Free Things to Do around Boston: Save Money and See It All
By Jessica Polizzotti
Boston Local Expert
Boston is a bustling city with lots to do, but not every attraction requires big spending, many of the city's best attractions are free. Make your time in Boston a bit less expensive by using 10best's list of free Attractions as your guide.
Art enthusiasts are in luck because the Boston Public Library, located in Copley Square offers more than just great reads, but art and architecture that is well worth exploring. While enjoying the outdoors take in the ever changing exhibits on the HarborWalk. Many museums offers special free admission days and times as well, and summertime fun is enhanced by a rotating list of free Fridays around the city.
For those looking to enjoy nature without straying far from the city the Blue Hills Reservation is for you, here you can park then hike or bike the scenic trails of Blue Hills free of charge. If you'd prefer a city view over that of trees, stroll along the banks of the Charles along the Esplanade where you can watch sailboats float past and enjoy an amazing view of the Cambridge skyline; the Memorial Drive side of this dividing river hosts free outdoor recreation May- November with a portion of the road closed for safe use by bikers, blades and walker.
10 Blue Hills Reservation
Minutes outside of downtown Boston, is the Blue Hills Reservation. Here nature enthusiasts can hike, bike, ski, swim, and even enjoy a zoo experience at the Trailside Museum. Spanning over 7,000 acres along Boston's closest suburbs, this is a true green oasis for city dwellers. Plan to spend a day exploring this area because you'll want to wander for hours. Kids get a kick out of the animals at the museum and winter skiing is offered for those who want to take a few runs without going far from the city. Great Blue Hill peaks at 635 feet, the highest of the 22 hills in the Blue Hills chain. This summit provides visitors with a view of the entire metropolitan area. ((617) 698-1802)
9 Boston Esplanade
Famous for being the site of Boston's annual Fourth of July gala, the Esplanade runs along the banks of the Charles River. Here you'll find a delightful landscape that skirts the shoreline consisting of a paved pathway for exercising, manicured lawns, gardens, and children's playgrounds. Boston's impressive skyline provides a backdrop on one side, while the stunning Cambridge skyline allows for city view across the River. Joggers, walkers, and cyclists flock to the park to enjoy a little outdoor activity. Free concerts and a wide range of public festivals are all the rage in the summer months. you'll always find families enjoying the outdoors with a picnic or playtime at the Esplanade.
8 Hatch Shell
The Hatch Shell is known as Boston's epicenter for outdoor performances and events. the design pertinent to carrying the lovely sounds that come from its stage direct to the ears of those in the audience. The Hatch Shell hosts a variety of musicians each season. Enjoy various musical genres including classical, local and international, oldies, blues, jazz, and rock and roll starting each spring and finishing each fall. Most noteworthy is the Fourth of July Spectacular where the Boston Pops, led my Keith Lockhart, take tot he stage to woo fans who make claim to their spots well in advance of the show for prime viewing of what's on the stage as well as of the fireworks exploding over the Charles River. The Hatch hosts many other events that invite visitors to show up with their family, a picnic and a blanket to enjoy. ((617) 626-1250)
The HarborWalk winds through the city's waterfront, passing through many neighborhoods along the way. Stretching from Chelsea Creek to the Neponset River, the HarborWalk makes its way through East Boston, Charlestown, North End, Downtown, South Boston and Dorchester. The varied beauty of the HarborWalk is a direct reflection of each community it connects. The HarborWalk allows for a vast selection of activities that are both active and passive in nature. Connecting the public to a spruced up Boston Harbor it links the water's edge to the city creating open space to be enjoyed. Communities embrace the HarborWalk and work to ensure it stays a beautiful aspect of its landscape. Lining the pathways are many restaurants and bars (especially on the South Boston side like in the Seaport and Fort point area), and displays of public art. (617-482-1722)
6 Bunker Hill Monument
Charlestown is rich in US history. The Bunker Hill Monument is a free stop for visitors seeking to commemorate our past. This 221-foot granite obelisk remembers the Battle of Bunker Hill. Rangers provide details about the history of the crucial battle, and seasonal musket-firings add a note of authenticity. Make the 294-step climb to the top of the monument for breathtaking views of Boston. Two little-known facts: the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill, and the Bunker Hill Monument is actually located atop Breed's Hill. The true Bunker Hill is actually a quarter-mile from the monument. (617-242-5601)
5 USS Constitution
Climb aboard Old Ironsides and see why this ship was able to live through its time at war. Constructed in the North End using bolts, spikes and other fittings from Paul Revere's foundry, "Old Ironsides" is steeped with Boston history. One of the US Navy's six original frigates, the USS Constitution did not lose any of the 40 battles in which it participated. Currently the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat, this impressive craft is open for free guided tours, which are narrated by the USS Constitution's active-duty sailors themselves.Turning annually, on the fourth of July, Old Ironsides remains a marvel on Boston Harbor. (617-242-7511)
4 Sam Adams Brewery
Sam Adams brewery in Boston may be a big name in beer these days, but the company has humble roots tracing back to where there brewer began. In homage to its start, the Sam Adams Brewery offers free tours to the public so you can see first hand what's brewing within. Limited tour times tend to fill, especially on weekends when parking near by can be hard to come by, and with tickets given on a first come first served basis, an early arrival is a good idea. After your free tour, take a sip of what's on tap in the tasting room, and a gander at what's on sale at the on-site gift shop. Although the tour is free, a suggested tour donation of $2.00 is encouraged with proceeds going to a local charity. ((617) 368-5080)
WalkBoston hosts many interesting walking tours throughout the city of Boston, all on foot. Spanning more than twenty years, these almost all free walking tours are led by knowledgeable professionals year-round. Routes are quite different than the typical Boston tour allowing for in depth exploration of very particular themes or locations, Tours can take you to the islands, city streets and even the suburbs. Of note is the Boston Little Lanes tour that gives you a look at some of Boston's secret passageways to help you learn to navigate the city better than most locals. Check their website for a listing of tours and where to meet and register for the one that appeals to you. (617.367.9255)
2 Boston Public Library
The first public library in the United States, this Boston institution not only houses a wide variety of literary works (over 6 million), but also displays the creations of visual artists. Many works remain permanently in the library while others are part of a constantly changing exhibit of sculpture and paintings. The books may draw you through their doors, but the beauty of the building itself will have you exploring for hours. When you're done, enjoy lunch in their restaurant or flip through your latest find in the cafe. In nice weather, go enjoy the peace and serenity of the newly restored courtyard. Rare books and manuscripts are also available at this awe inspiring facility. (617-536-5400)
1 Boston's Freedom Trail
The best way to see Boston. Starting at the Boston Common, but easily picked up at any point along the way, the Freedom Trail offers historical insight into the city and its surroundings. Easy to "hop on and off", the Freedom Trail weaves throughout the city and highlights some of Boston's most special places. Enjoy all or part of this "map" clearly marked by a well defined red line that meanders throughout the city's neighborhoods. Guided tours are available for a fee, but the best way to explore is on your own because you can create the tour that fits your pace. (617-357-8300)
About Jessica Polizzotti
Born and raised in Boston, Jessica knows her city like the back of her hand. Always looking to uncover something new, Jessica keeps up on the latest and greatest Boston offerings. Although Jessica has been a world traveler since her teens, her favorite trip may always be her Italian honeymoon. Living in a city that allows her to experience a change in seasons equals an opportunity to enjoy a shift in activities. As the old New England cliché says, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.”
Read more about Jessica Polizzotti here.