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Cheap Things to Do in Boston

Let Freebies Ring

Freedom may not be free, but the Freedom Trail is. So are 13 of the 16 attractions lining its route, and many of those individual sites offer informative free programs. The Massachusetts State House, for instance, schedules complimentary tours weekdays, 10 to 4. The USS Constitution, meanwhile, conducts tours Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 to 6, April through September; Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 to 4 in October; and Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 to 4, November through March. Mid-April through November, you're also welcome to join a free National Park Service Tour of the trail. The guided 90-minute walks are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and schedules vary with the seasons, so check with the Boston National Historical Park for details.

Try a Different Trail

The Freedom Trail's success has spawned other no-cost routes, including the Black Heritage Trail and the Walk to the Sea, which traces four centuries of civic development. The Irish Heritage Trail and Boston Women's Heritage Trail are other interesting options. The former covers sites relating to prominent Irish-Americans from John Hancock (who knew?) to John F. Kennedy, as well as the everyday folks forced from their homeland by the 1840s Potato Famine. The latter pays tribute to local ladies who gained fame as patriots, suffragettes, abolitionists, and artists.

Artsy Alternatives

Symphony Hall (a Victorian showpiece with superb acoustics) and the historic Boston Public Library both run free tours. Moreover, the Museum of Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary Art waive admission on Wednesday and Thursday evenings respectively. It's worth noting as well that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is always free for those under 18—and anyone named Isabella! Penny pinchers should also watch for special events such as the Fenway Cultural District's "Opening Our Doors Day." Held each Columbus Day, it sponsors concerts, lectures, and tours at some of Boston's finest arts institutions.

Enjoy Free Parking

When you're ready for a rest, remember that relaxing in Boston's best-loved parks doesn't cost a dime. If you have already visited the glorious Public Garden and Boston Common, check out the Emerald Necklace. In 1878 renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted began work on six jewel-like parks strung together by a greenway. Connected to the Common and Public Garden by the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Necklace is an urban oasis that extends over 7 miles past meadows, manicured flowerbeds, and marshy ponds from Downtown to Dorchester.

Feeling Indecisive?

HarborWalk (www.bostonharborwalk.com) offers visitors a little bit of everything. Aside from scenic viewpoints (some with free pedestal-mounted binoculars), amenities range from parks, public art installations, and interpretative panels to a pocket Maritime Museum at the Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel. HarborWalk also provides a backside glimpse at popular paid attractions like the New England Aquarium's Marine Mammal Center. Traversing the entire trail could take days. If you only have an hour, download a free audio guide from the website and enjoy a narrated stroll from Christopher Columbus Park to Fan Pier.

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