36 Free Things to Do in Boston: Arts, History, Outdoor Fun & More

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Looking for free things to do in Boston to keep costs down? No problem!

While Boston isn’t known for being a super-cheap destination, there are plenty of places to visit in Boston for free. Whether you’re bringing the whole family, going on a date, or just looking for solo fun without breaking the bank, this guide covers it all.

Enjoy the history oozing from Boston’s buildings and bask in the natural beauty of some of the oldest and most iconic green urban spaces in the United States.

While we have lots of suggestions here that would be great for couples, you should also check out our guide to fun date ideas in Boston for specific romantic recommendations.

If you’re visiting for the first time, also check out our guide on where to stay in Boston so you can plan your budget.

Historic Places to Visit for Free in Boston

Take a Free Tour of Faneuil Hall

Iconic Faneuil Hall (rhymes with Daniel or sometimes pronounced FAN-you-ul) was built in 1742 and has since been the site of lively debates and conversations.

It was here that revolutionaries met to spark public outrage over taxation without representation.

Since then, other social and political topics have regularly been debated and discussed at Faneuil Hall, from the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage to universal healthcare.

Faneuil Hall is owned and managed by the City of Boston and is included in the Boston National Historical Park.

You can join a National Park Service ranger for daily talks about the events that have happened here over the centuries, as well as the building itself.

Entry is free, as are ranger-led tours.

For accessibility, a ramp and elevator are available on the south side of Faneuil Hall.

Historic buildings of Boston Faneuil Hall.

Climb the Bunker Hill Monument

The Bunker Hill Monument is a 221-foot obelisk marking the site of the first major battle of the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Of course, the monument isn’t actually located on Bunker Hill; it’s on Breed’s Hill!

Ironically, the Battle of Bunker Hill actually occurred atop Breed’s Hill, so it’s all a little confusing.

Nonetheless, if you climb the 294 steps to the top of Bunker Hill Monument on Breed’s Hill, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of Boston.

As part of the Boston National Historical Park (like Faneuil Hall), you can enter for free and enjoy a ranger-led tour to learn more about the location and events that transpired.

Board the USS Constitution

The world’s oldest commissioned floating ship, the USS Constitution was launched in 1797 as one of the United States Navy’s six original warships.

It is still part of the US Navy today, more than two centuries later.

The USS Constitution is an iconic part of historic Boston Harbor and has plenty of stories to tell.

While the ship was first launched in the 1700s, it was the War of 1812 that helped her gain fame and admiration, as well as the nickname of “Old Ironsides”. 

You can board the USS Constitution for free and even enjoy a free guided tour led by an active-duty sailor.

Note that, because this is an active-duty ship, you must present ID and pass through a security check before boarding; bring your passport or driver’s license with you.

As a historic ship, unfortunately, there is very limited accessibility.

The USS Constitution Museum is just next door and offers a more in-depth and hands-on experience for visitors of all ages, with two accessible floors of exhibits.

Note the museum is not free to enter.

Experience the Boston Public Library

Established in 1848 as the country’s first large free municipal library, the Boston Public Library (BPL) is free to enter and browse at your leisure.

There are, of course, several branches of the Boston Public Library.

Grand architecture of inside Boston Public Library

The Central Library on Copley Square was completed in 1895 and is considered to be one of the earliest and finest examples of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in the US.

Whether you’re an avid bookworm or simply appreciate fine art and architecture, the building is a sanctuary.

Rotating exhibits of sculptures and paintings are on display to accentuate the lovely architecture.

Free tours are available to discuss the art, architecture, and history of the building.

Decorative interior of the Boston Public Library

Visit the Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House is one of the most easily recognizable buildings in the Boston skyline.

The gold-domed roof glimmers on a sunny day from its prominent location across from the Boston Common on Beacon Street at the top of Park Street.

You can enjoy a free guided tour of the State House on weekdays; tours are approximately 45 minutes.

The Ashburton Park entrance is wheelchair-accessible via Bowdoin Street.

Submit this accessibility request form if you need any additional assistance during your tour.

Orange Massachusetts State House with gold dome roof in Boston

Visit the Holocaust Memorial

The New England Holocaust Memorial is in Carmen Park on Congress Street, right on the Freedom Trail.

This powerful memorial encourages you to walk between six glass towers with inscriptions of the tattooed numbers of concentration camp prisoners and direct quotes from survivors.

The six towers represent the six million Jews who were murdered, as well as the six years during which this attempted genocide took place, six major extermination camps, and six memorial candles.

Note the metal grates underfoot as you walk through this memorial; the steam is a reminder of the smoke and ash emanating from the horrific gas chambers.

This outdoor space is free for all and is fully accessible.

Look for the QR code to learn more about the memorial’s design and purpose.

Entry to The New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston Massachusetts

Take a Free Tour of Harvard

Harvard University is one of the most prominent and well-known universities in the entire world.

Take a free, one-hour guided tour of this historic campus with a current Harvard student to learn more about the buildings, alumni, and overall history of this iconic institution.

Red bricked walls and black Harvard Gates in Boston

Free Boston Trails to Walk

Walk the Freedom Trail

Perhaps Boston’s most famous walk, the Freedom Trail covers 2.5 miles of significant landmarks and spaces in Downtown Boston, the North End, and Charlestown.

This is definitely one of the most popular things to do in Boston for free.

You can opt to walk its entirety or certain pieces; simply follow the red-bricked line through the city and stop at plaques and markers to learn more about each space and place.

Note that three sites along the Freedom Trail do charge admission fees: Paul Revere’s House, the Old South Meeting House, and the Old State House.

Old State House Boston Massachusetts
The Old South Meeting House in Boston Massachusetts

The majority of sites along the trail played an important role in the American Revolutionary War or its surrounding time period.

However, other sites maintained their political or social significance through the following centuries to today.

Grab a free Freedom Trail map from the National Park Service office on the first floor of Faneuil Hall.

Historic buildings of Boston Faneuil Hall.

You can easily take a day exploring the stops along the way and/or you can team up the trail with this free audio tour by the NPS.

Alternatively, let a professional tour guide to do the talking and delve deeper into the stories on this Freedom Trail tour.

Six of the points along the Freedom Trail require detours or are not accessible; the NPS website offers full accessibility information.

The Freedom Trail stops include:

  1. Boston Common
  2. Massachusetts State House
  3. Park Street Church
  4. Granary Burying Ground
  5. King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground
  6. First Public School Site
  7. Old Corner Bookstore
  8. Old South Meeting House*
  9. Old State House*
  10. Boston Massacre Site
  11. Faneuil Hall
  12. Paul Revere House*
  13. Old North Church
  14. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
  15. Charlestown Navy Yard and the USS Constitution
  16. Bunker Hill Monument and Bunker Hill Museum

*Admission fees apply.

Park Street Church sign against red bricked building in Boston

Walk the Black Heritage Trail

The Black Heritage Trail is a 1.6-mile walk through Beacon Hill, highlighting some of the people and places of Boston’s Black community.

This tour focuses on the period of time before, during, and after the American Civil War, showcasing residents of the community who fought for equal rights in the city and beyond.

The trail starts at the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial in front of the Massachusetts State House and finishes at the African Meeting House.

Free guided tours are offered by the National Park Service, or you can pick up a brochure and do a self-guided tour.

Tours are seasonal, so contact the NPS for tour availability outside of the busy summer months.

The Black Heritage Trail stops include:

  1. Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial
  2. George Middleton House
  3. Phillips School
  4. John J. Smith House 
  5. Charles Street Meeting House
  6. Lewis and Harriet Hayden House
  7. John Coburn House
  8. Smith Court Residences
  9. Abiel Smith School*
  10. African Meeting House*

*Available for entry; most other buildings along the trail are private residences.

Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial in Boston on the Black Heritage Trail

Walk a Boston Women’s Heritage Trail

The Boston Women’s Heritage Trail began in 1989 as a way of honoring the women of Boston over the centuries who have impacted the city and beyond.

There are nearly 20 different routes you can take as a self-guided tour for free.

You can also contact the BWHT to book a private tour and learn even more.

Walk the Irish Heritage Trail

As the largest ethnic group in Boston, the Irish have certainly left their mark on the city.

The Irish Heritage Trail offers a self-guided 3-mile walk through Downtown and Back Bay.

Visit 16 sites that focus on contributions made by the Irish community in Boston; maps are available for free a the visitors center on Boston Common.

Free Outdoor Spaces to Enjoy in Boston

Stroll Along the Esplanade

Ideally placed along the Charles River, the Esplanade hosts the annual 4th of July gala, offers beautiful views of the Boston skyline, and serves as a hub for outdoor activity.

Stroll along and people-watch as runners, walkers, and cyclists enjoy the paths around you.

Watch for kayakers, paddleboarders, sailors, and rowers gliding along the river.

Listen to the laughter of kids at the playgrounds and running around the grass and gardens.

The Esplanade is a joyful, beautiful space to enjoy and one of the best things to do for free in Boston.

View of the Boston skyline from the Charles River Esplanade with multiple sailboats on the water in between

Walk Along the Harborwalk

Another waterfront walk, the Harborwalk meanders for a whopping 43 miles from East Boston to the Neponset River.

Stroll along any of its near-contiguous sections to enjoy water views, various public art displays, and plenty of bars and restaurants.

Enjoy the Rose Kennedy Greenway

The beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway offers a natural space amidst the busy city.

From Chinatown to the North End, the Greenway offers an ideal space to walk, people-watch, and be in the heart of the city while enjoying the greenery.

While it isn’t one of our free things to do in Boston, the carousel is a big hit with kids (and kids-at-heart).

There are also food trucks and the Trillium beer garden to enjoy while you’re here.

Cycle the Minuteman Bikeway

Prefer to cycle instead of walk? Check out the Minuteman Bikeway for an 11-mile trail from Cambridge to Bedford, MA.

Take the red line on the T to Alewife Station and enjoy the ride!

Picnic on the Common

Founded in 1634 as the oldest park in today’s United States, Boston Common is one of the most iconic spaces in the city.

Meander around to see the variety of statues and plaques honoring famous residents of the city.

In the summer, stroll around Frog Pond as kids enjoy the spray pool; in winter, watch as folks ice skate (or attempt to do so) on that solid Frog Pond.

During the winter, you can head to Frog Pond for ice skating.

If you’re visiting Boston in fall, be sure to check out the park for some amazing foliage.

The Common is bordered by Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, Charles Street, and Boylston Street.

Visitors who bring their car can easily find parking around the park.

Entrance sign for Boston Common in Massachusetts

Stop and Smell the Roses at Boston Public Garden

Across the street from the Common is the Public Garden.

Originally established in 1837, it became the first public botanical garden in the United States.

Be sure to take a photo with the Make Way for Ducklings statues to prove you were actually in Boston!

These adorable statues are a beloved sight for visitors and locals alike, regularly being dressed in new outfits based on events happening in the city.

Also watch the swan boats (and real swans) glide gracefully over the water; the swan boats have been operating in the Public Garden since the 1870s.

The Public Garden is bordered by Bacon Street, Charles Street, Boylston Street, and Arlington Street.

Boston Common

Wander Around Franklin Park

Franklin Park is the largest of Boston’s green spaces, spanning an astounding 485 acres!

You’ll feel a world away from the city bustle as you walk the trails or picnic amidst the pretty woodlands.

The Sam Adams Brewery is only a half-mile walk from Franklin Park, so you can combine the two for a fun, free day out!

Walk Through Arnold Arboretum

Arnold Arboretum is a stunning 281 acres of landscaped beauty.

It is free and open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset.

Walk the trails to admire the gardens and incredible variety of trees; the “Expeditions” app offers self-guided learning and activities to enjoy en route.

Education is at the heart of the work here, so you can learn as much as interests you!

The Arboretum offers wheelchair-accessible restrooms and accessible parking spaces.

See the website for full accessibility information.

Take the Orange Line to Forest Hills if you’re traveling by public transportation, otherwise free parking is available.

The Arnold Arboretum is also one of the nicest places to be in Massachusetts in fall.

Enjoy Castle Island and Fort Independence

Castle Island offers a fun space in South Boston to relax, picnic, and watch the planes flying in and out at Logan Airport.

Go for a stroll on the 22 acres and enjoy a free tour of Fort Independence.

Built in 1634, this is one of the oldest continuously fortified sites built by the English on the continent.

Tours are available on weekend afternoons and are only approximately 30 minutes, perfect for a mid-day educational session before more play and fun!

View of Fort Independence on Castle Island in Boston from across the water

Play at the Lawn on D

Located in the Seaport District, the Lawn on D is an idyllic summer escape complete with swings to feel like a kid again! 

There is food and drink for purchase, you can’t bring outside food/drink in.

Also, sorry, no dogs allowed.

There is often live music and lots of events happening here regularly.

Open from May through October.

Free Arts & Culture Experiences in Boston

Admire Art in SoWa 

The SoWa District is “South of Washington” and it’s quite the arts and design hub these days.

Head there every first Friday of the month and you can enjoy more than 200 galleries and shops to peruse, artists to speak to, and a family-friendly welcoming atmosphere.

Art is available for purchase, but window shopping is free!

Shakespeare on the Common

Every summer, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) puts on free performances in Boston Common.

Shakespeare on the Common is a way of making live theater more accessible economically, culturally, and physically.

Bring a blanket or a chair, some snacks, and your friends or family for a fun summer evening event!

Various accessibility services are available, with specific performance dates including ASL interpretation, open captioning, and audio description.

Stargaze at Coit Observatory

Coit Observatory at Boston University offers free entry every Wednesday night for stargazing.

This is, of course, weather permitting, but you can book your tickets in advance and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, there are stairs to get to the Observatory so this is not fully accessible.

Enjoy Music from Buskers at Quincy Market

There is always some form of live music and entertainment happening outside Quincy Market!

Whether it’s buskers or magic acts, you can enjoy the perks of city living with free entertainment after your free tour of Faneuil Hall and beyond.

Of course, tips are always encouraged!

Boston Market Place at night all lit up.

Tour the Sam Adams Brewery

While the brewing itself no longer takes place in Boston, visiting the early home of Boston’s iconic beer is always a good day out.

Enjoy a free tour, but get there early since tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is a suggested donation to go to a local charity.

Free Boston Bruins Experience

Just as beer is cultural in Boston, so is the sports scene!

You don’t have to splash out on expensive Garden tickets for a B’s game.

Instead, head to Warrior Ice Arena at Boston Landing to watch the Bruins practice for free.

Free Indoor Activities in Boston: Museums

Free Museums for Kids in Boston

Boston Children’s Museum

The Boston Children’s Museum is always a fun experience!

Opened in 1913, this is the world’s second-oldest children’s museum.

The emphasis here is on using play as a means of hands-on learning and an opportunity to foster creativity and curiosity.

(Almost) free entry just makes it all the better.

On Sunday afternoons, you can enjoy $1 entry ticket prices; just be sure to reserve online in advance.

Kids under 12 months are always free.

Boston Fire Museum

The Boston Fire Museum offers free entry on Saturdays from 11-6pm.

Exhibits include artifacts and memorabilia from the Greater Boston Area spanning centuries, with a more hands-on exhibit for kids to learn more about firefighting.

Free Boston Art Museums

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

The ICA offers free entry from 5pm – 9pm on Thursdays.

Get your tickets on the day and enjoy an evening of free art!

Museum of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA offers free entry after 4pm on Wednesdays.

Donations are suggested.

Exterior of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, with the statue "Appeal to the Great Spirit" in front

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum offers free entry on the first Thursday of every month.

You can also enjoy free entry on your birthday and for all time if your name is Isabella.

Other Museums With Free Entry

The Commonwealth Museum

Dive deep into the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at this museum dedicated to sharing stories and artifacts through the centuries.

Walk along the Harborwalk and stop into the Commonwealth Museum during weekdays for free.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

If you’re a Massachusetts resident, you can visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History for free on Sunday mornings year-round or Wednesday afternoons during the school year.

Massachusetts teachers can visit for free, as can any MA residents who present an EBT card at the admission desk.

Red brick building of Harvard Museum Natural History Museum

Free Boston Events

Free Concert for the 4th of July

On July 3rd and July 4th, you can enjoy a free concert at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, with fireworks to follow.

The Boston Pops is a popular event and attracts big crowds, so get there early to get a spot and enjoy a fabulous evening.

Hatch Memorial Charles River Esplanade park Boston Massachusetts

Watch the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious marathons globally and runners of all abilities and speeds seek that iconic bib.

If you’re not one of the runners, then find yourself a spot along the route for a front-row seat to the marvels of competition and endurance.

Marathon Monday is a holiday for locals, so it’s always one of the fun free things to do in Boston!

It’s quite the experience to enjoy that energy and enthusiasm alongside thousands of others.

Some of the best spots to try to be along the final Boston miles include:

  • The corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets
  • Fenway area
  • Kenmore Square
  • Coolidge Corner
  • Elsewhere along Beacon Street
  • Cleveland Circle

Final Words

We hope this guide to all the free things to do in Boston helped you plan your activities! If you have more suggestions for fellow locals or visitors, drop them in the comments below.

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