First stop on The East Coast Juggernaut was Boston. Straight off a red-eye, we decided the best way to survive was to keep moving. We're big fans of America's Best Idea so as we planned this trip we made sure we'd be visiting a bunch of National Park sites.
Out west, many parks are all about mountains, rain forests, and canyons. Out east, it's mostly about history.
And freedom. Wait. I meant
If you're looking for freedom, where would you find it? On the Freedom Trail, of course. Duh.
The Freedom Trail runs from Boston Common north to the Bunker Hill Monument. It's part of the Boston National Historical Park and is 2.5 miles of easy walking through Boston and Charlestown. The way is marked by red bricks in the sidewalk so following it is always easy and fun for kids.
It's certainly possible to cruise all along the short route and "see" everything. If you do this, though, you'll miss much more than you see. This is especially true if you've got kids trying to become Junior Rangers. There's just too much to learn and experience.
Instead of trying for a single day we spent two days, splitting the trail in half. We started in the north at the USS Constitution. Old Ironsides was launched in 1797 and is still a commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy. (To get on board, or even in the visitor center, we had to go through security.) It's usually in the water, but now it's in dry dock until 2018 for restoration. Don't worry, it still feels like you're on board an old, old ship.
It's not just the Constitution, though. There's also the USS Cassin Young, a WWII-era destroyer. Unfortunately, it was closed when we were there, but we did go into the museum. It's got a number of great exhibits, but the best bits for kids is upstairs. In fact, we spent so much time there we we had no time for anything else before we were completely exhausted.
The next morning we began on the south half of the Freedom Trail. (Our hotel was right in the middle.)
Pro-tip: Get the Boston NHP app for Apple devices to help navigate the Trail.
I think the kids liked the Paul Revere House best. Tiny and personal, we could really get a feel for what it must have been like to live 200 years ago. What impressed me most was the way Boston has been built up around the Revere House.
In fact, this was how most of the sites on the Freedom Trail were. Gleaming skyscrapers towering above the Old State House and Faneuil Hall side by side with a 7-11. (Of course, not everything survived. The Old Corner Bookstore is now a Chipotle.)
In addition to the Revere House, the kids loved the the Old South Meeting House. Something about getting to walk around the building and see where people actually sat really resonated with them.
Pro-tip: Different organizations run different sites. If you plan to go to all of them, you should buy the combo-pass. (And always ask if there are discounts for teachers or students.)
When we had made it as far south as we were going we jumped on the T (the subway) and took it all the way to Bunker Hill Community College. From there, it's just a short walk up to Bunker Hill.
Pro-tip: Kids can ride the T for free with an adult.
Amateur-tip: Plan how you're going to get everyone on the right side of the ticket gates before you start pushing kids through.
One of the great things about Bunker Hill is you can see the monument from miles away. It's basically a miniature Washington Monument and stands well above the surrounding houses. Note, though, that when you're there you're not actually on Bunker Hill. In fact, Bunker Hill is a slightly higher hill to the west. The monument is on Breed's Hill.
This was just one of the many "facts" I had to unlearn as we toured Boston. Did you know that the Americans actually lost the battle of Bunker Hill? It's true! But the British lost so many troops (including officers) that they felt they had lost.
Discovering history wasn't exactly as I thought it was became a recurring theme throughout our trip. I'd tell you all the times I learned something new, but that's spoil it for you. A lot of the fun for me was learning new things especially when I thought I already knew them.
And one final pro-tip for the kids: Check out Liberty's Kids (Amazon.com affiliate links help support moosefish.com.) It's an animated show that ran on PBS and does a great job explaining the Revolution through the eyes of kids working for Benjamin Franklin.