Free things to do in Boston this summer

Whether you’re on a budget or just want to experience some cool adventures this summer, Boston has plenty of free things to offer.

  • Local Lunchbox, a partnership between the Shah Family Foundation, the YMCA and local restaurants and food entrepreneurs, takes underused federal U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to provide free, healthy, delicious and culturally relevant meals to anyone 18 or younger all summer.
    This year, the Shah Family Foundation is partnering on Local Lunchbox with Boloco, Daily Table, Fresh Food Generation and Spinelli’s. A full list of sites, dates and times can be found at
  • Stroll through the beautiful Public Garden.
  • Visit Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. Let your kids cool off in the Frog Pond wading pool and bring them to the playground directly across from it. Have a picnic on the 44 acres of the Common, one of the nine parks that are part of the Emerald Necklace, a 1,100-acre chain of parks linked by parkways.
  • Walk the Freedom Trail, Boston’s iconic, 2.5-mile red line leading to 16 nationally significant historic sites, including Paul Revere House, Boston Common and the State House.
  •  AfriKai hosts Nubiana in the Park, an arts and culture series that  includes community talks, movie nights, art, and dance and wellness workshops at Roxbury Heritage State Park,183 Roxbury St., Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m. through Aug. 6. For more information, email [email protected]
  • Take a walking tour of the largest collection of historic sites in the country relating to the life of a free African American community prior to the Civil War. The Black Heritage Trail consists of 14 sites and begins at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial opposite 24 Beacon St.  Come into the Museum of African American History at 46 Joy St. and discover the missing pages of America’s history. For more information, contact the museum at 617-725-0022.
  •  Acclaimed underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen brings the surprising biodiversity of marine life off the Massachusetts coast—including great white sharks, humpback whales, sea turtles and North Atlantic right whales—up close for visitors to see in his new outdoor photography exhibition, “Space to Sea: A Photographic Journey into Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary,” on view through Nov. 1 at the New England Aquarium’s Central Wharf.
  • The Lawn on D at 420 D St. in South Boston is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and offers a colorful collection of public seating and lounge chairs, interactive art exhibitions, assorted games such as bocce and ping-pong, live entertainment, food, drinks and free Wi-Fi. For more information, visit:
  • Watch Boston Ballet fan favorites and behind-the-scenes video as the company gears up for Triple Bill, showcasing the innovative style of world-renowned choreographer William Forsythe. Take a look back at some of Forsythe’s recent hits, and get excited for November’s season opener.
  • Art in the Park showcases the work of young photographers on July 10, from noon to 5 p.m. at Adams Park in Roslindale Square, 4225 Washington St.
  • On July 12 at 10 a.m., Amazon and local nonprofit Catie’s Closet will unveil a brand new closet stocked with youngsters’ clothing, uniforms, shoes, soap and shampoo at Joseph Lee K-8 School at 155 Talbot Ave. in Dorchester. Catie’s Closet helps more than 70,000 students daily at 100 schools across Massachusetts and New Hampshire by providing free essential items.
  • The Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park brings free concerts to the community for six consecutive Tuesdays in July and August from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Franklin Park, Pierpont Road and Glen Lane, Roxbury. The concert features “the best local R&B, Motown, jazz, and reggae music in Boston,” organizers say. Bring a lawn chair and a picnic supper or enjoy food-truck fare.
  • On July 16 from noon to 8 p.m., Festival Betances —the longest-running Latinx Cultural Festival in New England —brings song, dance and celebration of Afro-Latinx culture to 100 W. Dedham St. The festival begins at noon with a parade. And at 2 p.m., from Bomba to Reggaeton, music unleashes with Juan Nieves, Sharina Sanabria y su Conjunto Guajiba, Frankie Ruiz Jr. and Enyel C and Gyanma.
  • Boston Landmarks Orchestra, led by Conductor Christopher Wilkins, presents a free series of family-friendly summer concerts, beginning July 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade at 47 David G. Mugar Way.
  • From July 20 to Aug. 7, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company will present “Much Ado About Nothing” nightly at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common off Tremont Street. “This is a comedy entangled with a tragedy…— a perfect play for our uncertain times,” the CSC says. Curtain time is 8 p.m.
  • The Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts will return to Franklin Park at 1 Pierpont Road at the rear of Franklin Park Zoo from July 29 to 31. Check as details become available.
  • SOWA First Friday: On the first Friday of every month, the artists, galleries, shops and showrooms of the SoWa Art + Design District at 450 Harrison Ave. open their doors to the public from 5 to 9 p.m. for an evening of art, culture and inspiration. Meet the artists in their element and view the latest gallery exhibitions.
  • Presenting in partnership with the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and the City of Boston, Boston Lyric Opera returns to Boston Common at 139 Tremont St.  on Aug. 11 and Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. with a production of composer Charles Gounod’s operatic retelling of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, “Romeo and Juliet.”
  • Stop by Chinatown’s 52nd Annual August Moon Festival on Aug. 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Chinatown Gate; Hudson and Tyler streets (from Kneeland to Beach streets); Harrison Avenue (from Kneeland to Essex streets); and Beach Street (from the gate to Harrison Avenue). There will be two stages with live performances, arts and crafts, street vendors and more.
  • On Thursday, Aug. 25, at 5 p.m., the procession of the Feast of St. Lucia will kick off four days of celebration with St. Anthony’s Feast, winding its way through the streets of the North End, accompanied by Italian street bands, flower girls and a color guard. At 6:30 p.m., dance and sing along to the sounds of 12 Barz Band while enjoying a night in the neighborhood. All weekend, stop by the Filippo Berio Culinary Stage & Tasting Tent, featuring tastings by some of Boston’s best chefs showcasing their “Cucina Italiana.” For a complete schedule of festivities visit:
  • After closing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Old North Church and Historic Site is re-opening its doors on Unity Street to the 1715 Clough House, one of Boston Proper’s oldest surviving brick residences. The home now serves partly as a reproduction of the 18th Century printing office of Benjamin Edes and John Gill. The Boston Gazette, a weekly newspaper Edes and Gill established in 1755, was often filled with propaganda by well-known revolutionaries like Samuel Adams and served as a mouthpiece for colonies igniting the American Revolution. The Clough House is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Printing demonstrations are free to the public.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts at 465 Huntington Ave. doesn’t charge admission after 4 p.m. on Wednesdays; it only asks for a donation.
  • The Institute of Contemporary Art at 25 Harbor Shore Drive is free after 5 p.m. on Thursdays. People 18 or younger always receive free admission. When accompanied by kids 12 and under, up to two adults per family are admitted free the last Saturday of every month except December. Use the promo code PLAYDATE when reserving tickets online for these dates.
  • The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum at 25 Evans Way is always free for anyone under 17, on your birthday or if your name is Isabella.
  • Pack up a blanket and picnic for free movies under the stars on Thursdays at Pope John Paul II Reservation in Dorchester and on Fridays at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade.
  • On Tuesdays through Thursdays until Aug. 26th, the harbor comes alive with bands performing nightly on the Boston Harbor Hotel’s floating barge stage off 70 Rowes Wharf. People can look forward to different nightly themes, including Pop Soul Tuesdays, Rat Pack Wednesdays and Blues Thursdays.
  • After a two-year hiatus, Movies by Moonlight returns to Rowes Wharf on Fridays against the backdrop of the starlit harbor. Movies begin at dusk.

If you know of other things that are free in the city, write to [email protected]

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