Have fun with American history at the USS Constitution Museum, which celebrates the famous ship’s more than 220-year history. First launched in 1797, the ship has defended the United States against France, the United Kingdom and even pirates. Known especially for its seemingly impenetrable hull, which earned it the nickname “Old Ironsides,” it had its moment of greatest glory in the War of 1812. Before or after visiting the ship itself, which is moored in the Charlestown Navy Yard and still manned by Navy sailors, go deep into its history in a series of interactive exhibits for all ages.
Start in the film theater near the entrance. Sink into the comfortable seats as the video plays, featuring rousing renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner, written during the War of 1812. Listen to the sound of the cannon fire that could not manage to sink the ship. Get a hands-on sense of the war in the All Hands on Deck exhibit, where kids of all ages can see what it was like to be a sailor more than 200 years ago.
Learn the details about how such a powerful ship was constructed and see how a concerted effort was made to preserve this large and important part of American history. Play games in the Discovery Center that teach how the War of 1812 began. Back on the ship’s deck, see its rigging with new eyes.
The USS Constitution Museum is just across from the ship, in South Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard. Take a water ferry in about 15 minutes from Boston Harbor, near the New England Aquarium. Boston’s South Station is a 30-minute bus ride away. Alternatively, get here from the airport in 35 minutes by public transportation or 10 minutes by car. Metered parking is available nearby, and the museum provides validation.
Visit the museum daily during regular business hours, with slightly shorter hours during the winter. Admission is free, but a suggested donation is very welcome. Photo ID is required for visitors over 18. Be prepared for a security screening before entry.