While Boston accommodation for cheap might be a problem, there are many Boston attractions for free or at least tourist sites that fit a budget traveler:
Naturally, many outdoor attractions are for free. The ones listed here are either well-recommended (in tourist books, in general); or ones I happened to have visited. There are probably many more.
First of all, there are two trails that could be followed in the city, for free, and show you some of the most important historical landmarks. The first is the Freedom Trail, with events and sites from the colonial period and the War of Independence. Another is the Black Heritage Trail. Both will not only show you the history they discuss, but take you to interesting points in town.
If that is not enough, you have the parks, Boston Common and the Boston Gardens are free of charge, just as the Esplanade (where you can see the Boston Pops stage) and many other gardens are out these, full of ducks.
One of the nicest strolls we have made was down the docks and the piers – from the south all the way to North End. Oh, yes. North End. A great place to stroll outdoors, enjoy the architecture and the flair. Don’t go (only) on the main streets (or those from the Freedom Trail) and everything will be also cheap. Other neighbourhoods, like South Bay or the Chinatown are also worth strolling.
There are some cheap things that could be fun – the Duck Tours seemed to us like a combination of a tourist trap and a nightmare (the weather was cold and going in a Duck seemed a bad idea); but don’t mix up the ducks with the swans in Boston Public Gardens, which are fun (in the summer and late spring only).
USS Constitution is a free open air museum, in a naval base. Interesting and worth visiting. It is the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy. The “Old Ironside” was never defeated in Battle because of its legendary ability to repel any shot fired.
Another touristy outdoor attraction for free is the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Naturally, as a marketplace, the whole idea is that you buy stuff, but there are always street shows and interesting things without it. And there are several decent eateries, despite the touristy location.
Outside the Aquarium, which is for a fee, you can find a seal pool.
Massachusetts Historical Society
Charlestown Navy Yard – including the USS Constitution
Gardner Museum – if your name is Isabella. See here: http://www.gardnermuseum.org/isabellas.asp
Free on certain days:
Harvard University Art Museums - Saturday 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; everyday after 4:30 p.m.; everyday for under 18s.
Institute of Contemporary Art - FREE for all from 5 to 9 pm every Thursday for Target Free Thursday Nights; FREE for families (up to 2 adults accompanied by children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of each month
Museum of Fine Arts - Citizens Bank Foundation Wednesday Nights at the MFA: No general admission fee required. Every Wed, 4–9:45 pm. Voluntary donations welcome. Special exhibitions ticketed separately.
Children’s Museum: Target $1 Friday Nights are offered every Friday from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
I would definitely go to see the Science Museum; in the science museum, you’ve got also some small sections that are free (including a petting zoo)
Various Rainy Day Options (besides museums):
Go to the Boston Public Library – except for being the oldest in the United States, it is interesting, has limited (I think 15 minutes) free Internet time and well, you can always read a book
- Harvard and MIT – Cambridge is ugly, but the Harvard buildings are interesting; and MIT has the most interesting public building in Boston – the Ghery building (Senta Center) is as crazy from the inside as it from the outside.
- Interesting window shopping: the Coply Square Mall; the Koo de Kir (65 Chestnut Street); The nearby Holiday designer shop (53 Charles Street Boston, MA 02114 )
- Visit the JFK library
- Visit the Mary Baker Eddy Library