Doug's Diggings: Boston offers a lot of U.S. historyMy wife and I made a trip to Boston during the first week of July, and we were impressed with all the history of the area. We actually flew to Boston with my son Darrin and his wife, Jen.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
My wife and I made a trip to Boston during the first week of July, and we were impressed with all the history of the area. We actually flew to Boston with my son Darrin and his wife, Jen.
The whole thing started when Jen bought Darrin tickets for the Twins-Red Sox game at Fenway Park on July 7. Darrin’s 30th birthday was July 2 and she thought a trip to Boston would make for a great 30th birthday surprise. She asked if we wanted to go along; fortunately she was able to get four game tickets way back in January.
We arrived about midday on July 1 and checked into a motel in Tewksbury, about 20 miles north of Boston. Our first destination was Salem, where we toured the Salem Witch Museum and the home of Judge Corwin, one of the judges of the witchcraft court. His home is considered the oldest house in Salem.
If you know your history, you know that 19 people were hanged on Gallows Hill in Salem Town, found guilty of being witches. A 20th, Giles Corey, refused to stand trial and his examiners chose to subject him to interrogation by the placing of stone weights on his body. He survived this brutal torture for two days before dying.
We left Salem and headed to downtown Boston for dinner at what we referred to as the “fake” Cheers. There are two Cheers bar and grills in Boston. The “fake” one is in Quincy Square in downtown Boston. The “real” Cheers (as seen on the television series) is the one in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. The “fake” Cheers has interiors that look like the television set. The “real” Cheers has the real exterior, but does not much resemble the television set on the interior.
On Wednesday morning we drove to Fenway Park to take a tour of the famous baseball stadium ($12 each). We actually attended a Twins-Red Sox game later on the trip, but we decided to take the “behind the scenes” tour. Fenway Park remains much like it did the day it opened on April 20, 1912. It’s one of those parks that is now so old it will probably never be replaced — sort of like Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Fenway tour didn’t take us behind the scenes very much. Most of it involved sitting in various seats around the ballpark — there were no locker room or dugout visits. Probably the highlight was getting to sit in the seats atop the Green Monster (left field wall). The 276 seats were added just a few years ago with tickets at $160 each. The Green Monster is 37 feet high and is still the tallest fence in the major leagues. The opening of Fenway Park in 1912 was pushed off the front pages of Boston newspapers by news of the Titanic sinking.
After the ballpark tour, we spent the first of several visits on Boston’s Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail that leads visitors to 16 nationally significant historic sites. The Freedom Trail today is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond.
The trail is clearly marked and can be done without supervision, or visitors can pay to go on a guided tour. We did the guided tour which cost $12 for the first half, and an additional $6 if you wanted the second half.
Historic sites on the trail are: The Freedom Trail: Boston Common, old Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, old Granary Burial Ground, King’s Chapel and Burying Ground, first public school, old Corner Book Store, old South Meeting House, old State House, site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burial Ground, USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument.
The guided tour provided a tremendous amount of information about each site and provided great insights to our American history.
That evening we ate dinner at the “real” Cheers in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. It was Darrin’s 30th birthday and that’s where he wanted to eat.
On Thursday we drove to Plymouth and purchased tickets for tours of Mayflower II and Plymouth Plantation. The combo ticket was $25. We also saw Plymouth Rock, but the structure around the rock is being remodeled, so we only had a limited view through a piece of Plexiglas.
The Mayflower II tour makes one wonder how more than 130 people made the 66-day cruise across the Atlantic. The ship is a replica of the original Mayflower, and guides on board are dressed in 1600s costumes and speak in 1600-type language. Plimoth Plantation is a re-creation of a 1627 Pilgrim village in Plymouth. It also has numerous guides playing the parts of 1627 settlers. The display also includes a Wampanoag Indian home site with natives displaying how Indians would have lived in the 1600s. It is a fascinating place to visit.
We drove back to Boston and had dinner at an Italian restaurant in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Later that evening we walked a few blocks to the banks of the Charles River and heard a concert by the Boston Pops Orchestra and the country group Rascal Flatts. They were doing a “warm-up” show for the annual July 4th concert that would be aired nationally the next evening. We were amid a crowd of probably 50,000 people. When they add the fireworks on the Fourth of July the crowd numbers 500,000.
Friday (Fourth of July) we decided to head north and visit Maine. We drove up the southern coast and stopped in the communities of York, Ogunquit, Wells and Kennebunk. We then continued past Portland and made a coastal stop south of Brunswick.
That evening we went back to Portland and visited a couple of lighthouses. We had dinner at an outdoor Lobster house on the coast in Portland. We stayed in Portland for the July 4th fireworks and arrived back at our hotel quite late that evening.
Saturday we returned to Boston and finished up some of the stops along the Freedom Trail, including Bunker Hill (which is actually in Charlestown across the Charles River). The monument is very similar to the Washington Monument, but about half the size. Bunker Hill Monument stands 221 feet. It’s on the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution, fought on Breed’s Hill, June 17, 1775. We climbed the 294 steps to the top, which gave us a great view of Boston.
We also visited the USS Constitution on the Charles River and were able to go aboard “Old Ironsides.” The Freedom Trail has 16 official stops, but there are other locations along the trail that have interesting stops and museums. Both Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution, for instance, have related museums.
That night we ate at a little restaurant in Little Italy and listened to a free outdoor concert near Quincy Square. Playing was a Neil Diamond imitator, but he sounded great!
Sunday we took another road trip to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It stands only 6,288 feet, but it is far enough north that it is above the tree line and is famous for having some of the nation’s worst weather, including a wind gust of 231 miles per hour during a storm in April 1934.
There are two ways to reach the summit, by a cog railway system, or by a private road built in the late 1800s before automobiles were even available. We took the road; the cost is $20 for car and driver and $7 for each passenger. The cog railway is $59 per person.
The road is one of the narrowest, steepest and scariest roads I’ve ever been on. I’ve traveled Mt. Evans in Colorado, which is advertised as the highest road, but this one was much more interesting!
We also spent some time exploring the Kancamagus Trail. The entire area, known as the White Mountain Region, is quite beautiful. We took one side trip, a brief diversion into Vermont for no good reason — we just wanted to say that we have been in Vermont!
Our last day was Monday. My wife and I visited the New England Aquarium in the afternoon. We met my son and his wife for our trip to Fenway Park to see the Twins and Red Sox. We decided to take the subway since we were comfortably parked in downtown Boston. When we did the Fenway tour earlier, I noticed one Fenway area lot was advertising game-day parking for $45. The subway was $2.
We were seated down the right field line in an upper grandstand area. The price of those tickets was $30 each. It was a great game, but unfortunately, the Twins dropped a 1-0 decision. Boston scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. After the game we took the subway back into the downtown area and drove to our motel. Our flight left at 6 a.m. the next day, which meant we had to leave our motel at about 3:30 a.m. By the time we got back from the game, packed and showered, nobody got to bed before 12:30 a.m. — the 3 a.m. wakeup call came very quickly. The good news? I made it to work Tuesday, so I didn’t have to use another day of vacation! I hit the wall Tuesday night, however!
It was a great trip into an area I have not seen to any great extent! I was impressed with Boston as far as cleanliness, safety, etc. The streets are a little crazy; nobody was thinking of 21st-century automobiles when they designed the streets 200 and 300 years ago.