Once the Mayflower dropped its anchor and the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock, Boston became one of the most significant historical centers of the United States. Over 150 years later, when the tea got dumped in Boston Harbor, and Paul Revere took his famous midnight ride, Boston cemented its pivotal role in American history.
Today, history buffs relish the city’s countless landmarks, statues and museums that have marked those major moments in time. There’s no better way to see these sites than to stroll the streets of Boston and Cambridge solo or with a colonial-clad tour leader.
Walking the Freedom Trail
If you’ve only got time for one historical excursion in Boston, make it the Freedom Trail. Every school-age kid in New England has spent countless hours tracing the 2.5 miles long golden line that connects Boston’s 16 most important historic monuments.
It starts at the Bunker Hill Monument, marking the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the Revolutionary War in 1775. The trail ends at beautiful Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. Notable spots in between including the Old South Meeting House, where the Boston Tea Party was founded and the site of the Boston Massacre. When your feet need a break, stop off for a bite and a drink at Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel’s Better Sorts Social Club, across from Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place of Paul Revere, John Hancock and President Samuel Adams.
A few other must-visit attractions include Massachusetts’ gold-domed State House. Step inside to view some of the most stunning architecture of any state house in the country, including the giant hanging “Sacred Cod”. Outside to the left, stop to pay your respects to the statue of Anne Hutchinson, a woman banished to what is today Rhode Island for her feminist views.
Cambridge’s Most Famous Homes
Across the river in Cambridge, history continues to unfold on the cobblestoned streets near Harvard, MIT and Kimpton’s Marlowe Hotel. Walk through Harvard Square and Hahvahd Yahd, as the locals say, to see important buildings like the Harvard Lampoon and Massachusetts Hall, the oldest building at Harvard College.
Just down the street is the Longfellow House, one of the most impressive homes in the area. This yellow colonial served as Washington’s Headquarters during the Siege of Boston from 1775 to 1776. Visitors can go inside the property formerly owned by famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for a tour. This site is open from May to October, so be sure to plan in advance.
For those with a combined love of history and architecture, check out the nearby Oliver-Gerry-Lowell House. This stately Georgian masterpiece is where a number of famous Americans lived including a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a poet/diplomat. Across the street from the Longfellow House is the Henry Vassall House, a remarkable colonial mansion that was home to wealthy Loyalists during The Revolutionary War. Today, both impressive buildings are private residences.
Things Get Spooky
Over in West Cambridge is another one of Boston’s famous graveyards, Mount Auburn Cemetery. This National Historic Landmark is credited with starting the “rural cemetery” movement in America and houses the graves of many prominent American actors, poets, generals and socialites. It also makes for a beautiful stroll when the fall foliage hits its peak in October.
Kimpton’s Boston property Nine Zero Hotel is literally steps from the Freedom Trail, while Kimpton’s Cambridge Marlowe Hotel is an ideal jumping-off point for history aficionados to explore all the city has to teach its visitors.