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Boston: A brief walk between centuries

Boston Common park is located in the center

Boston Common park is located in the center of the city at the start of the Freedom Trail. Photo Credit: AP / Charles Krupa

Ready for a walk? It's not just any walk -- it's one of the most famous walks in the country.

Welcome to Boston's Freedom Trail, the 2.5-mile route over cobblestone streets that lets you travel back in time to when Boston was still a Colony and people argued about what to do about the increasingly difficult demands from the king of England.

Three million people -- a lot of them parents and kids -- walk the Freedom Trail every year, or at least part of it.

"History isn't boring just because the people are dead. It's about people's lives," said Ava, 11, visiting from Rochester, N.Y. She was one of many kids I talked to about what makes a visit to Boston fun.

"I think every place in Boston is like a field trip, in a good way!" added Adrien, 14, who lives in a Boston suburb.

Take me out ...

There's even history to be learned watching the World Champion Red Sox play at Fenway Park, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 and is the oldest Major League Baseball park still in operation. Every kid I interviewed said that if you are visiting Boston during baseball season, you've got to go see a Red Sox game. If you can get tickets, of course.

"When someone scores a home run, the crowd goes wild, and it's so cool to see," said Arianna, 13, of Walpole, Mass.

Boston is a city where it is easy to go from the 18th century and back to the 21st century as often as you like -- stopping for a bowl of clam chowder and souvenirs at Faneuil Hall, where patriots debated and which, today, is tourism central, with shops, food stalls and street entertainers outside. Or go for pizza and gelato in the North End, the famous Italian neighborhood, and make a stop at Paul Revere's house, now Boston's oldest downtown building, or visit the Old North Church. (It was from here that patriots signaled "one if by land, two if by sea" to convey how the British were advancing.)

The midnight ride

It is also from here that Revere set out on April 18, 1775, on his famous ride to Lexington to warn the patriots that the British were coming. Contrary to Boston-area poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem ("Listen, my children, and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere"), Revere didn't yell, "The British are coming!" He managed to warn some patriots, but was stopped by the British before he got to Concord.

Make sure to point out the grasshopper weather vane on top of Faneuil Hall. It's not only a well-known Boston symbol but it was used to unmask suspected spies during the American Revolution. Locals would ask suspects to identify the object on top of Faneuil Hall; if they couldn't, they were believed to be British spies.

Along the way, explore the Black Heritage Trail. You may be able to take a tour with National Park rangers.

But for every historic site -- 16 sites right on the Freedom Trail -- there are marvelous 21st century attractions -- the New England Aquarium, the hands-on Boston Museum of Science, the holograms and robots at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, shopping on Newbury Street and the downtown Prudential Center or Harvard Square.

"Take it all in!" advised Rebecca, 14, from Lockport, Ill.

Get wet

Opt for the popular high-speed Codzilla boat tours in Boston Harbor, where you're guaranteed to get wet, or the Boston Duck Tours that take you past famous sites on land and into Boston Harbor on amphibious vehicles.

Imagine Boston Common packed with British soldiers: At the Granary Burying Ground, see if the kids can find the most famous revolutionary-era Bostonians, including Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.

"I love it -- the history, the atmosphere and the shopping," said Kathryn, 14, visiting from Hooksett, N.H.

Who says history can't be fun?


If you go

"The Kid's Guide to Boston" by Eileen Ogintz (Globe Pequot Press, $12.95 paper).

Download the official Freedom Trail app ($4.95) or sign up for a "Walk into History" tour ($13 adults, $11 teens, $7 for kids 12 and under) at

Black Heritage Trail

New England Aquarium Adults $24.95, kids $17.95, 617-973-5200,

Boston Museum of Science Adults $23, kids $20, 617-723-2500,

Codzilla boat tours Adults $29, kids $25, 877-733-9425,

Boston Duck Tours Adults $32-$35, kids $21-$24, 617-267-3825,

LI Getaways