Located along the beautiful Massachusetts Bay, Boston is one of the most popular cities in the United States. Its scenic allure, paired with its rich history and vibrant culture, makes it an attractive destination for many travelers.
It doesn’t have a reputation for being a cheap city, but the good news is, there are lots of things you can do that won’t cost a dime. Understanding the cost of destinations is important for any money-conscious traveler.
This guide to free things to do in Boston will help you keep your finances in check. Then, you can take the money you’ve saved and spend it on other things, like eating out or an adventurous trip around the world.
Luckily, some of the city’s most popular attractions also happen to be free. Whether you’re into history, art, culture, or nature, you’ll find quite the selection of free Boston activities to enjoy.
Walking the Freedom Trail is one of the most popular free things to do in Boston, MA. This 2.5-mile-long walking-friendly route passes next to 16 locations that were vital to the founding of the United States.
You’ll stop in front of museums, meeting houses, churches, graveyards, parks, and other historical places. Some of the most popular stops are the Paul Revere House, the Boston Massacre Site, and the USS Constitution ship.
The path travels from Boston Common through the North End and into the neighborhood of Charlestown. The Freedom Trail is easily one of the best ways to see the city and discover its rich history.
The Black Heritage Trail has the same concept as the Freedom Trail. The 1.6-mile-long route links several sites related to Boston’s 19th-century free black community.
There are fourteen historical sites along the path. Among them are former houses, schools, businesses, and churches. The stops are related to everything from the Underground Railroad to the abolition movement and civil rights.
The Lawn on D is a seasonal social outdoor space open from May to October. It’s the perfect place to come and hang out when the weather is nice.
One of the coolest features is the circle swings. They’re not just for kids; they’re adult-size so that everyone can relax in them. And they light up when it gets dark. There are also lounge chairs and plenty of grassy space to relax on.
You can partake in outdoor games, like ping-pong, corn hole, and bocce. There’s also a giant chess board, checkers board, and an oversized Jenga set.
Occasionally, there’s live music. If you get hungry or thirsty, there is a cafe on-site where you can grab a meal and a cold drink.
Weekend nights are when this place really comes alive. If you’re looking for a fun place to hang out and don’t feel like spending money at a club, this is a great option.
Alternatively, if you’d rather visit when it’s more peaceful, you can swing by during the day. Grab a spot on one of the swings and chill out while using the free WiFi offered.
The Boston Public Garden was created in 1837. It’s a beautiful landscaped outdoor area in the heart of the city. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “Boston is a beautiful city,” they definitely said it with this park in mind.
It features subtle decorative features. The grounds are enclosed by a Victorian cast-iron fence, and the quiet paths are lined with native plants and the occasional statue.
There’s also a peaceful pond where you can rent out a swan boat (for a fee) to paddle around in. It’s the ideal location to picnic beside.
Adjacent to the Boston Public Garden, you’ll find the Boston Common. This park is the oldest city park in the United States. It offers the same outside allure but on a slightly smaller scale.
If you’re looking for more free stuff in Boston to fill your itinerary with, it’s worth swinging by after you explore the public gardens.
Beacon Hill is one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods; it’s also one of the most expensive. But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend money to enjoy your time here, as it’s a lovely area to wander around and window shop.
The neighborhood is known for its old architecture; many of the buildings are hundreds of years old. It contains Boston’s most picturesque street: Acorn Street. Picture old cobbled streets lined with Federal-style brick homes and antique lanterns.
This is the kind of place you’ll want to bring your camera to; photo opportunities await you around every corner.
If you appreciate architecture, history, or education, make sure to visit the Boston Public Library.
It opened in 1852 as a free, publicly-supported library in the United States. Although it’s not a museum, it features a wonderful display of sculptures and murals.
The architectural details will make you feel as if you’re standing inside a grand building in Italy. With beautiful arches, marble floors, high-rise ceilings, and a courtyard encircled by an arcaded gallery, it’s impressive, to say the least.
Located along the Freedom Trail, the Granary Burying Ground has been a staple of the city since 1660. It’s Boston’s third-oldest graveyard and the final resting place of many great American patriots.
This includes three signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine. The victims of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere, and Benjamin Franklin’s parents, are other notable people laid to rest inside the cemetery.
If you’re a history-lover, this is definitely one of the best things to do for free in Boston. The graveyard holds tremendous value to the founding of the United States; it will also show you just how far the city has developed and changed.
This Granary Burying Ground is open every day, and the entrance is always free.
If you’re looking for free and fun things to do in Boston with a local feel, visit the Quincy Market. It’s housed inside a historic building that was constructed from 1824 to 1826.
This place has it all: local food stalls, crafty vendors, city souvenirs, street performers, and more.
If you’re a fan of seafood, you’ll find some of the city’s most delicious clam chowder and lobster rolls in the food court.
If you feel like buying a meal, the prices are very reasonable, especially compared to the rest of the city’s eateries.
The Quincy Market is open every day and will give you a taste of Boston’s vibrant culture.
The Boston Public Market features about 30 New England artisans and food producers under one roof. From fresh produce and ready-to-eat meals to crafts and specialty items, it offers a wide selection.
There’s a big emphasis on seasonal items, and everything sold either originates or is produced in New England. The market is open every day from morning till evening, so you can stop in whenever you’d like.
The Bunker Hill Monument sits on the site where one of the first major battles, known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, broke out during the American Revolutionary War.
Visitors are welcome to climb the 294 stairs to the top. There’s no elevator, but if you’re up for the challenge, this is one of the coolest free activities in Boston. Plus, you’ll be treated to some cool panoramas of the city.
Tip: Before you start your climb, you just need to head to the visitors center next to the monument to grab your free ticket to access the stairs to the top.
Every Thursday from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the Institute of Contemporary Art offers free admission.
The venue serves as an art museum and an exhibition space. It features many different forms of art: paintings, photographs, sculptures, etc.
And, when you’re not admiring the works of art on display, you can look out the window and marvel at the spectacular views overlooking the harbor.
Although the building the museum is housed in is rather large, only one of the floors contains exhibits. You should be able to see everything in an hour or less.
If you’re visiting this city and looking for free things to do, Boston does not disappoint.
From historical sites that teach you about the founding of the US to modern attractions that allow you to soak up the contemporary culture, you’ll be in for a real treat.
Next, make sure to check out the best places to stay in Boston. Basing your trip in a good location is key to making the most of your time in this incredible city.
Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
Regarding cheap airfare, I highly recommend using Skyscanner and Expedia. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.
Additionally, I recommend getting the WayAway Plus membership to save money on cheaper fares and earn cashback (sent straight to your PayPal) on your bookings.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
For hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and other types of accommodation, I highly recommend Booking.com. They are my go-to booking site because they usually have the cheapest fares.
If you’re a registered Booking.com user (“Genius”), you can take advantage of their “Genius discount” to save even more money. I almost always book my accommodation with Booking, and I’ve saved thousands of dollars with their Genius discount.
And of course, as one of the largest travel booking sites in the world, Expedia is another excellent accommodation booking site with a free reward program and discounted member prices.
If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels with shared dorms and private rooms. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness.
I use HeyMondo to insure my trips and recommend them. Their affordable plans offer a 24/7 assistance platform for claims, medical coverage for every traveler, adventure sports and covid-19 coverage, and more. And better yet, GloboTreks readers get 5% off their plan! Get a quote.
Alternatively, if you’re a nomad and travel often or long-term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on long-term travel insurance.
FIND THE BEST TOURS AT THE BEST PRICES
If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.
BOOK YOUR LOCAL TRANSPORTATION AHEAD OF TIME
Bookaway offers the easiest and most accessible way to book overland transportation with local operators, be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers.
If renting a car, then I highly recommend DiscoverCars to get the largest car selection at the best price.
OTHER TRAVEL AND MONEY-SAVING TIPS?
Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.
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