Massachusetts’ Heritage Trails

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“Fun is the rule on vacations,but a happy by-product is the wealth of things we learn when visiting a new place. Massachusetts’ heritage trails let visitors follow their interests, from history to art to natural wonders, and explore at their own pace on foot or by car. Follow one or all of these trails, and by vacation’s end you’ll have new wisdom and fond memories to take home with you.” by   Paula M. Bodah

FREEDOM TRAIL

Where to begin: Boston (or anywhere along the trail)

Allow: 90 minutes to 3 hours

Don’t miss: The Paul Revere House; Fanueil Hall

Birth of a Nation: All that early American history we learned in third grade (and some we didn’t, like the fact that there were two Boston Tea Parties, or that Paul Revere had 16 children) comes alive on the 2.5 mile redbrick trail that takes walkers past 16 historic sites, all treasures from our nation’s earliest days of freedom from the English rule. From the Old North Church, immortalized in Longfellow’s poem Paul Revere’s Ride, to the Bunker Hill Monument, the Freedom Trail serves a vivid reminder of the risk-taking people and history changing events that birthed our nation.

GO! (617) 357 – 8300,  www.thefreedomtrail.org   (download a tour for your Mp3 player). Guided tours, as well as maps and audio players for self guided tours are available at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center.

IRISH HERITAGE TRAIL

Where to begin: Boston

Allow: 90 minutes to 2 hours

Don’t miss: Irish Famine Memorial; Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy  Greenway

Through Irish Eyes. Since the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in America marched down Boston’s streets in 1737, the Irish have been a colorful presence in the city. This 20-site, self guided tour highlights their role in the city’s history, culture, and political life, including statues that  honor Colonial portrait painter John Singleton Copley, Revolutionary War hero John Barry, and controversial, longtime 20th-century Mayor James Michael Curley.

GO! (617) 696-9880, www.irishheritagetrail.com. Maps are available at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center or through the Boston Irish Tourism Association (www.irishmassachusetts.com)

AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE TRAILS

Where to begin: Three separate trails in Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island

Allow: 2 hours; 4 hours; 2 hours respectively

Don’t miss: In Boston, the 54th Regiment Memorial; on the Vineyard, the Adam Clayton Powell house; on Nantucket, the African Meeting House.

Pride and Prejudice: Three tours explore the contributions of African Americans to the culture of Massachusetts. In Boston, the Black Heritage Trail surveys the lives of African Americans from Colonial days through the 19th century. The Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket trails delve into the fascinating history of African Americans on those islands. The Nantucket tour includes a stop at the African Meeting House. On Matha’s Vineyard, visitors can stop at Pulpit Rock (where John Saunders, who brought Methodism to the island in the 1780’s, preached).

GO!   Boston, (617) 725 – 0022, www.maah.org ;Martha’s Vineyard, (508) 693 – 4361, www.mvheritagetrail.org (tours run Memorial Day through Labor Day); Nantucket; (508) 228 – 9833, www.maah.org. In Boston, guided tours (in summer) and a map for self-guided tours are available at the Museum of African American History’s Welcome Center. In Nantucket, guided tours stat at the Whaling Museum.

Of Note

African American Heritage Trail, Martha’s Vineyard: A plaque at Menemsha pays tribute to the Wampanoag Indians who risked there lives helping fugitve slaves escape to freedom.

Freedom Trail: The 221-foot-tall Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the Colonists’ heroic efforst in the June 17, 1775 and takes 294 steps to get to the top. For more information about the Bunker Hill monument, visit the Boston National Historical Park Website.  

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