We had such a fun time yesterday. We got to Boston about 11 and before we did anything, had lunch. We parked right underneath Boston Common so we'd be close to the beginning of the Freedom Trail. The visitor's center, which is where the trail starts, also has bathrooms, so we took advantage of those too.
Then we started at the very beginning... there was a woman dressed up in period costume who offered to take us on the tour for rather a large amount of money. We took a picture with her but started off on our own. Our first stop was the Boston State House, or Capitol building. We looked at it from the outside and fussed with our audio tour, and although the information was interesting, it was hard to figure out where you were, so we didn't listen to as we walked. We had listened to it in the car on the way, so we knew that although the front doors are locked (except for exiting governors and visiting presidents), the side doors are open to the public.
We went in and visited the big Memorial Hall, under the golden dome, and also the Great Hall of flags, which has flags from most of the towns in Massachusetts. Then we went upstairs and found the Senate Chambers, adorned with toga-wearing patriots and codfish, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and the House Chambers, with their voting buttons and leather-clad doors. I think the kids were pretty impressed. Me, I loved that we were allowed to go in and look at it all.
Then we went out and took a quick glance at the statue of Mary Dyer, the Quaker who refused to stop preaching in Boston (and was eventually hanged).
After the State House, we walked along til we found the Park Street Church, where they were said to have kept brimstone in the basement, and where people still give fire and brimstone speeches on the corner. Across the street from Anne Hutchinson's former land (and the former Corner Bookstore), we passed by a monument to the Irish that showed sort of before and after views of a small Irish family in the 1840's (starving, and then prosperous).
Then, it was on to the South Meeting House, where they first spoke of rebellion against the tea tax. Next it was the Old State House, now a front for the T, but still holding the balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was first read to the citizens of Boston, Abigail Adams among them. Right in front of the Old State House is the site of the Boston Massacre, which A. said was "really creepy".
At Fanueil Hall, we made a detour to buy candy for our flagging patriots. We then went up to the second floor where they used to hold Town Meeting, and where they now swear in new citizens. The third floor is a museum with lots of military artifacts: cannon balls and shells, machine guns from WWII, and the like. I can't imagine having brought my kids there by themselves, but in the group, they encouraged each other and showed each other things they found interesting.
We missed Quincy Market, but instead walked across toward the North End. I love this part of Boston, all the Italian storefronts and restaurants and cafés. The best part though was watching the kids weave through the neighborhood scrupulously following the Freedom Trail bricks, except during "flash floods" when they all jumped off the trail.
In the North End, we walked by Paul Revere's house, interesting for its wooden outside and for its short height. We found his statue, and a cool empty fountain where the kids, and M., ran and played. And also a memorial with strings of dogtags to remember those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then we were off to the Old North Church, or as A. calls it the "One if by land two if by sea"-church. We happened to arrive just in time for a short presentation where we heard that Robert Newman, the sexton, climbed 14 floors of stairs to display the two lanterns to let Revere know the British were indeed coming by sea. On the way down the stairs, Newman heard the British at the door and was lucky enough to escape by jumping out the window (now called the "Newman" window). He was still arrested the next day, because he was the only one with the key to the steeple, but was eventually freed due to a lack of evidence.
We walked up the hill to the Copp's Burying Ground where the kids wanted to see the gravestone where the British used Daniel Malcom's gravestone for target practice. It's a really pretty spot up on a hill and also has a nice view of the Old North Church. They all fingered the bullet hole, remarking on the fact that it's smooth and worn (probably by other kids' fingers).
After a bit, we walked down the hill towards the port to see where Revere might have taken his boat. Supposedly, after seeing the lanterns, he had a pair of friends row him across (it's a very narrow bit of water) to Charlestown, right under the nose of a British War ship. The kids wanted to know if he had gotten caught.
We didn't row across, but instead walked across a rather creepy metal bridge that if you looked down, revealed the water way under our feet.
On the other side, we walked through Charlestown up to Bunker's Hill... nobody appreciated my Rapunzel jokes, but that's just what it reminded me of... it's so tall and has a tiny window just at the very top. There are 294 steps, so we were all huffing and puffing on the way up (especially me), but the view from the top was worth it. The kids liked the central cavity best, covered with a grate, but very good for yelling into. They also yelled all the way down, trying to see if the people still at the top could still hear them. There wasn't a lot to do about it, since yelling more didn't really seem very helpful. And I admit, it was kind of fun.
Our legs all felt like jelly now. We took advantage of the bathroom in the memorial's store, and then walked on to the US Constitution.
After we walked by the intimidating "you are now entering a federal facility" signs, we found that the museum and boats were closed. I was amazed to see what looked like a Catalan flag flying next to old versions of British and American ones. The sign though said it was a Tripolitan flag, though the Tripolitan one had five red stripes and four yellow, while the one flying had four red and three yellow. Turns out the Catalan has five yellow and four red... so who knows what flag was there.
One of the highlights of the day came next, taking the water shuttle (part of the T system) from the pier next to the USS Constitution across the bay back to Boston. It was just a little ferry, named Anna, but it was lovely to be out on the water. The kids loved it. It cost a whole $1.70 for each adult and was free for the kids.
And it left us at the T stop in front of the Aquarium, where we then took the subway back to the Common and our car.
It was such a nice day. I think most of the credit goes to having a group of kids, not just my own. Somehow, they encouraged each other and made it fun for each other. It was so much nicer than bringing only my own.