So, as I’m sure all of you know there are umpteen websites which offer free and cheap items through the wonders of the internet. There are birthday freebies, travel deals, cheapskate eats – anything you want, you can find. But most of the time you have to deal with a load of hoop jumping, or signing up for marketing emails, or caveats up the yin-yang.
However, Boston has a great number of fantastic free and inexpensive things to do for all ages! Here are some of the best:
The absolute BEST price is free, right? Well, thanks to the wonderful folks at The Highland Street Foundation, every Friday in July and August there is free admission to 4 different attractions throughout Massachusetts. The first weekend is gone, but upcoming freebies include the Worcester Art Museum, the Museum of Science, the Franklin Park Zoo, Boston Children’s Museum, even free performances at Tanglewood and New Rep. OK, so plenty of you work on Fridays. But plenty of you can take a long weekend, right? Plus, in the case of the Museum of Science, they have extended hours on Fridays in summer (9am – 9pm), so even if you DO work a full Friday you can get in a few hours of gawking and geeking! Do check out the website, there’s something for everyone.
I know they get flak. They are one of the largest financial institutions we have, it’s natural. However, they also have the Museums On Us program, and for those of us who love culture but have limited funds, it is a brilliant way to buy back a bit of our goodwill. In the Boston area, they offer free admission on the Museum of Fine Arts EVERY Saturday and Sunday. This includes all galleries, currently including the Chihuly exhibit (which runs through the first week in August). All you need is a BoA credit or debit card. You will need to stand in the regular admission line, but last time I was there my husband and I had less than a 10 minute wait. Also in the Boston area they run free weekends at the Harvard Natural History Museum in Cambridge, and the deCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln. A bit further west in Worcester, they offer free admission all weekend to the Worcester Art Museum. If you are traveling to the Berkshires, they offer free admission to MASS MoCA in North Adams; and on the Cape you get in free to the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis.
Boston is easy to walk. Know a few key landmarks and you can get from one place to another simply and easily. For free enjoyment, start at Quincy Market / Faneuil Hall. Each day in the summer there are street performers, indoor and outdoor vendors, and some weekends there are fantastic living statues from the folks at Ten31. I would urge you to toss a dollar or five at the performers if you watch their shows – it’s how most of them make a living. And I’m not promising anything, but if you go on a slow day (it’s mid-week and crummy weather for instance), lots of the food vendors offer samples. Clam chowder is prevalent, but popcorn, pastries, various beverages, and even lobster have made appearances.
After you get your samples, head out towards the water. The Rose Kennedy Greenway is just ahead. There are fountains, places to sit, places to take off your shoes and feel the grass under your feet, shady areas, and vendors who sell everything from ice cream to lemonade to hot dogs to cupcakes. Stroll to your left, you will head to the North End, full of skinny winding streets where you can find all things Italian. To your right, cross another couple of streets, and you will reach the New England Aquarium. Yes, the Aquarium requires admission. However, it’s absolutely free to watch the harbor seals swim around in their tank. Enjoy a few minutes of reducing your blood pressure while they glide back and forth. You’ll find a smile on your face and a load off your shoulders. And if you time it right, you can get there during the free training sessions. Check the daily schedule to find out times.
Once you have had your fill of watching the big swimming sausages, continue your stroll on the Harbor Walk. Right along the waterfront, it connects a number of attractions and parks from Charlestown to Mattapan. If you head north, you’ll come to the North End. Head south, and you’ll skirt along Central Wharf, India Wharf, and Rowes Wharf – where you will find the Boston Harbor Hotel Rotunda. It’s big and obvious and really, really pretty. Also along this section of the Harbor Walk, you will see the yachts and schooners which cost more in dockage fees than the GNP of some small nations. Keep walking and you will reach Fort Point Channel and its decaying splendor; and the Federal Courthouse and ICA, which are gorgeous modern constructions with large, sweeping outdoor spaces. And, and, and! The ICA has free admission every Thursday from 5pm – 9pm, free family admission the last Saturday of every month, free admission ALL the time for anyone age 17 and under, and free outdoor music on Thursdays as part of the Harborwalk Sounds series.
So there you go Boston, plenty of options to help you stick to your budget. Stay tuned for the upcoming article, “Cheap Ain’t Too Bad Either!”