Historic Charlestown

Charlestown is a hop over the bridge from Boston, and we often go there to enjoy fine restaurants, scenery, and experiences.

4th of July in the Navy Yard

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by notso62 on July 11, 2010

It is hard to explain the feeling that comes over Boston every time the fourth of July comes around. There is an energy in the air that is fed by the thousands of tourists and historical re-enactments and displays that pepper the town. Nowhere is this feeling more evident than the Charlestown Navy Yard, where the USS Constitution is docked. Not only is the USS Constitution decked out with flags and patriotic decorations, but there are also typically several other Navy ships that visit the yard for the weekend.

The Navy Yard is accessible through many of the bus tours that circle Boston and also through the ferry with service from Rowes Wharf (close to Faneuil Hall). A footbridge and harbor-side walking path can be found that connect North Station with the Navy Yard area, if you know where to look for them (behind North Station--- over the canal locks that separate the Charles River from Boston Harbor).

In 2010, the World War II Destroyer USS Cassin Young was docked in the Navy Yard for the Fourth of July festivities. Another Navy ship was also docked in the yard, but the USS Cassin Young was the only one that was open to public tours. It was interesting to walk around the deck of the Destroyer and view the gun turrets and torpedo launchers. It was also interesting to see the very small dining and sick-bay facilities which make one wonder how anyone could've survived their stay on the vessel back in the day. The main deck was the only one open for public viewing, but I saw several park rangers give guided tours of the lower boiler rooms and quarters to a few people upon request.

The USS Constitution was very crowded on the weekend of the Fourth. Navy personnel keep the line moving smoothly to get aboard the ship, but it probably took a half-an-hour more than usual to get through the line. Boarding the USS Constitution is difficult to do on July 4th itself, since it is engaged in its annual "turnaround cruise" for the better part of the day. But seeing the ship sailing in the harbor is still a sight to see in itself; best viewed from another boat. As always, all the attractions in the Navy Yard including the Constitution and the USS Cassin Young were free to partake in.

I would highly recommend visiting the Navy Yard in Charlestown if you are looking for a truly patriotic experience on the Fourth of July. Few places offer this kind of spirit and historical experience in the same package. The flags and patriotic decorations are typically only on display during this time of year, so make for the perfect photo opportunity to remember your summer Boston travels.

Historic Charlestown

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by notso62 on October 21, 2005

Charlestown is one of the most underrated places to visit around Boston. Many historic sights exist here and many tours pass through, but not many tourists stay on this side of the river or explore this area any further.
The historic sights in Charlestown are plentiful. The Freedom Trail (the trail that starts in Boston Common and passes through historic sights dating back to the Revolutionary War) passes through several points of interest in Charlestown. The large monument in the middle of town commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill. The USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) has made a permanent home in the Navy Yard, and you can hop on a tour of it every half hour for free. There is also an excellent historical museum in the Navy Yard to give visitors even more value of the historical significance of the area.
The gaslight district and attentively up-kept row houses add to this town's historic charm. Walking through the quiet historic neighborhoods is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of tourist-heavy Boston.
There are several excellent restaurants and shops in Charlestown that are well worth the trip out of Boston. Todd English, the acclaimed celebrity chef, has two restaurants (both Olives and Figs) on this side of the river. Sorelle Bakery & Cafe makes excellent treats and sandwiches. Though this area had not been thought of in the past as a gourmet destination, the emergence of these new eateries is surely making a name for the area around the Bunker Hill Monument.
Though Charlestown has some seedy sections, it's increasingly gentrified neighborhoods make it an excellent stop on any Boston-area tourist's itinerary.


${QuickSuggestions} Most tours that cover historic sights of Boston (the Old Town Trolley Tours, tours of the Freedom Trail) go through sights in Charlestown as well. Hop off one of these tour buses at one of their stops and explore the neighborhood further for yourself.


For excellent panoramic views of Boston, grab a bite at the Tavern on the Water in the Navyyard. For a fraction of the price of a meal with a view in Boston, you can enjoy a low-key, casual lunch or dinner.



${BestWay} Several T Stops in Charlestown make it convenient to Boston's subway system. There are also several bus lines that go through this section of town that connect with downtown Boston areas if you wish to cover multiple tourist areas.


Parking and driving in Charlestown is not as difficult as it is in Boston, but still be aware of street signs and resident-only parking areas.


Charlestown is a very walkable area, with it being about a half-mile from the Bunker Hill Monument to the Navy Yard. Boston is accessible by a pedestrian bridge across the mouth of the Boston Harbor, but during inclement weather, this can be brutal due to the freezing wind that whips across this area. Dress appropriately!



Tavern on the Water

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by notso62 on October 23, 2005

The Tavern on the Water is one of the best low-key bars around Boston. Nestled on Boston Harbor inside the Charlestown Navy Yard, this tavern looks like it might be a renovated houseboat. Patrons hike up the wooden stairs to the third floor, where they enter the top floor of this nautically inspired bar. It is decorated with maritime paraphernalia and looks like it might be the inside of a ship. The doors around the top floor open up onto a deck with small tables where patrons can enjoy a beer or mixed drink. From here you can have an excellent view of the city.


Inside the other levels of the ship, there are tables where you can enjoy a burger or other casual meal. The tavern serves excellent nachos, which are great as a midnight bar snack.


Around back of the boat lies an open air bar on the surrounding dock overlooking the neighboring marina. The city of Boston is visible from here as well. It is a great place to be on a hot summer day, because the whole tavern gets an excellent breeze off the harbor.


Drinks served at The Tavern on the Water are definitely cheaper than other Boston bars, but plastic cups are the serve-ware of choice. No pretentious martinis here! It's a great place to get away from snooty bar scenes in the city!



Tavern on the Water
Charlestown Navy Yard
Charlestown, Massachusetts, 02129


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by notso62 on December 24, 2005

Figs is one of the best ways to experience Todd English's culinary creations in the Boston area without spending an arm and a leg. This restaurant is one of the celebrity chef's many Boston outposts; it's concentration being on pizza and pasta dishes.

Figs speciallizes in gourmet pizzas that are available for take-out or eating in. Highly recommended are the portobello creation, as well as the pulled pork and coleslaw pies. Though they may sound exotic pizza toppings, they are very good and come served on a New Haven-style crust that cannot be beat. The pizzas are priced anywhere from $10-$25 and can feed two people easily.

The pasta dishes at Figs are reasonably priced and delicious. All ingredients are exquisitely blended to create perfect palatable combinations. The Mushroom Risotto and the Macaronni and Cheese (with orzo, parmesean and peas) are both excellent choices that cost under $15. Such a culinary deal is rare in Boston, but is not to be interpreted as lacking quality.

The Charlestown Figs restaurant is small in size, but large in character. The whole restaurant centers around a large brick pizza oven which creates a warm cozy environment. There is a small bar in the front and seating room in the restaurant area for about 75 people. Though it can get quite crowded on popular evenings, Figs never feels cramped. Patrons should expect to wait up to a half an hour for a table if they plan on dining in the restaurant at popular times.

The waitstaff and hostesses at Figs are very friendly and accommodating. They have no problem handling the bustling dining room and making sure that all guests are attended to.

Figs serves more casual fare than Todd English's other Charlestown restaurant Olives, but is an excellent choice for everyday dining and pizza. You will not be disappointed whether you choose to eat in or take your pizza home with you.

Figs Restaurant
67 Main Street
Charlestown, Massachusetts, 02129
(617) 242-2229

Chow Thai Cafe

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by notso62 on February 27, 2006

The Chow Thai Cafe is an unexpectedly good place to grab a bite to eat when in or around Charlestown. Though Charlestown is not noted for its ethnic dining diversity, this small restaurant serves excellent traditional Thai food that will please even the pickiest eaters.

Highly recommended dishes include any variety of the Drunken Noodles or the Pad Thai. All are prepared with the freshest of ingredients and simmered in flavorful spices. For those who do not like the traditional Thai spices or are simply watching their diet, the Chow Thai Cafe has an excellent selection of dishes that are prepared by steaming, with no added salt or sugar. Even though these might not be as big of a hit as the more traditional dishes, the special diet food showcases the wonderfully selected fresh vegetables.

As with most Asian restaurants in Massachusetts, patrons have to order rice separately if desired with your entree. Otherwise, you may be disappointed to only receive a few dinner rolls with your order if you do not make the special request.

The Chow Thai Cafe is located in a small storefront in downtown Charlestown. It is best suited for takeout or delivery orders due to its location and small size. Patrons who do sit in the restaurant for their meal will find the owner and the staff to be extremely friendly. They like visitors but are especially attentive to local residents and have achieved a significant amount of repeat business. Very few restaurants that do so much takeout business have this quality of service.

The prices at the Chow Thai Cafe are rather low, with the midpoint being about $11 for a dinner entree. Definitely a great value meal for the money in this area. You will be hard-pressed to find better food, service, and value at other area restaurants. The Chow Thai Cafe is a neighborhood institution because of that.

Chow Thai Cafe
187 Main Street
Charlestown, Massachusetts, 02129
(617) 242-5232

The Ironside Grille

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by notso62 on June 30, 2006

The Ironside Grille is a great local favorite in Charlestown. It is here that patrons go to enjoy some sports on the plasma screen TVs, kick back with a cold drink, or sometimes to just grab a good casual meal. The atmosphere is very laid-back in this pub, making it wonderful for when you want to get out of the house, but do not want to concern yourself with dressing to the 9's.

Tucked away between the main drag in Charlestown and the historical sights in the area, it is easy for the untrained eye to overlook the Ironside and skip over to the more popular Todd English restaurants (Figs and Olives). However, this is a mistake. Not only does the Ironside have a very friendly atmosphere, but they boast one of the best bar menus in all of Boston. They have your standard pub food like fries and appetizers, but they also have substantial burgers, exotic entrees like seared tuna, and excellent pasta dishes. Even the fries come in more than one variety—from hand-cut steak to sweet potato. Everything tastes surprisingly wonderful as well.

The prices at the Ironside are on the lower side with few entrees above $15. Beers are all about $3 to $4 and martinis are $8 to $10. Things can add up after a couple of rounds, but for the most part the value here is pretty good.

The service at the Ironside leaves something to be desired at times. On my last occasion dining there, the waitress bought out the wrong entree, over-charged for drinks we did not order, and was generally unknowledgeable about the menu. However, she was very nice and more than happy to make the changes we requested.

The Ironside always has whatever popular sporting event that happens to be going on broadcast on their plasma screens. On top of having a very clean and well-kept bar, they have a nice outdoor seating area which is perfect for when the weather is agreeable. Overall this is a very nice establishment and is very well recommended for out-of-towners and locals alike.

Ironside Grille
24 Park St.
Charlestown, Massachusetts, 02129
(617) 242-1384

Bunker Hill Monument

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by notso62 on December 20, 2005

The Battle of Bunker Hill marked a shaky British victory in the American Revolutionary War on June 17, 1775. During the battle (which was ironically fought mostly on Breed's Hill, where the monument now stands), the British sustained massive casualties in spite of the victory and were forced to rethink their stance in the war. The battle today is thought of as a symbol of American Patriot bravery that ultimately led to the outcome of the war--the freedom of the United States.

Originally, on top of Breed's Hill after the battle, a small memorial was erected by the American Mason's to honor one of their fallen members. This consisted of a wooden pillar and urn that stood 18 feet tall. In 1823, the Bunker Hill Monument Association was formed in an interest to create a more permanent monument to commemorate the battle. The group purchased the entire battlefield site on top of Breed's Hill. The obelisk design that stands today was decided on by this group, and it became the first of this design to stand on American soil (pre-dating the more iconic Washington Monument).

In 1842, the Bunker Hill Monument was completed and opened to the public. Visitors of the Bunker Hill Monument today can ascend the 220-foot tower to peak out the small windows on the top for a better view of Boston from the north. Admission to the monument is free, and it is open from 9am to 5pm every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. There is also an exhibition lodge at the base where visitors can gain more knowledge about the Revolutionary War and view artifacts from that time.

The Bunker Hill Monument is an excellent place to visit if you are looking to experience a bit of American History firsthand. It is one of the many stops on Boston's historic Freedom Trail, so it is convenient to most tours of the area. The views from the top are excellent and worth the hike up the stairs. The Charlestown neighborhood, where the monument is located, is both charming and historic and is also an excellent place to stop by.

Bunker Hill Monument
Monument Square
Charlestown, Massachusetts

USS Constitution

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by notso62 on December 29, 2005

The USS Constitution is a key piece of history when it comes to the United States Navy. Built in 1795, it was one of the first of six frigates originally commissioned by Congress under the direction of President George Washington. At the time it wasn't even clear whether they would be used, but alas, after its completion in 1797, the Department of the Navy was created to protect the United States on the High Seas.

The USS Constitution is docked in the historical Navy Yard in Boston 364 days a year now, but this was not always so. The ship helped to prove the United States as a naval powerhouse in battles in the West Indies with France in the early 1800s. During the War of 1812 with England, the USS Constitution earned a surprising victory over the Royal Navy's best ship, withstanding numerous direct hits. This victory earned the USS Constitution the nickname "Old Ironsides," which is still commonly used when describing the ship today.

Thanks to wonderful preservation and restoration techniques, the USS Constitution is still a great example of US Naval history. The Naval Historical Center has done its research to make sure that the Constitution today looks as it did during the War of 1812. The barracks, figurehead, and wood work have all been documented and restored. It is because of their efforts that visitors today can experience this historical time capsule.

The USS Constitution is open for visitors Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm on all but major holidays. Admission is free and tours are given every half hour by the staff. Tours guide visitors through the spar, gun, berth, and orlop decks and they are given by a truly informative perspective. They are great for any history buff, curious visitor, or even children.

Every year, the USS Constitution departs its dock momentarily on July 4th for it's annual turnaround cruise. In order to get on the boat for this ride, you need to be selected via lottery. If you're one of the lucky few to win a spot, you're in for a rare treat. To enter the lottery, go to www.ussconstitution.navy.mil for more information.

USS Constitution
Pier 1 Charlestown Navy Yard
Boston, Massachusetts, 2129
(617) 242-5642


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