Free or Almost Free 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. The Massachusetts State House, for instance, schedules complimentary tours weekdays, 10 to 3:30. The USS Constitution Museum, meanwhile, is open daily from April through October from 9 to 6 and November through March 10 to 5. Mid-April through November, you’re also welcome to join a free National Park Service Tour of the trail. 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 options. The former covers sites relating to Irish-Americans from John Hancock to John F. Kennedy as well as the 1840s Potato Famine. The latter pays tribute to ladies who gained fame as suffragettes and artists.
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 after 4 pm and 5 pm, 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 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 parks doesn’t cost a dime. If you have already visited the Public Garden and Boston Common, check out the Emerald Necklace. In 1878 landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted began work on six pocket parks strung together by a greenway, resembling jewels on a necklace. Linked to the Common and Public Garden by the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Necklace extends over 7 miles from Downtown through Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain to Franklin Park in Dorchester.
HarborWalk (www.bostonharborwalk.com) offers visitors a bit of everything on its interconnected 45 miles of waterside trails and pathways. Aside from scenic viewpoints (some with free binoculars), amenities range from parks, public art installations, and interpretive panels to a pocket Maritime Museum at the Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel. HarborWalk also provides a glimpse at paid attractions like the New England Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Center. Traversing the trail could take days. Download a free audio guide from the website and enjoy a narrated stroll from Christopher Columbus Park to Fan Pier.
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