Free Things to do in Boston

Boston can be a pretty expensive place to stay so once you are here there is nothing better than finding things to do for free. I’m going to share some of my favourite free places to visit in the city with you so you can do just that!

  • Castle Island. Castle Island isn’t actually an island anymore but is well worth a visit. Located in South Boston you can park for free and check out the small beach on the peninsula or get wonderful views of the Boston Harbor Islands from the tip of the peninsula. Watch the boats sail past and planes land at Logan while enjoying a picnic in the looming shadow of Fort Independence. This Civil War fort is open to visitors for free tours at weekends in season and you get great views and a really informative guide. One of my favourite places in Boston. Go! http://www.bostonfortindependence.com/
You can get great views from Castle Island
You can get great views from Castle Island
  • Arnold Arboretum. The beautiful Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is the oldest public arboretum in North America and a great place to spend a sunny day. There’s a huge variety of trees (as you’d expect in an arboretum) and a visitor centre. They even have bonsai trees. The Arboretum is popular with joggers and dog walkers and they often have family events going on. For environmentally friendly brownie points, the Arboretum is easily reached from Forest Hills Station, on the Orange Line. http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/
  • USS Constitution. As a British Citizen I shouldn’t promote this veteran of the revolutionary war but the Constitution is over 200 years old and still going strong. This incredible historic warship is free to visit and there’s even a second warship, the WW2 destroyer USS Cassin Young that you can board. This will be the final summer visitors can tour Constitution at her berth in Charlestown Navy Yard until 2018, as the ship will enter dry dock in early 2015 for scheduled restoration work. Make sure you bring photo ID when you visit, you won’t be able to board otherwise, my own parents missed out because of this rule! http://www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution/hours.html
The USS Constitution is an impressive sight
The USS Constitution is an impressive sight
  • Boston Public Library, McKim Building. Another one of my favourite free Boston attractions is the Library on Copley Square. Take the T to Copley on the Green Line and you can’t miss it. From the huge basilica like reading room of Bates Hall to the elegant renaissance style cloisters of the courtyard you can’t fail to be impressed here. Be sure to take some time to sit in the courtyard and relax while taking in your surroundings. Best visited just after opening before it gets busy. http://www.bpl.org/central/walkmckim.htm
The Courtyard at the Public Library is beautiful
The Courtyard at the Public Library is beautiful
  • Walk the Freedom Trail. Follow the red painted lines for a self-guided tour of many of the city’s most important historical sites. Highlights include the Bunker Hill Monument and Faneuil Hall. Make sure you take some time out for people watching on Boston Common. A great place to start the Trail is at the Visitor Centre on the Common which can easily be reached from the T at Park St Station on the Green and Red Lines. http://www.cityofboston.gov/freedomtrail/default.asp
Boston Common is beautiful year round
Boston Common at Christmas

A State of Surprise

This weekend I continued my exploration of Massachusetts with my wife and discovered that there are a lot of surprises on offer in the state. On Saturday, we headed to Battleship Cove in the south of the state where as the name would suggest there is a huge WW2 battleship on display (the Massachusetts) but also a number of other warships. There’s a destroyer, a submarine, some patrol boats and even a Cold War era Soviet Ship, the Hiddensee, once of the East German Navy and obtained by the US Navy after the break up of the USSR. Even more surprising than finding a Soviet ship flying US colours was the fact that admission for this site was a mere $17, which is considerably less than it costs to visit just one WW2 warship, the Belfast, in London! It was a fascinating place and great value for money and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the state.

A wealth of warships. From front to back the Lionfish, Hiddensee and the mighty Massachusetts
A wealth of warships. From front to back the Lionfish, Hiddensee and the mighty Massachusetts

On Sunday we decided to go on the free dinner cruise which we were given as an anniversary gift by the company that operates the boat we had our wedding reception on. A dinner cruise ticket on this boat costs $75 per person so it was a pretty generous freebie! We went out on Sunday morning to purchase a belt for my formal trousers among other things. I was unpleasantly surprised to find that my demographic in men’s sizes does not appear to exist in most US clothes stores. I have a 28″ waist (slim for a guy I know) but in all the department stores the sizes went from 32″ to 56″. Yes 56″ you read that correctly! My wife wrapped this round me as a joke and of course it amusingly went round me twice, but it’s disturbing to think that these stores cater for people with a waist the size of Belgium but not me. Luckily we found a few smaller stores that stocked 30″ belts and I was able to attend the dinner cruise without a tie holding my trousers up!

The dinner cruise had some nice touches
The dinner cruise had some nice touches

The dinner cruise that evening was lovely, my wife and I both dressed up (no jeans or t-shirt on this boat) and had a great evening. Despite the fact that our cruise was a freebie, because it was our anniversary they gave us a window table, sprinkled the table with rose petals and gave us a themed dessert- see above. It was a really pleasant surprise as we were definitely not expecting it. The friendly waitress even arranged for us to be served the dessert on the top deck so we didn’t lose any sightseeing time. Boston Harbour with it’s islands and great views of the city skyline is a beautiful place to be in the evening. As usual I was struck by how friendly and attentive customer service can be in the US compared to grumpy Europe. When Americans get it right they get it very right. The cruise was a great end to a lovely weekend.

The Boston skyline looks great from the harbor.
The Boston skyline looks great from the harbour.

I’m also happy to announce that the saga over transferring my money to the US which I referred to in my previous two posts has finally been resolved. Maybe Monday’s aren’t that bad after all!