The second president of the United States always got short shrift—not as acclaimed as Washington (#1) or as controversial as Jefferson (#3). That all changed a few years ago when David McCullough published his blockbuster biography John Adams, and showed its title character to be a forthright scholar swept into greatness by the historic tides of war.
Even after the Revolution, Adams was able to stay above the sectarian wrangling of his time to put the interests of the country foremost. Much of his moral center can be attributed to his wife, Abigail Adams, who was a brilliant thinker and early feminist in her own right.
The family headquarters was in a palatial home called the “Old House,” at 135 Adams Street, which was home to four generations of the Adams family. Two-hour guided trolley tours take visitors literally from cradle to grave, starting at the birthplaces of Adams and his son, proceeding to the Old House, and ending at the church where the two are buried along with their wives.
Trolleys leave from the Adams National Historic Site Visitors Center (1250 Hancock Street, Quincy, 617/770-1175, www.nps.gov/adam , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily mid-Apr.–mid-Nov., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Fri. mid-Nov.–mid-Apr., $5 adults, free children under 17, $10 family pass). Alternately, you can walk to the Old House from Quincy Center and tour the home and the grounds, which still include some of Adams’ beloved apple trees.