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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Take a hike up one of the many trails that lead you to the top of Blue Hills where breathtaking views of Boston await.
Jessica's expert tip: Enjoy the Blue hills year-round; not just for hiking or swimming, this reservation offers winter skiing as well.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Stunningly beautiful, the Esplanade is popular among runners and cyclists and serves as a nice spot to play.
Jessica's expert tip: Pack a picnic and plop down along the shores of the Charles and simply enjoy the landscape.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A seasonal location, the Hatch Shell offers many free art performances that include movies and music.
Jessica's expert tip: The Hatch Shell hosts many outdoor events each year and draws huge crowds, making early arrival a must.
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).
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Skirting the edge of Boston Harbor, Harborwalk offers some of the most spectacular views of the city and the water.
Jessica's expert tip: Be sure to explore the Harborwalk through Fort Point and the Seaport District, as the beauty along the water's edge is magnificent.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Without opening your wallet, you are welcome to climb the 294 steps to the top of the monument and view the Boston skyline.
Jessica's expert tip: The monument sits in Charlestown, a cool neighborhood to explore. Stop into Warren Tavern for lunch and get a little more history. Many of our Founding Fathers are said to have stopped in for a pint or a meal.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Board the USS Constitution at no charge and enjoy learning about its role in history during the complimentary guided tour.
Jessica's expert tip: The Constitution turns each year on the Fourth of July.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Sam Adams Brewery was an early craft brewery that offers free tours that beer enthusiasts will flip for.
Jessica's expert tip: Weekends can find this brewery with many visitors; arrive early to secure parking and a spot on the next tour.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: With so many mapped walking tours around Boston, you'll learn information that differs from that found elsewhere.
Jessica's expert tip: Be sure to save the maps offline so that you don't need a cellular connection to follow them.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Free tours of the stunning art and elaborate architecture at the Boston Public Library are offered at varying times throughout the week.
Jessica's expert tip: A visit to the library is free and has as much to offer as most art museums; pop in for a bit while in Boston's Back Bay.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Freedom Trail lets you enjoy Boston's historical landmarks free of charge, and each stop along the way is well marked.
Jessica's expert tip: Put on your walking shoes; this tour will have you all over the city.