Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Overview

Salem, Massachusetts may be best known for its “witch trials” of 1692 (during which nobody was burned to death, but about a dozen people were hanged in the region).  The town was also a significant trading port known for its shipbuilding.  During the American Revolution, Salem never fell to the enemy and its 158 privateers captured 445 English ships.  Deep water harbors like Boston later took away from Salem’s prominence, helping preserve its architecture until it was named the nation’s first National Historic Site in 1938.

Highlights

Derby Wharf lighthouse, Friendship of Salem, Custom House

Must-Do Activity

The main National Park Service (NPS) visitor center is located downtown in the old Salem Armory and offers films and exhibits (including one covering the “witch trials” of 1692).  Most of its 14 protected structures are located a short walk toward the waterfront near Derby Wharf.  It is free to come aboard the Friendship of Salem, a full-scale replica of a 1797 merchant ship.  You can learn all sorts of information from the interpreters on the ship and perhaps weave some of your own rope to take with you as a souvenir.

Best Trail

The Derby Wharf Trail follows a paved breakwater out to a small lighthouse that dates to 1871.  This truly is a walking park with additional points of interest at the Salem Witch Museum, House of the Seven Gables, and Peabody Essex Museum (all of which charge admission).

Instagram-worthy Photo

The 1819 Custom House is where novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne worked between 1846-48.  The original rooftop eagle carved in 1826 is housed inside, but a replica stands in its place.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/sama/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but only street parking is available.

Camping

Harold Parker State Forest has a large campground located approximately 10 miles northwest of Salem, Massachusetts.

Related Sites

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Explore More – Who was the shipping merchant who became one of America’s first millionaires and whose house is now part of Salem Maritime National Historic Site?

Boston National Historical Park

Overview

Boston National Historical Park is famous for the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail that leads through historic downtown Boston, Massachusetts.  Tourists should not try to drive into the city because parking is difficult and the public transportation system is so good.  We recommend that you hire a guide or bring along your own information because almost nothing along the route has outdoor interpretive signs.

Highlights

Faneuil Hall, Charlestown Navy Yard, Bunker Hill Memorial, burying grounds, Boston Common

Must-Do Activity

One of our favorite misnomers in American history is that the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed’s Hill north of Boston.  This first major skirmish took place shortly after the Revolutionary War kicked off in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1775 and is well-known for the Patriot commander that told his men not to “fire ’til you see the whites of their eyes.”  The 221-foot obelisk built to memorialize this fight (which the Patriots lost) was started in 1825 but not completed until 1843.  The National Park Service does not charge to climb the 294 stairs to its peak for great views of the area. 

Best Trail

The famous 2.5-mile long Freedom Trail through downtown Boston, Massachusetts is a walking path marked by a line painted on the sidewalk.  Of the many historic places you will pass along the route, some of the free ones include the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall known as the “Cradle of Liberty” (and now a National Park Service visitor center), the site of the first public school in America established in 1635, several burying grounds, and the Old Corner Bookstore that has been turned into a restaurant.  You can also pay to enter the Old State House and Paul Revere House, among other sites.

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you keep walking the Freedom Trail north you cross the Charlestown Bridge to the Charlestown Navy Yard where you can walk aboard the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and learn about it from active-duty U.S. Navy servicemen and women.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/bost/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except at specific buildings like the Old State House and Paul Revere House.

Road Conditions

Roads are paved, but traffic is bad and parking is expensive.  It is best to use public transportation to get into the city and then walk.

Camping

There are camping opportunities (reservations required) in Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, which are accessible by ferry from the city.

Related Sites

Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (Massachusetts)

Explore More – The live oak wood used to build the USS Constitution came from what island, now managed by the National Park Service?

Springfield Armory National Historic Site

Overview

The arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts began manufacturing guns during the American Revolution and became the first National Armory in 1794.  For nearly 200 years it served its purpose before being donated by the military for the creation of Springfield Technical Community College in 1967.  The National Park Service (NPS) maintains a museum and former officer’s quarters on 55 acres at the back of the gated campus.

Highlights

Museum, film, Organ of Muskets

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit with the 14-minute film, then peruse the two halves of the museum, one side dedicated to weaponry and the other to industry.  Watch the scale model of the Blanchard Eccentric Lathe as it demonstrates the shaping of wood to match a metal template.  This technology was first introduced here and is commonly used today to create keys, furniture, and baseball bats. 

Best Trail

There are no trails, but you can walk the sidewalks around the brick buildings that once housed the armory and are now the campus of Springfield Technical Community College.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The “Organ of Muskets” inspired the 1845 anti-war poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a Harvard professor with his own NPS site. 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/spar/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Follow street signs from Interstate 91 exits to the main gate for Springfield Technical Community College then back to the free parking lot by the NPS museum.

Camping

Granville State Forest is located 20 miles west of Springfield, Massachusetts on Highway 57.

Related Sites

Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Coltsville National Historical Park (Connecticut, authorized in 2014 but remains unfunded)

Explore More – Who was the Springfield Armory employee who invented the M 1 rifle used throughout World War II?

Update from Raven About The Parks

We are currently on a 12 day trip to Massachusetts and New York to visit some of the many National Park Service (NPS) sites jammed into those two states, especially around Boston and New York City.  This will bring our total number of NPS units visited to over 350 and provide information for many future blog posts.

We are also working hard to edit our first guidebook, which we will self-publish in October 2019.  It is entitled A Park to Yourself: Finding Solitude in America’s National Parks and it focuses on helping the reader have special experiences in 50 of the busiest National Parks.  Scott has created original logos for each of the 50 parks, which can be printed on T-shirts, mugs, pillows, and a variety of products through Amazon and Café Press.

Thank you to our readers for continuing to inspire us to visit new NPS sites and share the wonders with you all.

Tiff and Scott at Statue of Liberty National Monument in September 2016

Minute Man National Historical Park

Overview

The events that occurred at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775 were immortalized by Ralph Waldo Emerson as “the shot heard round the world.”  First of all, a “Minute Man” was a colonial militiaman who was always ready to fight at a minute’s notice.  Secondly, when the colonial militia fired upon British troops at North Bridge, it was considered an act of treason against the Crown and truly started the Revolutionary War at a time when the majority of colonists did not want independence. 

Highlights

Films, Hartwell Tavern, North Bridge, the Wayside, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Must-Do Activity

If your memory on what exactly happened here is a bit foggy, start with the multimedia presentation at either of two National Park Service (NPS) visitor centers, located in the suburbs west of Boston.  At Lexington, you will learn the true story of how Paul Revere’s ride ended early when he was captured by British soldiers and that he did not mention redcoats, instead yelling “the Regulars are coming out!”  At Concord, you will learn about “the shot heard round the world.” 

Best Trail

Battle Road Trail stretches 5 miles between Fiske Hill in Lexington to Meriam’s Corner in Concord, and is open to bicycles.  It passes many historic sites, including Hartwell Tavern.

Instagram-worthy Photo

We recommend a walk up Author’s Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  The graves of famous local writers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, are located here.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

Hours for the many historic buildings vary and most are not open every day of the week.

https://www.nps.gov/mima/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except at some historic buildings (like the Wayside) which require guided tours.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Harold Parker State Forest (28 miles northeast) has campsites with running water. There is no camping at Walden Pond State Reservation.

Explore More – Which famous authors once resided at the Wayside in Concord, Massachusetts?