Boston

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Tiny buildings tucked away under modern wonders remind passersby to keep the past in mind. Street corners and facades bear plaques that educate at every turn. Whether you're focused on it or not, a visit to Boston is always framed by the events that took place here long ago. If you do decide to make history a focus of your trip, there's a seemingly endless supply of sights to take in along the Freedom Trail and beyond.

Boston History

Ahla Brookline Food Tour

If you're up for a nosh and want to delve into more Boston history, head off to nearby Brookline. Both the Walking Tour of Jewish Cuisine and the From Russia With Love! Tour will introduce you to local history that has nothing to do with the Freedom Trail. Meet the town's top purveyors of all things delicious (latkes, bagels, falafel and more) and, of course, eat. What could be better than that?

80 Park St. Suite 35, Massachusetts, 617-304-1570, www.brooklinetour.com
Tags: things to do | history | tour | culinary | walk

Black Heritage Trail

Finished the Freedom Trail? Don't unlace your sneakers just yet. Follow the Black Heritage Trail to learn about the history of Boston's African-American community during the 19th century. The trail starts at the monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment at The Boston Common, and winds through the streets of Beacon Hill where many black Bostonians lived. Contact the Museum of African American History for tour times.

Massachusetts, 617-725-0022, www.afroammuseum.org/trail.htm
Tags: history | walk

Boston Harbor Cruises

This company’s well-regarded boat tours range from sightseeing to whale watching. History buffs can take a break from the Freedom Trail during an easier-on-the-feet narrated harbor cruise, while photo fans can capture great images on a Lighthouse Cruise that sails past Thacher Island, home to the country’s last operating twin lighthouses. Crave adventure? Take a thrilling, high-speed spin on “Codzilla.”

One Long Wharf, MA, 877-733-9425, www.bostonharborcruises.com
Tags: cruise | things to do | culture | history | tour | wildlife | whale watching

Boston Public Library

It's part art museum, part history museum, part live-event venue, part restaurant, and, oh yeah, there are books here, too. The Boston Public Library also offers a fascinating (and free) architecture and art tour of its historic 1895 McKim Building (Sun. at 2 p.m., Mon. at 2:30 p.m., Tues. and Thurs. at 6 p.m., and Fri.–Sat. at 11 a.m.). It's no throwaway line to say that the BPL's central library has something for everyone.

700 Boylston St., Massachusetts, 617-536-5400, www.bpl.org
Tags: family | art | things to do | culture | architecture | history | tour

Copp's Hill Burying Ground

There are so many stories waiting for your attention at the Copp's Hill Burying Ground. A burial site since 1659, it's the permanent resting place of an incredible mix of Bostonians – from a few notable historic figures to a wide array merchants and artisans. If the grasshopper that graces the top of Faneuil Hall strikes your fancy, make sure to pay your respects to Shem Drowne, the man who created it.

Hull St., Massachusetts, 617-635-4505, www.thefreedomtrail.org/visitor/copp-hill.html
Tags: history | cemetery

Freedom Trail

Hit 16 historical sites along the free, 2.5-mile red-brick Freedom Trail (which begins at the Visitor Information Center in The Boston Common) as it winds through several of the city’s must-see neighborhoods. In pleasant weather, it’s an enjoyable and heart-healthy stroll. But if it’s cold or you’re traveling with tots, there’s no need to tackle the whole thing in one day. Divide it in two and walk half one day, the other half the next, devoting some time to enjoying the surrounding neighborhoods. It's the best way to put history in context with the modern city.

148 Tremont St., MA, www.thefreedomtrail.org
Tags: editor pick | things to do | history | free | walk

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

For aficionados of presidential history and parents with school-age kids in tow it’s a truly special treat to visit the Kennedy Library and Museum. Permanent exhibitions include a look at the space race during the Kennedy years, his use of television and other media to deliver his message to the American people, and his early years and family. Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Columbia Point, Massachusetts, 866-JFK-1960, www.jfklibrary.org
Tags: family | history | museum

Nichols House Museum

To see one of State House architect's Charles Bulfinch's smaller works up close, step inside the Nichols House Museum on Beacon Hill. Completed in 1804, the four-story townhouse features exquisite antiques from around the world, as well as furnishings from the 17th to 19th centuries. Apr.–Oct., Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; Nov.–March, Thurs.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.

55 Mt. Vernon St., Massachusetts, 617-227-6993, www.nicholshousemuseum.org
Tags: family | history | museum | antiques

Old North Church (Christ Church)

One of the most memorable sayings from the early days of the Revolutionary War goes right back to the Old North Church. It's the site where two lanterns were hung to warn colonists that the British were approaching by sea. When you leave, don't forget to visit the statue of Paul Revere on his horse on the Paul Revere Mall across the street. Open Jan.–Feb., Tues.–Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Mar.–May, Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; June–Oct., Daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Nov.–Dec., Daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

193 Salem St., Massachusetts, 617-523-6676, www.oldnorth.com
Tags: history

Old State House

As Boston's colonists grew further disenchanted with the British, the Old State House, completed in 1713, played host to speeches, letter-writing campaigns and other actions that served to rile up patriots. It's also the scene of the Boston Massacre, which took place in 1770 on the cobblestones outside the building’s doors. Today, the Old State House hosts a gentler bunch: the Bostonian Society and visitors to the museum inside. Open daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Jan., 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; July–Aug., 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

206 Washington St., Massachusetts, 617-720-1713, www.thefreedomtrail.org/visitor/old-state-house.html
Tags: family | architecture | history

Salem

If you’ve even a mild interest in witchcraft, the site of the infamous 1692 witch trials is not to be missed. While there's quite a bit of hokey tourist stuff around Salem these days (fortune teller, anyone?), there's a lot of history to take in and plenty of great photo-ops. If crowds (and creepy decorations) don't scare you, visit during Halloween when the city really goes all out. 

16 miles north of Boston, MA, 877-SALEM-MA, www.salem.org
Tags: family | history | day trip | museum

The Boston Common

Think it's just America's oldest public park (established in 1634) and a great place for a picnic? Think again. The Boston Common, starting point for the Freedom Trail, served as both a puritanical punishment site (stocks, whippings and hangings) and later, as a camp for 1,000 Redcoats from the British Army in 1775. Puts a different spin on that Frisbee game, doesn’t it?

Bordered by Boylston, Tremont, Park, and Beacon streets, Massachusetts, 617-357-8300, www.thefreedomtrail.org/visitor/boston-common.html
Tags: family | history | park

The Paul Revere House

Want to find out what Paul Revere really shouted during his midnight ride? There's nobody better to ask than the guides who safeguard Revere's house and story. Tour the constructed-in-1680 building, the oldest in the Downtown area, at your own pace. Before leaving, get a good look at the 900-pound bell in the courtyard – it's some of Revere's silversmith handiwork. Open daily, late Apr.–Oct. 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m.; Nov.–early Apr. 9:30 a.m.–4:15 p.m.

19 North Sq., Massachusetts, 617-523-2338, www.paulreverehouse.org
Tags: family | history

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