Bring the Family

At Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, inciting rebellion with history

Stephanie Ebbert /GLOBE STAFF

WHO: Globe staffer Stephanie Ebbert and her children, Anna, 9, and Nick, 6

WHAT: Learning about the Boston Tea Party

WHERE: Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, Congress Street Bridge, Boston


Rarely does a mother find herself urging her kids to be more rebellious. Yet there I was, prodding my independent little ones to protest.

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We were visiting the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, where renegade spirits are high. A fun twist on musty old historical museums, the new-and-improved Tea Party Museum invites visitors to be part of the reenactment — from a town meeting to the ceremonial dumping of the tea.

Our first stop was the East Meeting House, where we were asked to vent our frustration over unfair taxation. High-energy actors in period clothing weren’t just retelling the tale; they were recruiting us for the rebellion. My 9-year-old may not have understood the importance of tea but she’s quite skilled at discerning “fair” from “unfair.” She got the gist. I, too, enjoyed the chance to participate in a raucous political rally, having spent election season as a silent reporter on the objective sidelines. Here, I could fall in with the patriotic masses, shouting words like “Fie!” And “Huzzah!” What jingoistic joy there is in that! My hissing, booing, and stomping volume exceeded that of my children.

The exercise brought sedate history to life — for the kids, and for me, as well. Sitting there, considering whether to join in protest and mulling the consequences, I was struck again by how much bravery, glee, and danger an actual revolution would summon.

There was limited glee in the theatrical dumping of the tea, though. Tossing tethered boxes onto the surface of the harbor hardly felt rebellious or realistic. Ironically, there was more authenticity inside the museum where 3-D holographic images were so impressive that I struggled, for an embarrassing duration, to figure out whether the women talking were real. My children loved the talking paintings — yes, paintings that talk! — though Samuel Adams didn’t know when to quit. It was at that point of the tour that my 6-year-old stretched out on the floor and started begging for Tic-Tacs.


The last stop was a film depicting the midnight ride of Paul Revere and the shot heard round the world, which was really, really loud. I worried my kids would be scared by the movie — at least by the actor with the head wound — but they did fine, and I was glad the movie didn’t gloss over the horror of war. This is history, not Disneyland.

After the tour, guests were invited to explore one of the ships on their own. We took a lunch break first, and when we returned, found ourselves the only visitors left. An actor who had all the detailed insight and earnestness of a revolutionary reenactor gave us a private tour. The kids loved exploring the ship more freely, without the crowd.

My only complaint was the cost, which made me want to stage another rebellion. Admission is $15 for kids, $25 for adults. That’s history at $55 an hour.

True, the actors were worth their weight in tea and the long-postponed restoration of the museum is impressive. But the price put the museum in a category for special occasions rather than impulse outings.

To that, I say, “Huzzah!”

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @stephanieebbert.