Built in 1797 and named by George Washington, the 3-masted USS Constitution frigate in Boston is the US Navy’s oldest commissioned ship and one of the world’s oldest warships. Visitors can go aboard the ship, docked at Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard and restored to its original glory, to explore an important slice of US history.
Visitors can look around the ship’s top deck and two lower decks on free self-guided tours. Step onto the vessel—often known by the nickname Old Ironsides—and ask the naval crew members any questions you wish: They’re primed to provide information about the ship and its past. Aside from roaming the decks, you can also visit the nearby USS Constitution Museum to trace the vessel’s history in detail.
One of the attractions on Boston’s Freedom Trail, the USS Constitution is a fixture on most city tours, be they by air-conditioned vehicle, foot, trolley car, or bike. The ship is also a star attraction on almost all Boston Harbor cruises, so you can admire it from the water against the city skyline. Options include daytime cruises that stop to let you go on board, and drinks-and-dinner cruises that pass the ship during the daily sunset firing of its cannons—a famous Boston ritual.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The USS Constitution is a must-visit for history, maritime, and military buffs.
- A passport or other photo ID is required to board the ship.
- Be ready to climb down steep ladders if you want to explore below the top deck.
- While the ship is not wheelchair-accessible, the nearby museum is.
How to Get There
Charlestown Navy Yard is in the Boston National Historical Park in Boston Harbor. By car from downtown, take the Charlestown Bridge and turn right onto Chelsea Street. Alternatively, ride the subway to North Station or one of the regular shuttle boats from Long Wharf to the yard.
When to Get There
The USS Constitution is open 10am–4pm Wednesday to Sunday. The ship gets busy in summer and on weekends, so arrive early to beat the sometimes long lines. The ship’s twice-daily cannon salute takes place at around 8am and sunset.
Must-Sees on the USS Constitution
Once aboard the USS Constitution, make sure you see all the highlights. Visit the gun deck to see the rows of original cannons, and check out the original sleeping quarters—complete with hammocks—for a glimpse of the cramped conditions endured by the crews at sea.