Image: Freedom Trail players
The Freedom Trail Foundation
Freedom Trail players lead tours for school groups with a stop at the Granary Burying Ground along Boston's Freedom Trail.
By
Tribune Media Services
updated 8/11/2010 6:22:21 PM ET 2010-08-11T22:22:21

Check out the red coats.

They will be easy to spot in Boston this month, especially if you are willing to do a little time travel.

Travel back to the 18th century and you can even ask a British Regular, famous for their red coats, what it was like to serve so far from home where everyone seemed to hate them. (Not so much different from today, is it?) Watch the Regulars' Changing of the Guard at the site of their original garrison at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The British garrison was in use almost continuously until the Boston Massacre in 1770, which began as a confrontation between Boston citizens and garrison guards.

We toured Boston's famous Freedom Trail with a "British Regular" (actually a history professor at Quincy College named Michael Szkolka) who, despite the summer heat, was decked out in a red wool jacket, long-sleeved white shirt and white britches. Szkolka says he wants give us an "objective assessment of history," as we make our way nearly three miles past some of the 15 historical sites on the Freedom Trail. We walk past America's oldest public park, Boston Common, the golden dome of the State House to the Granary Burying Ground where Paul Revere (did you know he had 16 kids?) and John Hancock, among others, are buried and then onto the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall. (For more on the tours, visit www.thefreedomtrail.org. You can also download an audio guide to the trail and get a copy of "A Kid's Guide to Boston's Freedom Trail," which is packed with trivia and activities. (How many of Ben Franklin's inventions can you find in the picture of the schoolroom?)

Come the weekend of Aug. 13 and visit the British encampment on Boston Common. More than 20 companies of 18th century British Army re-enactors will set up a replica of their camp during the 1775 Siege of Boston, which lasted 11 months. The kids can check out a surgeon's tent or see what the army ate, watch a skirmish with the colonists or see how soldiers entertained themselves.

Image: Sreet performer
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Faneuil Hall is a top tourist attraction, with shops, restaurants, bars and street entertainment attracting some 18 million visitors every year.

While you are in the neighborhood, visit the Boston African American Historic Park, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this fall. It sits just steps from the Freedom Trail. In Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, there are 15 pre-Civil War structures that relate to the African-American community's fight to free the slaves. The Museum of Afro-American History's African Meeting House, built in 1806, is the oldest standing African American church in the United States.

After all that history, you probably are ready for some ice cream and souvenir shopping. Often called the "Cradle of Liberty," Faneuil Hall, built in 1742, was where the Sons of Liberty met and argued against the king. Today, of course, it is a top tourist attraction with shops, restaurants, bars and street entertainment attracting some 18 million visitors every year. When we visited, a school group sang gospel while kids slurped frozen lemonade and parents nibbled lobster rolls as their teens rushed off in pursuit of souvenirs.

That's what I love about Boston. You can walk in the footsteps of 18th century soldiers and politicians one minute and watch a 21st century juggler the next all while shopping for Red Sox caps and lobster magnets.

You might even make a new canine friend, if you venture into the historic Fairmont Copley Plaza. This is where black Lab Catie Copley holds court in the lobby, always ready to go for a walk or a run with hotel guests. She's a celebrity of sorts with two books to her name — "Catie Copley" and "Catie Copley's Great Escape." The books, written by Deborah Kovacs and illustrated by Jared T. Williams, are so popular that kids come into the hotel just to visit. A couple of little boys pulled their dog-eared copies out of their strollers to show me. I think every hotel could use a Catie — and a kid's book that makes a visit all that more special. (The Fairmont Copley Plaza offers great summer packages.)

The hardest part about visiting Boston is figuring out what else you want to do besides walking in all those famous historic footsteps. Tour a college. (Boston has the highest concentration of colleges and universities in the world — 500,000 students and 100 campuses. There are so many colleges here that there is a new "Think Mass" brochure designed specifically for students and families planning college visits here. Shop till you drop on Newbury Street or Harvard Square and eat till you are stuffed during Restaurant Weeks later this month when restaurants across the city, Cambridge and beyond offer two-course lunches for $15.10 and three-course dinners for $33.10.

Tour the New England Aquarium, where everyone loves the penguins, or stop by the family art carts at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Go to a baseball game or take a tour of Fenway Park. There are great new baseball and zoo packages at Hotel Commonwealth.

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You won't bust the budget either with the Family Friendly Value Pass, which offers some 75 discounts and kids-free offers. (There is even a new iPhone app that allows you to search Boston events and deals and even purchase tickets. It's just 99 cents and can be downloaded from either the www.bostonusa.com site or directly from the iTunes store.)

Hop on and off the distinctive trolleys that make a circuit around the city' top sites — from Copley Square, across the street from the country's first public library, to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat affectionately nicknamed Old Ironsides during the War of 1812) to Harvard Yard. (Stop for a meal at Henrietta's Table at the Charles Hotel, where the kids will love petting the sculpture of Henrietta the Pig and you'll love the menu that highlights local and fresh ingredients.)

Ride the swan boats in Boston Common or let the kids jump on the statues of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings in the Boston Public Garden. (Pick up a copy of Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings." First published in 1941, the book tells the story of a pair of mallard ducks who decide to raise their family on an island in the lagoon in Boston Public Garden.)

I smile when I look at the picture of my much younger kids doing just that.

Another lobster roll, please!

For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow "taking the kids" on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

© 2010 Eileen Ogintz ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Photos: Bustling 'Beantown'

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  1. Boston skyline

    A view of the Boston skyline. Founded on Sept. 17, 1630 by Puritan colonists from England on a peninsula called Shawmut by its original Native American inhabitants, it is one of the oldest and most culturally significant cities in the United States. (Bob Krist / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Faneuil Hall

    Located near the waterfront and today's Government Center in Boston, Faneuil Hall, has been a marketplace and meeting hall since 1742. It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis and others encouraging independence from Great Britain, and is now part of Boston National Historical Park and a well-known stop on the Freedom Trail. It is sometimes known as "The Cradle of Liberty." (Charles Krupa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Get your clam chowder!

    Clam chowder and other seafood dishes fill the bars and tables of popular eateries like the Union Oyster House, established in 1826. (Karen Kasmauski / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Paul Revere statue and Old North Church

    This Paul Revere Statue in North End, Boston was made by Cyrus Dallin and unveiled on Sept. 22, 1940. In the background the Old North Church, officially called Christ Church, is the location of the famed "one if by land, and two if by sea" phrase related to Paul Revere's midnight ride on April 18, 1775 that preceded the Battles of Lexington and Concord. (Julia Malakie / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Old Granary Burying Ground

    A marker, part of which reads "Paul Revere buried in this ground," is seen on the fence at the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston. Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street is the city's third oldest cemetery, and serves as the final resting place for many notable Revolutionary War-era patriots, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence and many victims of the Boston Massacre. (Chitose Suzuki / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Paul Revere House

    The Paul Revere House (1680), was the colonial home of American patriot Paul Revere during the time of the American Revolution. It is now operated as a nonprofit museum by the Paul Revere Memorial Association. (Chitose Suzuki / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Old Ironsides

    USS Constitution, known as "Old Ironsides," is a wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate of the United States Navy. Named after the United States Constitution, she is the oldest commissioned ship afloat in the world and is still in service in the U.S. Navy. The USS Constitution is one of the sites along the Freedom Trail and is part of Boston National Historical Park, better known as the Charlestown Navy Yard. (Lisa Poole / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Bunker Hill Monument

    The Bunker Hill Monument, commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill, is the first public obelisk erected in the United States. The 221 foot granite obelisk was erected between 1827 and 1842 in Charlestown, Mass. with granite quarried in Quincy, Mass. and conveyed to the site by the first railway in the United States, built specially for that purpose. There are 294 steps to the top. (Chitose Suzuki / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Boston Duck Tours

    A red Boston Duck Tours boat cruises the Charles River with the city skyline in the background. (Kevin Fleming / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Fenway Park

    Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sings the National Anthem before game one of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 23, 2004 at Fenway Park. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. New England Aquarium

    Located by the Boston Harbor, the New England Aquarium's colorful & educational exhibits feature more than 8,000 aquatic creatures, a four-story glass ocean tank housing a coral reef display with an outstanding variety of fishes, sharks & sea turtles. The Aquarium's mission: "To present, promote and protect the world of water." The New England Aquarium is also home to the Simons IMAX Theatre. (New England Aquarium ) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Museum of Science

    The Museum of Science is a Boston landmark, with over 500 interactive exhibits; the Museum features a number of live presentations throughout the building everyday, along with shows at the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni IMAX Theater, the only domed IMAX screen in New England. (Darren McCollester / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

    The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library is the presidential library and museum of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. It was designed by the architect I.M. Pei. The building is the official repository for original papers and correspondence of the Kennedy Administration. The library and museum were dedicated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and members of the Kennedy family. (Michael Springer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Franklin Park Zoo

    Patrons view giraffes at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. The 72-acre site nestled in Boston's historic Franklin Park, is the largest zoo in New England. (Winslow Townson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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