Boston is the proud capital of Massachusetts and a powerful city found in the northeastern United States. Its location by the Atlantic Ocean in the Massachusetts Bay allowed for it to quickly become a city of trade and tourism, as well as offer some beautiful scenery. Over time, Boston has grown to be a popular location for festivals, shopping and baked beans, giving it the nickname of "Beantown".
If you are visiting Boston you will find so many things to do like eating out at restaurants, visiting museums and galleries, shopping or visiting a local greenspace. Some of these attractions can be expensive, which is why we have prepared this guide of free activities to do in Boston for all of you budget travelers. Before you take off on a self-guided tour of the city or walk along the freedom trail, stow away your baggage at a luggage storage locker in Boston.
Go to the Museum of Fine Arts
This establishment has an impressive collection of 45,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and other pieces of fine art to observe. Some of the exhibits include displays of photography, contemporary art, and musical instruments from the Americas, Ancient Greece and Rome, Africa and Oceania, or other places.
You would usually have to pay to get into the museum, but if you go at the right time you can get free tickets. Kids aged 17 and younger can visit at no cost every weekday after 3 pm, on school holidays or during weekends. On most Wednesdays, after 4 pm there are free passes available for everyone, as well as certain days throughout the year.
Shop Around the Boston Public Market
This Boston Public Market is a lively area that hosts regular free events and live performances. The area also has some great restaurants and shops to explore in the marketplace, and fun seasonal events with free entry for everyone to enjoy. If you visit on a Saturday anytime in May to December you can participate in the free tour that teaches you about all of the historic sites found nearby.
The local shops have everything from modern fashion boutiques to antique stores. Of course, you will have to pay for anything that you want to buy or eat in the area but you can browse the shops and cafes free of charge.
Walk the Freedom Trail
One of the best free things to do in Boston is to take a walk along the Freedom Trail. Throughout the 2.5 miles long route, you will come across a total of 16 historic city sights, many of which are free to explore too. The Massachusetts State House offers free tours on weekdays, the Copp's Hill Burying Ground can be visited for no charge and the USS Constitution offers free guided boat tours every half hour and only asks for a suggested donation.
Other places that are worth stopping by include the Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, Site of the Boston Massacre, Old Corner Bookstore and the Bunker Hill Monument. These places can all be visited without paying, and if you continue along the trail you will find even more things to see and do, making the Freedom Trail a great place to start your journey in Boston.
Explore the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden
Head to the busy South Station on your way to Boston Common. The Common and Public Garden are great free Boston attractions that have a historical significance as well. The Common is the oldest park in all of America, and the gardens situated nearby are the first public botanical gardens in the country. Since they are found so close together you could easily make a full day trip out of the area, and the best part is that you don't have to pay to get in.
These areas also host free performances and events, like the Shakespeare on the Common where you can watch talented performers act out some of the most famous plays. You can receive free admission to both areas, so make sure to take the time to check them out.
Visit Boston's Commonwealth Museum
At the Commonwealth Museum, you can learn about the local heritage and history of Boston, Massachusetts. They have a permanent exhibit as well as a treasure gallery and upstairs gallery, all of which explore a different time period of the city.
You can enter the museum for free or take a look at their online tours and narrated virtual tours. The venue hosts regular in-person events and traveling exhibits, so you never know what fun activity or interesting displays might be there when you visit.
See the Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library was an innovative institution of its time that brought many new ideas to America's public library services. It was the first municipal library of its size, the first one with a children's room and the first one that lent out books. Today an average of 4 million people use the services provided at the library and its 25 branches.
The establishment hosts free events and volunteer-guided tours showing local art and architecture. They only go on at specific times, so if you can't make it you could always explore the Central Library on your own.
Relax at Castle Island
Why not grab a budget-friendly brunch and then head for an outing in nature? At Castle Island, you will find a beautiful 22-acre nature park. This space is the perfect place for a nice walk, jog, or picnic with friends. It is dog-friendly and its location near the water allows for a calm and relaxing day in the sun.
In the park, you will find Fort Independence where you can catch a free midday walking tour, or just explore the area at your own pace. Swimming is also available on the beaches surrounding the area and everyone will enjoy the nice views on Pleasure Bay.
Attend the Institute of Contemporary Art
This art museum is found in South Boston near Castle Island and has exhibits showing a variety of contemporary art. The collections change regularly throughout the year, so take a look at the upcoming exhibits to see what will be displayed soon.
This is a great place to see the works of different talented artists and on site there is also an art lab, studio and several programs offered to kids and adults. Admission is free for youth at all times or the last Saturday of each month for families of two adults with children 12 and under. Other visitors can come here for free every Thursday from 5 pm to 9 pm.
Check Out the Boston Fire Museum
The Boston Fire Museum is found close to the Boston Children's Museum, so if you are traveling as a family add these two places to your events calendar. This museum has been located in an old firehouse since 1983 and is dedicated to preserving old fire equipment and teaching the public about fire safety and the history of firefighting.
At the museum, you can see a collection of fire alarms, equipment, displays and photographs. The museum offers free admission on Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm, although they accept donations. If you can't visit the museum in person you can listen to the self-guided audio tour from your own home or hotel room.
Enjoy the Beautiful Charles River Esplanade
A walk or hike is always a terrific free activity. At Charles River, you will find 20 miles of natural greenspace filled with playgrounds and public art. It is a great place for family fun, sports, recreational activities, or fitness and exercise. Don't be surprised to see public events going on or a running group going by while you walk the grounds.
If you can, try to catch one of the free live music concerts that happen every Wednesday or attend a free movie night that is put on every Friday during the summer.
Tour the Samuel Adams Brewery
The Samuel Adams Brewery is home to some unique craft beers with names like the Boston Lager, Wicked Hazy, Space Craft IPA, Old Fezziwig Ale and many more. Everyone is welcome to explore the Boston brewery free of charge, or you can pay extra for a guided tasting tour or the Bier Keller Experience where they pair their best beers with cheese.
They offer tours of the beer garden from Thursday to Sunday and while you are here you can try some free samples of the beer too. You have to be over 18 to participate, so it is better suited for older audiences.
Go on a Walking Tour at Harvard University
The students at Harvard University offer free walking tours for groups of up to 15 people. You will see the university grounds while getting a history lesson dating back 400 years, and your guide will give you detailed information about the people and places that have impacted the University. You can learn all about the school and the experiences of the students while getting some steps in and without paying a cent.
Aside from the in-person tour, you can also book online virtual tours about women's history or the history of Harvard. Tours are about an hour long and all need to be signed up for in advance.
Spend Time at Boston Harbor
Spend time by the beach, have a relaxing picnic or take a stroll on the Harborwalk at Boston Harbor. For the past few years, the city and several non-profit organizations have made a collective effort to improve the cleanliness and community around the harbor. It is now a fun place for people of all ages to gather and play, learn or explore.
There are often events and activities put on in the area, like Free Kite Fridays or self-guided scavenger hunts. Depending on the time of year you might find live music, movie nights, guided attractions or public fitness classes going on in the park.
See the Stars at the Boston University Observatory
Since back in 1967 the Boston University has been offering free Public Open Nights at their observatory. Anyone can come to see the stars using the on-site telescopes most Wednesday nights if it is weather permitting. The event starts at 7:30 pm in the fall and winter and at 8:30 pm during spring and summer.
Because spaces are limited guests are required to book tickets, although you don't have to pay to attend. Anyone can book up to 5 places at a time and spots open every Thursday morning for the following week.
Attend Activities at the Frog Pond
The Boston Common Frog Pond offers fun family-friendly activities suited to every season. In the summers you can enjoy movie nights, free yoga and a refreshing Spray Pool perfect for warm weather. There is also an on site carousel that you can ride on for a small fee.
During the wintertime, the pond is turned into a nice skating rink with optional skating lessons available too. However, you will have to pay to use the rink or rent equipment like skates or lockers. If you are planning to spend some time in the city and want to visit the rink several times, consider buying a season pass.
Save Money During Your Boston Visit
If you know where to look, you and your family can visit free attractions all over Boston. Take your time seeing the city on a free walking tour or get a free pass to some historical art exhibitions in downtown Boston. You can even get discount tickets to fun events or find some free concerts going on nearby.
Explore Boston's Beacon Hill, Fenway Park or other public greenspaces, or go to one of the museums that offer free admission. Whatever you choose to do when visiting the city, be sure to make the most of your vacation in the capital of Massachusetts.