No homeschool hands-on history vacation can beat Boston! Along with Washington, D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg, visiting Boston was a must-do with our older kids. Since we had flown into New York City and driven to Cape Cod, we decided to fly out of Boston and spend a few days immersed in early American history. To get the most out of our three day trip we utilized our favorite tour company: Free Tours By Foot.
We started our visit with Free Tours on Foot tour of Harvard. As the oldest college in North America, it is full of quirky history. The kids found it really interesting. Rainbow Baby got a poop change in Harvard Yard. That may be historical in and of itself. We took the subway there. Boston’s subway (MBTA) has the most helpful employees ever employed in the transportation industry, by the way. Right outside of the Harvard subway stop is the Curious George Store. It is the only one of its kind and it is a small, but amazing toy store. We found some very cool, new toys there, including this simple, but clever toy that toddlers find fascinating: dimpl.*
We had hilariously named burgers at Mr. Bartley’s, two blocks down. There are some fun shops in Harvard Square. We also visited the Mike’s Pastry here in Cambridge, for its famous cannoli. It was far less busy than the North End location. You have to give their cannoli a try! But, if you decide on the take home package, be warned that the big piping bag full of creamy cannoli filling is considered liquid in the airport! You might almost lose your mind when security tells you to throw your cannolis out until a supervisor lets you go out of line, pipe your cannolis full of filling, then return through the line because your FILLED cannoli are now deemed safe. Yep. True story. Delicious cannoli.
Next we took Free Tours on Foot’s Freedom Trail tour. It covered a large portion of Boston’s 2.5 mile Freedom Trail and provided us with entertaining and thought-provoking facts and stories about each stop that we would not otherwise have heard. Our guide had been a history teacher and his passion for early American history really helped hold the interest of even my husband, who is not quite the history buff that I am.
There are a few stops that were not covered on the tour, that we visited on our own. The most notable among them, that we enjoyed, was Lexington Green. We were able to stand on the hill and picture the whole scene surrounding the “shot heard ’round the world”. There is nothing quite like being where it all happened. Seeing the neighborhood and how it was situated, I finally understood the charge up the hill. There is a monument and a museum there. We, of course, reenacted the battle a bit for our own education and amusement. The coolest thing in the gift shop were the candy cartridges. They allowed my kids to feel what is was like to rip open a cartridge with their teeth, and load the powder and musket ball. The process is explained well at Revolutionary War Journal.
Much of the Freedom Trail is in Boston’s lovely North End, which is full of shops and restaurants. We splurged for a meal in the Union Oyster House, Boston’s oldest restaurant. Then we compared some rival pastry shops with Mike’s Pastry. We even listened to live music outside Faneuil Hall.
We spent another fun afternoon touring the oldest ship in our U.S. Navy, the USS Constitution, and its accompanying history museum. There is an extensive bag check to get aboard the ship, so leave anything weird at your hotel and bring ID. The museum has a number of hands-on exhibits that will interest young and old alike. Rainbow Baby did not want to leave the cannon. I am not sure what she thought it did, but she had a blast with it (pun intended)!
The ship itself is amazing, impeccably clean, and carefully restored. You are permitted to walk both decks below and see how sailors lived and fought. We all decided we would have preferred to be officers. We thought that the sailors’ quarters were crowded and did not look comfortable. With the baby in the sling, touring around the ship was not a problem.
Even though we intended to visit the site of the Battle of Concord, we were delighted to spend our time, instead, at the Alcott
House. Louisa may Alcott, author of Little Women, a favorite author of myself and my oldest daughter, wrote her famous works here and much is told on the tour about the real women that inspired the famous book. One of the things I most enjoyed on the tour was seeing the artwork of talented Abigail May Alcott, the real life person that the character Amy March was based on. My daughters wanted to linger behind the rest of the tour group and sit in Louisa’s room to soak up her writing atmosphere and some literary inspiration.
If you are a Little Women enthusiast, or fan of any of the Transcendentalist writers, this tour is a must do! For highschool students, a lesson on Transcendentalism will increase appreciation of this historic gem. The area is very scenic to drive through as well. Just outside of busy Boston, it retains its old-fashioned, rural feel. Boston is a no-brainer history field trip for homeschoolers and anyone with kids or grandkids. There is nothing like seeing the Old North Church for yourself. Be sure to read aloud The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere before you visit Boston with your kids!
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