Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most-visited cities in America, and people from around the world flock here during the summer months.
Chances are Boston is on your list to see and, as you know, big cities can be hard on the wallet. Boston has a lot to do, meals get expensive, and hotels aren’t cheap. But I grew up in this city, and though it is no longer my home, I know it like the back of my hand. There’s a lot to do in Boston and a lot of it is free.
Here are ten activities you can do for free in Boston that will give you the local experience:
Walk the Freedom Trail
Covering 16 historical sites and stretching 2.5 miles, this red-bricked trail will teach you all you need to know about the history of Boston. All sites along the way are free, and you can even download an audio podcast to accompany your walk. Or you can go on an organized tour led by one of Boston’s many historic characters.
Eat in Faneuil Hall
Everyone should eat in Quincy Market at least once. Grab your meal from one of the many restaurants in the colonnade, head outside to watch the people go by, and enjoy a street performer’s show. I love spending an afternoon here people-watching. There are also quite a few nice restaurants here if table service is more your style.
Lay Out in the Commons
On a nice summer day, Boston Common is filled with locals looking to enjoy the nice weather. Lay out, read a book, play some sports, or just relax. Wander around to the Public Gardens, or sit by Frog Pond. It’s a great way to enjoy the city without spending a dime.
Catch a Concert at the Hatch Shell
Boston’s Charles River Parkway provides the backdrop for free summer concerts. Relax by the Charles River as artists play shows at the Hatch Shell. It’s here you can see the famous Boston Pops play on July 4th. When the show’s over, rent a sail boat and cruise around the river, or just sit around and catch some sun! Sometimes the Hatch Shell even plays movies at night.
Head to Castle Island
Castle Island is located in South Boston, and is famous for the fort located on it. The island extends into the harbor and has excellent beaches as well as running trails that are popular with the locals. There is a picnic area here, and you can explore the old fort for free. The place gets pretty busy on the weekends during the summer, and you can often see school groups exploring the fort during the spring.
Take a Tour of Harvard
Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest university in America. Head to its home in Cambridge (Harvard Square Red Line train stop) and join a free tour. Learn about the university’s history, architecture, programs and myths. When you’re finished, wander around the eclectic offerings of Harvard Square. There are a lot of good street musicians here. (Tracy Chapman, for example, got her start here.)
Hang Out With the Kids
OK, so this one is not free. After all that sightseeing, you’ve probably worked up a thirst. Head over to the bars in Allston and Brighton to drink with the post-college crowd. The area is filled with young professionals and offers some of the cheapest beers in town. Places such as Wonderbar, The White Horse, The Kells, The Draft, and Joshua Tree are always packed.
Free Beer Tours
Sam Adams Brewery offers free tours of its brewery. Sam Adams is a major brewer in Boston, and is drunk widely and frequently by the locals. Tours occur mid-afternoon and depart every 45 minutes. You get a few free samples along the way, too. If you are not over 21, don’t worry – you can still go, but you just can’t drink.
Visit the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain
Over 260 acres of free public space is open here from sunrise to sunset. There are running trails, gardens, open lawns, and tons of flowers from all over the world. Relax among the plants and take a step back from the fast pace of the city. This place is much quieter than the Public Gardens, and offers a bit more variety in plant life. They also have a great Bonsai tree collection.
Boston may be an expensive city, but there are a lot of things to do in Boston for free!
For more information on the United States, visit my country and city guide to US travel.