The USS Constitution, renowned as “Old Ironsides” for its triumphs in the War of 1812, presents an opportunity for free tours conducted by its Navy crew members, making it one of the most popular destinations along Boston’s Freedom Trail.
Situated in the Charlestown Navy Yard in close proximity to Downtown Boston, the USS Constitution remains mostly anchored near the wharf throughout the year, allowing easy access to visitors who wish to partake in the complimentary 30-minute tours.
During these tours, visitors are granted the chance to explore the top deck, gun deck, and berth area of this magnificent ship, constructed in 1797, which holds the distinction of being the oldest commissioned warship that still floats anywhere in the world. The experience of walking around the vessel itself provides a thrill like no other.
The true highlight of the tour lies in the captivating narratives shared by the guides, shedding light on life aboard the ship over 200 years ago, intriguing anecdotes about its legendary battles, and enlightening explanations about the Constitution’s pivotal role in American history. Adding to the authenticity, the crew members don uniforms reminiscent of the 1812 era.
Below, you will find comprehensive information about visiting and touring the USS Constitution, suggestions for nearby accommodations, the fascinating historical background of this renowned ship, other enjoyable activities to pursue in the vicinity of the Charlestown Navy Yard, and the optimal times for planning your visit.
Best Methods to Experience and Explore “Old Ironsides” on the Freedom Trail:
Excursions and Sailings Aboard the USS Constitution
If you have an interest in witnessing or exploring the Constitution, you can choose from three excellent options:
Join one of the complimentary Navy tours offered aboard the Constitution. These tours are available throughout the year, excluding major holidays, and typically last between 45 to 60 minutes. Please note that there might be queues for the tours due to the limited number of people allowed on board at any given time. Longer wait times are common during the summer season, holidays, and weekdays when school is in session, as the tours are popular among Massachusetts middle school classes on field trips.
Observe the ship from the land or water by partaking in one of the various sightseeing tours and cruises in Boston that include a visit to Old Ironsides, along with other intriguing attractions.
Witness the Constitution’s majestic turn-around sail in Boston Harbor during the grand Harborfest celebration on July 4th. Additionally, a few more turn-around cruises may take place throughout the year. Castle Island offers splendid views of the event, although the ship can be seen from numerous locations around the Harbor.
Exciting Sightseeing Tours & Cruises of the USS Constitution
Boston Sunset Cruise
Embark on the immensely popular Boston Sunset Cruise, a delightful 90-minute excursion that offers breathtaking vistas of the Boston city skyline, the enchanting North End, and, finally, the majestic Constitution and Bunker Hill monument, beautifully outlined against the evening sky, just like the captivating photo showcased at the top of this page. As an added treat, you will have the pleasure of experiencing the Constitution’s sunset cannon salute.
Boston 90-Minute Historic Sightseeing Cruise
Prepare to be immersed in history during the enthralling Historic Sightseeing Cruise, a leisurely journey around the captivating Boston Harbor. Accompanied by a knowledgeable narrator, you will be captivated by intriguing tales of the past as you pass by notable landmarks. A particular highlight of this cruise is the close-up views of the USS Constitution, allowing you to marvel at its grandeur. You will also catch sight of the Tea Party ships and the adjacent museum, as well as the iconic Old North Church.
Additional Sightseeing Tours & Cruises
For an array of captivating Boston Harbor sightseeing experiences, including lunch and dinner cruises, many of which glide past the USS Constitution in the charming Charlestown Navy Yard:
USS Constitution Turn-Around Cruise on July 4th
Every Fourth of July, the USS Constitution embarks on its annual turn-around cruise within the Boston Harbor, a splendid celebration of our nation’s independence. This magnificent wooden warship, measuring an impressive 204 feet in length, was first launched in 1797 and remains the oldest commissioned warship still afloat worldwide. During this special event, the USS Constitution sails out to Fort Independence on Castle Island, where it exchanges a resounding 21-gun salute. The ship then gracefully makes its way back into the Inner Harbor, engaging in a thrilling cannon fire exchange with Boston’s Coast Guard Base in the North End. Departure from Pier One in Charlestown Navy Yard is scheduled for 10:45 am, and the USS Constitution triumphantly returns to its Navy Yard berth, situated across from the USS Constitution Museum, at 2 pm.
You have several viewing options for this extraordinary spectacle: find a vantage point along the harbor or Castle Island, or for an even more memorable experience, join the Schooner Adirondack III or the Northern Lights on the water:
- Adirondack III – USS Constitution Turn-Around Cruise with Continental breakfast – July 4th
- Northern Lights – USS Constitution Turn-Around Cruise with a delectable 3-course brunch – July 4th
The Origins of “Old Ironsides” – How the USS Constitution Earned Its Name
In 1797, the USS Constitution, an impressive wooden vessel measuring 204 feet in length, embarked on her maiden voyage. Crafted with expertise, the ship boasted copper fastenings skillfully designed and created by the renowned Paul Revere. With three towering masts reaching heights of up to 220 feet, and a dedicated crew comprising 450 to 500 individuals, the Constitution was a sight to behold. Her initial years were devoted to safeguarding American shipping interests by engaging in combat with Barbary pirates along the North African coastline.
Purposefully constructed to merge swiftness with formidable firepower, the Constitution engaged in numerous confrontations against the British during the War of 1812. Throughout this time, she clashed with five British warships and successfully seized numerous merchant vessels. However, it was during an intense battle against the powerful British frigate HMS Guerriere that the Constitution truly cemented her legendary status. Despite a collision that nearly capsized both frigates, the valiant vessels continued their relentless struggle.
Ultimately, the Constitution emerged victorious, decimating the Guerriere in the process. Astonishingly, the British frigate’s shots and cannonballs were largely ineffective against the Constitution’s impenetrable hull. When the triumphant ship returned to the port of Boston, exuberant crowds christened her “Old Ironsides,” a testament to her invincibility.
In 1830, the aging wooden frigate faced the prospect of being dismantled, which sparked widespread public outrage. This outcry inspired renowned poet Oliver Wendell Holmes to pen his acclaimed work, “Old Ironsides.” The resounding support from the public ensured the ship remained in active service until 1855. After undergoing extensive restoration efforts, the USS Constitution now serves as a revered museum ship, preserving its rich history for future generations to appreciate.
The War of 1812 is often referred to as “America’s second War of Independence.” While the Constitution’s triumphs at sea did not significantly alter the outcome of the war, they profoundly impacted the nation’s confidence in its ability to overcome England once again.
Accommodation Options near the USS Constitution
For those seeking accommodation near the USS Constitution, several enticing options are available:
- Marriott Residence Inn at Tudor Wharf in Charlestown: This waterfront hotel situates guests conveniently close to the Charlestown Navy Yard, providing a comfortable and welcoming stay.
- Constitution Inn: Offering a charming and affordable boutique experience within the Navy Yard, this small hotel is an excellent choice for travelers.
- Battery Wharf Hotel: Situated in the nearby North End, this luxurious waterfront hotel offers a sophisticated atmosphere. Guests can choose to take a leisurely stroll to the Navy Yard or opt for a scenic water taxi ride.
- Additional hotels in proximity to TD Garden, located just a short bridge away from Charlestown, offer easy access to the USS Constitution, making it a convenient choice for visitors.
The Charlestown Navy Yard: A Historic Destination
Discover the rich history of the Charlestown Navy Yard, an iconic location that served as a Naval shipyard until 1974. Nestled in Boston National Historical Park, this remarkable site houses the renowned USS Constitution and offers a fascinating glimpse into maritime heritage.
Preserved for posterity, 30 acres of the Charlestown Navy Yard have been transformed into a captivating park, boasting an array of intriguing nautical artifacts and the esteemed USS Constitution Museum. Immerse yourself in the stories of the past as you explore this hallowed ground.
Embark on an unforgettable journey by touring the legendary USS Constitution, a ship steeped in history. Moreover, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the USS Cassin Young, a World War II destroyer. Knowledgeable park rangers are on hand to guide you through free tours of this remarkable vessel.
For those eager to delve deeper into the rich narratives of both ships, a visit to the USS Constitution Museum is a must. This dedicated institution presents the compelling history of Old Ironsides, ensuring an educational and enlightening experience.
Essentials: USS Constitution Visitor Information
- Location: Situated within the Charlestown Navy Yard on the renowned Freedom Trail, Boston National Historical Park warmly welcomes visitors.
- Hours and Cost: The site operates from Friday to Sunday, between 10 am and 6 pm. It remains closed on select major holidays, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Notably, admission to the park is free, and the U.S. Navy offers complimentary tours.
- Security: As a security measure, all visitors aged 18 and above are required to present a valid federal or state-issued photo identification, such as a passport or driver’s license. Additionally, bags undergo thorough screening at the entrance. Comparable to airport procedures, visitors can anticipate removing items such as jackets, jewelry, watches, and electronic devices for inspection. Cameras, bags, and backpacks may also be subject to examination.
- More information: Please note that tour itineraries may be adjusted if any repair or maintenance work is in progress. Furthermore, operating hours are subject to change. To avoid any inconveniences, we strongly recommend checking the official US Navy website before your visit. You can find detailed information at http://www.navy.mil/local/constitution/visitors.asp.
- Getting there by subway: Utilizing the Orange Line, alight at North Station. From there, cross over the Zakim Bridge and continue across the Charlestown Bridge. Follow the red line of the Freedom Trail until you reach the Charlestown Navy Yard, where the ship is located. The walk from North Station to the Navy Yard typically takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
- Parking: Kindly note that parking adjacent to the ship is not permitted, and curbside parking in the vicinity is scarce and challenging to find. We recommend utilizing one of the nearby garages, conveniently marked with signage upon your arrival.