Friday, October 30, 2009

Trails of Redemption, Always in Style: A Fun Fall Activity

by Shardae Jobson

For those who work in the business of entertaining the masses, it can be particularly challenging in the fall as the weather changes and people stay outside for a shorter amount of time. I know I’ve definitely kept my leisure time outside the home and school short when the weather gets colder. Yet, as much as I enjoy the comforts of home, unless it is truly below zero, I still want to be able to walk along the brisk, cool breezes around me and hopefully not have to stay in every night of the week. Living in Massachusetts, the weather is a constant Magic Eight Ball: one day all you need is a light sweater; tomorrow, I hope your winter weapons, better known as gloves, scarves and a hat aren't too far back in the closet. And this is only for the month of October!

While I always contend that Boston can seem like the most boring place on earth, I will take half of that statement back and say, it is not always. Promoters and producers in Boston, whether in charge of mini music and arts festivals or the clubs by the theatre district, do try and bring some fun to the Bay State’s capital. While some choices do look typical, iffy or are temporary, there are still some tried and true fun activities to do in town that allow you to be outside and frugal. I’m thinking of The Freedom Trail in Boston as a fun fall activity. Residents who grew up in Massachusetts may remember the Freedom Trail as a field trip back in the day. It is a (faded) red marked path of some of the most historic places in Boston--and the United States. Many of the landmarks on the trail are right in the city, so one wouldn’t have to travel far if they live in the surrounding areas. If you are visiting for the day, you will for sure walk right by a few historical treasures.

While The Freedom Trail Foundation offers assistance in enjoying the experience, the trail is like an open gallery, so you can be your own tour guide at your own pace. You will likely also cross paths with the Black Heritage Trail which recalls the places where African-Americans created new lives for themselves as freed Americans after the Civil War.

The stories of the trails are not dispassionate in their language or presentations; however, the historical context of some of the places are nearly overtaken by their new usage, such as Faneuil Hall, now a popular shopping center. Many tourists and those who live in Boston are still aware of the city's history laden parts, which is great for preserving where we’ve been and quite intriguing to see in person.

Now on your own, there isn’t necessarily a spot to start since you could wind up in a circle if you go through the whole cycle, but a great first monument to see is the 54th Regiment behind the Boston Common and across the street of the gold domed Massachusetts State House (also a part of the Freedom Trail). The 54th Regiment monument is one of the most popular sites of the Freedom and Black Heritage trails, depicting the black soldiers who courageously did their part in the Civil War. Every day are people touched by the beautiful tribute. It has been a prime destination on two separate field trips I had in elementary and high school.

From there, it's easy to walk straight into other important facets of the Freedom or Black Heritage Trail. For the Freedom Trail, staying along the left side of the Boston Common, the first mark you’ll see is the Park Street Church, still in use today and next to it is the Granary Burying Ground. This graveyard is regularly filled with people stopping by the burials of some recognizable names from our social studies textbooks including Crispus Attucks, the first African-American killed in the Boston Massacre; Samuel Adams; John Hancock; and Paul Revere. This is also one of the more prominently packed spots of the Freedom Trail.

Once you’re in the Downtown Boston area, there are more of this history lane’s destinations and even some highlights that are not included but are worthy of notice. On the right side of King’s Chapel is the restaurant The Last Hurrah where Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little) was a busboy when he first came to Boston in the early 1940s and (lovely rumor has it) JFK had dinner with Jackie O. before his presidency.

The Freedom Trail itself is actually shorter than expected in terms of its list, but if you haven’t been on it, it is exciting and educational without being dull. The red path will take you from the Boston Common, right into downtown and as far up as the Italian haven that is the North End, where Paul Revere’s House stands. While you're there, don't forget to check out "the skinny house" and that's all I'm going to say about that!

The most decadent spot on the Freedom Trail may be the USS Constitution, where ships in connection to some of the nation’s most known battles are situated. Today they are used in honor of the US Navy. This is for sure another one not to miss, as the boats are divine. I’ve found that every time I visited the ships, the children in attendance always get the biggest kick out of it, touching parts of the ships that they can with wide eyes in amazement. When I was little, my mother took me here for a special occasion, back in the early 1990s, and I remember being in awe myself.

While few spots are in some of the most metropolitan areas of Boston, there is history everywhere as stated before. After being done with the Freedom Trail there is even more waiting for you in Beacon Hill. You can pass by author Louisa May Alcott’s still-standing handsome home and more of the Black Heritage Trail, like the African Meeting House.

The trails of Boston are now traditional to visit and I hope will be celebrated in field trips for next generations in an age of too much though helpful technology. It’s light hearted in that you can experience it for yourself even within a crowd, but also carries a lot of weight in its gratitude for the importance of the past. So for tourists and Bostonians alike, you can catch the sale at Macy’s (I appreciate prices slashed so dramatically), and afterwards pass by commemorated buildings and be reminded of the many nameless and famous names that walked the paved streets before us. They are immortalized in respected graveyards, monuments and buildings where the people of the past used to sleep or find comfort before they became the luminaries we've learned so much about.

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