Free Things To Do In Boston

Boston is one of the most-visited cities in America, and people from around the world flock here during the summer months. Chances are Boston is on your list to see, and, as you know, big cities can be hard on the wallet.

Boston is a historic city with old colonial buildings, a long history, and a strong link to the country’s founding. Bostonians are very proud of their city and show their Boston pride at any chance. I grew up in this city, and even with all my world travels, Boston is still one of my favorite cities. Though one of the biggest cities in the country, it has more of a large town feel to it than that of a metropolis. In this college town, you’ll find friendly locals, die-hard sports fans, great bars, good restaurants, and American history.

Boston has a lot to do, meals get expensive, and hotels aren’t cheap. But I grew up in this city, and though it’s no longer my home, I know it like the back of my hand. There’s a lot to do in Boston and it is free.

Here are activities you can do for free in Boston that will give you the local experience:

#1 Walk the Freedom Trail

Boston Freedom Trail

Covering 16 historical sites and stretching 2.5 miles, this red-bricked trail will teach you all you need to know about Boston’s history. All sites along the way are free, and you can even download an audio podcast to accompany your walk, or you can go on an organized tour led by one of Boston’s many historical characters.

#2 Eat in Faneuil Hall

Everyone should eat in Quincy Market at least once. Grab your meal from one of the many restaurants in the arcade, head outside to watch the people go by, and enjoy a street performer’s show. I love spending an afternoon here people-watching. There are also quite a few nice restaurants here if table service is more your style.

#3 Lie Out in the Commons

On a nice summer day, Boston Common is filled with locals looking to enjoy the nice weather. Lie out, read a book, play some sports, or relax. Wander around the Public Gardens, or sit by Frog Pond. It’s a great way to enjoy the city without spending a dime.

#4 Catch a Concert at the Hatch Shell

Boston’s Charles River Parkway provides the backdrop for free summer concerts. Relax by the Charles River as artists play shows at the Hatch Shell. It’s here you can see the famous Boston Pops play on July 4th. When the show’s over, rent a sailboat and cruise around the river, or just sit around and catch some sun! Sometimes the Hatch Shell even plays movies at night.

#5 Head to Castle Island

Castle Island is located in South Boston and is famous for its fort. The island extends into the harbor and has excellent beaches and running trails that are popular with the locals. There’s a picnic area here and you can explore the old fort for free. The place gets pretty busy on the weekends during the summer, and you can often see school groups exploring the fort during the spring.

#6 Take a Tour of Harvard

Sever Hall in Harvard Yard - Harvard University in Cambridge

Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest university in America. Head to its home in Cambridge (Harvard Square Red Line train stop) and join a free tour. Learn about the university’s history, architecture, programs, and myths. When you’re finished, wander around the eclectic offerings of Harvard Square. There are a lot of good street musicians here. (Tracy Chapman, for example, got her start here.)

#7 Hang Out With the Kids

OK, so this one isn’t free. After all that sightseeing, you’ve probably worked up a thirst. Head over to the bars in Allston and Brighton to drink with the post-college crowd. The area is filled with young professionals and offers some of the cheapest beers in town. Places such as Wonderbar, The White Horse, The Kells, The Draft, and Joshua Tree are always packed.

#8 Free Beer Tours

Sam Adams, a major Boston brewery, offers free tours. They occur mid-afternoon and depart every 45 minutes. You get a few free samples along the way, too. If you’re not over 21, don’t worry—you can still go; you just can’t drink.

#9 Visit the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain

Over 260 acres of free public space are open from sunrise to sunset. There are running trails, gardens, open lawns, and tons of flowers from worldwide. Relax among the plants and take a step back from the fast pace of the city. This place is much quieter than the Public Gardens and offers more variety in plant life. They also have a great Bonsai tree collection.

Boston Budget Travel Guide (Updated 2022)

The following will help you plan your trip to Boston.

  • Hostel prices
    Hostels in America aren’t cheap, and Boston is no exception. Expect to pay $40 or more per night for a dorm room for the downtown hostels. A private double room will cost around $80 per night.
  • Budget hotel prices
    The budget hotels are located outside the city center, and many are near the train. Most low-end hotels will charge around $100-140 USD per night for a double room, but you can find lower if you do some searching.
  • The average cost of food
    Eating at restaurants, you should expect to pay around $15-$20 for a meal with drinks. But, you can always find some local spots for cheap pizza and sandwiches to stay around $5-8 USD. Cooking for yourself will cost around $50 per week.
  • Transportation costs
    Boston is said to be a walkable city, so you’ll be able to get around easily no matter where you stay. The subway is also very easy to use. It will cost $2.65 per trip.

Money-Saving Tips

  • Eating at Quincy Market
    The Quincy market food arcade offers a wide range of food at low prices.
  • Take walking tours
    Because Boston is such a historical area, you can take advantage of plenty of free walking tours, including the most famous, The Freedom Trail.
  • Drink outside downtown – Experience Boston nightlife in Brighton or Allston for cheaper drinks and a more relaxed environment.
  • Enjoy the free parks
    You can experience nature for free at the Arnold Arboretum. Here you can find more than 260 acres of free public space, open from sunrise to sunset. There are running trails, gardens, open lawns, and lots of flowers from worldwide. Relax among the plants and take a step back from the fast pace of the city.
  • Enjoy free concerts
    You can enjoy free concerts on the Charles River during the summer.

Boston may be an expensive city, but there are still a lot of things to do for free!

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