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Money-Saving tips for Boston and surroundings


Jan 26th, 2009, 08:23 AM
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Money-Saving tips for Boston and surroundings

I am starting a thread to post some of the money-saving tips I have found while living in Boston. I hope other Fodorites will chime in and post their pearls.

I am doing this really for a selfish reason, as I am always looking for fun things to do in and around Boston without breaking the bank. However, I hope this thread will also benefit visitors to Boston and surroundings.

25 Free Things to do in and around Boston, from Boston Globe

Some of the things listed include:
- Coit Observatory, Boston University. Offers free stargazing Wednesdays after 8:30 p.m. throughout the spring and summer
- Arnold Arboretum
- Walking along Newbury Street, North End, Haymarket, Harvard Sq
- Mount Auburn Cemetery

Historic Sites
Freedom Trail - free Self-guided tour

Free NPS Ranger guided Freedom Trail tour

Along the route, stop at
Mass State House for free guided tour

Bunker Hill Monument and Museum free

USS Constitution free guided tours

Boston African American National Historic Site - free

More to come...
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Jan 26th, 2009, 08:38 AM
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For $15, the 7-day MBTA pass can be an excellent value. It's good on all subways and buses, the harbor ferry, and the closest zone of the commuter rail system.

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Jan 26th, 2009, 08:39 AM
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Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Free admission every Wednesday 4-9:45pm

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
No free admission, but there are several offers including:
$2 off with receipt from your visit to the MFA within 2 days
$2 off while wearing any Red Sox paraphernalia

Institute of Contemporary Art
Free admission every Thursday 5-9pm

Harvard Museum of Natural History
Free admission for MA residents every Sun 9-12 noon and Wed 3-5pm

MIT Museum
Free admission every Sun 10-12noon

Boston Children's Museum
$1 admission every Fri 5-9pm

Harvard Art Museums - currently undergoing major renovations
Free admission Sat 10-12noon
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Jan 26th, 2009, 08:45 AM
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IIRC, the Gardner offers free admission to anybody who can prove that their first name is Isabella.
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Jan 26th, 2009, 08:50 AM
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Cultural Events

1) offers 50% off tickets to shows and concerts if purchase online in advance
2) Bostix Booth offer half-price tickets to day-of shows

Boston Symphony Orchestra
$9 rush tickets for concerts to this world-class orchestra
Tickets available at 5pm for Tue/Thu evening concerts, and 10am for Fri matinee concerts

New England Conservatory
FREE evening concerts almost every night of the week

Boston Symphony Hall
FREE guided tours during BSO season
Wed at 4pm; 2nd Sat of each month at 2pm
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Jan 26th, 2009, 09:08 AM
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Sam Adams
$2 suggested donation for tours
Monday-Thursday 10-3
Fridays 10-5:30
Saturday 10-3

Harpoon Tastings
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:00 pm; Friday at 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm; Saturday at 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm

Buzzards Bay Brewing Tasting in Westport MA
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Jan 26th, 2009, 09:23 AM
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Outdoor Activities

MA State Parks - free, some charge for parking during summer

Arnold Arboretum
Free admission plus free guided tours

Franklin Park Zoo
1/2 price admission 10-12noon first Sat of each month
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Jan 26th, 2009, 09:51 AM
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Other Free tours

Boston Public Library
Art & Architecture tour

First Church of Christ, Scientist church tour

Trinity Church, Boston
Free tour every Sunday at 12:15pm

Harvard University Campus tour

MIT Campus tour
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Jan 26th, 2009, 10:18 AM
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Planning websites

Not necessarily money-saving tips, but some useful websites for visitors to plan their visit here:

Greater Boston

MASS National Parks

Historic New England

Trustees of Reservations

Priceline Name Your Own Price feature offers great deals on hotels. Stick with these 2 zones:
1) Copley Square - Theatre District
2) Quincy Market - Faneuil Hall - Financial District

Public transportation is easy and relatively cheap. The link provided by Anon for the 7-day pass is great.

It is easy to go from Logan Airport to downtown Boston by public transportation. There are 2 lines that serve Logan:
1) Look for signs for Silver Line when you at the arrivals hall. There are ticket machines ($2) inside the hall where you buy your ticket. Silver Line serves most of the hotels near the Convention Center, and ends at South Station with transfer to the Red Line
2) Look for the shuttle bus that offers free transfer to the Blue Line Airport Station. You buy your ticket at the Airport station. Blue Line stops at Aquarium station for many hotels nearby, and ends at Government Center where one can connect to Green Line

Cheap Getaways to NYC
Several coach companies offer competitive rates for rides to NYC from Boston.
Megabus tickets start at $1
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Jan 27th, 2009, 08:56 AM
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Anyone else has other tips?
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Jan 27th, 2009, 01:55 PM
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The USS Constitution Museum is a good take and cheap. I think the suggested donation is $3. Take the harbor shuttle from the Aquarium for a nice $1.75 ride to the Museum. Not really relevant to most people but both the Franklin Park and Stone Zoos are free to MA public school groups. At the Aquarium, the seal exhibit is before you pay to get in and therefore free.
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Jun 5th, 2009, 08:10 PM
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2 more free things to add:

Trinity Church Friday lunchtime Organ Concerts

Jamaica Plain Historical Society Walking Tours
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Jun 6th, 2009, 05:24 AM
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Since I've visited some of these free sites and taken a couple of free tours, I figure I'll review them here.

I'm going to give each one a rating from 1 to 10 (10 being best).

MASS State House tour Rating: 7


I thought it was quite an enjoyable tour. It lasts 1 hour. The building was designed by Charles Bulfinch in 1798. We learned about the architecture of the building with various later additions. The stained glass dome and other stained glass are particularly memorable.

There are plenty of statues, portraits, military artifacts scattered throughout the main hall. Throughout the tour, we learned a lot about the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We also visited both the House of Representative (where the cod is), and the Senate Chamber.

Don't forget to wander around Beacon Hill and check out Mt Vernon Street, Louisburg Sq and Acorn Street ("the most photographed street in Boston")

Freedom Trail guided walk by National Park Rangers Rating: 7


This tour is only available from April to November; and has a limit of 30 people per tour (first-come, first-serve). The tour lasts 90 minutes.

Since the entire Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles long, this Ranger-led tour only covers about 1/3 of the Trail. We started at the NPS Center across from the Old State House. Our ranger guide started with some background history of Boston around 1770s.

First stop is the Old State House (1713)

Just outside the Old State House is the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770.

Second stop is Faneuil Hall. The current building dates back to 1806 by Bulfinch. The second floor of the building has been the site of town meetings where people can voice their opinions since the mid-1700s. It is still used by the city of Boston on a weekly basis.

Third stop is just north of Fanueil Hall - the Holocaust Memorial (1995) http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...N/IMG_1754.jpg , Irish pubs including Union Oyster House, and the Ebenezer Hancock House (1767)

The Ebenezer Hancock House is the only remaining house in Boston that is associated with John Hancock (Ebenezer is his brother).

We walked through Haymarket and stopped at the Rose Kennedy Greenway (formerly the location of the ugliest highway in the world).

Across the Greenway, we entered North End via Hanover Street. Our next stop is Paul Revere House (1680), the oldest house in Boston - with post and beam architecture.


He was a silversmith and was very good at his trade. Later on in his career, he began casting bells for the many churches in Boston, and had casted close to 1000. One of which can still be seen at the St Stephen's Church in the North End (and it is still rung every Sunday).

St Stephen's Church (1804) is the last remaining church in Boston designed by Bulfinch.

Our last and final stop, is at the Paul Revere Mall where we listened to the ranger describ Revere's famous midnight ride. Just behind the mall, is the Old North Church where 2 lanterns were hung on April 18, 1775 to warn the denizens of Charlestown of the advance of British soldiers.

The tour actually ends IN North End, and one has the option of continuing on the Freedom Trail over to USS Constitution/Bunker Hill, or just wander around. I chose the option of getting myself some cannoli!

I know there is long-time debate as to who has the best cannoli (Mike vs Modern vs Maria). Mike's Pastry was a zoo when I passed by, so I decided to go to Modern Pastry. Oh my! I actually waited 5 hours before I ate it at home with DH. It was incredible. The shell still tastes very fresh, and the ricotta filling is very rich. Definitely the best cannoli I've had in a very, very long time. Does that mean it's better than Mike's? I don't know, but it sure is darn tasty.

[More to come...]
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Jun 6th, 2009, 05:49 AM
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Mount Auburn Cemetery Rating: 5

It was founded in 1831 as America’s first landscaped cemetery. It is quite large in scale - we were there for 1.5 hours and probably covered 1/3 of it. Most of the graves there were from the 19th century, though I also saw some dated back to the 1700s.

There are plenty of famous people who were buried at Mt Auburn, though I am not familiar with most of them. Some of the few who I recognized includes: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, Isabella Gardner, and Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science).


Don't forget to climb up the Washington Tower. From the top of the tower, one gets a panoramic view of Boston. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...N/IMG_2734.jpg

The Friends of Mount Auburn offers guided walking tours for $10.
"Discover Mount Auburn"--a walking tour. Mount Auburn, designated a National Historic Landmark, is one of the country's most significant designed landscapes. Here the arts of horticulture, architecture and sculpture combine with the beauty of art and nature to create a place of comfort and inspiration. This 1.5-mile walking tour will focus on the stories of history, monuments, and the lives of those buried here.

Arnold Arboretum Walking tour Rating: 8

I think the Arboretum is a gem, especially for people who enjoys outdoors/nature/gardening. It was founded in 1872, and named after James Arnold, a whaling merchant of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It occupies 265 acres, has over 4000 different species of plants, and is managed by Harvard University.

When I went last Spring, it was just before the Lilac Sunday (yearly celebration on Mother's Day). The Arboretum has close to 200 different kinds of Lilacs. Walking among them with the wonderful fragrance was quite an experience.


[More to come...]
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Jun 6th, 2009, 06:17 AM
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Boston Public Library Art and Architecture Tour Rating: 10


A must-see if you're in the vicinity! The Boston Public Library is the first free public library in the US. The current building at Copley Square, designed by Charles McKim (of McKim, Mead, and White), opened in 1895. McKim had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. When he received this commission, he chose an Italian Renaissance architecture style. Across the Square is Trinity Church, which was finished 2 decades earlier, in Romanesque style by HH Richardson.

The head of Minerva (goddess of wisdom) is above the main portal of the entrance, and above her are the words: FREE TO ALL.

Six 1500-lb bronze doors with allegorical figures open into the main lobby. The ceiling of the lobby is covered with marble mosaic. McKim brought in a team of artisans from Italy to install it.

The grand staircase is flanked with golden-yellow marble from Siena. According to our guide, the quarry of this particular marble belonged to a monastery. The monastery only opened the quarry when it needed money, and it was not open when McKim visited Siena. After much persuasion, they agreed to sell the marble to the BPL.

At the top of the staircase, is the Puvis de Chavannes Gallery. Here, 9 murals cover the walls with allegorical figures. http://www.bpl.org/central/chavannes.htm

Off to one side of the gallery, is the Abbey Room. The wall paintings tell the story of Sir Galahad. This room was extensively restored in the 1990s. http://www.bpl.org/central/abbey.htm

Up on the third floor is the Sargent murals. It took Sargent 30 years to finish this commission! One end of the gallery depicts Judaism, while the opposite end depicts Christianity. The figures and design look rather exotic to me, unlike his usual portrait paintings.

Tucked in a far corner on the third floor, is the Rare Books department. On my visit, it has a small exhibition of Diaghilev/Ballets Russes (photographs, original prints and designs, programme booklets).

The Italian fountain courtyard is a great place to just sit, enjoy the fresh air, or eat your lunch!

Compared to the New York Public Library and the LA Public Library (both of which I have visited on guided tours in the last 6 months), I think the BPL is far better.

Boston Symphony Hall tour Rating: 3

Tours are only offered during the BSO season. IMHO, don't bother with this unless:
1) you are a huge classical music fan or a musician, AND
2) you've never been inside the auditorium

The BSO owes its origins to Henry Lee Higginson, who financially contributed to the formation of the orchestra AND the building of the Symphony Hall. The current Symphony Hall opened in 1900, designed by McKim, Mead and White. The seats inside are 108 years old, but after the 08/09 subscription season ends, brand new seats will be installed. Even the floor boards are as old as the hall itself. Higginson himself was a Boston Brahmin by birth. He later married the daughter of Louis Agassiz, the founder of Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, which is now part of the Natural History Museum.

The interior of the auditorium is quite beautiful, with lots of gold, and plenty of half-naked female statues. If one has never been inside the hall, the tour will be more interesting. Since it is a "behind the scenes" tour, I got to tour the backstage, which is nothing to write home about. Scattered throughout the lobby area, are temporary exhibits from the Symphony's archives. However, I didn't really have time to view these in detail during the tour. [BTW, I was the only person on the tour.]

I think that's all for now. I'll continue to update this.
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Jun 6th, 2009, 06:48 AM
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yk, Thank you so much!
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Jun 6th, 2009, 07:51 AM
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Actually you deserve the title of "Travel Social Worker"! Your commitment to helping others and to linking people w/travel resources here and everywhere that you travel to is an amazing public service. Thank you so much.
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Jun 6th, 2009, 07:58 AM
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yk, that is remarkable! I am bookmarking, for there was much I was not aware of, and will take advantage of next time in the city!
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Jun 6th, 2009, 08:05 AM
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Thank you for such a comprehensive list of things to all who posted but of course mostly to yk.
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Jun 6th, 2009, 01:16 PM
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Excellent thread - thank you for your kindness in sharing this information.

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