Free Things to Do around Boston: Save Money and See It All

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. 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.

You can even get a sense of Boston's Colonial connections without shelling out for a tour. Explore the Freedom Trail, climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument or board the USS Constitution.


Blue Hills Reservation
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Minutes outside of downtown Boston is the Blue Hills Reservation. Here nature enthusiasts can hike, bike, ski and swim. 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. 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.

The Esplanade
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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 a different city view across the River. Joggers, walkers and cyclists flock to the park to enjoy a little outdoor activity, and free concerts and a wide range of public festivals are all the rage in the summer months.

Hatch Shell
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The Hatch Shell is known as Boston's epicenter for outdoor performances and events. The eye-catching design is pertinent to carrying the lovely sounds that come from its stage direct to the ears of those in the audience. Hosting a variety of musicians each season, guests 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 perform. Fans arrive well in advance of this special show for prime viewing of what's on the stage, as well as the fireworks exploding over the Charles River. The Hatch hosts many other events that invite visitors to show up with their family, a blanket and a picnic to enjoy.

Photo courtesy of iStock / KenWiedemann

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. It allows for a vast selection of things to do that are both active and passive in nature. Lining the pathways are displays of public art, as well as many restaurants and bars (especially on the South Boston side in the Seaport and Fort point area).

Bunker Hill Monument
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Charlestown is rich in US history and 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 located atop Breed's Hill. The true Bunker Hill is a quarter of a mile from the monument.

USS Constitution
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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.

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 their brewer began. In homage to its start, the Sam Adams Brewery offers free tours to the public so you can see firsthand what's brewing within. Limited tour times tend to fill up fast, especially on weekends when parking nearby can be hard to find. And with tickets given on a first come, first serve 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.

Photo courtesy of iStock / FilippoBacci

WalkBoston has created many interesting walking tours throughout the city of Boston. Sorted into different neighborhood maps on their website, routes are quite different than the typical Boston tour. Tours can take you to the islands, city streets and even the suburbs. Check their website for a list of maps you can follow to create your own self-guided walking tour.

Boston Public Library
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This Boston institution not only houses a wide variety of literary works, 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 courtyard. Rare books and manuscripts are also available at this awe-inspiring facility.

Boston's Freedom Trail
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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.


Meet 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. 

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