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Following a red line of history

Boston has more history per not-so-square block than any other American city, and the Freedom Trail ties much of it together in a walkable way. Unlike the equator and other invisible cartographics, the Freedom Trail's red line appears on map and pavement. There it is, painted right over sidewalk, street, and curb. Only Dorothy's yellow brick road could be easier to follow. Each year, thousands of tourists trust their feet to the red line for a tour of historic Boston.

An information kiosk near the Park Street subway stop on Boston Common is within eye-shot of the gold domed State House designed by Charles Bulfinch.

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The Freedom Trail winds past Park Street Church, and the Granary Burying Ground, where the tombstones read like a Who's Who of revolutionary Boston -- Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and John Hancock are all there.

King's Chapel and Ben Franklin's statue (site of the first public school) lead to the Old Corner Bookstore. This 1712 structure was a meeting place for literary greats who made Boston "the Athens of America."

After a side-step to Old South Meeting House, the red line heads for shrines near Quincy Market -- the Old State House and the Boston Massacre site. Adjacent to these attractions is the National Park Visitor Center which offers maps, guides, and pamphlets.

Sites on the second leg of the Freedom Trail are farther apart, but worth the exercise. Once past the expressway, trailgoers can either make a beeline up Salem Street to Old North Church or loop past the Paul Revere House. Built in 1676, it is the oldest standing structure in downtown Boston. Paul Revere Mall can be reached either way.

Copp's Hill Burial Ground is the last stop before crossing the Charlestown Bridge. Here lies Edmund Hartt, builder of the USS Constitution -- "Old Ironsides" -- which is docked just over the river and it open to the public.

The Bunker Hill Monument, an obelisk commemorating the battle, is the last stop on the Freedom Trail, or at least it can be.

Visitors should know that some points of interest along the trail charge modest admission fees, usually 50 cents or $1, and less for children.


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