You don't have to go broke to have fun with kids—Not with all the free things to do in Boston this summer! There are lots of free things to do, whether you want to enjoy the sunshine outside or cool off indoors. These activities–water fun, festivals, crafts, music, games, and more–are sure to delight the whole family. Read on for our list of the best free things to do with kids in Boston this summer!
For more great ideas, check out our Ultimate Summer Bucket List Ideas: 100 (Mostly) Free Outdoor Games and Activities for Kids. And see our Boston Summer Fun Guide for our tips for great local family activities!
Free Things to Do in Boston This Summer with Kids
1. Pack a lunch and enjoy it in the magnificent Italianate courtyard at the Boston Public Library.
2. Hike the miles of trails in the Middlesex Fells Reservation.
3. Walk on water (or appear to, anyway) at the Christian Science Plaza reflecting pool, and splash in the fountain while you’re there.
Kids cool off at the Christian Science Plaza fountain. Photo by Sarah Nichols/CC BY 2.0
5. Take a stroll through the hustle and bustle of Quincy Market.
8. Play games and enjoy some swing time at the Lawn on D.
9. Relax and let the kids play for a while at a local park with shade.
10. Take an Evening Garden Stroll in the Kelleher Rose Garden with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
11. Go for a stroll, search for wildlife, and climb the tower for a spectacular view of Mount Auburn Cemetery. You can also download the mobile tour app to your phone for a self-guided tour.
Soak up city history and some lively music at Harborfest. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Tourism
12. Celebrate all things Boston during the city's annual Independence Day celebration, Harborfest.
13. Speaking of the 4th of July, grab a spot to watch the fireworks on the Boston Common or head to Tanglewood to catch the Boston Pops performing live.
14. See world-class art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Free First Thursdays each month.
15. Express yourself at ArtBeat, a festival of music, performance art, crafts, dance, theater, and food in Somerville. (July)
16. Wake up super early and watch the sunrise from the Weeks Footbridge.
The bronze donkey outside Old City Hall is a popular photo stop on the Freedom Trail. Photo by Ted McGrath via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
17. Step back in time on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile brick-lined route leading to several historic sites.
18. Experience a sailor’s life circa 1812 at the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, where admission is by donation.
19. Visit the library for summer library program events: musical performances, puppet shows, book clubs, movies, workshops, etc.
20. Bring a copy of Make Way for Ducklings to the Boston Public Garden and read it on a bench facing the pond. Then go visit the mama and ducklings statues.
22. Spend some time volunteering together as a family to make a difference in the community.
Cool off at one of Boston's spray decks this summer. Photo courtesy of Sean L1, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
24. Check out a Discovery Pack and go exploring in Arnold Arboretum.
25. Meet new furry and feathery friends on a Children's Group Farm Tour at Wilson Farm.
26. Fly a kite or search for sea glass on Spectacle Island.
Castle Island Beach provides hours of family fun. Photo by Tom Klein courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation
27. Dig your toes into the sand without leaving the city on Castle Island.
28. Take a walk around Fresh Pond and explore nature on your own or on a guided walk.
29. Bring a little one to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, where kids under 12 are always admitted for free.
30. Have a water table enthusiast? Learn about all things "water"—its movement, importance, and more—with a preschooler.
31. Take a Wiffle ball set and a picnic to Jamaica Pond.
32. Grab a Frisbee and a blanket and head to the Esplanade for some R&R.
33. Register your child for a free technology camp at an Apple or Microsoft store near you.
34. Not sure what to do? You can't go wrong with hitting one of Boston's best playgrounds.
35. Check out a library book that makes your child proud to be a Bostonian.
Learn some sandcastle tips at the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Festival. Photo courtesy of City of Revere
37. Bring your budding artist to the Museum of Fine Arts on Wednesdays after 3 pm when you can pay what you choose.
38. Visit coastal Newburyport for a week-long celebration of music, food, and fun at their annual Yankee Homecoming.
39. Sign your kiddos up for a summer adventure at one of these free (or affordable) camps.
41. Explore nature and catch some striking views of the city from the Blue Hills.
Pull up some lawn and enjoy a free movie around Boston! Movie Night photo courtesy of the Prudential Center
43. Take the family out for a free summer movie night under the stars.
44. Bring your toddler to one of Boston's best tot lots for some fun!
46. Head to Lowell for the Free Fun For Kids! summer concert series.
48. Explore the monuments and open spaces of Boston Common.
50. Get a free guided tour of the Massachusetts State House–keep an eye out for the governor!
Originally published June 2012. Updated June 2023.