Boston is often called “America’s Walking City,” and one of its most famous attractions is the Freedom Trail, with good cause. Many Bostonians, and perhaps even some visitors, may think something so popular must be overrated, but nothing could be further from the truth. The 2.5-mile red line covering 16 of Boston’s most historic sites includes important museums, parks, churches and burying grounds.
A visitor can take any number of guided tours, but the nonprofit Freedom Trail Foundation offers some of the most comprehensive and entertaining (while also helping to preserve the official historic sites). On the group’s most popular Walk into History tour, an in-character, costumed guide in 18th-century garb leads you to 11 sites including Boston Common, King’s Chapel, Old South Meeting House, the Boston Massacre site and Faneuil Hall. The organization also leads other themed tours such as African-American Patriots, Revolutionary Women, and North End. Not only do you get a history lesson, you also get a good feel for Boston’s layout, so you can go back later and visit stores and restaurants that catch your eye along the way.
While the Freedom Trail seems like a city institution that existed forever, its origin story is pretty entertaining. Improbably enough, it was created after a columnist at a Boston newspaper in 1951 wondered in print why it was so difficult to find the city’s revolutionary historic sites. On March 8, 1951, Bill Schofield wrote, “All I’m suggesting is that we mark out a ‘Puritan Path’ or ‘Liberty Loop’ or ‘Freedom’s Way’ or whatever you want to call it, so [visitors and locals will] know where to start and what course to follow.”
Mayor John B. Hynes read the column and moved forward to create the path. Signs were put up to mark an approximately one-mile-long route from Boston Common to the North End, but it took a while for the red path as we know it now to be realized. In 1958 the red line was added, and over the years the route changed to include Charlestown and more sites. Today most people would find it difficult to imagine the city without it.
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