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Exploring Charlestown, Bunker Hill & USS Constitution Museum

The Far Side of the Freedom TrailVisiting the Charlestown, Bunker Hill and USS Constitution An Adventure with Kids

One of our favorite excursions in Boston with kids includes a trip to Charlestown to visit the Bunker Hill MonumentOld Ironsides and the USS Constitution Museum

*RESTORATION NOTE* Starting July 31, 2023, the Monument will undergo work on its pyramidion, the equally-sided pyramid that tops the obelisk.

The National Parks of Boston plans to keep the Monument open as often as possible during this project, while also recognizing that construction and restoration work may cause the Monument to close without notice If/when open, the view from the Monument observatory windows will be obstructed due to scaffolding & scrim. Learn more.

Our recommended itinerary starts off with a walk to Bunker hill following the last part of the Freedom Trail.  This 1 mile stretch leads you over the pedestrian bridge with great views of the Zakim Bridge and TD Garden to your left and Boston Harbor to your right.   

Charlestown is a cute, historic town and it's a fun walk for families.  

As you approach, you'll find the the Bunker Hill Museum is right across the street from the monument and features restrooms, a small gift shop and some interesting exhibits about the battle history.  It's definitely a good place to stop if you've walked there and are in need of a pit stop.

The monument itself conjures a comparitive vision of the Washington Monument, just on a smaller scale. 

A statue of Col. William Prescott, a hero of Bunker Hill, stands in front of the monument.  According to popular stories, he coined the famous Revolutionary War phrase, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" during the battle.

There are a number of benches to relax on on the monument grounds, and I must say that on a warm day, you can catch a refreshing breeze on Bunker Hill. 

Visitors can enter the monument through the back where park rangers are on hand to discuss the history of the battle that took place here. 

bunker hill monument boston charlestown

photo credit: BostonCentral

See that small window way up at the top above?  For those up for the challenge, climbing the 294 steps the top of the monument is quite an experience and accomplishment.

There is only one thin spiral staircase up and down, so you'll pass people along the way.  The views and cross-breeze from those 4 small windows at the top are a nice reward.bunker hill monument stairs ami sao

What goes up, must come down - so once you are finished enjoying the well-earned views,  it's time to descend.  This part is much easier, and you can cheer on the visitors you encounter on their way up!

Awaiting you at the base of the hill is the Bunker Hill Museum and Visitor Center.  This is small air-conditioned venue features a gift shop and restrooms along with a water filling station.   The museum portion includes a walk-thru history of the Battle of Bunker Hill. 

Your next adventure is just a 10 minute walk over to Charlestown Navy Yard to visit 'Old Ironsides' and the USS Constitution Museum.   Admission to both venues is free (donations are most welcome). 

The USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) was named by George Washington, and is the sole survivor of the original six ships of the United States Navy.   Several times a year, Old Ironsides goes underway with a quick turnaround sail to Castle Island, & a 21-gun salute. 

old ironsides underway 21-gun salute

She was certainly a marvel when she first launched in 1797, and continues to be as she sails into her third century of service.   Old Ironsides is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat. 

Visitors go through a short security line and then can walk up the gangplank to board the vessel.  On board, you'll encounter personnel who are happy to share historical anecdotes about the ship.  There are several decks that you can climb down to, including cannon alley, the galley, sleeping quarters and the brig.  

Just across the wharf, the USS Constitution Museum awaits with all sorts of interactive exhibits and hands on programs for all ages.  Founded in 1797, visitors are invited to explore the ship's incredible history throughout the 2 floors of the museum. 

Admission to the museum is free, however, donations are most appreciated, and can be deposited in an clear box in the foyer.

Upon entering the museum, you'll find many interactive & educational exhibits as well as a learning hall where many public programs are held. 






Upstairs, an exhibit designed especially for kids includes "A Sailors Life For Me", which takes young visitors though the experience of daily life aboard the USS Constitution.  Learn what sailors eat, how they cook, how they sleep (in hammocks!?).  You can even try out a ship hammock for yourself!  Touch a sailor's uniform, furl a sail.   

You can also see scale models of the ship with all of it's sails unfurled; two 8 minute films that featuring the incredible stories of the USS Constitution; and a vast dsiplay of artifacts from medals awarded to the ship's victorious captains, to a powder horn used by one of her brave gunners.

Daily hands on programs designed for all ages feature hands-on learning, crafting, and fun.   Write a letter with a quill pen; Discover sailors eat for lunch, both now and back in 1797; or try your hand at caulking using a caulker’s mallet, sticky tar, and old rope to waterproof your vessel.   You can even explore all the elements of a sailor's uniform. 







There are two 8 minute films that run continuously where visitors can learn first hand all about incrediable story of The USS Constitution: The Nation's Ship and Battle Theater.  

In the Museum's newest exhibit: Today's Crew, you can meet the active duty crew members serving aboard USS Constitution today. Through video interviews & photos, learn from them, in their own words, what it is like being in the United States Navy working aboard the oldest commissioned warship afloat.

U.S.S Cassian Young Destroyer

If you are still looking for more exciting things to see, you also can climb aboard the USS Cassin Young, a WWII Fletcher-class destroyer stationed right across from Old Ironsides.   Self-guided tours reveal the living quarters and inner workings of this naval giant.

/pix/pages/86/uss-cassian2.jpgUSS Cassian Young Boston Navy Yard

photo credit: BostonCentral

Located on the dock adjacent to the Destroyer ship are models of anti-aircraft guns that are also found on the deck of the ship.  Not to mention a great view of part of the Boston skyline and TD Garden in the background. 

photo credit: BostonCentral

The Anchor

Looking for some refreshment?  Located right on the Charlestown dock, The Anchor is an all-ages gathering space that offers food, drinks, comfortable seating, great views and lawn games.  Sometimes they even feature group exercise, dancing or live music.  


The Anchor is a great place to cool off under an umbrella on a hot day, or to kick back with friends to watch the sunset behind the Boston skyline in the evening.

If you are looking for a place for kids to burn off some more steam, Charlestown also features a "hidden gem playground at Menino Park Playground, that includes lots of great climbing and accessible structures for kids of all ages. 

The playground sits right beside the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center and is about a 10 minute walk straight down 1st Avenue from the Museum.   

Whether you visit the playground or not, the last leg of your family adventure should definitely lead you to the Ferry Terminal dock to catch the Charlestown Ferry back to Long Wharf in Boston. 

This 12 minute ferry ride is the perfect way to cap off a fantastic day in Charlestown.  Enjoy a cool summer breeze, and take in the views of the Boston skyline.  

The Ferry docks right next to the Aquarium, so once you are back you can reward yourself with a treat from "The Cookie Monstah" ice cream sandwich truck, usually located across the street near the Greenway Carousel; or over at Faneuil Hall in the food court. 

However, if you are still full of energy or want to get more steps in, you can opt to follow the Freedom Trail back over the walking bridge to the North End and reward yourself with a delicious meal! Zakim Bridge Boston

photo credit: BostonCentral

It's about a 20 minute walk to the over to the heart of the North End, and you'll get great views of Paul Revere Park, the Zakim Bridge, and TD Garden along the way. 

TD Garden Boston

photo credit: BostonCentral

Find lots more free things to do in Boston in our handy guide to saving money in the city!

You can stay on top of all the fun happenings in Boston with our Boston events calendar.  We highlight lots of family-friendly events and activities to help you make the best of your free time. 

The USS Constitution Museum
Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard
Charlestown, MA 02129
(617) 426-1812

Stacey Sao

Stacey Sao has been the Managing Director of the family-friendly events and activities website, BostonCentral for over 20 years.  She continues to enjoy discovering and exploring new places to visit in the Greater Boston area.