Boston’s Freedom Trail: Tips, tricks and hidden secrets

An old city in the new world, Boston is a place chock full of historical landmarks and layered with centuries of well-kept secrets and hidden gems. From 17th century graves to a 20th century covert steakhouse, mystery is around every corner, waiting to be discovered by tourists and locals alike.

The good news is, Boston’s biggest historical attractions like Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s House and Quincy Market are strung together along a red brick and painted path dubbed the Freedom Trail. Many tour companies are available with knowledgeable guides ready to walk visitors from site to site, explaining the who’s and what’s behind the Patriots’ road to revolution.

Whether following a guide or traveling the Trail alone, here are a few tips and tricks to add to your adventure.

Rest your feet on the Charlestown Ferry

While the Freedom Trail is completely walkable, it can make for a long day. To cut down on steps AND get a great view of the city, catch the Charlestown Ferry at Long Wharf after you hit all of the stops from Boston Common to Old North Church in the North End. The ferry leaves every 15 minutes and costs less than $2 to ride each way. Passengers can sit inside or out, but either way, they get a stunning view of the Boston skyline from the water! The ferry stops off at the Charlestown Navy Yard and from there it’s a short walk to Bunker Hill and the rest of the stops on this side of the bay.

View of Boston from a Ferry

Search for Mother Goose

Lay a penny on Paul Revere’s headstone, pay respect to John Hancock and look up at the towering Franklin Monument at the Old Granary Burying Ground, but don’t forget to visit Mother Goose. Walk up the center trail of the burying ground to the short dead end path located between the Franklin Monument and the back of the cemetery. Here lies the first wife of Isaac Goose, Mary, and his second wife, Elizabeth in an unmarked grave nearby. Mary gave birth to 10 children before passing away. Elizabeth raised all 10 kids and added 10 of her own to the clan. Elizabeth may have never penned a nursery rhyme, but she’s certainly earned the title “Mother Goose.“

Find your Saint in an alleyway

Stop by to see if Peter Baldassari has the wooden gate to All Saints Way alley open at Hanover and Battery Street in Boston’s oldest neighborhood, the North End. Baldassari is sometimes on hand to talk all about his passion project, collecting saints and building out his sanctuary to them. He will even help visitors find their Saint based on their birthday. It’s a beautiful place that mashes up art, history and religion in a homemade alleyway museum. If the gate is closed, take a peek through the slats to check out Baldassari’s collection. 

See where Benjamin Franklin was born

This unassuming landmark is just steps off the Freedom Trail between the Old Corner Bookstore and the Old South Meeting House, but many people miss it! The birthplace of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin at 1 Milk Street is marked by a small white bust of Franklin himself. The original building where Franklin was born burned down in 1810.

Dine in a secret steakhouse

Just 2.5 blocks from the Park Street Church stop on the Freedom Trail is a hidden 20-seat steakhouse where patrons can order hand crafted cocktails, caviar, foie gras and a 28-ounce bone-in Porterhouse. Walk through the casual JM Curley burger joint and look for the “Adults Only” sign. Turn off your cell phone and enter Bogie’s Place, a private dining experience of a lifetime. Main course prices range from $23 to $75 with add-on sides for $7 to $14. Make sure to call ahead and make reservations.

Take note of the 10-foot wide house

Directly across the Hull Street entrance to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End stands 4-story house touted as the narrowest house in Boston, measuring only 10 feet wide. Urban legend holds the house was built by a bitter brother to block the sunlight to his sibling’s larger home on land the two inherited from their father. The Civil War era house is still occupied today.

Step carefully over the dead

Four cemeteries are located on Boston’s Freedom Trail, including the city’s three oldest. Visitors may notice that the faded headstones that in some cases date back to the 1660’s, are all organized in fairly neat rows. That was not always the case. In fact, it’s likely that not many of the headstones still mark the resting place of those who were buried there, and the remains of bodies probably extend underneath surrounding streets and structures.

Boston Cemetary

Grab a bite at Paul Revere’s old haunt

Hob nob where Paul Revere used to hang out, at the Green Dragon Tavern not far off the Freedom Trail at 11 Marshall Street, just behind Union Oyster House. The history of the pub is disputed, but it’s said that Paul Revere launched his famous midnight ride from here to warn the patriots of the British march toward Lexington and Concord. The current standing restaurant is proud of its history that extends at least back to the 1770’s, if not back to 1654 like the pub claims. Regardless, it’s a great place to take a load off and grab a bite to eat at a historic landmark!

 

Boston in Winter: An Unexpected Treat

Many people have outdated notions about winter vacations. Of course, travelling to sunny locales like Florida or the Caribbean are great if you want to work on your tan, but with the crowds and skin cancer risk, why not consider another option: New England.

At the heart of the northeast lies Boston, MA, a city built around its ports and famous universities. A city often swallowed by the Apple to its south. However, Boston has a lot to offer tourists in terms of history, culture and winter fun. The “down” season is clearly one of the best times to visit here too. Even though you cannot go for a harbor cruise, you can see most everything else Bean Town has to offer and do it without the crowds.

Museums Galore!

Many people do not realize that Boston is home to over 40 museums that celebrate an awesome range of cultural attractions. This includes the famous JFK Presidential Library as well as a plethora of historical museums and sites dedicated to the Revolutionary War and Colonial era.

Boston is also home to several great “niche” museums such as the Children’s Museum, the Fuller Craft Museum, the USS Constitution Museum, and the Salem Witch Museum. Both Harvard and MIT sponsor museums on their campuses and there’s even a museum dedicated to Whaling in Nantucket.

One of the best aspects of travelling to Boston in the winter is that museums are always open regardless of weather and many even offer discounted entry for the “off season.” You may also consider purchasing a tourist card such as the Go Boston card which offers entry to over two dozen museums in and around the Boston area.

Boston Alley at the Holidays

Winter Weather Fun

In addition to great indoor activities, Boston’s location at the heart of New England allows easy travel to most of the best ski and snow resorts in America. There are several great cross country ski areas within a short drive including trails in Weston, Carlisle, and Northfield. New Hampshire is also close by offering excellent cross country trails in its Waterville Valley.

For the less agile, snow tubing is also a great way to spend the day. Nashoba Valley’s Snow Tubing Park in Westford offers four snow tube lifts and 17 lanes as well as an observation deck. Off of 495 in Amesbury, the Amesbury Sports Park offers three lifts and nine tracks as well as the Corner Kicks Pub for some good eats after hitting the lanes.

Finally, Frog Pond in the heart of The Commons offers ice skating from 10 am until well into the night all winter long. Admission is free for those under 13 and only $4 for everyone else. Skating in the Commons offers an unprecedented opportunity to see Boston from a new angle and have fun at the same time.

Don’t Forget to Eat

Finally, winter weather is no match for the world-class fare served at any of the hundreds of Boston’s fine restaurants and eateries. Located on the water, seafood here is superb and, like many big cities, Boston’s Little Italy on the north end and downtown Chinatown pockets offer cultural dishes to please any palate.

Whether you are going for the culture or going for some fun, winter time in Boston will not disappoint. It is clearly worth it to take time this winter to see the sights, get a little wet and cold, and then warm up with amazing foods in New England’s largest city.

10 Cities to Consider for Your Next Vacation

When it comes to choosing a destination for your next vacation, many different factors come into play.  Climate, activities and cost are all aspects to consider when deciding where to travel to next, and with choices ranging from Oahu to Chicago to London, there are many cities worthy of a trip!  We’ve compiled this list of 10 places to consider visiting on your next trip to make your decision making process a little easier.

1. New York, New York. NYC is a city full of good food and fun, with more activities to do than you can imagine.  There are plenty of sights to see no matter what age you are!  From amazing zoos (Bronx, Queens and Central Park) to a tour of the Empire State Building to visiting the NBC Studio, there is truly something for everyone.  If music is your passion, there is much history to be enjoyed in New York City, so considering checking out Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. And of course, don’t miss all the amazing museums New York has to offer, including the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

The weather can vary – in the summer, temperatures and humidity levels are high, while the winter months will offer blustery days.  Fall days will provide a crisp feeling in the air, and picturesque streets with multicolored leaves covering the city.  Spring showers may bring flowers, but the fickle weather in spring has proven to be unpredictable. And though the city is beautiful in every season – you will want to visit when you are most comfortable walking city streets to see the sights.  Overall, NYC has amazing activities that are fun for the whole family – no matter when you decide to visit!

beach party Luau on Big Island Hawaii after sunset

2. Oahu, Hawaii. Hawaii is a beautiful state, and the island of Oahu has a lot to offer a tourist.  Since there is so much to do, it is recommended to invest in a Go Oahu card to enjoy activities and attractions at a discounted rate.  You can easily see all the sights of the island by taking a tour, including the Pearl Harbor and Honolulu City Tour or the full-day Grand Circle Island Tour.  And while in Oahu, you won’t want to miss the sea life native to the area, so be sure to check out Sea Life Park.  To see the sea life up close, consider kayaking, surfing or snorkeling!

Weather on Oahu is very stable – with most months averaging temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees, though the rainiest season is winter.  Even if it rains on your Hawaii parade – you will surely enjoy your trip full of gorgeous scenery, fascinating plant and animal life.

3. Los Angeles. Los Angeles, LA, The City of Angeles, LALA Land… whatever you call it, the city is a great place for a vacation trip!  If roller coasters, funnel cake and people watching are among your favorite pastimes – Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm are all within a reasonable distance from the city.  If movies are of interest to you, LA is the perfect place for you!  Don’t miss Universal Studios, Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Sony Pictures Studio Tour for a behind the scenes look.

The weather in Los Angeles varies a bit – with the best months to visit reported as April through June and September through October. In the summer you can expect sunshine and high temps, while the fall is cool, winter chilly and spring full of showers.

4. London. If your budget allows for a trip overseas, consider visiting the city of London.  There is so much to see, including the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Thames River cruise and much more. The London Zoo and the London Aquarium are great activity options for children and adults alike.

With rainfall being common – the highest temperatures are naturally in the summer, but winter temps rarely plunge below freezing.  London is a city with much to offer from beautifully designed buildings to precious views – it is worth the trek!

Tower Bridge - London

5. Boston. Though the weather can be fickle in New England, Boston is an amazing city to visit any time of year. With winter bringing snow, sleet, and all kinds of precipitation – you must be prepared to visit in wintertime – though the snow on the trees and buildings is very picturesque.  Spring showers are frequent, summer months are full of sunshine and warm weather, with autumn breezes blowing colorful leaves around your feet.

With some much history surrounding it, the city of Boston offers a great deal of activities.  Between the Freedom Trail, the Trinity Church, museums, memorials, breweries and of course, Fenway Park, you will be busy every day of your trip!

6. Chicago. Known as the “Windy City,” be prepared for the weather in Chicago!  While winters are cold, summers can be humid.  Spring and fall can also be chilly but offers great scenery for sightseeing!

With the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and architectural tours at your disposal, you definitely won’t be bored during your stay.  And if you are, be sure you add SkyDeck Chicago, Hancock Observatory and the Navy Pier to your list of must-sees!

7. San Francisco. If you love beautiful sights, amazing seafood and unique culture, then the city of San Francisco is for you!  You’ll enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks and the entire city – especially if you ride the cable cars.  If you’re a foodie – you’ll be in heaven, as the San Fran streets are full of restaurants and cafes.

San Francisco temperatures are on the cool side all year round, with summer temps averaging between 60 and 70 degrees – though winter weather does not bring temps much lower than 45 degrees.

8. Las Vegas. If you and your travel buddies are over 21, Las Vegas is a city you have to visit at least once!  Vegas is full of bars and clubs – if that is your kind of vacation, but there are also a great deal of entertainment options.  With shows ranging from The Lion King to Cirque du Soleil to David Copperfield, there is surely an event that will suit your interests.  And don’t miss the roller coasters on the strip – including theStratosphere Tower and The Roller Coaster at New York-New York!

With more than 300 days of sun a year, chances are you will be able to enjoy at least one sunny day on your trip! And since the weather is usually warmer and drier than other parts of the country, don’t forget your sun screen!

9. San Diego. Beaches, museums, parks, and more – San Diego has it all!  With so much to do, San Diego is a great city to visit with family and/or friends!  The beautiful weather – withtemperatures barely reaching below 50 degrees – allows for outdoor activities all year round.

When making your San Diego itinerary, don’t forget to plan for the San Diego Zoo, the USS Midway Museum, Torrey Pines State Reserve and SeaWorld San Diego!  With so much to do, your San Diego trip will be full, but if you have time, try to plan for the amazing beaches in San Diego as well!

10. Seattle. Though Seattle is known for its sometimes dismal weather, contrary to popular belief – it does not rain all the time!  While it does rain often, summertime (specifically the last half of July and the first half of August) is the driest time of the year in Seattle and winter is the wettest season.

And if it is raining – have no fear. There are plenty of indoor activities in Seattle that will make your vacation worthwhile, like the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Public Library and the Original Starbucks – a must visit for coffee lovers!  If you are visiting and the skies are clear, don’t miss Pike Place Market, Kerry Park and the Space Needle!

With 10 great recommendations of cities to consider for your next vacation – start planning today!  Whether you decide to visit Boston, explore Hawaii with the Go Oahu card or drink coffee in Seattle, we’re sure you’ll have a great time.

Celebrate Gay Pride Month with Events Across the Country

40th Anniversary of Pride Celebrations in Many Cities

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Pride Month, and cities around the country are celebrating. Here’s a round-up of events in some top U.S. destinations, according to Smart Destinations. Revelers can use the company’s Go Cards and Explorer Passes for unlimited admission to many attractions around each destination and make the most of all these cities have to offer. Visit smartdestinations.com for more information as you plan your pride experience.

Boston, MA – June 4-13, 2010
Boston’s 10-day Pride celebration is New England’s largest, and this year marks its 40th anniversary. With the theme “Riots to Rights – Celebrating 40 Years of Progress,” the annual Pride Parade is a cornerstone of the events. Visitors taking advantage of the Go Boston Card can choose the Bay State Cruise to Provincetown, a world-class gay and lesbian vacation resort destination at the far end of Cape Doc. For three consecutive years, PlanetOut Travel has named Provincetown, “Best Domestic Gay Resort Town.”

Boston Harbor and Financial District in Boston, Massachusetts at Sunset

Chicago, IL – All month
“One Heart, One World, One Pride” is Chicago’s Pride celebration theme in 2010. Events are scheduled all month long, commencing with the annual parade on the last Sunday in May. With the Go Chicago Card, you can experience the Frank Lloyd Wright Architectural tour, take an afternoon sail on Tall Ship Windy, and visit the Shed Aquarium.  Hit up some of the Chicago’s best gay and lesbian bars in Andersonville and Boystown by renting bikes from Bike and Roll.

New York, NY – June 19-27, 2010
Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager who was denied the right to attend her senior prom with her girlfriend, is this year’s marshal of “The March,” New York’s massive pride parade. Rallies, more parades, and special concerts round out the 9-day celebration. Keep your budget in check while in New York with the New York Explorer Pass, which offers users up to 50% off admission to 45 sights around the city.

Los Angeles, CA – June 11-13, 2010
GLBT pride is always on display in LA’s Christopher Street West neighborhood, named after the New York City street that was home to the pivotal Stonewall Rebellion. Christopher Street West hosts the city’s 40th Pride celebration, “PRIDE 365: Power. Passion. Purpose.” Visitors can make the most of their visit to LA with Smart Destination’s Go Los Angeles Card, which includes admission to Pacific Park, Paramount Studios, the Queen Mary, and Kodak Theatre.

San Francisco, CA – June 26-27, 2010
Home to one of the most popular and well-attended Pride events in the world, San Francisco celebrates this year with “Forty and Fabulous.” Parties are sure to last all weekend long, but the Go San Francisco Card offers admission to many sights around the city to round your Pride weekend. Or unwind afterward with a trip to Napa and Sonoma Valleys, where the Wine Country Explorer Pass will give you admission to 17 wineries.

Spend Spring Break in the Hub

After a long New England winter, Bostonians know how to celebrate spring. From opening day at Fenway Park to the season’s first swan boat rides at the Public Garden, Hub residents welcome spring and warmer weather visitors in style. Boston CityPASS has deep discounts on admission to top Boston attraction, so you can beat the winter blues without breaking into your piggy bank. Attractions include the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, the Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Center, and your choice of admission to either the Harvard Museum of Natural History or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

penguins at the new england aquarium in boston

The Boston CityPASS offers nearly half-off savings, plus VIP line-skipping privileges, so you save both time and money. An adult pass is just $46 (value: $84.95) and a youth pass for ages 3 to 11 is $29 (value: $50.45). The pass is activated the first time you use it at any attraction, and it’s good for nine consecutive days afterward. Pick one up online, or at any participating attraction.

Both the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Fine Arts have undergone renovations in 2009. The aquarium unveiled an open air habitat for its northern fur seals—the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center—which overlooks historic Boston Harbor. The aquarium’s massive central tank and penguin habitats have been popular with generations of visitors. At the Edge of the Sea Touch Tank, you can touch a spiny sea star, feel the hard shell of a horseshoe crab, or hold a sea urchin.

The MFA debuted new Italian Renaissance and 20th-century galleries, precursors to the fall 2010 opening of a dramatic new Art of the Americas wing. The museum’s collection includes more than 450,000 paintings, textiles, sculptures, ancient artifacts, prints, drawings, photographs, jewelry, decorative arts, and much more. The special exhibition “The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC” asks visitors, “What would you pack for a trip to the afterlife?” The exhibition, which closes on May 16, showcases relics uncovered in the burial tomb of a provincial Egyptian governor named Djehutynakht.

Just down the road from the MFA is the Skywalk Observatory. From 750 feet above ground, you’ll have a panoramic view of the city from rowers on the Charles River to the gold-domed State House across the river to MIT and Harvard Universities in Cambridge. (Call ahead though, the Skywalk closes in inclement weather or during private functions.) Free Skywalk admission also includes an Acoustiguide audio tour as well as admission to the Dreams of Freedom Immigration Museum located inside the Skywalk. The Immigration Museum is the perfect starting place for visits to Boston’s ethnic neighborhoods, like the Italian-flavored North End with its narrow brick lanes or working-class Irish South Boston (different from the South End neighborhood, which is home to many mouth-watering upscale eateries and night spots).

The Museum of Science is full of discoveries about chemistry, physics, weather, dinosaurs, the natural world, and more. For an extra charge, you can take in planetarium and IMAX presentations. And be sure to say hello to Cliff, one of only four complete triceratops skeletons in the entire world.

Boston CityPASS holders also have the choice to visit either the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH) and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Both attractions are much more than just dusty repositories of history and science. The HMNH invites visitors to look closer and dig deeper, with thousands of preserved animal specimens, gems, minerals. Don’t miss the famous glass flower collection—thousands of painstakingly handcrafted glass botanical specimens that you will swear were just picked in the garden that morning. The JFK Library has ever-changing, dynamic exhibitions that explore the life and times of Boston’s native son, from the early years of the space program to the tumultuous civil rights era, to personal effect of life in America’s Camelot.