20 Free Things to Do in Boston

free things to do in boston#12. The Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Now that we are nearing mid-October, you may have already shelled out a few extra bucks on your polyester superhero Halloween getup and now feel a painful empty leather cavity in your wallet. But alas, here are 20 free things to do in Boston while you dodge your rising debt.

1. Wunderle’s One Man Circus

Having performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Troy Wunderle is taking his talent to Coolidge Corner where he will juggle, spin plates, balance on a ladder, unicycle, perform magic, and tell jokes—promising to engage and delight viewers of all ages. This one-man performance is free and open to the public.

Oct. 15, 290 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-734-2501, coolidge.org


2. John Cage Concert Series

In celebration of famous American composer John Cage’s centennial birth, Aaron Jackson will return to the Boston Athenaeum to perform Cage’s classical piano pieces, including “In a Landscape” and “Etudes Astrales, Book 1.” Cellist Adrienne Taylor and trumpet player Ben Holmes will also perform during the concert series.

Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. and Oct. 20 at noon, 10 Beacon Street, 617-227-0270, bostonathenaeum.org


3. Fort Point Arts Open Studies

Browse 150 artists’ studios within the warehouse buildings of Fort Point. View public art and individual galleries, and get the chance to meet and chat with artists. It’s free to browse, but if you have some money to spend, consider purchasing some unique art from one-of-a-kind painters, photographers, sculptors, fashion designers, printmakers, jewelers, and more.

Oct. 19 preview 4-7 p.m., Oct. 20-21, 12-6 p.m., Fort Point Arts Community, 300 Summer Street, 617-423-4299, fortpointarts.org


4. Head of the Charles Regatta

Snag a seat by the river among hundreds of thousands of guests to watch thousands of rowers compete in the world’s largest 2-day regatta. Now in its 48th year, the weekend will include 55 events and a good amount of free entertainment. Smart spectators will get the best views from the BU Bridge, Weeks Footbridge, and Anderson Memorial Bridge.

Oct. 20-21, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., banks of the Charles River, 617-868-6200, hocr.org


5. The German Year Classical Concert

If you missed out on your annual dose of German tunes during Boston’s Octoberfest celebration, indulge in a few more (for free!) at the Community Music Center of Boston. “The German Year” performance will mark the beginning of the Lecture/Concert Series at the Center and will feature a string quartet performance of “The Flying Dutchman” Overture.

Oct. 25, 7 p.m., 34 Warren Ave., 617-482-7494, cmcb.org


6. New England Aquarium Fall Lecture Series

Take part in one or more of the New England Aquarium’s remaining free fall lectures, educating the public on wildlife research, climate change, and conservation. Some of the topics include dolphin behavior and intelligence, predicting climate change, and saving the coral reef. Lectures will be held in the Harborside Learning Lab in the Aquarium’s Ocean Center unless otherwise noted.

Thursdays, Oct. 25-Dec. 13, 7 p.m., 1 Central Wharf, 617-973-6596, neaq.org


7. Boston Book Festival

This year, New England’s largest annual literary event will feature more than 125 presenters (Pulitzer Prize-winners and bestselling authors alike) and numerous sessions for kids and adults. There will also be a street fair, workshops for aspiring authors, and live music on the Berklee Festival Stage. Author Richard Ford will present the keynote this year. This year’s “One City, One Story” selection is “The Lobster Mafia Story” by Anna Solomon.

Oct. 27, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Copley Square, 617-252-3240, bostonbookfest.org


8. Boston Vegetarian Food Festival

Whether or not you’re a vegetarian, check out some of the healthy natural foods available to taste and buy at this festival. Meet food producers, learn which vegetarian foods are being sold, and sample the latest, most delicious items. Vegetarians, vegans, healthy eaters, and all else are welcome!

Oct. 27, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Oct. 28, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Reggie Lewis Athletic Center, 1350 Tremont St., 617-424-8846, bostonveg.org


9. Phantom Gourmet Halloween Bowling Ball

If you’re looking for a not-so-traditional way to celebrate Halloween this year, this Kings event will offer bowling, food, and drink specials, a costume and dance contest, a “sexy scary” theme, a live DJ, and costume karaoke. No, the food and drinks are not free, but there is no cover after 6 p.m.

Oct. 27 starting at 8 p.m., Kings Bowl, 50 Dalton St., 617-266-2695, kingsbowlamerica.com


10. SoWa Market of the Living Dead

Even if you’ve already checked out the unique crafts, antiques, and delicious array of food truck delights available at the SoWa Open Market this season, the last market of the season will be held just before Halloween, and will likely be worth another trip. A $250 prize will be awarded to the visitor who shows up in the best costume—and free treats, live music, and pumpkin carving are just a few of the event perks.

Oct. 28, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 460 Harrison Ave., sowaopenmarket.com


11. Fort Point Pumpkin Pageant Celebration

Vote for the best Jack-o’-lantern masterpiece out of a selection of local businesses’ carving contestants in front of the Boston Children’s Museum. Kids will also get a chance to decorate their own pumpkin, have their faces painted, and enjoy fall treats for all. The Barking Crab will announce the winner and Java Jive will perform during evening festivities.

Oct. 28, 12-4 p.m., Boston Children’s Museum HarborWalk, friendsoffortpointchannel.org


12. The Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo

Chat with real practicing witches and experience psychic readings by means of tarot cards, visions, palm readings, crystal balls, angel and spirit guides, and more. Unveil your future and revisit your past (and beware of your lingering skeletons in the closet).

Until Oct. 31, 176 Essex St., Salem, festivalofthedead.com, Boston to Salem ferry tickets available at bostonharborcruises.com.

13. USS Constitution Tour

If you have yet to take the time to explore Old Ironsides, take a free 30-minute tour of the historic ship. Each tour takes you through the four stations of the ship and is narrated by active-duty US sailors. Learn the stories behind the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat as you make your way through its top three decks.

Tuesdays-Sundays until Oct. 31 and Thursdays-Sundays from Nov. 1-March 31, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Bldg. 5 Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, 617-242-5671, history.navy.mil/ussconstitution


14. Wendy Maruyama’s “The Tag Project”

On February 19, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry. San Diego-based artist Wendy Maruyama’s works brilliantly reflect the tragic period, featuring three parts: the Tag Project, Executive Order 9066, and a selection of historical artifacts, all of which are free on display to the public.

Until Nov. 3, Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 175 Newbury Street, 617-266-1810, bostoncentral.com


15. Boston Harbor Islands Free Entrance Day

Veterans, visit the Boston Harbor Islands National Park for free. Weather permitting, take the family hiking, view the wildlife, and perhaps do a bit of fishing and picnicking. Fee waiver for the day includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees.

Nov. 11, 11 a.m., Boston Harbor Islands, Ferry at 66 Long Wharf, Christopher Columbus Park, 617-223-8666, bostonharborislands.org


16. “The Pillars” Photography Exhibit

Experience the works of Thaddeus Miles on display at the United South End Settlements’ Harriet Tubman Gallery. Miles’ 365 Project encompasses four main areas in the exhibition “The Pillars”: People & Community, Family & Ancestry, Faith & Spirit, and Nature & Landscape.

Until Nov. 21, Mondays-Fridays 8 a.m.-8 p.m., 566 Columbus Ave, 617-375-8159, bostoncentral.com


17. Guided Arboretum Tour

While the weather is still decent, take a break from downtown urban life and head to Jamaica Plain to take a guided stroll through the Arboretum. View the fall foliage and remaining fruit trees and get a bit of outdoor exercise before the crisp air freezes. Themed tours cover conservation pioneers, seed dispersal, and the birds of the Arboretum.

Until Nov. 28, Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m., Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m., Arnold Arboretum, 125 Arborway, Jamaica Plain, 617-384-5209, arboretum.harvard.edu


18. MFA Free Wednesday Nights

Perhaps it’s time to take advantage of the $0 Wednesday night admission at the MFA and meander over to Daniel Rich’s Platform of Power exhibit, which opened in September and reveals the relationship between political power, nationalism, and architecture through Rich’s acrylic paintings. On Halloween night, enjoy a free Gallery Talk by Henry Augustine Tate from 6 to 7 p.m.

Every Wednesday after 4 p.m., 465 Huntington Avenue, 617-267-9300, mfa.org


19. ICA Free Thursday Nights

When you are in the mood for a bit of modern art, peruse Amy Sillman’s exhibit (among many others) at the ICA. Sillman’s exhibit opened last week and features explorations in the interesting erotic and bodily dimensions of painting, as well as the artist’s drawings and animated film creations from 1995 to the present day.

Every Thursday after 5 p.m., 100 Northern Ave, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org


20. Self-Guided Burying Ground Tour

This Halloween, spook yourself out with your own self-guided journey through Boston’s graveyards, dating back to the 1600s. Visit the tombstones of Revolutionary War heroes, Boston Massacre victims, English Puritans, and hanged pirates. According to the stories, some occupants of the cemeteries may have even been buried alive. Enter if you dare.

Winter hours: Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., King’s Chapel Burying Ground, 64 Beacon Street, 617-227-2155, cityofboston.gov/freedomtrail/kingschapel

UPDATE, 10/11/12 at 5:02 p.m.: Updated the date, time for the Boston Harbor Islands Free Entrance Day. The event is free for veterans only. We regret the error.