39 Totally Free Things to Do in Boston Right Now (2024)

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39 Totally Free Things to Do in Boston Right Now (1)

It’s no secret that Boston is an expensive city. However, there’s a wide range of fun and free activities if you know where to look! This is a list of the 39+ best free things to do in Boston, written by a local. I include everything from the best parks to hidden city gems.

While these are all COMPLETELY free activities, I also provide some optional cheap things to do while you’re there.

Last Updated: November 21st, 2023

Best Free Things to Do in Boston

Freedom Trail

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Starting off the best free things to do in Boston is the Freedom Trail! The self-guided tour 2.5-mile-long path that’s marked by red brick on the ground (so you really can’t miss it). It starts at the Boston Common and ends at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Along the way, you can look at 16 historic sites. Some have an entry fee, but others are free. (the Bunker Hill Monument is free, for instance)

Further Reading: Ultimate 3 Day Itinerary for Boston

Boston Common

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In the warmer weather, the Boston Public Garden is the perfect place to have a picnic with friends, go for a jog or bike ride, or just people-watch. They also have two tennis courts and a small baseball field. I often see people playing frisbee or throwing a football around, too.

In the warmer weather, get your portrait drawn for $1 by local artist Nick Shea.

Boston Public Garden

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Just a block away from the Commons is the Boston Public Garden. It’s the more picturesque of the two, with a pond with swans and ducks, a garden, and a bridge perfect for Instagram pictures. There’s plenty of bench seating and walking paths along the water.

A fun tourist activity in the spring and summer is to ride the swan boats in the Boston Public Garden. The Swan Boats have been in service since 1877 and are powered by a single driver that pedals at the back of the boat. The ride makes a loop around the pond and lasts about 10-15 minutes.

Tickets for adults are $4.50, $3.50 for children aged 2-15, free for children under 2, and $4.00 for seniors 65+.

Acorn Street

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Head over to Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s most beautiful neighborhoods, to snap photos of one of the country’s most Instagrammable streets. Acorn Street takes you back to the 17th century with its townhouses and cobblestone ground.

Make sure to spend time strolling through the rest of Beacon Hill, too. Besides the old-fashioned brick townhouses perched on the hills, Charles Street has plenty of boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.

Tour a Boston Museum

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This section of the best free things to do in Boston guide is dedicated to all the free museum days and free entry for certain groups.

  • Museum of Bad Art – a unique museum in Boston with the tagline “art too bad to be ignored”. It’s always free!
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History & Peabody Museum – They have free entry for Massachusetts residents every Sunday morning from 9 AM-12 PM year round and on Wednesdays from 3 PM-5 PM September through May (with ID proof). It’s also free for holders of a current Harvard ID and a plus one, Massachusetts residents with an EBT or WIC card for up to 5 guests, active military duty and families, and teachers K-12.
  • Museum of Fine Arts – free for members, kids under 6, active military duty or veterans and their families, certain university students, Bank of America cardholders, MA residents with EBT or ConnectorCare Cards for ages 3-17, and free admission on certain days.
  • Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum – Beginning in October, free admission on the first Thursday evening of the month. Admission is also free for museum members, certain university students, military and their families, and anyone named Isabella!
  • Institute of Contemporary Art – Admission is free every Thursday between 5-9 PM. It’s also free for museum members, ICA University members, and corporate members.
  • New England Aquarium – The aquarium doesn’t have completely free tickets, but check out their website for discounts.
  • USS Constitution Museum – free admission for EBT holders, Museum members, and active & retired military members with a photo ID, Massachusetts teachers, and anyone who has a library pass.

Play Games at VERSUS

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For gamers, this is one of the best free things to do in Boston! Versus is a Downtown-area barcade with old-school arcade games, pinball machines, skeeball, a basketball-Connect-4 game, and modern video games like Mario Kart & Super Smash Bros.

Every Friday is “Free Play Fridays”, where between 5-6 PM, you get free entry and unlimited gameplay! * Note: You need to be 21+ to enter!

Further Reading: 25+ Best Indoor Activities in Boston

Independence Wharf Observation Deck

Looking for an observation deck to admire the city skyline? Skip the $36 ViewBoston tickets and head up to the 14th floor of the Observation Deck at the Independence Wharf in Seaport for free. You can enjoy panoramic views of Boston’s Seaport and Downtown. There isn’t much else up there (no benches or food), but it’s worth a look.

SoWa Open Market

One of my favorite free things to do in Boston on a Sunday is to visit the South End Open Market. SoWa is the arts and design district of the South End, filled with galleries, studios, and boutiques.

The open-air market has over 100 local vendors and food trucks. You’ll find everything from handmade jewelry, home decor, produce, and food products like jam. There is also a section dedicated to food trucks with cuisine from around the world. My favorite is Blackbird Donuts.

Note: SoWa open market is on Sundays from May to October from 11 AM-4 PM

Stargaze at the Coit Observatory

Dating all the way back to 1967, Boston University’s Coit Observatory has held free open nights on Wednesday evenings for the public to stargaze! It’s a unique experience to see the stars and moon up close while learning how to use different telescopes.

Since space is limited, you need to make an online reservation to the observatory beforehand. This is heavily weather-dependent, so check the website for updates on the day of.

Boston Public Library

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The perfect free study spot is the Boston Public Library in Copley. I particularly like the older side, which has a courtyard with a beautiful fountain and sculpture in the middle. The courtyard is great for catching up with friends, taking pictures, or studying.

You can also head up the marble staircase of the library to the Bates Hall. The stunning high-ceiling room is pretty silent (perfect for deep focus time).

Faneuil Hall

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What once served as an open forum meeting hall, Faneuil Hall is now an indoor pavilion of vendor stalls for food and drinks.

Of course, the food and drink at Faneuil Hall cost money. I don’t recommend most of the food stalls since they’re overpriced and not that tasty, but I DO like Boston Chowda for a clam chowder bread bowl and Pizzeria Regina for a slice.

Free Harvard Tours

Whether you’re a tourist (or a local playing tourist), the student-led Harvard University campus tours in Cambridge are a unique and cool free activity in Boston. Each tour is about 45-60 minutes and provides the history of the University, information on the iconic Harvard buildings, and the student tour guide’s own experiences.

While the tour is free, you need to make a reservation online beforehand to get a spot.

Free Guided Walking Tours

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On the topic of free tours, there’s a surprising number of them around Boston. Free Tours on Foot is a widely used guided walking tour led by city experts. Their payment structure is “name-your-own-price” at the end of the tour.

Each tour lasts about 2 hours. The featured tours on their website include the Freedom Trail, North End/Little Italy, the History of Boston, Beacon Hill Crime, and the Boston Ghost Tour.

Lawn on D

Famous for its circular light-up swings, Lawn on D is a free landscaped green space. It has lawn games (like bean toss), ping pong, live entertainment, and concession stands.

They also recently added pickleball courts that are free but you need to reserve ahead. I recommend checking their calendar for upcoming events and hours of operation.

Fan Pier in Seaport

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One of my favorite places to catch the sunset is the Fan Pier in the Seaport neighborhood. The green space has tables, benches, and cozy fire pit.

Across the water, you can see the skyline of Downtown Boston, the North End, and Charlestown. Over on the docks, you can get a glimpse of the planes in East Boston taking off from the Boston Logan International Airport. There are also some steps you can climb for a better view.

Charles River Esplanade

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The Esplanade is definitely my favorite Boston park. It extends about 3 miles from the Museum of Science to the BU Bridge, with the Boston side passing Back Bay and the Boston University campus.

Along the Esplanade is an outdoor calisthenics gym, playground, and dock area. I especially hanging up a hammock between the trees. Also, the docks are the perfect place to watch the sunset. It’s one of my go-to free things to do in Boston with friends.

Revere Beach

Next on the best free things to do in Boston list are its beaches. An easily accessible beach in Boston is Revere Beach, just off the Revere Beach Blue Line station. It sprawls over three miles long, so you’re bound to get a spot. Every summer they have a free International sand sculpting festival. You’ll see giant sand sculptures carved by world-class artists, food vendors, live entertainment, and more.

In all honesty, Revere Beach is definitely not the nicest beach around. But, the sand is relatively clean and it’s a convenient option for anyone wanting a beach day in Boston.

Castle Island

Castle Island is a peninsula (NOT a complete island!) with a park, picnic area, and Fort Independence. Popular recreational activities include jogging, biking, swimming, and fishing (my personal favorite). There’s also a playground for children.

While you’re there, stop by the infamous Sullivan’s for classic American-fare food including hot dogs, fries, fried seafood platters, and burgers. It’s the perfect snack to enjoy on a nice day. Or, you can set up a picnic and grill at the park.

Carson Beach

Whether it’s sunbathing or recreational sports, Carson Beach is an easily accessible and centrally-located Boston beach. You can walk, jog, bike, and play beach sports — I enjoy playing volleyball here. It’s a hot spot for beach volleyball players in the summer but you need to bring your own net.

Carson Beach is a 5-10 minute walk from the JFK/Umass line on the Red Line, and there are parking lots and street parking.

Arnold Arboretum

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The 282-acre arboretum is both a botanical research institution and a free public park. Founded in 1872, it’s the oldest arboretum in North America! There are over 15,000 plants throughout the park, and special events throughout the year. For instance, every May you can experience the bloom of their lilacs. There are over 400+ lilac variations, so all across the park are shades of purple!

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For those visiting with kids, the Arboretum hosts family-friendly activities.

Window Shop at the Prudential & Newbury Street

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While you may have to spend money to actually buy something, Back Bay is the best Boston neighborhood to window shop. Newbury Street spans 8 blocks full of boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and chain stores.

Just a street over from Newbury is the Prudential Center and Copley Place. They’re both indoor malls, making it one of the best free things to do in Boston on a rainy day!

Free Things to Do in Boston: Seasonal & Special Events

Admire the Roses at the Rose Gardens

In the warmer months, visit one of my favorite free things in Boston’s hidden gems: rose gardens! The James P. Kelleher Rose Garden in the Back Bay Fens has over 200 varieties of roses, statues, and a fountain.

Shakespeare on the Common

During July and August, you can watch Macbeth as a part of “Shakespeare on the Common”. The play runs for 2 hours and is surprisingly exciting and entertaining. You don’t need to reserve in advance and are free to bring your own snacks, blankets, and chairs to make yourself comfortable on the grass.

Free Friday Flicks at the Hatch Shell

A fun family-oriented option for free things to do in Boston during the summer is to attend Free Friday Flicks at the hatch shell on the Charles River Esplanade! The feature-length, family-oriented movies are played every Friday at 6 PM between July and August. Bring your own blankets, snacks, and chairs since you’ll be on the lawn.

On certain days (in the past it was Wednesdays and Saturdays), you can also catch a free concert at the Hatch Shell. The Boston Landmarks Orchestra organizes them – check the events page on the website for more information.

Boston Marathon

Spectate one of Boston’s most iconic annual events, the Boston Marathon. It’s been ongoing for 128 years now, with the next marathon on Monday, April 15th, 2024. There are over 26 miles of the course, starting at Hopkinton’s Village and ending in Copley.

You’ll have plenty of spots to watch, but I recommend hanging out around the finish line. You can also volunteer for it.

Note: Spectating the Boston Marathon is completely free, but you need to pay and qualify to actually run it.

Boston August Moon Festival

Celebrated in Boston’s Chinatown, the August Moon Festival happens every mid-August. It celebrates the annual rice harvest and wheat during the full moon and the prosperity and unity of Chinese culture.

Expect the festival to be filled with Chinese folk dances, lion dances, vendors, and food.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The St. Patrick’s Day parade happens in South Boston, near Broadway station. It’s Boston’s predominant Irish-American neighborhood. The next parade is on March 17th, 2024. The parade has marching bands, cool costumes, and fun vehicles. The atmosphere is very exciting to be in.

Note: Make sure to wear green!


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One of the best free things to do in Boston in the winter is Snowport! Located in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood, Snowport is a holiday market that runs between November until the end of the year. The market for 2023 has over 120 vendors, local food and drink stalls, curling that you can sign up for, a section to buy pine trees, and a fun pink Yeti mascot.

Note: While entry is free, I found that the food and goods sold to be pretty pricy. Keep that in mind when you visit!

Best Free Things to Do in Boston Nearby

Hike the Blue Hills

Last on the best free things to do in Boston list is an activity further out of the city. The Blue Hills Reservation in Milton has trails for all fitness and experience levels. One of the most popular trails includes the Great Blue Hill via the Skyline Trail, which ends at a watch tower where you can see the city skyline in the distance.

Further Reading: 21 Best Day Trips from Boston

Wrapping Up: Fun & Free things to do in Boston

That concludes my ultimate guide to free Boston things to do! After completing all the free things to do in Boston, check out my other Boston food and travel guides:

  • The Best Boston Southern Food (11 Spots)
  • Little Italy in Boston: The Complete Guide
  • 17+ Best Cheap Eats Boston
  • Ultimate Foodie Boston Bucket List (100+ Restaurants!)
  • 21 Best Vegan Restaurants in Boston

Did I miss your favorite free Boston activity? Leave a comment or let me know on my contact page.

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39 Totally Free Things to Do in Boston Right Now (2024)
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