A trip to any major city — including Boston– requires some budgeting; but that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to have a good time. There are tons of free things to do in Beantown, whether you love art or history or spending time outdoors. Here are just a handful of our favorites, broken down by interest.
For the Outdoor Lover
If you’re always after a great urban park or the perfect picnic, don’t miss the 382-year-old Boston Commons, which is especially beautiful in spring during cherry blossom season. Another landmark is the Charles River Esplanade, home to a bike path, three playgrounds, and a 1.5-mile Healthy Heart Trail that’s designated by the state to promote an active lifestyle. It’s also the best place to experience the city’s spectacular July 4th fireworks.
More of our favorite outdoor spaces can be found at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University near Jamaica Plain. The cemetery, which is the burial site of famed Bostonians (including the namesake of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), features winding paths that reveal diverse gardens, ponds, and even wildlife at every turn. The graves range from humble headstones to grand mausoleums. The arboretum is spread over a whopping 281 acres, with all manners of curious flora, shrubbery, and even fruits. Even if gardens aren’t typically at the top of your list, chances are you’ll find something that tickles your fancy among the 15,000 plants here — and the maple and crabapple collections are always a hit in the fall. Free tours are offered April through October, or wander on your own with a brochure guide.
For the Architecture Aficionado
Architecture enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Boston Public Library’s Central Library, standing grand in all of its Renaissance glory in Copley Square. Free public tours are offered up to seven days a week, introducing visitors to the stately halls, John Singer Sargent murals, and other beloved pieces of art. A stroll down Back Bay’s Commonwealth Avenue Mall is also a fantastic way to see how the city developed. The area was once a literal bay that was filled in block by block, so the street’s historic buildings are a chronological reflection of popular architectural styles in the 19th century.
For the History Hound
Love history (or all things marine)? Visits to the USS Constitution — most known for its War of 1812 battles — are on a suggested donation and first-come, first-serve basis. Aboard the US Navy vessel, learn about the ship’s 200-plus years of history via some of the museum’s nearly 1,700 artifacts and 7,000-plus manuscripts.
For the Culture Vulture
For arts, the Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery is one of the non-restricted spaces at the Boston Athenaeum, an early-1800s museum and library that’s largely members-only. We love that the Harbor Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Boston is student-run and features the works of contemporary artists alongside local students from around the world. And don’t miss SoWa Boston, a local community in the South End of more than three dozen galleries and studios, plus as many clothing boutiques and showrooms. On Sundays in spring and summer, the SoWa Open Market is one of the best destinations for arts and crafts in the city. (The market is free to browse, of course, but don’t say we didn’t warn you about the tempting local produce, specialty foods, and food truck treats that are also onsite.)