Planning a vacation to Boston? Our insiders put together a list of our top free things to do in Boston.
Whenever you visit a new city, it’s only natural to want to take advantage of all the best activities that it has to offer. Seeing the sights, sampling the local cuisine and visiting all of a city’s most famous attractions are the backbones of any exciting vacation experience.
Boston’s historic legacy, diverse culture, and old New England charm make it easy to find inexpensive activities for the family.
Check out these free things to do in Boston that are sure to be fun for you and your family!
Looking for more things to do, check out the Go Boston® Card, which includes admission tickets to top Boston attractions for one low price.
Boating & Kayaking
South of Summer Street alongside the eastern edge of Fort Point Channel, the P&G Gillette Floating Dock gives aquatic enthusiasts a place to launch canoes, boats and kayaks for free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Free parking is also available on a conditional basis.
Rental options are available, although you’ll be able to sail the waters for free if you happen to have access to your own equipment.
Fans of politics and history may want to take a free tour of the State House or visit the Bunker Hill Monument. State House tours take about 30-45 minutes and include an overview of the history and architecture of the State Capitol.
The Old State House Museum admission is $10.00 for adults and free for children, but the “new” State House is free to the public.
History enthusiasts who want to visit the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution can climb the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument and take in some of the best views of Boston from a nationally recognized landmark.
The Freedom Trail (& Other Hikes)
For those who feel like walking around the city, Boston has no shortage of informative and fun hikes. Learn about the history of patriotism by walking the Freedom Trail or receive some tips about the Patriots themselves (the football team) by hiking the Boston Sports Trail.
There’s also the JFK Trail, Women’s Heritage Trail, Black Heritage Trail and Irish Heritage Trail. Look online for maps in advance!
Faneuil Hall & Quincy Marketplace
If you don’t mind dealing with some crowds, checking out the street performers at Faneuil Hall Marketplace is also an inexpensive way to spend a few hours. Sit back and relax as festival-style jugglers, clowns, magicians, mimes and musicians all compete for attention and small change.
Then, if you feel like spending a little money, there are scads of dining and shopping options available in the adjacent Quincy Marketplace.
Check out unique souvenir shops (like a little satellite location of the Museum of Fine Arts gift shop) and local food offerings (think lobster rolls – yum!), all housed in historical buildings.
If you’re in the downtown area, pack a picnic and sprawl out on the lawn in this beautiful urban park. The action-packed Common is full of characters, and everyone will enjoy the hustle and bustle.
You’ll find vendors, street performers, caricature artists, musicians, and so much more. There’s also a carousel, a baseball diamond, a number of picturesque benches and plenty of places to grab a snack or some ice cream.
Boston Public Garden
In the slightly mellower Public Garden, enjoy the perfectly manicured lawn, colorful flowers, and a diversity of trees. You can watch the swan boats glide over the Garden’s pond, and you’ll see plenty of Boston’s ducks of “Make Way for Ducklings” fame.
Although they aren’t available for all of these locations, check out some of the self-guided iPod Tours that you can take around town. There’s the Boston Harborwalk Tour, Fort Point Channel Tour, Public Garden Tour and many more.
Tour the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat. Free guided tours are offered to visitors, given by active-duty Navy Sailors.
Kids love exploring below deck and visitors of all ages appreciate the rich history of “Old Ironsides.”
Harvard Square & Harvard Book Store
Visit the Harvard Book Store in Harvard Square and head to the children’s section. Although this renowned bookstore isn’t just for kids, they have a great selection of children’s books for kids of all ages, from toddlers to young adults. Plus, these shelves hold books for absolutely every interest.
When you’re done in the bookstore, make sure you spend some time exploring Harvard Square. It’s a charming area with over 300 registered street performers!