AD | Affiliate Links
The city of Boston has much to offer, even if you’re on a budget. Bargain hunters can find free tickets and museum admissions, special events, and tours in this historic American city. According to the City of Boston Area Website, over 12 million tourists from around the world visit the city each year.
From Fenway Park, and books at the Boston Public Library to beer to battleships, Boston’s free things and activities are plentiful enough to keep you busy without emptying your wallet.
- Things to do in Boston for free or very cheaply
- Boston Harbor Islands National Park
- Harvard Book Store
- Samuel Adams Brewery
- The Boston Common
- Freedom Trail
- U.S.S. Constitution Museum
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Harvard Museum of Natural History
- The Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade
- Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market
- Take in Harvard Square
- Learn About JFK's Childhood
- Ice-Skating at Frog Pond
- Castle Island
- Skyline Trail at Fells Reservation
Things to do in Boston for free or very cheaply
Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the United States, but the best things to do in Boston are free. I love to take in the city’s history, architecture, and cultural life without spending anything. My top things to do in Boston are free to do and some Boston activities are short on cost and heavy on experience.
Boston Harbor Islands National Park
Boston Harbor Islands Alliance offers free events in Boston Harbor Islands National Park from June until October. Events are family-oriented and include theater performances, sporting events, art workshops, live music, and tours. If you like the outdoors, the 34 islands offer hiking, beaches, kayaking, and camping adventures.
There is no better place to experience all four seasons of Boston than the Boston Public Garden. Many people like to come here in the summer to look at the swans and swan boats. While Boston Public Garden is gorgeous in the summer, I like it best in the fall when all of the leaves are changing. No matter what time of year you visit, the Boston Public Garden is the ideal spot for a picnic, taking photographs, or simply enjoying an oasis in the middle of a bustling city.
Harvard Book Store
If you enjoy reading, stop by the Harvard Book Store. An attraction in its own right, you can spend a few hours just browsing the shelves, but bibliophiles won’t want to miss the store’s full calendar of literary events. 2010 events included readings by Colson Whitehead, Allegra Goodman, and Christopher Hitchens. Most author readings are free.
Samuel Adams Brewery
Samuel Adams Brewery offers brewery tours. Tours last about an hour and depart every 30 to 45 minutes, starting at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Tours include beer tastings, so make sure you’ve got identification to prove that you’re over 21. However, although tours are free, a $2 suggested donation is in order.
The Boston Common
Wander around 50 acres of the country’s oldest park. You may stumble upon a Free Shakespeare or Boston Lyric Opera performance. Children will enjoy wading in the frog pond during the summer and visiting the statues of the beloved Mallard family from the classic book “Make Way for Ducklings”. The Boston Common is also the first stop on the Freedom Trail, the next attraction on this list.
Catch a glimpse of Boston’s Revolutionary War past through a walk on the Freedom Trail. The trail leads you past 16 historic sites, including museums, churches, and parks, all with signage that tells their story. The trail is easy to follow; the 2.5-mile trail is clearly marked with red bricks. You can start anywhere along the trail, but the Boston Common Visitor Information Center is a great place to begin.
U.S.S. Constitution Museum
Take a free tour of Old Ironsides, the world’s oldest commissioned warship, and learn about her history at the U.S.S. Constitution Museum. Tours of the ship run every half-hour, starting at 10:30 a.m. Tours are led by active-duty U.S. sailors. Admission to the museum is free, although donations are suggested.
Museum of Fine Arts
Every Wednesday night from 4 pm to 9:45 pm visitors to the MFA can receive free admission. Make sure to see the Monet collection which is second only to that of France. While you are there you may also want to say hi to the museum’s resident mummy in the Egyptian collection and view some of the other exquisite works of art that can be found on display.
Harvard Museum of Natural History
Every Sunday morning from 9 a.m. until noon, the Harvard Museum of Natural History offers free admission to Massachusetts residents. Make sure to bring identification that proves your residency. Free admission is also available Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. from September through May.
The Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade
When not hosting Boston’s Fourth of July Celebration, this outdoor stage features many free concerts by popular artists throughout the summer. Check the official website for listings. The field in front of the shell is the only seating provided so be sure to bring a blanket or a folding chair.
Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market
Tours of Faneuil Hall, established as a meeting house in 1742, are available on select days for the history buff. In this Boston public market you can see where such historical figures as Samuel Adams spoke in favor of separating from Great Britain. Just a step away is Quincy Marketplace where you can see street performers from all over the country. Clowns, dancers, musicians and acrobats are a few types of acts you may encounter here.
Take in Harvard Square
Harvard Square is the center of student activity, close to Harvard, MIT, and Tufts. Visit at night to enjoy the various free street performances, or go to a free lecture at the Harvard Bookstore (not affiliated with Harvard University). I recommend going on a free student-led tour of Harvard University. Just walking along the side streets of Harvard Square can be an adventure. You never know when you’ll see an interesting old shop or even a few historical sites.
Learn About JFK’s Childhood
The JFK National Historical Site is right next to downtown Boston in Brookline, and unlike the JFK Presidential Library, it’s completely free. I was surprised by how fascinating John F. Kennedy’s childhood home was. It still amazes me that JFK was born in this house on a quiet residential street, and now it’s open for the public to view. Touring the JFK National Historical Site is a great way to spend a few hours doing something completely free, and the grounds of the home are very peaceful.
Ice-Skating at Frog Pond
Winters offer a chance to skate in America’s oldest public park. In the heart of Boston Common, a short walk away is the Frog Pond is transformed into an ice rink from November through March. Open daily, you can either bring your own skates or rent a pair there. This rink provides lockers and a snack bar. There are separate rates for entrance and skate rentals, as well as for adults and children.
This island that is home to the landmark Fort Independence is just off South Boston. Causeways connect it to the mainland. The fort dates back to 1851 and is the main feature of the 22-acre park. Carson Beach is located here and offers 3 miles of parkland and beach. The fort is also open during the summer and open to free tours. This island is one of the best places for runners and bikers.
Skyline Trail at Fells Reservation
This reservation in Medford offers great hiking near the city for free. At nearly 7 miles in length is the perfect place for a nearly all-day activity. Resembling the woods and wilderness of New Hampshire, it is less than 30 minutes from downtown Boston. The Fells also has trails open to mountain bikers. Visitors can observe spectacular views of Boston and the area from the Skyline Trail. This trail is a highly wooded landscape with a few steep ascents.
Boston, Massachusetts, is a world-class city that provides a range of activities throughout the year. For those wanting to enjoy an active day without spending a lot, there are a number of cheap things and options available. These fun things to do in Boston highlight the beauty and history of Boston by exposing the coastal location, skyline, and natural landscape.