Arthur Christory / Gavel Media

Back to School in Boston: Free and Low-Cost Activities

While Boston is certainly expensive, there are still many exciting and budget-friendly ways to experience the city. Boston is a city rich in history and culture, and the start of the new school year presents the perfect opportunity to take advantage of these offerings in the months of August and September. If you need some inspiration for budget-friendly activities that are actually fun and advance your Boston bucket list, this guide is for you. There is something for everyone among these activities: the museum-goers, the foodies, the jocks, the music-lovers, and the 20-something college students scrambling for weekend plans. 

Stay cool and cultured by going to a museum! If you are big into res walks, you might have noticed the Waterworks Museum along Beacon Street, which always has free admission. As goofy as this museum may sound, it’s certainly worth an afternoon. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, among others, provide free admission to Boston College students with a promo code or student ID.  And of course, Boston College's own McMullen Museum of Art is always free, and just across the street from campus. 

Seaport Sweat is back and better than ever for its seventh season of free workout classes in the Boston Seaport! This fitness series runs May through September with classes such as Zumba, pilates, yoga, and kickboxing among many others. What’s not to love about free outdoor group fitness?

If you’re a big foodie, grabbing a quick and cheap bite at markets such as Quincy Market, Time Out Market and SoWa Open Market is a great way to spend a late summer day. Quincy Market can be found near the Faneuil Hall Marketplace and is home to so many diverse food offerings, including some of New England’s iconic dishes like clam chowder and lobster rolls. Additionally, shop locally at unique retail establishments in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The Time Out Market is located near the Fenway T stop and is home to 15 restaurants for nearly every cuisine imaginable. Finally, SoWa Open Market, Boston’s largest open-air market, is open on Sundays from May through October. This market hosts food trucks, flea and vintage markets, rotating DJs, and hundreds of vendors and art galleries. All of these markets offer great opportunities for food, drinks, shopping, and some scintillating people-watching.

Although not exactly in Boston, Brookline is just a T ride away, and the town's annual Porch Fest is on September 17. Explore Brookline while listening to a range of musical performances from people's front porches—all for free!

Also on September 17, Boston University will host its annual Global Music Festival right down Commonwealth Avenue. Although registration is required, this renowned all-day outdoor festival is free and open to the public.

For the conclusion of the mayor's office's new Open Streets Boston series, Dorchester Avenue will be closed to car traffic on September 24.  Bring your bike, roller skates, or just yourself and some friends and explore the small businesses and community organizations of Dorchester, the city's largest neighborhood.

Admire New England's classic foliage at the Arnold Arboretum, a gorgeous 281-acre landscape that is free and open every day of the year. Aside from the natural offerings, the arboretum hosts art shows, book talks, and lectures throughout the year. A visit to the arboretum is also the perfect excuse to dive into using the city bus system.

And finally, the classics. Take yourself to the ballgame! You can’t go wrong with a Red Sox game—you can purchase $9 student tickets and splurge on a Fenway Frank at the game with the money you saved on tickets. The end of the summer and the beginning of fall is a great time to finally get around to a sunset picnic in the Boston Common or along the Frog Pond or a stroll through the Public Garden. Newbury Street is restricted to pedestrian-only access on Sundays from August 21 to September 24, so enjoy the whole mile-long stretch walk and relish this great Boston tradition.