Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau who like to promote their metropolis as America's Walking City, now have proclaimed the city's famous Freedom Trail as America's foremost urban walking trail.
Millions of Americans would probably agree. The three-mile trail, marked by a red stripe on brick paths, cobblestones and sidewalks, tours 16 American Revolution historic sites in Boston and Charlestown. These sites--from Boston Common to Old North Church to Bunker Hill--tug at the heartstrings of every patriotic American.
The National Park Service's visitors center at 15 State St., across from Old State House, offers an overview of Boston's colonial history. Rangers conduct free daily 90-minute Freedom Trail walking tours from mid-April into November. During the busy summer months, walks are scheduled every half hour.
The Freedom Trail begins at the information kiosk in Boston Common, passes the gold-domed State House, Park Street Church and Old Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place of such notables as Paul Revere and John Hancock. The trail visits Old South Meeting House, where fiery John Hancock and the equally inflammatory Samuel Adams sparked pre-Revolutionary protest meetings. Farther along are the National Park Service Visitors Center and Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was first read in Boston.
The Freedom Trail passes by Faneuil Hall, the "Cradle of Liberty" and the enthusiastically restored Quincy Market, chock-full of stalls selling produce, flowers and fresh fish. The walker soon comes face-to-face with modernity--Government Center, a towering mass of brick.
The trail leads under the Fitzgerald Expressway (Interstate 93) into the North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood. Many locals congregate in Paul Revere Mall, where a statue of Paul Revere and his horse stands.
Before Paul Revere made his famous ride to warn the Colonials the British were coming, two lanterns were hung in the tower of Old North Church to tell Revere that the Redcoats were arriving by sea. From the church, the Freedom Trail zigzags over to the Charles River, crosses it on the Charlestown Bridge and detours over to the Charlestown Navy Yard, home berth for the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides."
The Freedom Trail's end is Bunker Hill Monument, which has exhibits telling of the battle that took place here in 1775, three months after the Revolutionary War began in nearby Concord.
Access: Begin the Freedom Trail at Boston Common. Obtain a map and other helpful material at the information kiosk located in the center of the pedestrian mall on Tremont Street.
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Where: Historic Boston.
Terrain: Boston Common, city streets.
Highlights: Revolutionary War history, the heart of Boston.
Distance: From Boston Common to Bunker Hill Monument is 3 miles
Degree of difficulty: Easy.
For more information: Great Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (800) 888-5515; National Park Service (617) 242-5642; Boston By Foot (Tours) (617) 367-2345.