10 free things to do in Boston

Looking for a dose of American history? Look no further than Boston, Massachusetts.

1. Make way for ducklings

Violet feeds the mama duck statue.photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik via photopin cc

Visit the iconic statue based on the beloved children’s book, then spend some time in Boston Common, the USA’s oldest public park (and the southern end of the Freedom Trail). Bring a book, blanket, and picnic, and spend a leisurely afternoon amongst the trees.


2. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts

MFA Bostonphoto credit: mwms1916 via photopin cc

The MFA Boston is home to one of the most comprehensive collections in the world at nearly half a million pieces. Admission isn’t free every day, but you can visit at no charge on Wednesdays after 4pm (there is a suggested donation of $10).


3. Meander down Newbury Street

Newbury Streetphoto credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via photopin cc

The stores on this upscale stroll might be pricey, but window shopping and people watching won’t cost you a thing. When you’re ready for a break, pop into one of the many cozy coffee shops along the way.


4. Do some stargazing

Observatoryphoto credit: write_adam via photopin cc

Channel your inner astronomer, bundle up, and head to Boston University’s Coit Observatory. Public Open Nights are held nearly every wednesday year-round starting at 7:30pm during the fall and winter and 8:30pm during the spring and summer. The program is weather-permitting, so make sure to call ahead!


5. “Pahk the cah at Hahvahd Yahd”

Harvard Squarephoto credit: afagen via photopin cc

Ok, this sentence may never have been uttered by any Bostonian in history, but you should still make the trip to Cambridge to check out Harvard Square. The area is full of shops, restaurants, performances, and book stores, and you can even take a free student-led guided tour of Harvard Yard. (All kidding aside, parking in the area is tricky, so take public transport if possible!)


6. Board the USS Constitution

USS Constitutionphoto credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via photopin cc

“Old Ironsides” is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and you can tour it, and its accompanying museum, for free. Fun fact: every July 4th, the ship is taken out of the harbor and turned around to ensure that the hull weathers evenly.


7. Attend a performance by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra

Landmarks Orchestraphoto credit: Office of Governor Patrick via photopin cc

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra was founded in 2001 with the goal of making the arts accessible to everyone, regardless of wealth or education. This spirit of accessibility evident in the many concerts accompanied by an interpretive sign language performance and programs in braille. Performances are held all around the city in significant historical and architectural settings.


8. Tour the State House

State Housephoto credit: cmh2315fl via photopin cc

The State House is house of government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and you can tour it for free every weekday from 10am to 3:30pm. The building itself is steeped in history, from the land that used to belong to John Hancock to the copper dome installed by Paul Revere’s company. It’s also home to the Sacred Cod, which is exactly what it sounds like.


9. Grab a brewski

Samuel Adamsphoto credit: chrismar via photopin cc

A visit to the Samuel Adams Brewery is served with a side of history. You’ll smell the hops and experience the brewing process firsthand, but you’ll also learn about Samuel Adams himself. The tour and tasting are both free of charge, although a small $2 donation to a local charity is suggested.


10. Walk the Freedom Trail

Freedom Trailphoto credit: Maxim Melnikov via photopin cc

Follow the red brick line through Boston on a self-guided tour, which includes 16 historic sites and more than 250 years of history. The walk can be completed in about three hours, but it’s easy to spend an entire day wandering in and out of the stops along the way. If walking isn’t your thing, hop on a (paid) unofficial trolley tour. Either way, it’s the best way to immerse yourself in the city’s remarkable history.

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