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A First Visit to Boston's Old State House

The author's daughter stands in front of the spiral staircase, which is front and center upon entering the building.

Growing up about 60 miles outside of Boston, I’ve visited the city numerous times over the years: as a kid, mainly on field trips and family excursions; as a young adult, for shopping trips or nights out on the town. Despite all of the trips that have brought me past the Old State House, wedged firmly between the tall commercial buildings of the city’s downtown, I’ve never been inside.

A couple of days ago, my 14-year-old daughter and I visited the Old State House for the first time, and I finally experienced what I’d been missing. As we walked over the short distance from Quincy Market, I made sure to remind her of the building’s significance: Built in 1713 as the colony’s seat of government, it’s essentially where the American Revolution was born.

John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and James Otis gathered in its rooms to argue against British intrusions into their lives. In March of 1770, just outside the building, a skirmish between a wig-maker’s apprentice and a British soldier escalated into the Boston Massacre. The Declaration of Independence was written there and first proclaimed from its balcony.

An Old State House tour gives her talk on the Boston Massacre.

These events were foremost in my mind as I stepped inside, where the first feature of the building immediately presents itself – a beautiful spiral staircase that winds through the center of the building. We moved through the rooms on the main floor, formerly a Merchant’s Exchange, viewing thought-provoking exhibitions that featured artifacts from the colonial era and explored in detail many events leading up to the Revolution. Upstairs, a restaging of what the Council Chamber looked like during colonial times allows visitors to sit at the meeting table and imagine themselves in the historical moment. There are also two kid-friendly rooms that explain the building’s importance and offer coloring books and interactive exhibits.

As we explored the building and viewed the exhibits, one of the museum’s guides announced she’d be giving a talk on the Boston Massacre. A small group of us gathered, and she led us outside for her presentation. Over the next thirty minutes, she related the factors leading up to the massacre, then told of the event itself and the aftermath. She was clearly very knowledgeable, and she seemed to enjoy explaining the “story behind the story” to us as we stood just a few yards from the site.

Without a doubt, visiting the Old State House is a “must-do” for anyone interested in our nation’s history. Standing in the rooms where our country’s forefathers stood, seeing the many 18th Century objects (both ordinary and extraordinary ones) on display, and learning more of the stories of history was an experience I won’t soon forget.

9/11 Museum's Expansive, Personal Look at an American Tragedy

How does a nation come to grips with one of the most horrific events in its history? Since the 9/11 Museum opened on May 21, more than 430,000 people have visited the expansive underground site to witness the stories and artifacts from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Attendance has exceeded expectations of museum officials, even with the $24 adult entry fee.

Because of the crowds, buying tickets online ahead of time is the best choice. Tickets can be purchased up to three months in advance, and visitors can choose a specific date and entry time. Visitors also go through security screening before entry.

Photo credit: Irina Lee

In 110,000 square feet of exhibition space, located seven stories beneath the surface at the World Trade Center site, the museum brings both a personal and historical context to the day’s tragic events. In news reports, many described viewing the 9/11 Museum’s exhibits as an emotional, gut-wrenching experience. Given its scope of content, it’s hard to imagine it being anything but.

The museum is divided into different areas. After descending a gently sloped ramp, the Historical Exhibition introduces visitors the background on the historical and geopolitical events before, during and after 9/11. It encompasses the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the story of Flight 93, and even the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

Using artifacts, images, video, first-person testimony, and real-time audio recordings, visitors can view the drama in the hijacked airplanes, the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. There are also riveting accounts of the first responders and civilians who tried to help.

It’s tough to look away from the video of the hijackers going through airport security, and, if the events of the day weren’t enough to bring the horrors home, there’s a video behind a wall (which carries a warning of "particularly disturbing" images) showing people jumping from the burning towers.

The Memorial Exhibition pays tribute to those who perished in the attacks on 9/11 and in 1993. Walking along the “Wall of Faces,” visitors can reach out and use touchscreens to find out additional details about the victims. They include remembrances from family, friends and coworkers.

Photo Credit: Pete Bellis

There are many tangible artifacts too. A sampling includes:

  • A charred American flag
  • Photos of the 19 hijackers
  • A massive steel girder, melted and twisted from the impact of Flight 11
  • Shoes from those who fled the burning towers
  • Two destroyed fire trucks and a police car
  • Firefighters’ crushed helmets
  • A note smudged with blood that reads, “84th floor, west office, 12 people trapped.”

Foundation Hall spreads out over a huge space that holds monuments such as the 36-foot-high "Last Column," which was the last standing column in the rubble. It is covered with inscriptions, mementoes and missing persons posters placed by rescue workers and others.

Visitors should expect to spend at least a couple of hours viewing the exhibits.

Controversial opening

The museum has had its share of controversy. The $24 admission price has been called high, some of the displays have been called too hard-hitting, and many have questioned the wisdom of having a gift shop. Plans to open a restaurant with waiters, full meals and alcohol were changed to have a simple café that serves pastries, tea and coffee.

Others are upset because there are 8,000 unidentified remains on the grounds, and they object to a commercial operation. The remains have been interred in a tomb behind a wall inscribed with a quote from the Roman poet Virgil: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

The 9/11 Memorial

Back on the surface, the 9/11 Memorial spreads out over 16 acres in the footprint of where the Twin Towers stood. The 2,983 names of the men, women and children killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993, are engraved on the bronze parapets bordering the four-sided waterfalls. Visiting the memorial is free and entry passes are no longer required.

Photo credit: Tom Hart

Hours and admission

The 9/11 Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $24 for adults; $18 for 65 and older, and U.S. veterans and college students; and $15 for children 7-17. Younger children get in free.

The memorial is open daily from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. Access is free. For more information, go to www.911memorial.org.

Admission to the 9/11 Museum is free on Tuesday evenings from 5 p.m. to close, with the last entry at 7 p.m. A limited number of tickets are available online two weeks in advance of each Tuesday evening, starting at 9 a.m. Same-day tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the ticket windows starting at 4:30 p.m.


The memorial and the museum are located at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan at the intersection of Liberty Street and Greenwich Street. There’s also entry at the intersection of Liberty Street and West Street, and at the intersection of West Street and Fulton Street. Using public transportation is strongly recommended.

The Best BBQ In Atlanta

BBQ RibsPhoto Credit: Eric Sonstroem

What makes our country so unique is that we have 50 unique puzzle pieces that fit together to create one gigantic melting pot of flavors, cultures and deep history. When it comes to traveling throughout our country’s vast landscapes, hidden deserts and elevated mountaintops, every region within the continental United States is known for something. Whether it’s cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, deep dish pizza in Chicago or clam chowder in New England, each direction on America’s compass has a unique expose of flavors to please the palate.

When it comes to the southeastern region of our nation, there are plenty of attractions that come to mind, but today were focused on your appetite. There’s no better place to dive into some barbeque then Georgia’s own capital, Atlanta. As you head down the eastern seaboard you’ll notice the smell of charcoal and pit beef among additional lip-licking aromas, but don’t be alarmed, CityPASS is here to point you in the right direction so that when you leave The Big Peach your stomach is satisfied.

Grand Champion BBQ

Located in the Roswell section of the city at 4401 Shallowford Rd, this barbeque joint is known for far more than its sweet and savory set of ribs. Grand Champion BBQ is headed up by long-time aficionado Robert Owens who learned the tricks of the trade at various other establishments around town before opening his own slice of heaven in 2011. Known for its straight-forward menu, the BBQ masters behind the grill use a special smoker called the Southern Pride SPK 500 to cook up some of the tastiest hickory smoked meats in town. Feeling overwhelmed by the ribs? Be sure to save room for Grand Champions home-made pies made in a variety of flavors.

BBQ PlatePhoto Credit: Danielle Scott

Community Q BBQ

Straight from two native sources, Atlanta local Dave Roberts and partner opened up Community Q, located in Decatur at 1361 Clairmont Road in 2009 to bring people of ATL a place where eating out feels more like dining in. Known for its inviting décor and welcoming feel, the Community Q specializes in Roberts’s infamous mac and cheese recipe, a plate stacked to the ceiling with rigatoni, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Parmesan and heavy cream baked up to ooey-gooey perfection. Couple your dreamy plate of mac and cheese with Community Q’s favorite pulled pork or spare ribs to get the complete experience.

Heirloom Market BBQ

Adding its own unique take on southern barbeque, locals say that Heirloom Market BBQ, located at 2242 Akers Mill Rd in Atlanta is a must-try for all visiting tourists looking to spice it up and sample some truly awesome fusion cuisine. Heirloom is the offspring of Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor who hail respectively from Tennessee and South Korea. Add the unique flavors of these two regions together plus the culinary expertise of a couple barbeque die-hards and you have a place where palates tend to explode in the best of ways. Heirloom throws their special spin on barbeque by taking locally cured meats and pairing them with Korean flavors and marinades to create notorious combinations such as the piled pork sandwich crowned with kimchi coleslaw, black sesame seeds, sliced scallions and hickory goodness. Thinking about skipping out on Heirloom? We say, “think again!”

Fox Bros. BBQ

What’s better than a duo of brothers teaming together to create barbeque excellence? Well only the southern-influenced brisket and pork dishes served at their establishment on the daily. Located at 1231 Dekalb Avenue just northeast of the city, Fox Bros BBQ throws together some very interesting creations to keep customers coming back. One dish that has proven to be consistently popular is the Lopez; a mound of tater tots and brisket chili clumped in a gooey work of art topped with a generous blanket of cheddar cheese. Locals recommend purchasing a bottle of the Fox Bros. barbeque sauce on the way out, so you can take a little bit of Atlanta with you wherever you go.

Sure, there are plenty of exciting attractions in Atlanta but when it comes to eating your way around the city we’re positive that a few of the aforementioned barbeque joints will leave you meat-lovers in a charcoaled coma.

Steeling Your Nerves at 360 CHICAGO’s New TILT!

Ninety-four floors up in the blue (and very windy) Chicago sky is a glass and steel contraption that takes steady nerves and a bit of daring to take on: The new TILT at 360 CHICAGO. read more »

Best Cities to See 4th of July Fireworks

Best Cities for Fireworks Since July 4, 1777 -- the first birthday of the United States of America -- fireworks have been a part of our nation’s celebratory fabric. The Congressionally-sponsored fireworks were commissioned to celebrate the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and delivered a rousing light show to the colonists in a patriotic pyrotechnic display. At the conclusion of the very first 4th of July celebration, 13 rocket fireworks were launched into the air -- one for each of the 13 original colonies.

Today, the tradition continues nearly 240 years later. However, what was once 13 colonies has grown to 50 states -- each with their own way of celebrating America’s birthday. Here are our picks for five of the most astounding and entertaining fireworks displays scattered throughout the U.S. read more »


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