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.
Our local experts put together a list of some of the best free things to do in Boston, all great suggestions that can help round out your vacation itinerary. including…
- Boston Common & Public Gardens
- The Boston Public Library
- The Bunker Hill Monument
- The Boston Esplanade & Hatch Shell
- The Harbor Walk
- Sam Adams Brewery Tour
- and more…
A Way to Save on Ticketed Boston Attractions
We know that this blog post is about listing the FREE things to do in Boston, but, are you looking to visit a few of the ticketed attractions during your vacation?
Consider using a Go Boston Card – which includes free admission to dozens of the area’s most popular attractions – all for one low price.
A Go Boston Card can save you up to 55% off combined admission vs paying at the gate.Note: the below ads are not affiliated with SmartDestinations.com
Faneuil Hall & Quincy MarketplaceIf 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.
Boston CommonIf 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.
For Go Boston Card Customers: Swan Boats of Boston rides are included on the Go Boston Card.
The Boston Public Library
While almost every city has a public library, only Boston can say that they host the first public library ever in the history of the United States.
This library is home to over six million different literary works as well as a host of some of the finest creations of famous visual artists.
People should be sure to come back and check out this library at different times during the year because some of the works are rotated and shared with other locations throughout the country.
One of the first naval vessels in the nation’s history, the USS Constitution is now a popular stop for many visitors coming to visit the city of Boston. Free guided tours are offered to visitors, given by active-duty Navy Sailors.
The vessel was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” because the men who served aboard the ship watched as cannonballs appeared to bounce off of the ship’s wooden hull.
The ship was originally built in the North End out of parts from Paul Revere’s foundry such as bolts, spikes, and whatever else the men could dig up. This is a popular stop for people of all ages, including class field trips from all over the country.
For Go Boston Card Customers: USS Constitution Cruise tickets are included on the Go Boston Card. A Fully narrated 45-minute tour of the inner harbor also includes the Bunker Hill Monument and the Boston Tea Party Boat.
The Bunker Hill MonumentMost children learn about the Battle of Bunker Hill during their elementary school years. The battle famous for the command “don’t shoot until you can see the whites of their eyes!” has a monument near the famous battlefield.
The monument is an obelisk that towers over 200 feet in height. There are local rangers who are on site to answer questions about this important battle at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.
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!
For Go Boston Card Customers: A Harvard Walking Tour is included on the Go Boston Card.
The Boston Esplanade
The Boston Esplanade is already well-known as the home of the city’s popular annual gala on the Fourth of July; however, the Boston Esplanade is home to more than just the gala.
In fact, the Esplanade runs along the banks of the beautiful Charles River. The Esplanade has well-paved paths for anyone who enjoys biking or running.
In addition, many local colleges and universities have their crew competitions on the banks of the Charles. Why not enjoy a crew race while walking along the Esplanade?
The Hatch Shell
Many people have seen or heard about the Hatch Shell because it is featured in numerous movies and TV shows.
In fact, the Hatch Shell is known to some as the epicenter of Boston when it comes to outdoor concerts, stage acts, and events
The Hatch Shell is named after its distinctive shape that helps to funnel the beautiful sounds of the concert out towards the audience. Throughout the year, the venue hosts a number of marquee names in music.
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!
For Go Boston Card Customers: Freedom® Trail Walk Into History® Tour tickets are included on the Go Boston Card.
The Harbor Walk
The popular Harbor Walk snakes its way through the city’s waterfront. People who have the desire to travel the length of the Harbor Walk will pass through a number of different neighborhoods where they can experience everything the city has to offer.
The Harbor Walk runs from Chelsea Creek all the way to the Neponset River, passing through East Boston, North End, Downtown, and more along the way.
Those who make their way through the Harbor Walk will undoubtedly find a number of attractions to stop and try along the way.
Walk Boston is the general name given to the popular, free walking tours that people can take of the city’s various areas. These tours are given completely on foot, as the name suggests.
The Walk Boston moment started over twenty years ago and are led by some of the city’s leading experts and professionals throughout the entire year.
Better yet, there are many different tours that span different locations around the city so people can try more than one.
The Blue Hills Reservation
This is a beautiful nature reservation that resides just a few minutes from downtown Boston.
The Blue Hills Reservation is known for its scenic hiking trails, its challenging bike paths, long ski runs during the winter, and popular swimming holes during the summer.
Anyone who enjoys nature should stop and check out what this preserve has to offer. Even better, this 7,000-acre nature preserve has a fun zoo experience for all ages at the Trailside Museum.
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.
The Sam Adams Brewery Tour
Just because this stop is a brewery doesn’t mean the location isn’t family friendly.
The popular Sam Adams beer found all over the country is brewed right here in Boston.
The brewery started just as any other brewery in the country, from humble beginnings. Now, visitors are free to visit the popular brewery or even take a tour. Proper ID required in order to sample beer.
For Go Boston Card Customers: a complimentary piece of glassware is included on the Go Boston Card for those over 21 years of age.
Let’s Recap on How to Visit Boston for Cheap
So there are some fun ideas for free things to do in in Boston.
Remember, if you want to add some attractions to your itinerary that normally cost money, consider purchasing a Go Boston Card.
With the Go Boston Card you get free admission to dozens of attractions all for the one low price of the pass. You can save up to 55% off combined admission costs vs paying at the gate.