Boston is full of history. From two big name Universities (Harvard and MIT), to the history with JFK, to the Freedom Trail, there is an endless number of sightseeing options. Depending on your pace, it can be a breeze, or many days can be spent digesting the information. Regardless of your traveling habits, here are some of the sights that we visited and tips we learned as first time visitors to Boston.
Places Around Boston
John F. Kennedy (JFK) Library and Museum is on the University of Massachusetts campus. From the Red Line JFK/UMASS stop, there is a free shuttle that runs from the MTBA stop to the JFK museum every 20 minutes. Admission to the museum is $14 per person. There is a short ~15 min video of JFK’s childhood and eventual path to politics. Since I didn’t know much about him, the video was eye opening. The museum itself was very eye opening and cover a lot about the change he brought to the country. One thing I noticed it didn’t cover at all was his assassination. But it covered his path from a teacher to politics, election process, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Space Race, Berlin Wall involvement, State-hosted dinners, and much more. I found many of the original documents interesting. Despite the large halls and expansive exhibits, the museum in May was not crowded at all, which made browsing a relaxing process.
Harvard and MIT are two well-known Universities in the area. I’ve only heard of them via movies and news, but have never visited or realized that they’re both in such close proximity to each other. We tried to visit earlier in the day, but because of our dinner reservation at Oleana, we had to postpone it until after dinner when it got dark. Despite it being late, wandering through both campuses for just 15-20 minutes each was still interesting to see how different life at each of the campuses are. The biggest difference is MIT is much more open campus while Harvard felt like a more closed off campus. But just a couple of stops away from each other, I’m surprised there isn’t more of rivalry between the two Universities.
Parts of the Freedom Trail
Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile path through Boston and 16 historical site. All along the path, there were school kids walking the path as part of a school sponsored program to learn the history of America. If you want to make all the stops, this can easily become an all-day walk. We didn’t have enough time, so we stopped at the ones that sounded most interesting. The easiest way to follow the route is to look at the ground for a brick in a straight line marking the route. Trying to route with a cell phone is challenging, as the cell phone GPS can get confused amidst the tall building towers of Boston. For the most part, the brick path is very straightforward and convenient enough!
Boston Commons is the start of the Freedom Trail. The park itself is well maintained with a large lake in the middle with nesting swans. Large benches and a variety of trees. If I had more time, I would spend some time relaxing in the park. We got lucky the weather was phenomenal, much warmer than normal with nothing blue skies.
Paul Revere House is one of the stops of the Freedom Trail. At $3.50 a person for a quick 10 minute tour of his small two story house, it’s worth it only if you’re interested in seeing the remodel of his home. Most of the home has been upgraded to meet modern standards, but still lives true to how the house was back in the day of Paul Revere. This includes the pictures of the hinged furniture to save space. There are two very knowledgeable guides, one on each floor to answer any questions. As we exited, we noticed they’re working on a new section that looks much larger than just the house, so there will be more to see in the future.
USS Constitution Museum was one of the more interactive stops. For kids, it’s very interactive with many hand-on activities to demonstrate various aspects of this old wooden boat. Entrance to the USS Constitution Museum is free, but there is a suggested donation. Entry to the actual USS Constitution, which is being repairs in a dry dock is completely free (though they do check for ID before entering). Even though this was the end of the trail, it was a worthy historical site to spend more time.