Founded in 1630 by Puritans hailing from England, Boston, Massachusetts is a great city to tour on foot. Situated smack at the mouth of the Charles River, the city is filled with history (including the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773, an event that foreshadowed the American Revolution), character and free things and stuff to do.
Get your feet wet – figuratively – by taking a trek along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile urban path through Boston that introduces visitors to 16 historically significant sites within the city. The Trail is marked by a red brick or red painted line, and sites along it include Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House (free tours weekdays), the Benjamin Franklin statue, the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere House, Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution. While at the Bunker Hill Monument, take some time to check out the stuff at the Bunker Hill Museum; it too is a free things to do!
The USS Constitution also offers free tours. Known as “Old Ironsides” by some, this warship, built in the city in 1797, saw its most famous action during the War of 1812. The ship is complemented by the USS Constitution Museum, which operates on a donation basis. The USS Constitution is docked at the Charleston Navy Yard, where you will also find the USS Cassin Young, whose main decks can be toured for free, weather permitting. Thirty acres of the original Navy Yard now form part of the Boston National Historical Park. Park rangers offer free, 60-minute guided tours of the Freedom Trail. If you would prefer a guided tour to a self-guided one, begin your journey at the Boston National Historical Park Visitor Center on the first floor of Faneuil Hall, another stop on the Freedom Trail.
If you’d like to take your touring indoors, Boston’s a great place to be. The central branch of the Boston Public Library isn’t just for students and bookworms. It’s a haven for art and architecture as well as books. Ensure you don’t miss a thing. Free public tours are available, or you can take a self-guided tour. Be sure also to investigate the special exhibitions while you’re there.
On Wednesday evenings, the Museum of Fine Arts offers free entrance after 4 pm, although donations are encouraged. On Thursday evening, get inspired by heading to the Institute of Contemporary Art after 5 P.M. to experience all the stuff in the collection for free. Enjoy some more free art simply by heading for Newbury Street, which boasts more than a dozen commercial galleries. If you prefer to star gaze than art gaze, then check out the Coit Observatory at Boston University, which offers free public open nights of about an hour most Wednesday evenings – weather permitting! Another cultural venue to spark your interest is the Boston Fire Museum, which explores the history of fire fighting. It’s a free thing to do, but donations are always welcome.
For more history, take a jaunt to neighboring Cambridge to visit the three Harvard Art Museums that offer free entrance between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturdays: Fogg Museum, Arthur Sackler Museum, and Busch-Reisinger Museum. Also located in Cambridge is the MIT Museum, which offers free admission between 5 and 8 pm the second Friday of each month. For a different historical experience, head over to Castle Island in South Boston where you’ll find Fort Independence. Built between 1834 and 1851, it was the eighth one constructed on the island to address Boston’s coastal defense. Open during the summer, visitors can take advantage of a free guided tour or explore on their own.
Looking for more free things to do that combine fresh air and exercise? Boston’s natural gems include the Emerald Necklace, a series of six historic parks that encircle six miles of the city’s western neighborhoods. As a group, these parks encompass stuff nature lovers will appreciate–green spaces, rivers, ponds, wildlife habitats, trails, and gardens. In this city, you won’t want to miss visiting the beautifully landscaped Public Gardens. Established in 1837, these gardens offer trees, flowers and sculptures for the pleasure of visitors. Take a self-guided Monument Walking Tour when you visit to ensure you don’t miss any of the sculptures, such as the delightful Harborwalk, a walkway along Boston’s ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ waterfront, is also highly worthy of exploration through a self-guided tour.
During the summer months, rest your feet and take advantage of the free concerts performed by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Many of the orchestra’s concerts are held at the DCR Hatch Shell on Boston Esplanade on Wednesday evenings, but additional performances are offered other evenings at different historic locations around the city. The Hatch Shell is also home to other free entertainments, so check out the website to see what’s on while you’re in town. On Thursday summer evenings, you can enjoy the Copley Square Concert Series, a string of free concerts beginning at 5:30 p.m. that run from mid-July to mid-August.
Boston is a great city to find a Farmers’ Market any day of the week, but while you’re there definitely seek out the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Open every day of the week, it’s a must free-thing-to-do as it’s home to stuff such as street performances as well as food, beverages and crafts. And don’t miss the SoWa Open Market. Open every Sunday from early May until late October, this market offers up a feast of both farmers’ and artisans’ delights.
If you have a thirst for a little history served up with your ‘trip to the market’, point your walking shoes for the Samuel Adams Brewery, where you can learn about brewer and patriot Samuel Adams, get a birds-eye-view of the whole brewing experience, and even have a sample – but only if you’re of legal drinking age in the eyes of the State of Massachusetts — that is, 21 or older!
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.
One great way to save on local fun things to do in Boston is to peruse Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities. Visit the Boston “Things to Do” Groupon page or Boston “Food & Drink” Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on attractions, tours, boat cruises, theatre tickets, dinner spots and accommodations. The Groupon Boston pages are a smart place to start when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Boston visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.