99 Chauncy Street, Suite 401, Boston, MA MA – Get Directions
A 90 Minute Guided Walking Tour of Boston's historic Freedom Trail.
American History with A Spoonful of Sugar
In our case, the Spoonful of Sugar was Captain Daniel Malcolm who led our party of 5 adults and 7 kids on an entertaining, energetic tour of major Freedom Trail sites in the North End of Boston.
The tour started with a map which was really useful because it showed us where the action was and how things have changed in Boston from Revolutionary times. Much of the land in Boston has been filled in and has made the city much larger. We were told how the North End was the heart of the commercial life in Boston in Revolutionary times.
The North End tour makes stops at a variety of key sites in this portion of the Freedom Trail including Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church (of “one if by land and two if by sea” fame) and Copps Hill Burial Ground.
Along the way, Captain Daniel Malcolm interwove nimbly a little of the more recent history of Boston (eg. the successive waves of immigrants that have called North End home) and Revolutionary History. Stories about incidents along the route kept the kids enthralled. We learned how the man who hung the fabled lights in the Old North Church tower, Robert Newman was pursued by a Redcoat patrol and jumped out of a window about 15 feet off the ground, that the commemorative Paul Revere statue was facing the wrong way, perhaps for political reasons, we saw Daniel Malcolm’s gravestone riddled with musket-ball holes and heard an entertaining story about how Daniel Malcolm and his friends foiled a search party of Red Coats to his home. Our guide also brought along samples of brick tea (tea was not loose leaf like we have now, but packed into hard bricks for preservation) and musket balls. We got to hear him express with vigor his anti-royalist sentiments. There was humor at almost every stop (some of it however, was of the 21st Century sort and geared towards the adults in the group) and it kept the kids listening. When asked what the favorite part of the tour was, the 3 boys of our party giggled and said the bullet ridden gravestone the Captain.
In chatting later with our guide, I learned that many of the Freedom Trail Foundation guides have an acting background, so they are specifically trained to hold an audience’s attention. They choose a particular character in Revolutionary War history, do the research and take on his/her persona. Though the tour may not have had enough history to satisfy a serious history buff, the way he engaged the kids made it an excellent overview for both the average adult and school-aged children.
I would also agree that kids would need some American History to appreciate a tour of the Freedom Trail and the significance of the events that took place here. So some tips for a guided tour of the Freedom Trail:
1) A Guided Tour is highly recommended. It really adds to one's understanding of what you are seeing. Unless you are well-versed yourself in American History and can fulfill that role for your party.
2) Have everyone use the bathroom before going on the 90 minute walk.
3) Any tour of the Freedom Trail would probably be best appreciated by Upper Elementary Kids and up. However, younger children, Kindergarten and Up can probably be prepped by being read a good picture book on the American Revolution BEFORE the tour.
4) Put pre-schoolers in strollers or at least have one handy in case your pre-schooler gets tired.
5) Bring snacks along the way to combat restlessness and fatigue. A few fruit snacks along the way kept my lot motivated and broke up the journey.
6) Definitely take two days to do the whole trail with kids. Most kids aren't used to walking 3 miles, which is the whole of the Freedom Trail. Take a guided tour for half a day and then spend the rest of it with a visit into some of the churches and sites, or perhaps a stop at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.
7) Dress appropriately with good walking shoes and bring along a folding umbrella just in case it rains.
*Disclosure: I received complimentary tour tickets for my party to facilitate this review. However, all opinions are entirely my own.