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Visiting the USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young at the Charlestown Navy Yard started with an easy Sunday morning drive from our Howard Johnson hotel south of Boston in Quincy, through a deserted downtown and to a garage across the street from the waterfront.
We arrived at 9:00 AM, giving us an hour to meander the grounds before the USS Constitution opened for the day. In addition to the two ships, the Navy Yard is home to the Visitor Center (which, along with the ships, is free and administered by the National Parks Service), the USS Constitution Museum (which is neither), a dry dock, and Commandant’s House.
Ideally, we would have explored the museum before touring the ship, but we wanted to beat the crowds and a line was already forming. Walking the decks of Old Ironsides is truly a humbling and incredible experience that immediately took us back in time. How amazing to stand on this 18th century frigate, given her nickname in the War of 1812 when the British Royal Navy’s cannonballs were reportedly bouncing off her sides as if they were made of iron!
After exploring the ship, we visited the small Navy Yard museum. Despite its size, this museum is well done with historical artifacts and displays about shipbuilding from the years that Navy vessels were built, repaired, and maintained here for nearly two centuries.
We ate lunch on site at Decca, a sandwich shop located in the original Shipyard Galley building, and prepared to tour the WWII destroyer USS Cassin Young. We walked around the deck, but most areas cannot be accessed without an NPS-guided group tour. We eventually learned that we had just missed a tour. Jeff had been conversing with a Navy volunteer for quite some time and our little one asked him about the next tour time. I mentioned it was his top priority on a two-week road trip and the generous volunteer spontaneously decided to give us a personal tour! He led us to more places on the ship than the NPS-guided tour and imparted so much personal knowledge about the ship and life at sea. We toured for nearly an hour and he gave the boys Navy challenge coins to remember the day. We are incredibly grateful for this rare opportunity and it is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip!
The remaining task on site was to visit the USS Constitution Museum. We began our exploration of this wonderful interactive museum by watching the introductory film and then spending most of our time on the second floor in the “All Hands on Deck – A Sailor’s Life in 1812” exhibit. We took the seamanship skills test, relaxed on deck in hammocks, and played with many interactive exhibits as seamen aboard ship in 1812.
Our daily itinerary included an afternoon walk to nearby Bunker Hill, but daylight was fading (thanks to our incredible personal USS Cassin Young tour!) so we drove straight to our hotel.
After spending two nights at inexpensive hotels outside of pricey Boston city limits, we would spend the next two downtown at the Omni Parker House for its convenience to downtown historic landmarks and the Freedom Trail. Just the night before, I upgraded our reserved room from an executive room with two full size beds to the Freedom Trail Family Suite with bunk beds in a kids nook, a separate bedroom, and living room … on special for just $25 more per night! A storm was due to hit that evening so we considered that we might be forced to spend more time in the hotel than we desired so twice the space sounded ideal at this point in the trip!
A Boston Cream Pie, invented right here at the Parker House, was waiting in the room when we arrived. We saved it for dessert after walking nearby to Shawarma Falafel where we enjoyed a delicious dinner of Lebanese cuisine with incredibly hospitable service. Highly recommend!
Back in the room, we relaxed into a long night in our incredible suite, watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV before bedding down.