As one of the oldest towns in the original 13 colonies, Boston has played staging grounds to some of America’s most notable chapters. A stroll through these streets finds you face to face with spots that paved the way for America today, and while you could walk all 2.5 miles of The Freedom Trail to see the 16 most prominent places of historical interest, you’re also free to carve your own path through the city and see what speaks the most to you. No matter which route you take, there are three sites you simply can’t miss.
The Boston Massacre proved to be one of the critical events to fuel the American Revolution. On March 5, 1770, a small group of Bostonians confronted a British officer and sentry for not paying a bill. As more locals joined the angry group, more soldiers were called to the scene. The squad of squirrel-nerved British soldiers eventually opened fire on the taunting crowd. Known as “The Shot Heard Around the World,” the event proved to be a catalyst for American independence. See the fateful street corner for yourself, with a cobblestone marker placed in the median at the intersection of State and Congress Streets.
If there’s one event more quintessential to Boston’s involvement in the Revolution than the Boston Massacre, it would be the Boston Tea Party. Taking place on December 16, 1773, a party of Bostonians disguised as Native Americans snuck aboard anchored British ships and dumped a substantial shipment of tea into the harbor in protest of taxation without representation. Today, you can have your very own tea party at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Get an in-depth look at history through the historical reenactments and exhibits of the museum before boarding an authentic 18th-century merchant ship to throw tea into the harbor yourself.
Perhaps no place in the world allows you to peer back into the life and times of Colonial America quite as thoroughly as the city of Williamsburg, thanks to the offerings of Colonial Williamsburg. Spanning 301 acres and housing over 40 landmark sites, Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living history museum in the world—allowing you to authentically live the life and times of the past for yourself.
With offerings so immense, it can be tricky to navigate what to experience, and how. Thankfully, Colonial Williamsburg has left no stone unturned in the planning and preparation of their park: they offer a wide variety of itineraries allowing you to easily discover the intricacies of history that most interest you. Whether you’re a foodie looking to discover colonial kitchens; a military history buff looking to tour and try America’s biggest collection of 18th-century military firearms; curious about the life and times of the historic revolutionaries, African Americans, artisans or the ghosts of the modern-day grounds; there’s a detailed itinerary to help guide your adventure.
Of course, the beauty of a museum this sprawling is that you’re free to explore the grounds, sans plan. Stroll from the likes of the Governor’s Palace to the Bruton Parish Church to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum to get an unparalleled peek at earlier American life at your own pace. Along the way, you’re likely to bump into a cast of historic figures that helped forge not only the town of Williamsburg itself, but the American ideals that continue to inspire the nation today.
If there was an American town to rival the historical significance of Boston, it would undoubtedly be Philadelphia. Within these streets, a slew of critical events took place, helping to shape both the American Revolution and the nation that followed. While you can follow the extensive American Revolution Trail of Philadelphia for the full scope of the city’s involvement, you’re also welcome to pick and choose the highlights or sites that might interest you most.
Perhaps the most recognizable of Philadelphia’s attractions is the Liberty Bell. Originally hung from the steeple of Independence Hall and rung on occasions of governmental alerts, its famous crack did not grow noticeably distinct until sometime in the beginning of the 19th century—at which point it was also becoming a prominent symbol for abolitionist societies. Today, while it no longer rings in the conventional sense, its presence on the Independence Mall continues to help foster freedom to ring in the minds of many.
The end-all, be-all most important place to visit within Philadelphia is Independence Hall. During the summer of 1776, 56 delegates gathered within this quaint hall to kickstart the Revolution with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The words written here have an implicit weight that has yet to be matched anywhere else, and as such the walls still echo with the very thoughts that have altered history. Independence Hall is unquestionably the birthplace for the American Idea, and any visit here provides a somber chance to reflect on just what those words mean in the modern day.