Massachusetts: Boston, Free or Almost Free Family Vacation Fun.
Create your own urban adventure that combines glimpses of patriotism with modern day family fun. We found a slew of free or almost free family-friendly things to do that may not be on your family vacation radar screen. Our list includes guided walks, mimes, culture quests, story time, and art encounters.
Get to the heart of art.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has an astounding 450,000 objects in its extensive collection, meaning you can see something new with every visit. In addition to the art collection, the MFA offers an ongoing rotation of special exhibitions and daily activities, including films, concerts, artists lectures, gallery talks and family programs. Every year, the Museum of Fine Arts offers six free community days, as well as several free evening previews of exhibits. Here's the deal.
Additionally the museum offers free birthday admission and girls named Isabella are admitted free to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum all year long. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Avenue of the Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115. (617) 267-9300 or www.mfa.org
Walk the Black Heritage Trail.
The Museum of Afro-American History, New England’s largest museum dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the contributions of African Americans to American history, operates one of the most interesting stops on the Black Hertiage Trail, the African Meeting House. The African Meeting House and the Abiel Smith School, both built in the early 1800s, are situated on historic Beacon Hill, in what was once the heart of Boston’s African American community in the 19th-century. The two buildings showcase the history of African American community organization and structure, and the enduring legacy of African American craftsmanship. Here's the deal.
Admission is free, however the suggested donation is $5. (The African Meeting House. 46 Joy Street, Boston, MA. (617) 725-0022 or www.afroammuseum.org/afmbeaconhill.htm
Set sail for fun.
Visits to the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” and the nearby USS Constitution Museum are custom-fit for families. The museum is host to two floors of exhibits which cover over two hundred years of American history, including exhibits that invite you to experience what life was like for a sailor in 1812 and an exhibit dedicated to retelling the story of the 1803-1805 Barbary War, where American sailors fought against pirates. Bonus points:
The museum has taken the initiative of designating several entertaining spots throughout the museum for awesome family photos, so make sure to check that out. Here's the deal.
Admission is free for individuals and families visiting the museum and ship, however a $2 donation per child and a $4 donation per adult is suggested. (USS Constitution Museum. Charlestown Navy Yard, Building 22, Charlestown, MA 02129. (617) 426-1812 or www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org
Discover a wealth of history.
The interweaving of interactive exhibits, personal stories and high-tech elements bring Massachusetts history to life in a wholly engaging way. The Commonwealth Museum is a must for families exploring Boston. American history buffs will love the new permanent exhibit – "Our Common Wealth: the Massachusetts Experiment in Democracy". The exhibit explores the development of political and civil rights in Massachusetts from the 1600s to present day, using state of the art technology. On display are such momentous documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the “John Adams” Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, and several unique British royal charters. Bonus points:
The museum is even home to the copper plate upon which Paul Revere engraved his image of the Boston Massacre. (Commonwealth Museum. 220 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, Massachusetts 02125. (617) 825-3613 or www.sec.state.ma.us/mus/museum/index.htm
) Be a square or be there.
Harvard Square is a fabulous place to soak up arts and entertainment, explore shops, and just people watch. More than eight million people visit Harvard Square every year, it’s one of the crossroads of Boston, a blend of history and modernity, music and dance, shopping and cafes, and coffee houses. In addition to all of the things to do in and around Harvard Square, there are more than 300 registered street performers who call Harvard Square home, making it a must for families look for free-or-almost-free fun in Boston. Bonus points:
For a sweet fix stop by Sprinkle's for ice cream. The shop offers 20+ flavors of ice cream and a dozen or so different flavors of fudge. While there is often a line, the ice cream is worth the wait. It's a a perfect spot share a cone with the kids when in Quincy Market. FYI: This was once Steve's location. (Harvard Square. Take the Red Line to the Harvard stop or take any number of buses to Harvard Square. www.harvardsquare.com