If you find yourself opening your wallet a bit too frequently, you’re not alone. Boston can be an expensive city. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to experience much of Boston's history and many of its sights without having to shell out a penny. Here are 18 free ways to soak up what Boston has to offer.
Visit one of the region’s most popular brewers. On most days, the Sam Adams Brewery offers free tours of its Jamaica Plain facility starting every 45 minutes. At the end of the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy free samples of some of the brewery’s award-winning beers. Extra bonus: When it’s nice out, you can enjoy beers outdoors.
This two-and-a-half-mile Freedom Trail walk passes 16 significantly historic sights, including the Old South Meeting House, Paul Revere’s House, and the U.S.S. Constitution. Start your journey downtown at Boston Common, and simply follow the red stripe painted on the pavement. You’ll end up at Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, where you can climb the 294 steps leading to the summit, and catch an unparalleled view of the city..
Marvel in the botanical wonders of Boston’s Public Garden, one of the city’s most peaceful destinations. In the spring and summer, enjoy the unique sight of the iconic Swan Boats. In the winter, watch people glide along the ice on Frog Pond. The kids (or the kid in you) will want to check out the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues, a tribute to the 1941 Robert McCloskey children’s classic.
This isn’t your typical library. There is a lot going on here including rotating art exhibits, lectures, movies, and workshops. The library also offers a free tour of the building’s architecture and art exhibits, which are extensive. Aside from that, the Boston Public Library is a popular destination for weddings and corporate events, as it has several rooms that are quite picturesque.
Download a free audio walking tour and set off for one of the city’s top up-and-coming areas. This public walkway along Boston Harbor is teeming with parks, cafes and exhibits. Watch the ships sail in and soak up the sun while learning about how this grand area came to be. Even better, you’ll find spots to catch water taxis and ferries all along the Harborwalk, so you’ll be able to jump from place to place very easily.
Boston museums can be a great bargain. The Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission one day each month for the rest of the year. In addition, you can visit the MFA every Wednesday after 4 p.m. with no general admission fee. As an added bonus, if you happen to have a Bank of America card, you can enjoy free admission to the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the first full weekend of every month. If your name Isabella, you get lifetime free admission to the museum. On Thursdays, the Institute for Contemporary Art is free after 5 p.m.
Few areas in the city are more vibrant than this neighborhood, filled with rich Italian culture. Of course, you’ll be tempted to try one of the dozens of phenomenal restaurants and bakeries – many of which are inexpensive – but simply walking these streets is an experience in itself. Take the MBTA to either Haymarket or North Station and walk along Hanover and Salem Streets to get a taste of the North End.
Part shopping, part dining, Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace is always a bustling center of the city. Grab a spot and watch the frequent street performers, visit the statue of Red Auerbach, or experience the seductive scents from dozens of food vendors inside Quincy Market. The marketplace is just steps from most anywhere downtown, including Government Center, the Boston Harbor and the North End. Not only that, you’ll be a short walk away from the up-and-coming Fort Point neighborhood, with several popular restaurants and museums to check out.
Just because you’re looking, doesn’t mean you have to buy. Newbury Street is Boston’s shopping paradise. These eight blocks in the Back Bay are filled with fashion boutiques, salons and trendy restaurants. It’s a great place to window shop, or simply people-watch. But what many people don’t know is that one block over is Boylston Street, which is also filled with popular shops and is also where you’ll find the main entrance to the Prudential Center, which leads to Copley Place, one of Boston’s most popular shopping malls.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and walk the trails of the oldest public arboretum in North America. Experience this public landscape from sunrise to sunset at any time of the year. Each season brings new life and experience to the area, from the burst of autumn color to the serenity of winter. The arboretum also offers periodic free walking tours. If you’re a dog owner, this is a great spot to take your four-legged friend for a nice long walk. And depending on the time of year, it’s likely you’ll see a photographer or two using this destination as a backdrop for family photos as well.
Free Fun Fridays at the Boston Museums
For the past ten years, the Highland Street Foundation has been sponsoring Free Fun Fridays, which offers residents and tourists alike the opportunity to visit up to 100 Boston museums for free throughout the summer months, typically from June to August. To spread the word, the Foundation reaches out to schools, veterans groups, libraries, seniors centers and many other community organizations within the Boston area.
@FollowingBoston Photo Exhibit at the Kimpton Onyx
In the West End of Boston, you’ll find an ongoing photo exhibition at the Kimpton Onyx boutique hotel, which is in collaboration with local Instagram artist group @FollowingBoston. No matter if you are a guest of the hotel, visiting the city or are a Bostonian yourself, you can visit the Kimpton Onyx and tour the Ruby Room, which is where you’ll find the incredible Boston photography. The beauty of this exhibit is that it’s all curated via social media, providing a fresh take on photography exhibits that makes you feel like you’re right at home in your own neighborhood rather than staring at art.
Lawn Games at the InterContinental
Right in Fort Point, an up-and-coming Boston neighborhood that borders the Seaport along the water, is the InterContinental hotel. As soon as the weather warms up, the hotel offers free picnic space on their greenway, along with lawn games, such as corn hole and giant Connect Four and Jenga. Also in this area during the summer months are events like "Slushy Sundays," Abigail's Lemonade and Iced Tea Stand and Zumba, all of which free to anyone who finds themselves in the area.
Shop and Eat at the SoWa Open Market
The South End – particularly the SoWa Open Market – is the perfect place to walk to when it’s warm out in the city during the warmer months. It’s here that you’ll find all sorts of local vendors selling various food and high-quality craft items, while popular food trucks stop by to serve up lunch. It also just so happens to be a great spot to walk a dog to, and many vendors even cater to them with water bowls and treats.
Museum of African American History’s Black Heritage Trail
Learn about Boston’s African American community, who built institutions in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries, through free ranger-led tours, which come recommended by Dave O’Donnell from the Greater Boston CVB. It’s this community that led the country in achieving equal rights and abolishing slavery.
Explore Harvard University
The Ivy Leagues can be for everyone when you’re visiting Boston, a city well-known for its colleges. Take a stroll through the campus and stop at one of the food trucks. If you’re there in the winter, head to the free ice skating rink. And of course, Harvard Square is home to lots of restaurants and shops that you won’t want to miss.
Take a Self-Guided Tour via Sidewalk
The Sidewalk app offers the opportunity to tour historic sites on your own time thanks to technology that includes self-guided walking tours for iOS and Android. Popular tours include “A Walk of Harvard University: Secret Societies, Scandalous Traditions & Life on the Yard,” “The Cannoli Crawl: A Showdown of the North End's Best Cannoli Bakeries” and “The Instagram-Worthy Stroll of Back Bay & Beacon Hill.”
Visit the USS Constitution’s “Old Ironsides”
Located in the Charlestown Navy Yard, just over a small bridge from the North End, is the USS Constitution’s “Old Ironsides,” one of the city’s oldest historic attractions. Every 30 minutes, tours of the oldest ship in the American fleet go out, which are free of charge.
Have a Beach Day
Heading to the beach is one of the best ways to enjoy a hot summer day, especially if you don't have a pool to jump in. There are several beaches you can visit near Boston, many of which are free and accessible via public transportation.