Boston might be known for A-listers like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and the Kennedys, but you don’t even need a dollar to experience its heart and soul. Here’s how you can get to know this historic, New England city and save your pennies:
Every Wednesday after 4:00pm, admission to the Museum of Fine Arts is free, and on Thursdays after 5:00pm admission to the Institute of Contemporary Art is free. HI Boston leads tours to both museums on just the right day and time, so you can make friends will you gaze at priceless works of art.
On the edge of downtown along the Inner Harbor, 470 Atlantic Ave offers free access to the observation deck on the 14th floor. With complimentary binoculars available, take in sweeping views of the Logan Airport, the Harbor Islands, Boston’s Innovation District, and the Blue Hills Reservation. The observation deck is open 7 days a week from 10:00am-5:00pm.
The State House, constructed in 1798, offers free tours of the building, reflecting the history of Massachusetts since colonial times. Tours are offered Monday-Friday, 10:00am-3:30pm. Advance registration is required – just call (617) 727-3676.
Also known as Little Italy, you’ll find historical sites from the American Revolution, post-medieval architectural masterpieces, and the Harborwalk, which connects you to parks, art displays, and cafes along the waterfront. As you walk down the narrow streets and take in the wafting aroma of dozens of Italian restaurants, you’ll understand how this area earned its namesake.
If you’re not up for the full 2.5-mile (4 km) Freedom Trail walk around Boston, skip ahead to the Bunker Hill Monument. A 221-foot obelisk, the Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the first battle of the American Revolution. Visitors can climb 294 steps to the top of this landmark for an amazing view of Boston.
If you enjoy checking out the latest fashions and trendy art galleries, make your way to Newbury Street for a charming stretch of nonstop shops. If artisan food, fresh produce, and unique products are more your scene, check out the New England Open Markets. And Faneuil Hall has a mix of everything, including souvenirs.
Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious university in the U.S. Students lead a free tour of the historic Harvard Yard Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-3:00pm. Or, head there with your new friends at HI Boston on Saturdays at 11:30am for the Unofficial HarvardTour. Click here to see hostel tours and activities.
Occupying 281 acres and boasting 11,156 plantings, the Arnold Arboretum’s living collection of trees, shrubs, and woody vines is recognized as one of the most comprehensive and best documented of its kind in the world. Founded in 1872, the Arboretum is a partnership between the City of Boston and Harvard University.
If Boston had an official beer, this would be it. The brewery offers free tours (and samples!) Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-3:00pm daily, except Friday when it’s open until 5:00pm. A $2 donation to benefit local charities is suggested.
Located in Boston’s Copley Square, the Boston Public Library has something for everyone. BPL is filled with beautiful sculptures, paintings, and an amazing architectural design. BPL frequently hosts concerts, lectures, and free tours to visitors. Please check the Boston Public Library’s website for tour times.
For even more free activities, check the HI Boston activities board or talk to the staff. There may be a neighborhood tour, community dinner, or group outing that you can join where you can also meet other travelers staying at the hostel.
Find more free things to across the country in the HI USA Free For All.
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