There are a lot of great things to see and do in Boston that won’t cost you a dime. This post will cover some of the most interesting and fun activities you can enjoy for free. There will also be sections dedicated to both family-friendly and nighttime attractions.
This section will include our top ten free things to do in Boston. Whenever possible, we will mention if any of these activities are either family-friendly or fun after the sun goes down.
If you’re interested in learning more about the city, consider taking one of our free Boston walking tours.
You may also want to consider getting a Boston tourist pass to save money on some of the most popular attractions in the city.
1) Walk the Freedom Trail
At the center of Boston’s historic center, you will find a trail that leads to many significant landmarks in the city. This trail is marked with medallions on the street which indicate your proximity to a location of historical significance. A thin red-brick path will lead you to each site to make sure you don’t get lost along the way.
Here are some of the most notable places of interest on the Freedom Trail:
- Massachusetts State House
- Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
- Old South Meeting House
- Boston Massacre Monument
- Bunker Hill Monument
- Paul Revere House
- U.S.S. Constitution
- Old State House
- Old City Hall
- Faneuil Hall
- And more!
While you can walk this trail by yourself without any type of guide, we do provide a fully guided pay-what-you-wish walking tour which covers all of the major sites in the area. Alternatively, you can also use our self-guided tour to help you find all of the landmarks on the Freedom Trail.
2) Visit the U.S.S. Constitution
This is the oldest ship in the US Navy, and you can still see it for free in dry dock. If you want to do more than just look from afar, you can actually take a tour of the ship and learn all about it from a professional guide.
Thanks to its success during the war of 1812, the U.S.S. Constitution was given the nickname of “Old Ironsides” because the British cannonballs would simply bounce off the sides of the ship.
While the U.S.S. Constitution museum requests a donation for admission, they don’t technically charge for entry. We recommend donating at least a little something if you want to get in, but it isn’t a requirement, so this could be another fun activity for you to enjoy without paying much of anything. For more details, check the U.S.S. Constitution museum website.
3) See the Granary Burial Ground
This is one of the most famous graveyards in the entire country. There are a lot of notable people buried here, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence and a few important historical figures from throughout the history of the United States. Here are a few of the names you can expect to see in the Granary Burial Ground:
- John Hancock
- Paul Revere
- Samuel Adams
- Robert Treat Paine
- Crispus Attucks
- Mary Goose (Mother Goose)
- And more
If you want to learn more about this historic location, consider taking our self-guided tour of the Granary Burial Ground. This guide includes stops at several notable graves and sites such as the Benjamin Franklin monument and the Beantown Pub.
NOTE: This site is included on our pay-what-you-wish Freedom Trail tour.
4) Take a Tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery
Beer fans won’t want to pass up the opportunity to tour one of the most famous breweries in the United States. The Samuel Adams Brewery routinely opens up their doors to provide free tours to the public, and at times they’ll even include a tasting. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about how they brew this popular drink, this is an excellent opportunity that won’t cost you a dime!
- Monday – Thursday
- 10 am – 3 pm
- Last tour starts at 3 pm
- 10 am – 5:30 pm
- Last tour starts at 5:30 pm
- 10 am – 3 pm
- Last tour starts at 3 pm
- No tours on Sunday
- Click here to learn more
If you’re interested in seeing even more of the brewery and learning more about Samuel Adams drinks, they also offer specialty tours for as little as $10 per person. You must RSVP ahead of time for these tours. For more details, check the Samuel Adams specialty tour page.
5) Enjoy a Free Tour of Harvard
Known for being one of the most well-respected schools in the United States, Harvard has a long and storied history in the Boston area. While the classes and the tuition aren’t free, you can take a tour of Harvard University without paying a dime.
This tour is led by students and it includes an outdoor walk around the campus and Harvard Yard. While walking through Harvard, a guide will provide valuable information about the school and give you a look into the life of a student.
Tour groups are capped at 35 attendees and they begin registration approximately one hour before departing. For more details about hours and availability, check their calendar to figure out when you should arrive and register for the tour. This service is not available during the holidays.
If you’re looking for an alternative, consider taking our pay-what-you-wish walking tour of Cambridge and Harvard. We also have a free self-guided tour of Harvard University which may come in handy if you don’t have the time to make reservations and/or you don’t want to join a public tour.
6) Visit the Boston Public Library
Aside from being one of the most beautiful examples of architecture in the city, the Boston Public Library is also a great place to see and learn about a lot of wonderful artwork. If you want to learn more about both the art and architecture on display, there is a free tour which covers both subjects.
Here is the current schedule:
- Monday: 2:30 pm
- Tuesday: 6 pm
- Wednesday: 11 am
- Thursday: 6 pm
- Friday: 11 am
- Saturday: 11 am
- Sunday: 2 pm
One of the nice things about this tour is that most people won’t have to make a reservation. Groups with 8 or fewer people simply need to show up at the scheduled time and sign up. These tours are not available during the holidays.
To learn more about this service, check our post about Boston Public Library tours.
7) See the Bunker Hill Monument
This is one of the most famous sites in all of Boston, and it’s also one of the best places to get a view of the city. At 221 feet tall, the Bunker Hill Monument is a giant obelisk that includes a set of stairs so that you can climb to the top.
There is no charge to visit, but you will need a climbing pass to head to the peak of this monument. Climbing passes can be obtained from the nearby Bunker Hill Museum for free, but they are only offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
If you want to learn more about this site and its historic significance, the museum is also free to visit and it includes a lot of great exhibits. For more details about hours and availability, check the Bunker Hill Museum website.
Although the Bunker Hill Monument offers fantastic views of the city, visitors who are interested in seeing Beantown from above might want to think about going to another Boston Observation Deck.
NOTE: This landmark is included on our Freedom Trail tour.
8) Check Out the Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Although you may want to bring some cash for a little shopping, this marketplace is a great place to visit even if you don’t plan on buying anything. There are over 100 shops, kiosks and pushcarts in the area, as well as 11 full-service restaurants.
In addition to the shopping opportunities, there are a lot of great things to see and do for free. Here is a list of some popular activities and attractions that won’t cost a dime:
- Chess Lessons
- Dance Nights
- Reading Room
- Fitness Classes
- Puppet Shows
- Ping Pong Tables
- Pool Tables
- Street Performers
- And more!
While everything on this list is free to enjoy, some of these activities are only available during specific time periods. For more information, make sure to check the schedule of outdoor events at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
9) Have Fun at Boston Common
Founded in 1634, this park is actually one of the oldest public spaces in the city of Boston. Aside from its historical significance, there is also a lot to see and do in the area.
The Frog Pond is a popular location to visit all year long, but it’s especially busy during the summer when kids can splash around in the spray pool. You can also expect free yoga classes and movie nights when the weather is nice. In addition to these activities, there is also a nearby playground for young kids.
If you’re interested in some sightseeing, there are several notable sites in Boston Common. Here are a few of the more notable monuments and historic locations in the park:
- Boston Foundation Monument
- Soldiers and Sailors Monument
- Central Burying Ground
- John Paul II Placard
- Brewer Fountain
- The Great Elm
- And more!
Boston Common is such a historically relevant location that the Freedom Trail will actually take you right through the park. That said, if you want to learn more about the area, you can always take our pay-what-you-want Freedom Trail tour.
10) Take a Tour of the Massachusetts State House
If you’re interested in learning about the history of Boston, consider taking the free tour at the Massachusetts State House. While on this walking tour, you’ll learn about the architecture of the State Capitol, learn about the state insect, and discover the importance of the “Sacred Cod.”
- Availability: Weekdays
- Hours: 10 am – 3:30 pm
- Duration: 30-45 minutes
- Closed on weekends and holidays
- Reservations are requested
- Learn more here
If you’re not interested in a guided tour, they also offer the materials necessary to take a self-guided tour around the building.
NOTE: The Massachusetts State House is included on our Freedom Trail tour.
Free Family-Friendly Activities
The following section will include a lot of fun and free activities that you can enjoy with your family in Boston. Make sure to check our other sections for even more ideas such as going to Boston Common, visiting the Boston Public Library and walking the Freedom Trail.
Don’t forget that there are a lot of great family-friendly activities included at a huge discount from Boston tourist passes.
Visit the New England Aquarium
If you or your family are interested in aquatic life, the New England Aquarium is an excellent place to visit. Thanks to the Boston Public Library, you can actually get a free pass for up to four people between the months of September and June. The only catch to this opportunity is that it is only available to patrons who have a valid library card.
In addition to the free passes provided by Boston Public Library, other libraries in the area often provide discounts on tickets to the New England Aquarium. It’s also worth noting that admission is entirely free for any children under the age of two, making this a great and affordable activity for parents with younger kids.
Take the Kids to Faneuil Hall Marketplace
In addition to all of the fun activities aimed at older visitors, there are also several free things for kids to enjoy at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Here are a few of the more popular attractions for children:
Rosalita’s Puppets – Found at South Market Street, this puppet show is held every day at 10:30 am right outside Wagamama. During rainy weather, you can find the show in the rotunda. There are new productions each week.
Story Tellers – In the same location as Rosalita’s Puppets you will also find a storyteller series on Tuesdays in July and August. If your kids love hearing stories, this is a wonderful opportunity.
Art Class – This outdoor art studio is also on South Market Street and located just outside Uniqlo. Kids are welcome to come and create their own artwork, and all materials are provided for them.
Street Performers – There are several noted street performers who put on free shows at Faneuil Hall Marketplace every day, including magicians, jugglers, escape artists and more. While tips are appreciated, there is no fee to enjoy the show.
If you get hungry after all these fun activities, consider heading to the International Market to see if any of the shops are offering free samples.
Go to the Boston Children’s Museum
Although this wonderful family-friendly attraction isn’t free on most days, it is much more affordable on Friday nights. From 5 pm – 9 pm on Friday, tickets for the Boston Children’s Museum will only cost $1 per person. Of course, if you have very young kids (under 12 months), it’s worth noting that their admission is always free.
This is a great place to take the family at the end of a long week, as there are a lot of hands-on exhibits and experiments for your children to enjoy. Depending on what time of year it is, you may also have the opportunity to enjoy special seasonal activities and events.
TIP: The Museum Pass available to Boston Public Library card holders will allow you to save money on tickets to the Boston Children’s Museum.
Attend Astronomy After Hours
The Museum of Science offers this fun activity for free during the warmer months of the year. The Astronomy After Hours event runs from April – October on most Friday evenings. On clear nights, you can see the stars, planets, the moon, and several other incredible sights from our solar system with the telescope at this observatory.
If you’re looking for an interesting nighttime activity for your family to enjoy, this is an excellent opportunity that won’t cost you a dime. Simply head to the roof of the museum’s parking garage to reach the Gilliland Observatory after the sun goes down on Friday nights.
TIP: Admission to the Museum of Science is included with both the Boston CityPass and the Go Boston Card. Alternatively, you can also get free admission with the Museum Pass offered by Boston Public Library.
Take the Kids to a City Playground
If your kids need to run around for a bit, there are several great playgrounds in Boston that they will love. Here are a handful of the more popular locations in the city:
- Tadpole Playground (Boston Common)
- Buckley Playground (South Boston)
- DeFilippo Playground (North End)
- Myrtle Street Playground (Beacon Hill)
- Charles Bank Playground (West End)
- Eliot Norton Park (Chinatown)
- Back Bay Playground (Back Bay East)
- Esplanade Playground (Beacon Hill)
Needless to say, all of these locations are free to visit. No matter where you’re staying, chances are there will be a playground where your kids can have some fun without the need to spend any money.
Go on a Swan Boat Ride
Although it’s not technically free, there is a wonderful swan boat rental service available at Boston Common. If you’re already planning to come here for the free playground or the Frog Pond, you may also want to consider taking a short boat ride around the lagoon of the Boston Public Garden.
- Tickets: $4/Adults | $2.50/Children | $3.50/Seniors
- Children under 2 are free
- Cash or credit card accepted
- Spring Hours: 10 am – 4 pm
- Summer Hours: 10 am – 5 pm
- Learn more here
This service is only available during the warmer months. Weather permitting, the Swan Boats are open every day during the Spring and Summer.
TIP: Tickets for the Swan Boat are included with the Go Boston Card.
Head to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
If you’re interested in giving your kids an opportunity to see some of the finest art in the world, this museum includes several wonderful pieces from noted artists such as Michelangelo, Aristotle, Raphael and many others.
In addition to all the great artwork, there are also free tours and family programs available upon request. One of the most popular activities is their Saturday drop-in art event, which invites visitors of all ages to get creative.
The best thing about this location is that admission is free for everyone under the age of 17, so you won’t have to pay anything for your children. It’s also worth noting that if your name is Isabella, you will receive free admission for your entire life.
- Tickets: $15/Adults | $12/Seniors | $10/Students
- Hours: 11 am – 5 pm | Open until 9 pm on Thursday
NOTE: Admission for adults is included with the Go Boston Card.
Visit the Mapparium
Located at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Mapparium is one of the most interesting places in all of Boston. At three stories in height, this stain-glass globe recreates the entire world as it was seen in 1935. As you walk in, you’ll immediately be struck by the fact that there are continents and oceans surrounding you at every turn.
The Mapparium is free for kids under 5 years of age and pretty affordable for everyone else. The rest of the Mary Baker Eddy Library is entirely free to access.
- Tickets: $6/Adults | $4/Seniors
- Free for Blue Star Families
- Only available via tour
- Tours run every 20 minutes from 10:20 am – 4:40 pm
TIP: Admission to the Mapparium can be obtained with the Museum Pass from Boston Public Library. You can also use the Go Boston Card to save money on this attraction.
Check Out the Boston Fire Museum
Most kids love firefighters, so this is a no brainer for families. Located at the site of an old city firehouse, the Boston Fire Museum features several exhibits and artifacts detailing the history of firefighting.
In addition to buckets for water and trumpets used to direct firemen, there are also a few historic fire engines in their collection. There is no admission charge for any visitor, but they do appreciate any and all donations that guests can give them.
The Boston Fire Museum is only open on Fridays & Saturdays.
- Admission: Free
- Friday Hours: 5 pm – 8 pm
- Saturday Hours: 9:30 am – 4 pm
- Learn more here
Free Things to Do at Night
In this section, we will provide a list of interesting activities you can enjoy in Boston after the sun goes down. Check our other sections for even more ideas such as Astronomy After Hours, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Boston Children’s Museum, movie nights at Boston Common and more.
Don’t forget that a lot of great nighttime attractions are included with the Boston tourist passes.
See the Stars at Coit Observatory
Stargazing is one of the most romantic activities after dark, and the Coit Observatory is one of the best places in Boston to see the stars. Thankfully, you don’t have to pay anything to enjoy this activity during their Public Open Nights.
Although this is a free event, it’s important to note that you will need to reserve tickets ahead of time. There is limited space available, so they won’t be able to let everyone in. Thankfully, it’s relatively easy and painless to get tickets for this activity.
- Tickets: Free
- Availability: Wednesdays w/ clear skies
- Spring/Summer Hours: 8:30 pm
- Fall/Winter Hours: 7:30 pm
- Obtain free tickets here
TIP: Don’t forget that you can also attend Astronomy After Hours for free at the Museum of Science.
Enjoy the View at Top of the Hub
While the food at this popular restaurant may not be free, the view won’t cost you a dime. At 52 floors above the Back Bay, Top of the Hub is one of the most popular dining establishments in the city thanks to both the quality of their meals and the incredible views of Boston.
Even though you have to make reservations for a table, you are free to visit the lounge whenever you like and there is no fee for admission. As such, you don’t necessarily have to pay anything to see the view for yourself.
If you want to sit at the bar and hang out for a bit to take in the cityscape, chances are that nobody is going to hassle you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a drink or two just to mark the moment and show some appreciation for the excellent sightseeing opportunity.
NOTE: Looking for a good view of the city? Consider visiting one of the more popular Boston observation decks for a different perspective of the skyline.
Take a Tour of the Night Shift Brewery
Despite the heavy competition in Boston, Night Shift Brewing is quickly gaining ground in the market with some of the best craft beers in the city. If you want to see their operation for yourself, they offer free tours of the brewery every weekend. While most of the tours take place during the day, there are two that run at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday night.
While the tour is free, they do ask for a donation to the Greater Boston Food Bank in return. If you get hungry or thirsty while you’re there, they have plenty of beer and snacks that you can purchase at the brewery.
TIP: If you’re interested in touring the breweries of Boston, it’s worth noting that the Samuel Adams Brewery tour is included with the Go Boston Card.
Go to an Open Mic Comedy Night
If you need a good laugh, consider going to one of the open mic standup comedy nights at various venues in the Boston Area. Here are a few of the more popular options that won’t cost you a dime:
- Improv Boston | Wednesday
- Cityside Comedy Club | Monday
- The Bebop | Monday
- 6B Lounge | Sunday
- Herter Park Amphitheater | Thursday (monthly)
- And more!
Although the show won’t cost you a thing to enjoy, you might want to consider getting a drink or two while you’re there to show some appreciation and enjoy yourself.
Enjoy a Free Live Performance or Show
Throughout the year, there are usually several different live performances available to the public. One of the best examples is at Boston Common, where there are usually at least a few shows at the Parkman Bandstand and some movies in the park during the warmer months.
In addition to that venue, there are also a lot of great performances held at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade from April – October. One of their more popular events is the Boston Pops Independence Day Concert on July 4th, but there are also several movies, music festivals and other shows available at this location.
If you’re interested in hearing some live music, keep an eye on the events calendar for the Berklee Performance Center. This venue often provides several free concerts including symphonies, jazz ensembles and more. The best part about this opportunity is that they offer free performances all year round!
Spend a Night at the Museum
There are a handful of museums in Boston that offer free admission at night. Some locations even keep their doors open a bit later than usual to provide this opportunity. We’ve already mentioned two of the most interesting examples with the Boston Children’s Museum and the Boston Fire Museum, but here are a few additional options you may want to consider.
- Institute of Contemporary Art
- Free from 5 pm – 9 pm on Thursdays
- Fuller Craft Museum
- Free from 5 pm – 9 pm on Thursdays
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Pay-what-you-want after 4 pm on Wednesdays
- Museum of Bad Art
- Free and available at Somerville Theatre
NOTE: You can save a lot of money on museum tickets by using a Boston tourist pass. Alternatively, if you’re a Boston Public Library card holder, you may also want to think about using their Museum Pass for free or cheap admission to several popular locations.
Free Boston Attractions
In this section, we will provide a list of several attractions you can visit for free in Boston. If you want to learn about even more locations you can visit, make sure to check the rest of this post for additional details about activities that won’t cost you a dime.
It’s also important to note that some of the most popular attractions are much more affordable when you use a Boston tourist pass.
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- Boston Custom House
- Boston Esplanade
- Boston Symphony Hall Tours
- Waterworks Museum
- Boston Athenaeum
- Warren Anatomical Museum
- The Ether Dome
- The Plumbing Museum
- Harvard Museum of Natural History
- Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology
- Harvard Art Museum
- MIT Museum
- Commonwealth Museum
- Boston University Art Gallery
- Boston Public Garden
- Black Heritage Trail
- Boston Harbor Walk
- Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park
Free Seasonal Activities
The following section will provide a calendar full of free things to do during every month of the year. Each of these posts features at least a few seasonal attractions or events that won’t cost you a thing to enjoy.