Free Things To Do in Boston
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Four buildings – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market – constitute Faneuil Hall Marketplace, with the oldest being Faneuil Hall. Built in 1742 and now located on the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall has had a long and important history in Massachusetts politics. Samuel Adams once stood here to push for resistance against the British, and abolitionists and suffragists have stood on their soapboxes here. In fact, this is where Jonathan Mayhew famously challenged the Sugar Act of 1764 by proclaiming, "no taxation without representation." Since Mayhew's declaration, the marketplace has expanded to include more than 100 shops and restaurants.
Some former visitors caution that the items sold at Faneuil Hall Marketplace are a bit overpriced. However, if you're looking to kill some time or snap some great photos, consider strolling through the market's halls. You'll also find various cuisines served in Quincy Market if you're in need of a quick bite. Keep in mind that this market gets crowded quickly (especially on weekends and in the summer), so it's best to visit during a weekday if you don't want to encounter hordes of people.
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The grounds of Boston Common started as a cow pasture in the mid-1600s. After a few years, overgrazing became a problem and the area was transformed into a British camp. After the Revolutionary War, the park became a popular locale for public speeches and rallies. Now, the Common is best known because of its status as the oldest public park in the country. You'll also find a variety of activities and events, including theater and musical performances, hosted here throughout the year. If you plan to traverse the Freedom Trail, you'll start the walk here at Boston Common.
Though some visitors said you won't find much to do in this park, Boston Common is great for picnics or a leisurely stroll. Recent travelers also noted that this site is a wonderful spot to take young children. In addition to ample running room on the park's green space, kids can play at the Tadpole Playground or Frog Pond. Frog Pond offers a spray pool during the warmer months and an ice skating rink in the winter.
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Stretching 2½ miles, the Freedom Trail weaves past 16 of the city's most historic sites, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the Paul Revere House and Old North Church. Taking in all of the trail's attractions requires at least half a day (and some comfortable walking shoes), but you can easily plot points of interest before you begin your jaunt from Boston Common.
Though most recent visitors agreed the trail is easy to navigate on your own, some culture hounds said joining one of the walking tours with the 18th-century costumed Freedom Trail Player tour guides offers an informative, 90-minute introduction to Boston's revolutionary roots. If you have a Go Boston Card, standard guided tours are covered by your pass.
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Though the Boston Public Garden sits right next to Boston Common, the two are actually quite different. The public garden is newer (established in 1837) and holds the distinction of being America's first public botanical garden. Flowers and trees are beautifully organized and kept in quality condition throughout. You can see the colorful arrangements and exotic trees from the 4-acre pond in the center of the garden before taking in the lagoon by Swan Boat. Additionally, the park houses two of Boston's most iconic statues: "Make Way for Ducklings" (a bronze sculpture of a duck and her eight ducklings) and the George Washington Statue (which shows America's first president riding on a horse).
Visitors looking to relax after sightseeing will enjoy Boston Public Garden. Recent travelers said you'll find plenty of shade beneath the park's trees, which comes in handy on hot summer days. Plus, you'll likely spot some ducks and geese swimming around the Public Garden's lagoon. And if you have a few dollars, past visitors recommended taking a 15-minute ride on a Swan Boat. The large paddle boats cost $4 to ride (or $2.50 for kids ages 2 to 15); travelers with Go Boston Cards ride for free. Swan Boats are available between mid-April and mid-September.
- #9View all PhotosfreeNorth End#9 in Boston0.5 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.5 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Chances are you’ll end up in the North End at least once during your visit to Boston. It's steeped in the city's rich history as it holds the title of Boston's oldest neighborhood and houses three attractions on the Freedom Trail. What makes this neighborhood a top point of interest, however, is its Italian culture: The North End is considered Boston’s Little Italy.
While Italians weren’t the first to settle in this area (English settlers arrived first then Jewish Germans and Irish), their cultural influence on the North End withstood the test of time. Today, you’ll find all kinds of Italian food from classic pizza pies served at the popular Regina Pizzeria to Sicilian-style seafood, such as black linguine (made with squid ink) and calamari meatballs at The Daily Catch. For dinner, try Mamma Maria for fine dining, Giacomo's for its affordable, made-in-house pasta or Bricco, which sources its meats and bread from its own meat and bread shop, located right next door. If you’re only interested in pizza, hit up Galleria Umberto for delectable solo slices or Antico Forno for its full-size, wood-fired pies. Prezza is known for its extensive wine list, boasting more than 600 wine labels to choose from. If you’re looking to veer away from traditional Italian fare, venture to Taranta, which plates up Peruvian-Italian fusion dishes. For dessert, make sure to pick up a cannoli at Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry, or tiramisu at the 24-hour Bova’s Bakery.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Boston1.2 miles to city centerFree, Tours, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.2 miles to city centerFree, Tours, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
A library isn't always all about books. The main branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, which opened in 1895, is so much more, according to recent visitors who call the architecture "beautiful." Walking into the Renaissance Revival building is akin to visiting a museum. On Dartmouth Street, two immense stone lions sculpted by Louis Saint-Gaudens stand guard by the main entrance. Inside, Bates Hall, the library's main reference reading room, is a 218-foot-long room with a barrel-arch ceiling soaring 50 feet high.
Visitors can take a free tour and learn all about the murals found throughout the library, including John Singer Sargent's series on the "Triumph of Religion," which was returned to its original brilliance after a cleaning and restoration in 2003. Other murals include works by French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who depicted the nine muses in "The Muses of Inspiration," and Edwin Austin Abbey's "The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail."
- #11View all PhotosfreeCambridge#11 in Boston3 miles to city centerMuseums, Free, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND3 miles to city centerMuseums, Free, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Cambridge, which sits about 3 miles northwest of Boston's city center, is home to both Harvard University and MIT, but there's more to see in Cambridge than just the schools themselves. The city features an impressive array of cultural institutions that feature collections an exhibitions ranging from fine art to technological innovations.
The Harvard Art Museums, which include the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum and Arthur M. Sackler Museum, house a wide range of periods, styles and mediums within its walls. Here, you’ll find a mix of modern photography, 13th century BCE sculpture, paintings from legends like Georgia O’Keeffe, Picasso and Jackson Pollock, and much more. If you prefer history, head to the MIT Museum or the Peabody Museum of Archaeology. The former offers rotating exhibits of the museum’s vast collection of artifacts, including scientific instruments and thousands of architectural drawings, which are considered to be one of the most important collections of its kind in the field. The Peabody Museum of Archaeology also has an extensive collection (1.2 million objects to be exact). Here, you’ll find items from early inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, Mayan and Mesoamerican treasures and the only surviving collection of Native American objects procured from the Lewis and Clark expedition. If science is more your speed, head to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to view dinosaur fossils, rare minerals and animal specimens from New England to Asia.
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Despite its location outside of the city center, touring the Samuel Adams Brewery is a must for beer lovers. This brewery location is the smallest of the brand's three sites, but acts as Samuel Adams' testing facility for new and specialty brews. It's also the only of the three locales to host public tours and tastings.
Whether you're a local or a tourist, odds are you'll enjoy exploring the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston. Recent visitors said the tours offer a comprehensive and informative overview of the brewing process that's well worth the trek to get to the brewery. (Fortunately, after the nearly 5-mile "T" ride from downtown, you'll only face a short walk from the Stony Brook station to the brewery.) Another highlight comes at the end of the tour, when tourgoers 21 and older receive a free beer sample and a small keepsake glass. The brewery also has a beer garden, where pints, flights and tasters are served.
- #14View all PhotosfreeBeacon Hill#14 in Boston0.4 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.4 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Beacon Hill is arguably Boston’s most beautiful neighborhood. Located north of Boston Common, Beacon Hill is awash with quaint, cobblestone-lined alleyways, corners dotted with gas street lamps, stately townhouses affixed with bay view windows and vibrant, flower-filled window boxes. It’s Beacon Hill’s incredible style, a stunning mix of Federal and Greek revival architecture, that make this neighborhood an attraction in and of itself. And recent visitors couldn’t agree more.
Travelers who ventured to Beacon Hill were charmed by its beauty and say that it’s the perfect place to take a long stroll and get lost. While here, make sure to wander to noteworthy spots including the picturesque Louisburg Square and Acorn Street, the latter of which is one of the most photographed places in Boston. After, head down Charles Street, where you’ll find restaurants, shops and bars. Fans of the TV show "Cheers" will want to walk down Beacon Street to find the bar that inspired the program.
- #20View all Photos#20 in Boston0.2 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Gaze up at the six 54-foot-tall glass towers that comprise the New England Holocaust Memorial, and you're bound to be awestruck. Erected in 1995, each haunting tower is etched with numbers – the 6 million numbers represent the Holocaust's victims, while the towers represent the six major death camps. There is also a granite path covered in quotes from survivors that leads visitors inside the towers.
Recent visitors described walking through the columns as an emotionally charged and unforgettable experience. Plus, the monument's location next to Faneuil Hall Marketplace make it extremely convenient to see.
- #22View all Photos#22 in Boston0.4 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.4 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Boston is packed with cool outdoor spaces, but this nearly 1½-mile-long series of parks and gardens offers more than most. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway was established to link Boston's diverse neighborhoods through a series of lawns, parks and walkways that occupy a former highway tunnel. Since opening in 2008, visitors have flocked to this sprawling green space to enjoy temporary public art displays, bubbling fountains, numerous food vendors and a carousel. Plus, the park offers free weekly events, including food and art festivals, summer concert performances and seasonal fitness classes.
Many previous visitors said the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway not only offers a much-needed respite from the city, but also an easy way to explore Boston with kids during the warmer months. And, in many sections of the Greenway, you're never more than a few steps away from the Freedom Trail.
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History lovers, boat enthusiasts and military aficionados alike can't miss the chance to board the USS Constitution. Docked at the Boston National Historical Park in Charlestown, this historic vessel is the world's oldest commissioned warship still operational today. It is helmed by United States Navy sailors, who also serve as the ship's guides.
Previous visitors highly recommend checking out this floating attraction, citing its interesting history and knowledgeable staff as highlights. To make the most of your visit, many suggest perusing the exhibits at the accompanying USS Constitution Museum before or after touring the vessel. If you go to the museum first and buy a flag at the gift shop, make sure to let the ship's crew know: Several past travelers enjoyed watching their flags get raised and lowered on board.
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