Boston, Massachusetts

In the Footsteps of Paul Revere, Pilgrims and more...



Points of Interest:

  • The Freedom Trail
  • Boston Tea Party Museum
  • Plimoth Plantation


My Favorite Literature Pick for Revolutionary War:

Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes

Journal Idea:

Since Boston is so steeped in history, try a timeline journal.  Make an accordion style booklet with card stock or craft paper, then mark a date line down the center in a horizontal fashion using a yardstick and a sharpie.  As you travel and visit various sites, have your child add the date on the timeline along with an illustration and summary.



April 2015 - We just returned home from a whirlwind trip to explore Boston and the surrounding area.  This seemed like the perfect spot for our family to explore as our 11 year old had just finished a research project on the state of Massachusetts and as a family we had recently completed a literature and history unit on the Revolutionary War.



Day One - Some things can't be planned, right?  It turns out that Boston had the worst winter in 16 years and remnants of it still hung on well into Spring (our planned time of travel).  For a Southern California crew, this was a bit of a mind adjustment.  But we braced ourselves, packed our winter coats and off we went.  Our first morning there, while we were all still sleepy-eyed and waking up, adjusting to a three-hour time difference, one of the boys threw open the drapes and exclaimed, "It's snowing!"  Indeed, it was!  So our plans for our first day changed.  This was supposed to be our day to walk the Freedom Trail, but we needed something more practical.  A quick search on the internet provided the information we were looking for.  Although it had nothing to do with the American Revolution, we soon found ourselves at The New England Aquarium.  It was "inside" and so that made it very appealing.  It turns out, it also made it appealing to every other person in Boston that day.  We had some trouble maneuvering around the crowds, but thoroughly enjoyed our visit anyway.   Our favorite exhibits were the penguins, the sea dragons and the shark and ray touch tank.  


All bundled up as we wait in line to get our tickets to the aquariam
All bundled up as we wait in line to get our tickets to the aquarium


Our next stop was the Boston Tea Party Museum.  It was only about one mile away, and with the snow coming down in sheets, I recommended calling an Uber.  But these Southern California boys begged to walk!  What?  I relented and we enjoyed the walk along the Charles River that led to the Museum.  At least we were back on the trail of Paul Revere!


This museum is a ship on the Charles River with a living history program, interactive museum, and gift shop.  First we were assigned parts for an important secret meeting where it was decided what we Sons of Liberty would do about the unfair taxes.  Then we went out on the deck (yes, in the snow) and threw bundles of tea in the river.  There was lots of dramatic shouting and the boys loved every minute.  It's one thing to read about the events of 1773 and quite another to feel like you're a part of it all.  


One of our character cards for the secret meeting
One of our character cards for the secret meeting

Tossing the tea overboard!
Tossing the tea overboard!

Day Two - We woke up to blue skies!  Hooray!  Chilly, yes... but we were ready to move our outdoor plan into motion - the famous Duck Tour and the Freedom Trail.   The Duck Tour was highly entertaining and gave us a nice overview of the city of Boston as well as information about the Revolution. 



The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile walk along the streets of Boston taking you to major sites of the Revolutionary War such as the Old North Church, Paul Revere's House and Faneuil Hall.  It's easy to follow... just follow the crowd or look down to the red painted line right on the street.  There are guide books, apps, tours and much more to help you navigate your time on the Freedom Trail.  For our family, we relied on information we had from a guide book.  The self-guided tour is a nice way to go for families because you can spend as much time or as little time at each spot as you like.  Along the way we came across Mike's Pastry.  We didn't know what it was, but were intrigued by the large line of people out the door.  So we got in line like everyone else and soon learned that we would be experiencing the best cannoli of our lives - and indeed we did. 


Oh yum!
Oh yum!

This area of Boston is called the North End and has a heavy Italian influence due to all the Italian Immigrants who settled here.  We had a fabulous Italian dinner at a small family-friendly spot called Panza.  Now short on time, we jumped in an Uber and headed over to Harvard.  We figured we HAD to see the beautiful grounds and say that we had gone to Harvard.



Day Three -  Lexington, Concord & Plymouth - We checked out of our hotel, rented a car and headed out of the city.  Lexington and Concord are just a short 30 minute drive out of Boston.  First we drove to Lexington and visited the visitor's center across from the famous green. This is definitely worth a stop.  There is an amazing diorama of the events that took place in Lexington on that fateful day in 1775.   We stood and admired that for quite some time.  Then standing on the green there in Lexington and looking over toward the Buckman Tavern and the historic houses from the day, well... we were overcome with nostalgia.  All our history study and literature truly came to life.  



We also drove out to the North Bridge in Concord for the site where the Sons of Liberty had a turning point.  There is also a nice walk along the Minutemen National Park but due to the cold temperatures, we decided to skip it.  Lexington has a quaint small town area with plenty of options for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  We opted for Panera.  A bowl of hot soup and sour dough bread fit the bill.  In all we spent about 3 hours in Lexington and Concord.



Then we got back in the car and continued on our way to Plymouth - about a 45 minute drive away.  The sites to see in Plymouth - (the location of the first Pilgrims to land in the New World on the Mayflower) are all within a few minutes from each other and are easily accessible by car.  Plymouth Rock is really nothing special.  Supposedly the exact rock that the Pilgrims stepped on as they arrived in the New World in 1620.  Nevertheless, it's something to check off the list if you visit Plymouth, so of course we had to see it!  It is located near the water front and deserved at least a picture! 


Plymouth Rock


The Mayflower II (replica) is also worth a visit.  During our trip, this ship was dry-docked in Mystic, CT for repairs.  We did drive down to see it and were happy we did.  We were going that way anyway, so it wasn't out of our way. The thing that stood out the most to us, was how SMALL it was.  It is utterly incomprehensible to think about crossing the Atlantic with 102 people aboard this small ship.  


Mayflower II - dry docked in Mystic
Mayflower II - dry docked in Mystic


The highlight for our time in Plymouth however, was our visit to Plimoth Plantation.  I am a huge fan of living history programs and this is one of the best we've been to!


Elijah transports cow dung!


The Wampanoag Homesite has actual descendants of the Wampanoag Indians inhabiting long houses, making canoes, building shelters and more.  We were able to just go inside their huts and talk with them about their people's history and culture.    The pilgrims in the pilgrim village are fantastic actors who stay in character at all times.  They really seem to believe that it is 1620 and you soon believe it too!   They even successfully got my two boys to help shovel cow dung and transport it in a basket wheelbarrow. 



In all we spent about 4 hours in Plymouth visiting the plantation, seeing the rock and a few other sites such as the National Monument to our Forefathers.  


From there we made a short drive to Cape Cod to spend a couple of easy days, just relaxing and enjoying the beach.



These are our favorite books for Revolutionary War:

We have personally read and enjoyed each of these.


Chapter Books/Historical Fiction:

The Minute Boys of Lexington 
by Edward Stratemeyer
Follow Roger and his friends as they fight the British with courage and determination in the name of justice and liberty.

Johnny Tremain 
by Esther Hoskins Forbes
Johnny Tremain, winner of the 1944 Newbery Medal, is one of the finest historical novels ever written for children. Fourteen-year-old Johnny Tremain, an apprentice silversmith with a bright future ahead of him, injures his hand in a tragic accident, forcing him to look for other work. 

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother Sam. Sam's smart and brave -- and is now a part of the American Revolution. Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion. Most are supporters of the British -- including Tim and Sam's father.
With the war soon raging, Tim know he'll have to make a choice -- between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats . . . and between his brother and his father.

Picture Books:

Let It Begin Here!: Lexington & Concord: First Battles of the American Revolution
by Dennis Brindell Fradin

The Scarlet Stockings Spy
by Trinka Hakes Noble

Paul Revere's Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ted Rand


George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides
by Rosalyn Schanzer


The History Curriculum for Revolutionary War that we used:

Beautiful Feet - Early American HIstory

We love the idea of learning history through literature.  This Christian curriculum works great for us. 




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