Free Things to Do in Boston, December 2013

Here are 24 fun events to finish off the year right, all without spending a dime.

Holiday collage via Shutterstock

Holiday collage via Shutterstock

Holiday shopping season is in full swing, and with long lists of family and friends to buy gifts for, some of us are looking at our credit statements thinking, “Oh, holy shit,” instead of, “Oh holy night.” Fortunately, the holidays are a time of giving. Below, check out 24 free events taking place this month in the Boston area. We’d add these to our to-do list even if we weren’t holiday penny-pinching.

Author Talk Series at the BPL

This month, three writers will host author talks at the Boston Public Library on their respective books. First up Tuesday night is David Misch, the author of Funny: The Book: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Comedy. Misch has an impressive background in comedy on the big and small screens, so let’s hope that, with the aids of clips from Modern Family, the session will be as the title of the book implies.

December 3: David Misch, author of Funny: The Book: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Comedy
December 4: Richard S. Grossman, author of Wrong: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn from Them
December 12: Ben Bradlee Jr., author of The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams

All talks at 6 p.m., Boston Public Library, Central Branch, 700 Boylston St., Boston,

72nd Annual Boston Common Tree Lighting, Frog Pond Skating Spectacular, and Commonwealth Mall

Every year the tree lighting at the Common is preceded by the Frog Pond Skating Spectacular, a free ice skating show put on by the Skating Club of Boston. This year’s performers include 2013 U.S. pair champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir. The Boston Common Tree Lighting runs from 6 to 8 p.m., including performances by Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block (squeal!), Blue Man Group, and more. After the Common tree lighting, Mayor Tom Menino will switch gears and head to Commonwealth Avenue Mall at Arlington Street, where the trees across the Public Garden will also be lit on Thursday night.

December 5, skating 5-6 p.m., tree lighting 6-8 p.m., Boston Common,

A Life Without Words Screening

Emerson College will host a free screening of this indie documentary, which follows two siblings, Dulce Maria and Francisco, two adults who have lived “without words,” including sign language. Tomasa, a teacher, visits the pair in rural Nicaragua, and begins teaching them sign language.

December 5, 7-9 p.m., Paramount Center, Bright Screening Room, 559 Washington St., Boston,

Free Thursdays at the ICA

If you haven’t taken advantage of Free Thursdays at the ICA yet this year, what are you waiting for? Check out the well-reviewed Amy Sillman: one lump or two, which closes after January 5.

December 5, 12, 19, and 26, Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston,

Drawing Marathon at Boston College

The BC Art Club will host an open studio night of figure drawing. Let your inner art geek have a night out. Supplies will be provided. No one expects you to finger paint Morgan Freeman—just have fun.

December 6, 8-11:55 p.m., Boston College, Devlin Hall 4th Floor Studios,

Macy’s Enchanted Trolley Tour & Tree Lightings

Santa’s coming! Freak the freak out as Ol’ St. Nick and Mayor Menino make their annual rounds all across Boston. In three days, the team will light 16 Christmas trees in various neighborhoods. Schedule:

December 6:
5:30 p.m., West Roxbury, Roche Center
6:15 p.m., Readville, Walcott Square
6:45 p.m., Mattapan Square
7:15 p.m., Codman Square
7:45 p.m., Dorchester, Adams Corner

December 7:
1 p.m., Four Corners / Mother’s Rest Overlook Park
2 p.m., Jamaica Plain, JP Monument
2:45 p.m., Jamaica Plain, Hyde Square
3:15 p.m., Mission Hill, Brigham Circle
3:45 p.m., Roxbury, Dudley Square @ B-2
4:15 p.m., South End, Boston Center for the Arts
5 p.m., Brighton, Oak Square

December 8:
1 p.m., South Boston, West Broadway
1:45 p.m., Chinatown, Harrison Ave. and Beach St.
2:30 p.m., North End, Paul Revere Mall
3:15 p.m., Charlestown, Thompson Square
4 p.m., East Boston, Central Square

Fountain Street Open Studios Weekend

Thirty-eight resident and visiting artists will be on hand at Fountain Street’s winter open studios event to demonstrate skills in painting, photography, and many other mediums.

December 6-7, Friday 5:30-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 59 Fountain St., Framingham,

Christmas Craft Fair at Old South Church

Old South Church recently auctioned off the most expensive printed book ever for an easy $14 million, so naturally a free day of festivities is manageable. Saturday’s craft fair comes with a day-long music festival including a tree-lighting at 10 a.m., organ concert at noon, and caroling on Boylston Street at 2 p.m.

December 7, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Old South Church, 645 Boylston St., Boston,

VoiceLab’s Fall/Winter A Cappella Concert

Harvard’s graduate a cappella group VoiceLab will hold a free concert along with the Harvard Callbacks (their undergraduate counterparts). Check out these Ivy Leaguers and judge whether they’re pitch perfect. Performances will range from the classics to pop arrangements. (Ah, a cappella Nirvana, just what the doctor ordered… )

December 7, 8 p.m., Askwith Hall at Harvard Graduate School of Education, 13 Appian Way, Cambridge,

Gorse Mill Studios Holiday Sale and Open Studios with Food and Wine Tasting

Oh Gorse Mill, you had us at free vino. Those who need more info, click below.

December 7-8, 1-5 p.m., Gorse Mill Studios, 31 Thorpe Road, Needham,

Charlestown Open Studios “Small Wonders”

Small wonders why we love open studios. They’re like holiday feasts for the eyes at a price point of zero. This themed event only exhibits works under 12 inches.

December 7-8, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., StoveFactory Gallery, 523 Medford St., Charlestown,

Vernon Street Fall Open Studios

Oh Somerville, you thought we forgot you. Hardly! Vernon Street’s fall open studios will feature works by 74 artists including Karen Meninno and Franziska Rosenmueller.

December 7-8, 12-6 p.m., 6 and 20 Vernon St., Somerville,

Brookline Music School’s Faculty Artist Series

Are the teachers the masters? Find out at this free concert at the Brookline Music School, where faculty members will perform piano, violin, viola, cello, and soprano.

December 8, 4-5:30 p.m., Bakalar Recital Hall, 25 Kennard Road, Brookline,

Let’s Dance with BollyX

Just Us Gals Boston and BollyX will host a free BollyX session this weekend. BollyX = Bollywood + Cardio. Whew, just thinking about it has us sweating.

December 9, 8:30-9 p.m., 536 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge,

Science and Cooking 2013 Lecture Series

All season long, Harvard has been hosting various guest chefs and experts for one-time lectures on an assortment of topics. The last in the series this year is next Monday. “The Accidental Chemist” session will be led by Jack Bishop and Dan Souza of Cook’s Illustrated.

December 9, 7 p.m., Science Center Hall C,

Monday Night Film Series at the BPL

Nothing helps you put an unpleasant Monday behind you like a movie. Each week, the Boston Public Library has been putting on free film screenings. They range in topic, oftentimes holiday-themed. This month, look forward to the following:

December 9: Scrooged starring Bill Murray, 1988
December 16: How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey, 2001
December 23: Nothing Like the Holidays starring John Leguizamo and Debra Messing, 2008
December 30: Perfect Holiday starring Queen Latifah and Morris Chestnut, 2008

All films at 6 p.m., Boston Public Library, Central Branch, 700 Boylston St., Boston,

Beacon Hill Business Association Holiday Stroll

Each year, Beacon Hill transforms into a winter wonderland of the Dickens variety, with reindeer—er, horse-drawn carriages and all. The evening includes a tree lighting and plenty of window shopping opportunities.

December 12, 7:15-8:15 p.m., Charles at Mt. Vernon streets, Boston,

The Reserve Bin’s Annual Holiday Wine Tasting

Another free wine tasting? Oh December, how you spoil us. Purveyors include Masciarelli Wine, Worldwide Beverage, Charles River Wine Company, and more. Bonus: you can enter a raffle to win a bottle to take home. Don’t mind if we do…

December 12, 5-8 p.m., 373 Central St., Foxboro,

Fort Point Holiday Stroll

Forget the 12 days of Christmas. At the Fort Point Holiday Stroll, the cheapskate in all of us are eyeing the 12 “complimentary” teases on the event’s website, including free gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate from Au Bon Pain, clam chowder from Smith & Wollensky, brownies from TRADE, and gift packs from Salon Mario Russo. Not to mention the special deals advertised by the Boston Children’s Museum, Bee’s Knees Supply Co., and more. Hailo will even offer $10 discounts on rides with the promo code “FPSTROLL.”

December 13, 4-8 p.m., various locations,


What have we missed? Let us know in the comments below.