Boston is an ideal destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, foodies and anyone who likes to do things their own way. The city has over 150,000 students in institutions of higher learning and is home to the first university in the United States – Harvard.
Among the many firsts in America, there are five major things that made their inceptions in Boston. Boston is home to the first U.S. chocolate factory, the first American lighthouse, the first US subway, the first US public beach, and the oldest public park in America.
In 2014, Boston received 21.3 million domestic visitors, 1.5 million overseas visitors, and 735,000 Canadian visitors. There are many things to do in The Athens of America, so here is Travelmath’s list of 10 free things to do in Boston.
1. Walk the Freedom Trail
The iconic 2.5-mile Freedom Trail is marked by a red line and lets you experience 250 years of history along 16 historic sites. The sites include Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, King’s Chapel and Burying Ground, Old Corner Bookstore, Boston Massacre Site, the Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall, USS Constitution Museum, Bunker Hill Monument and more.
Pick up an official Freedom Trail brochure and walk at your own pace following the clearly distinguished red line along the sidewalks.
Information: Freedom Trail
2. Trace the Black Heritage Trail
Explore Beacon Hill and 14 other sites along the Black Heritage Trail, which covers the history of the 19th century African American community of Boston. The Freedom Trail brochure includes a map that outlines the Black Heritage Trail, marked by a blue line.
Follow that map and take a self-guided tour to Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on Beacon Street, George Middleton House, Charles Street Meeting House, Lewis and Harriet Hayden House, African Meeting House and more.
Information: Black Heritage Trail
3. Explore the Boston Common
Boston boasts of a 1,100-acre chain of nine parks linked by parkways and waterways. The most famous ones are Boston Common and the Public Garden, both linked by walkways and bridges. Boston Common was America’s first public park (established in 1634) and the Public Garden (established 1837) was the first botanical garden.
Stroll along and check out the many sculptures, monuments, fountains, the lake inside the park.
Information: Boston Common
4. Visit the Boston Public Library McKim Building
Free hour-long guided tours are available once a day at the Boston Public Library McKim Building. When visiting the library, pay attention to the triumphal arch, the marble and fossil shells of the main staircase, the floors, walls and vaulted ceiling of The Vestibule, Puvis de Chavannes Gallery, Mural Paintings and more.
The entrance hall will take your breath away as you look at names of 30 famous Bostonians on the ceiling and the domes decorated with marble mosaics.
Information: McKim Building
5. Window Shopping at Faneuil Hall Marketplace
In 1742, Boston’s wealthiest merchant Peter Faneuil built the Faneuil Hall as a gift to the city. It was the meeting place for merchants, fishermen, meat and produce sellers and the country’s most famous orators.
Walk on cobblestone streets and visit Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. You’ll get free live entertainment while you shop or eat there.
Information: Faneuil Hall
6. Visit the “Original” Cheers on Beacon Hill
Visit Cheers, the original bar on Beacon Hill discovered by Hollywood producers in 1981. The bar was the inspiration behind the famous TV sitcom, Cheers.
The pub was established in 1895 and now, Cheers fans can drop by for a glass of beer or shop for the officially licensed Cheers merchandise.
For more of Cheers, the company has a replica Cheers Bar at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Pick up a map and walk along the The Cheers Trail, which takes you from the original Cheers bar to the replica Cheers bar in Faneuil Hall Marketplace along the Freedom Trail.
7. Explore Old Taverns
If you like history and beer you may want to take (not free) a Ye Olde Tavern Tours. You can map out the old taverns and visit them while you are walking on the Freedom Trail.
Look out for Green Dragon Tavern, Jacob Wirth, Bell in Hand Tavern, and Ye Olde Union Oyster House.
8. See Chinatown’s Shops and Restaurants
Enter Chinatown Gate on Beach Street and you’ll be in America’s third largest Chinatown after New York and San Francisco. See the barbecued meat through glass windows, and find unique fish and shellfish in the market. You’ll also be able to find dried goods on display in Chinese medicine shops.
You may want to join (not free) a Chinatown food tour with one of the trained guides from Boston Food Tours.
9. Tour the State House
The State House has over two centuries of history. Inside are portraits of Massachusetts governors, murals, and paintings depicting the history of Massachusetts. You can join the Architectural/Historical Tour or the Legislative Process Tour.
Tours are given year-round from 10 am to 3:30 pm. The State House is closed on weekends and holidays. The building is open from 8:45 am to 5 pm.
Information: State House
10. Step Foot on the USS Constitution and the Charlestown Navy Yard
The USS Constitution was launched in 1797 and is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. It was one of the six ships ordered by George Washington and was used during the 1812 war.
Free guided tours are available. Check the website for details.
Information: USS Constitution and Charlestown Navy Yard