Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Break Field Trip Part 4 - Boston

I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!

The last leg of our trip.... two days in Boston, Mass.
(We had three days in Philly, one day in Lexington/Concord, and one day in Plymouth taking in as many sites that pertain to colonial and Revolutionary era history as possible.)

Day 6 of the trip; day 1 in Boston:
We started by driving into Boston. GPS said 1/2 hour. A friend who used to live up there warned me that traffic was ridiculous. She was right. It took 1 hour and 15 minutes to get into the city. Then we had to find a parking garage. The one we were headed to wasn't where GPS said it should be so we ended up at a garage close to Boston Common.
That ended up being a good thing because our first stop was the Freedom Trail walking tour.
Our guide was "Josiah Quincy", John Adams' law partner.
They weren't doing the full trail tours (with the North end) while we were there but we saw everything from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall.
John Hancock's gravesite
Since the tour ended at Faneuil Hall, we ate lunch at Quincy Market right across the street. (We all ate at Quincy's Place in the lower level. It was okay...not great but it was all in one spot which took less time than everyone ordering from a different vendor upstairs.)
The walking tour doesn't take you inside any of the historic buildings so after lunch we went right back over to Faneuil Hall.
They say that there are talks every 1/2 hour but it wasn't scheduled. The ranger on duty was simply talking and answering questions as people came in.
Upstairs (on the fourth floor) is a neat military museum. They have exhibits of items from as far back as the Revolutionary War. We spent more time up here than we did in the main hall downstairs.
Next we went to the Old State House. We did one of the guided tour talks but it was slightly over my upper-elementary younglings' heads. We could have easily skipped it and spent more time enjoying the museum exhibits on our own. They have a fun program where you get a character card. As you walk through the gallery, the exhibits ask questions about how your character would be involved (or not) in certain situations or how they would react. The younglings enjoyed that. There are also four hands-on spaces for children to interact with the museum.
The subway runs underneath the museum, and you can feel it shaking the building when it goes by. Crazy! And the bathrooms are itty-bitty. If you need to visit the facilities, put the lid up first or your won't be able to open or close the stall door. Just sayin' :)
Outside the museum is the site of the infamous Boston Massacre. Very few people actually died, but the propagandist of the Revolution, Samuel Adams, called it a massacre to get things stirred up.
Our next stop was the Old South Meeting House. They have a "Voices of Protest" exhibit around the perimeter of the main floor.
The original plan was to meet at Faneuil Hall to talk about what to do with the tea ships in the harbor but so many townspeople came to the meeting, they had to move it here. This is where the Boston Tea Party was planned. Years later, during British occupation, they destroyed the church to make it a riding school and stable, as well as a bar in the balcony.
We quickly walked by the Irish Memorial as we headed back to the car. 
Then we drove across the river to the Bunker Hill monument.
The Bunker Hill monument is actually on Breed's Hill where the battle of Bunker Hill was fought. (It was hard to see in the dark when the Bostonians marched up to build fortifications the night before the battle.) We got there after it closed so we didn't get to ascend the tower.
 This is the site of the words, "Don't shoot 'til you see the whites of their eyes."
If you can imagine those buildings not being there and it being a bit less foggy, you can see all the way across the river. The British in the harbor would have woken up and at first light, easily seen the Bostonians behind their fortifications. The people of Boston sent a clear message that they were willing to fight.
Thus ends day 1 of Boston!
Day 2 was just as busy.
We drove in (traffic is horrendous in the morning!) and parked at the Farnsworth Street garage. (I mention the garage specifically because if you park there, the Boston Tea Party Museum will validate your parking ticket for a reduced rate.)
From there we walked a block or so to the Boston Tea Party Museum.

This was probably the best thing we did on our trip. It was really fun. We met in a small room with "Anne" who gave us each a character card and a feather. Then "Sam Adams" came in to talk about the problem of the tea in the harbor. 
So here's the deal... the tax on tea was the only tax left. So King George sent these ships over because he wanted the tax income to help bail out the British East India Company. Most other ports in the colonies had simply sent the ships back but the Mass. Lt. Governor held the ships.
So you think, why didn't they just unload the ships and not buy the tea. Well, if they unloaded the ships, the tax on the tea was due immediately... for all of the tea. The amount on the ships was enough for every person in Massachusetts (man, woman, and child) to have 16,000 cups of tea. Imagine the tax cost!! This was tea they didn't order, didn't want, and certainly didn't want to pay tax on.
The law at the time said that ships had to be unloaded by 20 days. So on the evening before the 20th day, the colonists got together to decide what to do. The group sent a message to the governor asking him again to send the tea back. When he refused, they decided on action.
They "disguised" themselves as Mohawk Indians. Which meant a little soot on their faces and a feather in their hair. They weren't going for full camouflage.
They boarded the ships and starting hauling up the tea. So you think, why didn't the British crew stop them. Well, remember the Boston Massacre thing? The British army was under strict orders (and were being very careful) to not engage unarmed colonists again. They thought another conflict like the Boston Massacre would be extremely detrimental to their position.
The British were sitting in ships in the harbor in view of the tea party but the harbor was also lined with thousands of colonists too. If the British ships fired on the "Indians", they'd most likely hit the bystanders. So they merely watched.
Dump the tea! Into the sea! Huzzah!
Thousands of pounds of tea was hacked out of chests and tossed into the harbor. Thing is at that time of year, the water level was really low and the tea started piling up. "Indians" had to get down in the water to stomp the tea down to make room for all of it.
When all the tea was disposed of, the "Indians" got themselves home and tried to hide any evidence of their participation. This was an act of treason for which the penalty was death. That meant quick clean-ups of muddy boots and hiding feathers! Many even fled Boston afterwards to avoid arrest. (I think I got that all right. If I missed anything or got it mixed-up, let me know.)
After we helped dump the tea, we went back into the museum for a guided tour of the exhibits and a short movie. It was really, really well-done and definitely worth seeing if you head to Boston.

After the tour, we went down the block and got on the trolley for our tour of the city. (We bought a package deal from Trusted Tours that included the Freedom Trail Walking Tour, the Boston Tea Party Museum, and the hop on/off trolley for three days.) We didn't stay on the trolley long, we hopped off to see Paul Revere's House (no pics allowed) 
So the whole "one if by land, two if by sea" thing is right but it wasn't a signal to Paul Revere. It was a signal from Paul Revere. He already knew the British were heading out of Boston over the Charles River. He wanted to warn the people of Charlestown that the British were on the move and had the lanterns hung where they could see them in case he didn't make it across himself.
This window is how the lantern hanger escaped the church after hanging the lanterns. He was out after curfew and could have been arrested by the British.
Paul Revere did make it across the river ahead of the British while William Dawes took the land route down the Neck. They met up closer to Lexington and came across Dr. Joseph Prescott (who had been out courting...not tending a medical emergency.) They continued on their ride but got stopped by the British. Prescott got away because he knew the area. Dawes got away because he took off. Revere got caught and was questioned for several hours but let go after they realized that their surprise attack had already been foiled. Prescott is the only one who actually made it to Concord in time for the colonists to hide their stash of ammunition and weapons.

We rode the trolley over to Quincy Market for lunch again (My folks bought... we had ice cream and cannoli-yum), 
and then finished the trolley tour which landed us back near the parking garage.

The Go Boston Card (GBC) was the best deal for us. I used the 'build your own package' deal and saved a lot of money. I printed out our passes but forgot to get them back from the Old State House museum. Not a problem, I downloaded the QR codes to my phone but the locations had a hard time reading the code off my phone. To save time, just print the passes.

Freedom Trail walking tour: trusted tours package ticket; wear good shoes; if you can plan it, try to go with a smaller group. We had maybe 50 people in our group and it was hard to hear the guide.

Faneuil Hall: Free; You only need maybe 15 minutes downstairs. If you do the military museum upstairs, plan for 1 1/2 hours total.

Quincy Market: Lots of little gift shop vendors and food options. It's huge! Prices aren't terrible since it's mostly take out. There's seating in Quincy's Place or Cheers if you buy there. More seating is on the second level. Restrooms are on the lower level. There are strange performing artists outside all around. They tend to draw crowds big enough to block the whole sidewalk.

Old State House: GBC; the guided tours are more for adults than kids; hands-on things for youngers; plan about an hour to read everything

Old South Meeting House: GBC; you only need about 45 minutes; Boring for small kids.

Irish Memorial: Free; our Irish Boston-native lifeguard at the hotel said it was a total disgrace. We didn't really stop much longer than it took to take a picture but it was on the way.

Bunker Hill Monument: Free; If you can handle the climb, it looked like it would be neat to go to the top of the monument.

Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum: trusted tours package ticket; Totally worth the cost; they have a cute tea room inside with food and tea;

Trolley Tour: trusted tours package ticket; We originally thought we would take the T or the train into Boston and use the trolley to get around town. However, the train ride in would have been expensive and taken forever (yup, even longer than driving.) Plus the trolley only goes in one set loop so to get from one side of town to the other would have eaten up valuable sight-seeing time as well. The trolley tour was still a great way to get an overview of the whole city. The driver's script wasn't as funny as the Philly duck tour but there was plenty of great info. We even saw my dad's favorite: Fenway Park (or as it's really pronounced, Fenway Pahk)

Paul Revere House: GBC; there are rangers on hand to answer questions. It's under construction and feels crowded if there are a lot of people. Give yourself 1/2 hour.

Old North Church: Free with a suggested donation; They say there are scheduled talks but it's similar to Faneuil Hall with someone answering questions. You can't climb the steeple but there's a video in the gift shop next door that shows what it looks like.
Boston Garden
There are so many more things to do in Boston and the surrounding areas but time just didn't permit us to see everything. I'm pleased with what we did get to see and experience during our trip though.
Of course, this is how I survived the ride home...
 You know that commercial that says, "Vacation like you mean it." Yeah, we're got that covered. :)

Spring Break Field Trip Part 3 - Plymouth, MA

Plimoth Plantation
After three days in Philly and one day traveling to visit Lexington and Concord, we settled in at our hotel in Norwood, MA and got ready for our next leg.

Day 5 was spent in Plymouth, MA.
It was another super cold day! Brr! We started at the Visitor Center at Plimoth Plantation by watching the short film presentation.
Nine Men's Morris game board

Then we headed out to the Native American Village. We pretty much ran from wigwam to wigwam trying to get inside and close to their fire. We didn't stay out there very long.
Next up was the artisan building where a candle-maker, potters, and bread makers were working. The gift shop was in this building too. After we warmed up for a bit, we ventured out to the settlement.
In the settlement, the costumed interpreters are all acting as though they are from the 1620s. It's really interesting to have conversations with them. We met "William Brewster" and "Mistress Brewster" as well as some other town folk. After more running from fire to fire, we decided to call it a day.
I think if it had been warmer and less rainy (or later in the season), there would have been more to do and more interpreters and historians to talk with.

We had originally purchased our tickets for the Plantation through Go Boston Card. It was a great deal that included the plantation as well as the Mayflower reproduction. But I realized when putting together our itinerary that the Mayflower was out for repair and not even in MA! I was able to get a refund on the Go Boston Card and bought our tickets from Plimoth Plantation directly. We got the package deal that included the Grist Mill.
The Grist Mill was cool. They do demonstrations twice a week and have hands-on science activities for kids. The expression "been through the mill" now totally makes sense!

 Since we had time, we decided to drive into Plymouth and find Plymouth Rock
and the William Bradford statue (since Bass is a direct descendant.)

If it's a nice day, Plimoth Plantation (with the Mayflower II and Grist Mill) could take a whole day.
They have several gift shops in the main building as well as a cafe and eating area for purchased food. They also have a farmer's market set-up each week.
The town of Plymouth has lots of statues and several museums that are worth checking out. We didn't get there until late in the day so the museums were already closed. It was also too cold to get out at every statue or monument. It could be another full day of things to see if you have time.

If you're blessed, you might even get to see these cuties!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring Break Field Trip Part 2 - Lexington and Concord, MA

I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!

The next leg of our spring break field trip was farther north in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts (aka not Boston).
We finished our three days in Philly, checked out of the hotel, and hit the road.

After a 5 1/2 hour car ride, we made it to Lexington, MA.
We started in the Visitor's Center to look around and purchase tickets to see Buckman Tavern. My original plan was to take the Liberty Ride trolley tour but it wasn't open when we traveled. Two of the three historical houses were also closed. (Tip: travel later in April if you go.)
We took the self-guided audio tour of Buckman Tavern which was well-done.
At the end of the tour, you are led upstairs to an exhibit gallery which presents info pertaining to where the Revolutionary War started... Lexington or Concord? They give you the opportunity to cast your vote too.
The winning town? This quote sums it up:
"Whatever was done, Massachusetts did it."

After the tour we headed outside to check out Lexington Green

So you'll see us huddled up and holding umbrellas... that's because it was snowing. In mid-April. Snowing! We hadn't packed clothing for freezing temperatures so we were, well, freezing.
Because it was so cold, we skipped:
the U.S.S. Lexington Memorial (located adjacent to the Visitors Center), the Old Belfry, and the Old Burying Ground.

Next we headed over to Minute Man National Historical Park. They had a great movie presentation in the Visitor's Center along with some exhibits and of course, a gift shop. We didn't stay long because we wanted to get to the Concord visitor center before it closed. They did give us a map of Battle Road Trail. We drove along it as we headed to the North Bridge Visitor Center. There's a free audio tour via cell phone as you drive the route.

We made it to Concord with just enough time to look at the exhibits in the Visitor Center and watch a short informational film. This movie is skippable if you just watched all the other movies at all the other parks and visitor centers. 
A piece of the original Old North Bridge
Last stop on this rainy/snowy day, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Along Author's Ridge, the graves of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne lie.
Other random bits:
There are lots of free things in the Lexington/Concord area. A full day would probably be enough time. We were rushed because we didn't arrive until after lunch, and most of the sites closed at 5pm.
If you are outdoorsy, the Minute Man Historical Park had beautiful trails to hike and bike. You could walk the Battle Road Trail and see all of the noted buildings.
Oh, and yeah, pretty much everything is outside so don't pick a day when the temperature is only about 25 degrees.
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