Boston is considered one of the greatest cities in the nation and, to some, the world. With over 400 years of history as one of the original English settlements in Massachusetts, you can be sure there are tons of interesting things to learn, see, and do in “The Cradle of Liberty.” There are actually many activities that don’t cost a dime, like this list of fun free things to do in Boston.
Oh, and if you’re looking for what to do in Boston for free, be sure to check out this local events calendar to see what free Boston events might be happening during your visit!
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A Quick Boston Overview
Not surprisingly, Boston is the largest city in the state, and all of New England, with a metro population of 4,309,000. What makes the city even more bustling is the 23 million visitors it sees annually, both domestic and international. So, what makes this New England city so great? The better question here might be, “What isn’t great about this city?”
Boston offers something to please just about everyone, young or old. For starters, it goes without saying that it is full of history, including the Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, and the beginning of the American Revolution, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. There are many historical sites and museums around town, many of which are highlighted on our list below.
Again, with its long history in the relatively short timeline that European settlers have lived here, Boston is overflowing with culture too, with its many immigrants to the city back in the early 1800s, a large majority of which were Irish.
Speaking of culture, Boston is home to such popular icons as Fenway Park, the Boston Marathon, and even Boston baked beans, a popular food dish nationwide. There are tons of museums of all kinds as well, including ones showcasing the history of the area and fine arts.
“The City on a Hill” is also a foodie’s paradise with a wide diversity of cuisine, from traditional New England seafood dishes, including clams just about any way you can think to eat them, to traditional Irish fare, and everything in-between.
Whether you’re a resident or visitor, you might be surprised by how many green and blue spaces this busy city boasts as well. Both are abundant for when you want some time to unwind and connect with nature, even within city limits.
Planning a trip to Boston or new to the area and want to see and do some of the best things the city has to offer? Read on for 18 of the top FREE places to check out on your visit!
The Best Free Things to Do in Boston
Take a free walking tour
There are quite a few interesting, educational walking tours around town. The Freedom Trail is perhaps the most popular. You’ll essentially get a crash course in the early history of Boston, hitting up many (16) of the most iconic sites around the city on this 2.5-mile trail. For more culture-filled experiences, there are the Black Heritage Trail and Irish Heritage Trail as well.
Visit the U.S.S. Constitution
If you decide to forego the Freedom Trail, it is worthwhile to still check out this stop separately. “Old Ironsides” has been well-maintained over the years (first launching in the late 1700s) and is the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. Currently, the U.S. Navy owns it, but civilians are free to board the ship for a look around, so long as you have a photo I.D. There is a museum as well, which does charge an admission fee, for you history buffs out there wanting to learn more about this amazing ship’s history!
Tour the Samuel Adams Brewery
If you’re going out with your adult friends or significant other, a tour of the Sam Adams Brewery is a fun place to start. Naturally, you’ll need your I.D. with you (must be 21 or older) and, although tours run regularly throughout the day Monday through Friday, it’s a good idea to get there early to avoid long lines. Aside from learning how this ale is made, you can get free samples too! Also be sure to check out our list of the best breweries in Boston, which includes even more exciting options.
Go Stargazing at Boston University
Held Wednesdays throughout the year, Boston University hosts a Public Open Night at the Observatory where anyone is free to claim a ticket (tickets are limited though, so be sure to reserve yours early in the day!) to head to the observation roof and look through their full strength telescopes and stargaze to their heart’s content! If you’re looking for free things to do in Boston at night, especially, this is a good one!
Tour the Boston Public Library
Even just viewing it from the outside, it’s no wonder the Central Library holds regular tours featuring the architecture of the building! Making it on the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1986, the library was designed in the Renaissance-Beaux-Arts Classicism style. Speaking of art, you’ll also get a look at and learn about the magnificent murals you can find throughout the building as well. Public tours are held once per day Monday through Sunday, but hours vary so be sure to check the library’s tour page.
Play at the Lawn on D
Whether you’re out for an afternoon of fun with the family or an evening with your partner or friends, the Lawn on D is a favorite spot of Bostonians. From lawn games, such as cornhole and bocce ball, to their signature, solar-powered LED swings, people of all ages will have a blast playing here. (And did we mention the swings change color depending on how high and fast you swing them?!) You can also pop open a cold one or grab a bite to eat at the open-air concession stand and enjoy live music and other special events during the summer, definitely some of the top free things to do in Boston.
Visit the Bunker Hill Monument
Another must-see free attraction in Boston is the Bunker Hill Monument and Museum. Ran by the National Park Service, you’re sure to learn just about everything you’d like to know about this important battle, which was one of the first major ones of the Revolutionary War, through tours and interpretive displays. If you’re up to it, you can also get an amazing view from the top of the monument…If you don’t mind climbing up 294 stairs!
Peruse the Boston Public Market
Who doesn’t love a good farmer’s market, right? If picking up locally sourced, seasonal produce, seafood, and even pre-made meals are your thing, you’ve hit the jackpot with the Boston Public Market! Open week-long and year-round, this indoor marketplace offers goodies from 35 New England producers, including crafts and specialty items. And, while free to window shop, of course, more than likely you’ll be tempted to purchase some items along the way! Be sure to take a free tour of the facility while you’re there too.
Take a Stroll Down the Harborwalk
Looking to spend some time near the water while still in the city? One of the top free places to go in Boston, you can take a stroll down a section of the 43-mile Harborwalk. This boardwalk spans nearly the entire Boston coastline (only Logan Airport is excluded) as it passes over 40 parks, 12 museums, a handful of beaches, and a plethora of stores.
Visit Castle Island and Fort Independence
If you’re looking for a relaxing time along the harbor, some exercise, or even some outdoor time with the kids, Castle Island is a cool place to check out. Take a stroll along the many walkways around the land-bound island or simply watch the airplanes come and go from nearby Logan Airport. There is a playground to keep the kids entertained and a snack bar to keep everyone happy! While you’re there, be sure to take a free tour of Fort Independence, the “oldest continually fortified site on British North America”, originally built in the 1630s.
Visit the Commonwealth Museum
If you haven’t noticed by now, there are a lot of museums, a lot of history, and a lot of free stuff to do in Boston! This site in particular shares a lot of great info about Boston history. Full of important historical documents, interactive exhibits, and historical accounts, you’ll find out all about the various peoples who have called Boston home over the centuries and how this town has made a difference in the course of history for both its residents and the entire United States.
Hang Out at Boston Common and Public Garden
Not into history? Not a problem! There are plenty of other Boston free things to do. Perhaps some of the most popular outdoor spaces in the city are the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden. The former is the city’s largest, and oldest, park, dating back to 1634! No matter what time of year you go, the whole family is sure to have a good time with carousel rides and Frog Pond, which offers a spray pool in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. Located across the park on Charles Street lies the public garden. Described as a lush botanical garden, this is a nice place to take a walk or, for a small fee, take one of the swan boats out on the pond.
Tour the Oldest Campus in the US
Not only is Harvard a prestigious university, but it is a gorgeous campus, too! With the Visit Harvard app, you can take a self-guided historical tour of Harvard and enjoy this cool historical university for yourself!
Watch an Outdoor Movie in the Park
If you’re looking for Boston free activities in summer, several parks around and close to town offer free, outdoor movies the whole family can enjoy. For a fun free summer thing to do in Boston, you can find a line-up of movies by parks here.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Looking for a unique shopping experience? Search no further than the Faneuil Hill Marketplace! Ranging from clothes to jewelry, lamps to hot sauce, you can find a little bit of everything here. And when you need to take a break, choose from one of the many restaurants located within the Quincy Market Food Colonnade. Pro tip: There’s a place (MMMac & Cheese) that sells incredible lobster mac and cheese here. You’re welcome.
Outside, you’ll find some of the top free things to do in Boston Massachusetts with live music and street performers.
Attend a Concert at the Hatch Shell
Another fun summertime favorite of Bostonians is settling in for a relaxing evening of symphonic music at the famous Hatch Shell, definitely one of the top things to do in Boston for free!
Meander Through Arnold Arboretum
Even in the city, you can experience peace and tranquility in this gorgeous natural landscape. Open every day and free to the public, take a stroll through the beautiful gardens and collections of bonsais, conifers, and more at the Arnold Arboretum. Virtual tours can be found on their website as well as self-guided family activities and Expeditions mobile app.
Visit an Art Museum
What is a city without a great art museum? Boston actually boasts several and you might be surprised to learn that you can gain free admission to them…If you plan your visit just right. The Institute of Contemporary Art has free entry on Thursdays from 5-9 pm. The only catch, other than the specific day, is that you have to get your tickets the day off, so watch their website closely! Harvard University Art Museums are home to both modern and historical art exhibitions. If you happen to be a Massachusetts resident, you can explore these museums for free on Saturdays from 10 am-12 pm. Finally, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston offers free admission on Wednesdays after 4 pm to view over 450,000 pieces of fine art, though a donation is suggested.
Soak Up Some Sun at Carson Beach
Want to work on your tan or just enjoy the crisp, ocean air? Head down to Carson Beach, one of the top places to visit in Boston for free! Not only does it afford great views of the Boston skyline, but the cool waters of the Atlantic make it a welcome reprieve on hot, summer days. Of course, there are plenty of other beaches near Boston to check out if this one doesn’t strike your fancy.
Get Out of the City and Get Outdoors
Although perhaps not technically in the city, you can’t beat these two nearby nature reservations when you need some fun or relaxation outdoors. Blue Hills is especially popular as it is located only minutes from downtown. If you’ve fallen short on finding free places to get a good view of the skyline, you won’t be disappointed atop Great Blue Hill. Even if you’re not hiking here during the warmer months, this natural sanctuary is also a popular spot for skiing. Middlesex Fells Reservation, located just 8 minutes north of downtown, is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. This park is loaded with hiking trails, biking and fishing opportunities, kayaking and canoeing, and even sailing.
With so many interesting and fun, free things to do in Boston, there’s no excuse to ever be bored here! What is your favorite free thing to do in Boston?
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- Boston Slang: 30 Wicked Cool Boston Sayings You Should Know!
- Go Boston Card vs Boston CityPASS: Which is Better?
- Where to Stay in Boston: The Best Hotels for Your Visit
- 7 of the Best Coffee Shops in Boston
- How to Spend One Day in Boston: 24 Hours of Boston Fun!
- 10 Amazing Things to Do in East Boston
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Amy Hartle is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of New England With Love, a comprehensive resource for travel in the New England region. Amy has been exploring New England since 2001. She lived in Vermont for many years and is a graduate of Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. On this site, Amy aims to share her love of New England and help you to have the best possible adventures!
Amy has been writing about travel for over a decade, and is a full time blogger, publishing both Two Drifters and Let’s Adventure Baby. When not traveling the world or creating epic blog content, Amy can be found cuddling with her husband, son, and cats, & drinking a maple latte.