A trip to Boston never disappoints, but what you do when you get there can make you appreciate it even more. A recent trip to Beantown – thanks to the Girl Scouts – let me do just that.
Acting as chauffeur, I tagged along with my 11-year-old and her friends for an all-day trip that had us navigating a river, witnessing a revolution, and dining with dolls.
So, if any or all of the above call to you – you may just want to check it out.
BOSTON DUCK TOURS
We started the day bright and early with a mission: a quick tutorial on the history of Boston – via ‘the duck’. The famed Boston Duck Tour and its many competitors offer a fleet of vehicles that roam the streets of Boston to highlight the grand moments of Boston history before diving into the water of the Charles River.
Because of our large group, we had the “Duck” to ourselves. Our driver/tour guide offered a funny and detailed history of the city’s well-known attractions. From Beacon Hill to the Back Bay, the kids got a whirlwind tour of Boston’s rich heritage made kid-friendly through our guide’s ability to connect to his audience.
But, history can only do so much. And what the kids really clamored for was the vehicle’s ability to change gears – from the road to the water.
I’ve ridden these amphibious vehicles before, and the ride is entertaining. Sometimes, a lucky child is picked to help ‘drive’ the boat. Sitting in the captain’s seat, they help steer the wheel while chugging down the river. On this trip, all the kids got their shot and each had a memorable moment to call their own. All the while, the guide continued to tick off the history behind the river and its shores – keeping the adults entertained as well.
It definitely struck a balance between two worlds that worked for all involved.
OLD IRONSIDES & THE USS CONSTITUTION MUSEUM
Life as a sailor wasn’t easy. And as many a parent and child can attest, life as a pre-teen isn’t either. So, the kids on this trip can relate.
We entered the USS Constitution Museum for a little insight as to what life on the high seas was really like 200 years ago. And, we got what we came for. The museum offers visitors a hands-on experience of life on a ship, just like it was when the USS Constitution set sail.
The interactive gallery is geared more towards school-aged children, but adults can find the exhibits just as interesting. The kids got a kick at shortening a sail and using pulleys to deliver goods on deck, but most of our group spent time on the hammocks – in replicas of the crowded sleeping quarters of sailors traveling the high seas.
Meanwhile, the museum serves as a backdrop for the real USS Constitution that sits in dry dock just steps away.
Even out of water, Old Ironsides is an impressive beast – undergoing its first major restoration in more than 20 years. I can only imagine how this massive ship looked to its enemies and how intimidating it must have been. In its battles against the Barbary Pirates and in the War of 1812, the USS Constitution never once lost.
Now, two centuries later, visitors can board the upper deck of this wooden goliath and explore its history. And, the good news is, there’s still time to visit. Restoration isn’t expected to wrap up until 2017.
BUNKER HILL MONUMENT
History is also alive and well in Boston’s oldest neighborhood - Charlestown. It’s here where the Battle of Bunker Hill – where the first major battle of the American Revolution -- took place. But, in fact, colonial forces skirted the high ground of Bunker Hill choosing to make their stand instead on Breed’s Hill which was closer to the water.
Approaching the site, the Bunker Hill Monument looms majestic and tall - in honor of the battle fought here. The granite obelisk stands a good 221 feet in the air and can be seen from blocks away.
The monument is open to visitors at no cost. Anyone willing to tackle it can do so, climbing 294 steps along a winding staircase to the very top. A group of us attempted this feat, but the day was particularly exhausting, so some did turn back.
But, I plowed ahead (despite the ease in which the girls flew past me) and made it to the top. The views through the small windows are vast and gave me a good perspective of the layout of this historic land.
Back at the bottom, we found people strolling on the very grounds, where in June 1775 more than 225 men lost their lives in battle. Not forgotten, their sacrifice is dramatized in a reenactment-type presentation at the base of the monument.
The kids found the presentation fascinating as a man – dressed in a militia uniform – detailed the battle and its importance. He finished off the mini-show with a demonstration on the hill – firing off the period-piece weapon to the delight of the crowd.
A dramatic and proper end to a memorable visit to the hill.
AMERICAN GIRL DOLL STORE – NATICK
In the minds of young girls, no trip to Boston is complete without a detour to Natick Mall. It’s about 30 minutes outside Boston and acts as a mecca for most girls under the age of 13. Why? Because of the ever-allusive American Girl store that sits inside.
Arriving in time for dinner, the girls sat with their dolls at the store’s popular restaurant. The meals offered are filling and enjoyable, but the true star of this trip is the store itself.
The two-floor shop is packed with roaming girls and their parents perusing the many doll outfits and accessories at their disposal. The selection is impressive and pricey. But, there’s a certain magic to the place that still had me reaching for my wallet. And, seeing that trips to American Girl are few and far between, it was well worth the expense and a nice finish to our whirlwind road trip.
Boston Duck Tours
Three departure locations
Adults - $35.99; Seniors/Military/12+ - $29.99; Children 3-11 - $24.99; < younger 3 - $10.50
Group rates available
USS Constitution & Museum
Charlestown Navy Yard
Boston, MA 02129
Museum Hours: Apr – Oct: 9am – 6pm
Nov – March: 10am – 5pm; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s
Suggested Donation: $5-$10 Adults, $3-$5 Children, $20-$25 Adults
Ship Hours: Oct 1-Oct 31
Tuesday – Friday: 2:30pm-5:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm
**Free Trip Tip
Bunker Hill Monument
43 Monument Sq.
Charlestown, MA 02129
Open daily 9am-5pm
Last Climb: 4:30pm
American Girl Doll Store
1245 Worcester St.
Natick, MA 01760
Open: M-Th: 10am-8pm
Reservations for dining recommended; hours open vary
Lunch/Dinner: $16.50 pp; excluding tax/tip
Children’s Menu (4 and under): $7.50 pp; excluding tax/tip
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