for them.
- There is a water taxi that departs on the pier right next to USS Constitution. It’s very affordable and definitely gives you the best view of Boston! The water taxi is a great alternative to backtracking the whole trail.
- Assuming you will need to walk back towards where you started (Boston Commons area)- you will pass by many of the first stops. This is a great chance to revisit any that you wanted to spend more time enjoying. These stops were also much less crowded later in the day.
In addition to these Freedom Trail tips, here are a couple more noteworthy ideas for your day:
- The Swan Boats open at 10 in the Public Garden. This is very close to the first stop on The Freedom Trail. We started our day on the Swan Boat (get in line at 9:50AM and you’ll be among the first passengers!) An adult ticket is $3.50 and kids 2+ are $2.00. It’s totally worth it!
- Boston Commons has a cute carrousel and very nice playground. This made a great final destination when we completed the Trail.
- We needed a little treat (and some water!) after we got off the water taxi. I happened to see Legal Sea Foods restaurant and decided to check for ice cream. I couldn’t believe when I saw the kids menu has $3 ice cream sundaes! But, the best part was when I took kids to bathroom we stopped to admire the lobsters and the chef let both kids hold one. I think that was one of their favorite parts of the whole trip!
I hope you enjoy doing the Freedom Trail as much as we did. Not only was it a memorable experience, but we all learned a lot too!