Free and Frugal Finds: Boston

Though one of the oldest cities in America, Boston blends a rich, deep colonial history with a distinct modern vibe, and offers many attractions easily experienced for free or on a shoestring budget.

For National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition (NTI) attendees, we have great tips for exploring Boston on a budget. Whether you have planned an extended stay with extra days to sightsee or just a few hours to spare after your NTI sessions, the city offers plenty of economical experiences.

Nurses’ Night Off (Seaport District) Seaport World Trade Center, 1 Seaport Lane.

Unwind with your fellow nurses and dance to the high-energy music of Night Shift. Journey with colonial characters through the city’s history and enjoy Irish culture with Irish Step Dance performances. The evening also includes complimentary “taste of Boston” hors d’oeuvres. When: Wednesday, May 23, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Cost: Free — your ticket to Nurses’ Night Off is included in your paid NTI registration. Enjoy!

Freedom Trail (Downtown Boston)

The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile route through downtown, leads to 16 historical sites, related to the American Revolution. The path is lined with red bricks and marked by distinct bronze plaques to guide your journey. The walking tour is free, as is entry to most of the historical stops on the trail, which include museums, churches, meeting houses, cemeteries, parks, a ship, and historic markers. If you prefer, tours led by guides in 18th century costumes cost $12 per adult. The 16 historical sites on the Freedom Trail are:

Beacon Hill (North of Boston Common) Acorn St.

One of the oldest, most-photographed and iconic neighborhoods in Boston. Historic Beacon Hill is known for its narrow, cobblestone and gas-lit streets and beautiful Federal-style rowhouses, and provides a perfect backdrop for a stroll through Boston’s past. Cost: Free.

Boston Public Library (Copley Square in the Back Bay) 700 Boylston St.

Founded in 1848, the second-largest public library in the U.S. (behind only the Library of Congress), offers daily public tours of the famed Central Library buildings. The tour highlights the important architecture of Bates Hall, exquisite murals by noted artists including John Singer Sargent and many other sights. Cost: Free.

Fenway Park Tour (Fenway/Kenmore) 4 Yawkey Way.

The Red Sox don’t play at Fenway during NTI but if you’re a baseball fan a tour of Fenway Park is likely on your bucket list. It opened in 1912 and is the oldest active Major League baseball park. Hour-long tours start every hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost: $20 per person.

Samuel Adams Brewery and Tap Room (Egleston Square) 30 Germania St.

The Boston Beer Company entered the forefront of craft brewing in America when it released its Samuel Adams Lager in the 1980s. The brewery is open Monday through Saturday for tours and tastings starting every 40 minutes. Cost: Free tour, suggested donation $2. (Word is, beer fans, there are free samples, too!)

Emerald Necklace

The Emerald Necklace is a 1,100-acre chain of nine lush parks connecting Boston Common to Franklin Park, passing through the Public Garden and Arnold Arboretum. The linked system of parks and paths was designed by the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York’s Central Park. The Emerald Necklace is about a seven-mile walk, jog or bike ride, and consists of:

Cost: Free.

Boston Public Market (Downtown)

Dewey Square Seasonal Farmers Market (Rose Kennedy Greenway)

Quincy Market & Food Colonnade (Downtown at Faneuil Hall)

These farmers markets are perfect for strolling, buying fresh fruit and vegetables and experiencing a taste of good eats, locally produced. Cost: Free entry.

Bay Village Historic District Walking Tour (Back Bay) Eliot Norton Park, Charles St. South.

May is Preservation Month in Boston, and the city is hosting a guided walking tour of the Bay Village neighborhood and its historic buildings, which range in architectural style from Federal to Greek Revival and Victorian to Art Deco. When: Tuesday, May 22, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Cost: Free.

Charles River (Back Bay and Cambridge)

Start at the Museum of Science and take the Massachusetts Ave. Bridge on the paved sidewalk for a 3.5-mile loop around the Charles River. Cost: Free.

Boston Waterfront/Harborwalk (Seaport District)

For most Bostonians, the best thing that came out of the Big Dig — the leveling of the elevated expressway — is that the area is now all park and a really nice place for a stroll. Start at Seaport Blvd. to Atlantic Ave. and the Wharf District for an approximate 2.5-mile loop.

CharlieCard Transportation Pass

Though much of Boston’s attractions are easily seen on foot there are times your sightseeing may require travelling longer distances. A CharlieCard can be loaded with cash value as a one- or seven-day pass for bus, subway, ferry or commuter rail rides at discounted rates. CharlieCards are available at select Boston bus and subway stations. Cost: One-way fares are $1.70 for bus and $2.25 for subway. A one-day CharlieCard pass is $12.00.


The Boston CityPASS includes discounted admission to a collection of Boston’s most iconic attractions and is valid for nine consecutive days starting with the first day of use. Cost: $59 per adult. The pass includes entry to:

Go Boston Card

The Go Boston Card offers one-, two-, three-, five- and seven-day passes for entry to a variety of popular Boston attractions at a discounted rate. Attractions vary by pass type. Cost: Starts at $59 per person for a one-day pass. Some featured attractions include: