Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the United States, but there’s plenty to do in Boston for free. I love to take in the city’s history, architecture, and cultural life without spending anything. My favorite free Boston activities are short on cost and heavy on experience.
Walk the Freedom Trail
You don’t have to spend time inside a museum to learn about Boston history. You can experience it first hand by walking the two and a half mile Freedom Trail. Start the trail at Boston Common Visitor center, and follow the red line on the ground throughout central Boston. (You can download free maps or apps to guide you along.)
By following the Freedom Trail, you’ll learn all about Boston history. Highlights include the Massachusetts State House, Faneuil Hall, site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere house, and the USS Constitution. Since the Freedom Trail is a self guided tour, you can do it at your own pace – even spreading it out over a few days. I have explored the Freedom Trail off and on over the years, rarely walking the whole thing at once.
Take in Harvard Square
I love to enjoy Boston’s student vibe in adjacent Cambridge. Harvard Square is the center of student activity, close to Harvard, MIT, and Tufts. Visit at night to enjoy the various free street performances, or go to a free lecture at the Harvard Bookstore (not affiliated with Harvard University). I recommend going on a free student-led tour of Harvard University. Just waking along the side streets in Harvard Square can be an adventure. You never know when you’ll see an interesting old shop or historic house.
Sam Adam’s Brewery Tour and Tasting
There may be so such thing as a free lunch, but you can enjoy a free brewery tour and tasting at Sam Adam’s brewery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. I’m not a big beer drinker, but I still enjoyed this tour. I advise going on a week day if possible and getting there in the morning – tours start at 10AM. Free beer is a popular concept, so these tours fill up early.
Learn About JFK’s Childhood
The JFK National Historical Site is right next to downtown Boston in Brookline, and unlike the JFK Presidential Library, it’s completely free. My husband first took me here years ago, and I was surprised by how fascinating John F. Kennedy’s childhood home was. It still amazes me that JFK was born in this house on a quiet residential street, and now it’s open for the public to view. Touring the JFK National Historical Site is completely free, and the grounds of the home are very peaceful. I like coming here and contemplating what it was like for the whole Kennedy family to grow up in this exact house.
Stroll Through Boston Public Garden
There is no better place to experience all four seasons of Boston than Boston Public Garden. Many people like to come here in the summer to look at the swans and swan boats. While Boston Public Garden is gorgeous in the summer, I like it best in the fall when all of the leaves are changing. No matter what time of year you visit, the Boston Public Garden is the ideal spot for a picnic, taking photographs, or simply enjoying an oasis in the middle of a bustling city.