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.
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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.
- #13View all Photos#13 in BostonMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
- #15View all Photos#15 in BostonParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
- View all PhotosSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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."
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