Boston, Massachusetts, is a small walkable city that is big on fun things to do, many of them free. Students flock to the city for its wealth of colleges, and families can take advantage of the cultural attractions for all ages, while planting the seed early that this is a cool place to study later on. If you love sports, the arts, seafood and Italian food you will love Boston.
Fun Free Things to Do in Boston
The largest city in New England, Boston is considered the economic and cultural center of the region, with plenty of free things to do during an affordable family vacation. Founded by Puritan colonists from England in 1630, it is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Boston was the site of several landmark events during the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
Boston was home to America’s first public school, first college and first subway system. Its historic landmarks and cultural offerings – including many of those listed below – attract 16.3 million visitors each year, despite summers that are hot and humid and winters that are cold, windy, and snowy. Dress accordingly and hit the town!
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Fun Things to Do in Boston – for Free!
1. Tour a Ship. The USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship afloat in the U.S., and the USS Constitution Museum are free. The Museum brings to life the stories of the individuals who authorized, built, served on and preserved the USS Constitution.
2. Free Fun Fridays. Every Friday, from the end of June through the end of August, a changing selection of venues in Boston (and surrounding areas) is free, just for one night. Among the institutions scheduled for 2016: the Boston Children’s Museum and The Sports Museum are free July 1, the Kennedy Institute, Boston Anthenaeum and Larz Anderson Museum are free July 15 and the Institute of Contemporary Art and USS Constitution Museum are free August 19.
3. Walk Through History. Guide yourself along the Freedom Trail with a map, or join a free guided walking tour offered by the National Park Service Rangers beginning at 15 State Street Visitor Center.
4. Learn Black History. Boston’s Black Heritage Trail celebrates the history of Boston’s Black community between 1800 and 1900 on Beacon Hill. The museum also is free.
5. Visit an Island. Tours of the Boston Harbor Islands, a national park, are free. Take a guided tour of the fort (including ancient prison cells) or have a family picnic (outdoor barbecues are available).
6. Listen to Music. The Thursday Concerts in Copley Square begin in July and continue every Thursday through mid-August.
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7. Visit a Museum. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is free for ages 17 and under, and free for everyone on Wednesdays from 4-9:45 p.m. The Harvard University Art Museum is free for those 17 and under and free for everyone on Saturday mornings. The Institute of Contemporary Art is free Thursday evenings from 5-9 pm.
8. Go to the Library. Tour the Boston Public Library, the first public library in the United States by appointment, Monday-Saturday.
9. Get to Know the Government. Take a guided tour of the Massachusetts State House and learn the history of the building, and how the legislative process works. Visitors are allowed to walk onto the chamber floors, and watch a legislative meeting.
10. Watch the Bombs Bursting in Air. Boston’s Annual Fourth of July on the Esplanade features the Boston Pops at 8 pm and fireworks over the Charles River at 10 pm.
11. Tour a University. Harvard walking tours begin at the Harvard University Events and Information Center from June 24 – August 15. Tours are Monday-Saturday at 10 and 11 am, 2:15 and 3:15 pm. Tours of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Campus (MIT) begin at the Information Center at 10 am and 2 pm on weekdays. And there are dozens of other colleges around the city where you can take a tour and learn some local history.
12. See the Stars. The Coit Observatory at Boston University offers free stargazing Wednesdays after 8:30 pm throughout the spring and summer, depending on clear skies.
13. Climb Some Stairs. The Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown is a 294-step climb, but the reward is an unparalleled view of the Boston skyline.
14. Hug a Tree. The Arnold Arboretum is America’s first arboretum. The 265-acre arboretum park is operated by Harvard University and located in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
15. Visit a Cemetery. The Mount Auburn Cemetery is America’s first garden cemetery, located on the border of Cambridge and Watertown. The cemetery features classical monuments such as the Sphinx Civil War monument.
16. Go to Church. The steeple of the Old North Church is where the two lanterns were hung that signaled Paul Revere to take his famous ride.