Free Things to Do in Boston, April

Outdoor festivities galore, from the Boston Marathon to the 31st Annual Run of the Charles. Plus: National Poetry Month, the Cambridge Science Festival, and more.

This month is all about welcoming (finally, hopefully, pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top?) warmer weather. April brings us a number of festivals, and the best thing about public celebrations: everyone is welcome, and everything is free. Here are some free events in April that we are looking forward to:

Boston National Poetry Month Festival at the BPL

April is National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, and the Boston Public Library and hosting a string of poetry readings April 5-7. Poets in attendance will range from Boston-area high school students to professional award-winning wordsmiths. The bulk of readings will take place on Saturday, when 40 poets will read for 10 minutes each. Poets can also brave smaller crowds at open mics on Saturday and Sunday, and those who want to brush up on their rhymes can take part in a free workshop on Sunday.

April 5-7, Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., 617-536-5400,


Photo via Cambridge Science Festival/Flickr

Cambridge Science Festival

This month, the Cambridge Science Festival returns to enlighten and delight us with more than 100 events spread out over 10 days and all over town. Dozens of exhibits, demos, and talks will be free. Here are just a few of them:

H2Oratorio: A Deluge of Songs at the Museum of Science (Sunday, April 14, and Sunday, April 21)
Hi-Fi-Sci: Music and Science Animation at the MIT Museum (Sunday, April 14)
• Boston-Cambridge bridge tours by the Boston Society of Civil Engineers (Monday, April 15, and Thursday, April 18)
• Human DNA Strand at the Koch Institute (Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.) (Thursday, April 18)
• Sidewalk Astronomy at various locations (Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20)
• Space and Rockets Day with the MIT Astrophysics Division (Attendees are asked to bring their own 1- or 2-liter soda bottles and a tennis ball to build their rocket.) (Saturday, April 20)
• Battlebots Competition at the Center for Arts at the Armory (Sunday, April 20)
• And for the 21+ crowd: “Science of Nutrition and Food” at Catalyst Restaurant, a wine-making demo at Central Bottle, plus an abundance of happy-hour-pub-crawl-bar-happenings all week long.

April 12-21, various locations and times,

John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo

OK, so most of us won’t actually run in the Boston Marathon. But ours is an active city, which is why year after year, the annual John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo has played host to thousands upon thousands of visitors looking for the latest in cool athletic gear and services the weekend before Marathon Monday. Running enthusiasts can also check out the Runner’s Seminar Series—all weekend long, experts will be sharing their running tips and advice for aspiring marathoners. So whether you’ll be running in the race or on the sidelines cheering for a local contender, get into the marathon spirit and check out the annual expo.

April 12-14, Hynes Convention Center, 900 Boylston Street, 617-439-7700,

Patriots’ Day Parade in Lexington

It wouldn’t be Massachusetts if we didn’t have a lengthy list of reenactments, parades, and other events taking place for Patriots’ Day. This year, Lexington also celebrates its 300th anniversary, so the town is celebrating twice as hard all weekend, with the Patriots’ Day Parade a day early on April 14. The date change means you can go watch Lexington’s parade on Sunday and make it to the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday. The choice is yours. Either way, aside from travel, it’s all free.

April 14, 2 p.m., Starts at Massachusetts Ave. and Maple St., Lexington,

Earth Day Events in Boston

This year, the city celebrates Earth Day with a number of events around town to encourage environmental protection. Among these are family-friendly activities including music and games at the Rose Kennedy Greenway and a Charles River cleanup. Go to Boston Common on April 22 for Picnic for the Planet, where more kid-friendly fun can be found. Can Boston set the Guinness World Record for the largest global picnic ever? We’ll just have to wait and find out.

April 20-22, various locations,

Money Smart Week

Later this month is Money Smart Week, and in the spirit of teaching people to be fiscally clever and responsible, the Boston Public Library is hosting a Money Smart Film Series and events throughout the week of April 22-26. Films being shown on Mondays include Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Reversal of Fortune, and Mad Money. During Money Smart Week, sessions will be held for various ages and topics, from “Money Matters for Teens” to “Protecting Your Identity.” It will be an educational, practical—and frugal—way to spend your time this month.

Various Mondays in April, April 22-26, Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., 617-536-5400,

run of the charles

Photo by Naomi Segal/Run of the Charles Picasa

31st Annual Run of the Charles Canoe & Kayak Race

The Boston Marathon runners aren’t the only ones racing this month. The Charles River Watershed Association’s Run of the Charles race returns on April 28, and if previous years are any indication, this month’s event will be as fun to watch as ever. Join other spectators along the Charles to cheer on marathon canoe racers and paddlerboarders alike, plus find activities, vendors, and live music at the Finish Line Festival.

Sunday, April 28, Finish Line Festival at Artesani Park, Brighton, 781-788-0007,