Free Things to Do in Boston, July 2014

Check out free events happening around Boston this month, including Shakespeare on the Common, the Revere Beach sand sculpting festival, and more.

free events boston july 2014

Revere Beach National Sand Sculpting Festival 2013 / Photo by Olga Khvan

Note: This edition of Free Things to Do excludes Fourth of July events. For more on those, check out our July 4th events roundup, Harborfest Guide: Just the Free Stuff, and additional coverage of the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular and Magna Carta at the MFA.

“Summer in the City” at the Boston Harbor Hotel

For 17 years, the Boston Harbor Hotel has hosted this popular summer event series, which is free and open to the public. Live music to various themes take place on Tuesday (Summer Soul), Wednesday (Rat Pack), and Thursday (Blues Barge) evenings, while free movie screenings take place on Friday nights. Highlights from the July lineup include Soul Sound Revue, Pulse of Boston, and the Wizard of Oz.

Free, live music Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, movies on Friday nights, Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, see full lineup.

“Concerts in the Courtyard” at the BPL

Visitors at the BPL get a dose of sweet serenading with the annual “Concerts in the Courtyard” series. The free live music series bring performers to the McKim Courtyard every Wednesday evening and Friday at lunchtime. The concert series run through the end of August, but note that they’ll take a break on July 4 for Independence Day. July highlights include the Cardamom Quartet and former American Idol contestant Erika van Pelt.

Free, Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Fridays at 12:30 p.m., Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston, see full lineup.

“Free Fun Fridays”

Highland Street Foundation’s immensely popular series is back in full swing this month, with free admission to your favorite cultural institutions every Friday all summer. This month, admission fees will be waived at museums such as the JFK Library and Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the MFA, and more. In total this year, Highland Street is hosting 66 Free Fun Fridays in the area.

Free, Fridays, see full lineup.

Free Outdoor Movie Series

You could go full Portlandia for all the free outdoor movie series happening around town this summer, but do us all a favor and be respectful of your fellow viewers. Do bring blankets and pack as fancy a picnic as you like to these events, but leave the shelving at home. Various series are taking place all around town, including the Harbor Hotel (see above), the Hatch Shell, the Prudential Center, Christopher Columbus Park, and Assembly Row. Look forward to plenty of Frozen and The Lego Movie.

Free, various evenings, see full lineups.

“Art in the Park” at Assembly Row

In addition to free outdoor movie screenings, Assembly Row is hosting a bevy of other fun events this summer. Many of the events are free, including fitness and Pet Palooza in August, but this month marks the beginning of “Art in the Park,” during which Candy Witcher will teach one-hour lessons in “The Art of Pastels.”

Free, Sundays, 2-3 p.m., Assembly Row, 100 Foley St., Somerville, Plus, more summer events at Assembly Row.

“Harborwalk Sounds” at the ICA

The free concert series at the ICA returns for another summer of lively music by the water. Bonus: the series takes place on Thursday evenings, when it just so happens that admission to the ICA is also waived. This is a great time to listen to live music and see exhibits like Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take.

Free, Thursdays at 6 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, see full lineup. Plus, more summer events at the ICA.

Summer Concert Series at Christopher Columbus Park

Thursdays this month will also sound great at Christopher Columbus Park, where live performances will take place in the evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The series kicks off on July 10, when the Scott Boni Jazz Quartet will perform “Great Songs from Classic Movies in Hollywood.”

Free, Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m., Christopher Columbus Park, Boston,

Berklee’s Summer in the City

The talented musicians at Berklee will bring us live performances all over the city this summer. Most of the performances are free and take place at popular spots around town like Summer Street, Charlestown Navy Yard, Atlantic Wharf, and Georges and Spectacle Islands.

Free, various times and locations, see full lineup at

Swimmable Charles

Dare to dive into the Charles River? It’s certainly not for everyone, yet plenty wonder what it’d be like. The Charles River Conservancy is hosting two events this month when people can take a dip in the river. Last year, more 150 people took the plunge to be part of the first public swim in the Charles in 50 years.

Free, July 12 and July 26, one-hour sessions 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Fiedler Dock on the Esplanade, Boston,

[Update: The July 12 Swimmable Charles event has been cancelled.]

Landmarks Orchestra Concerts at the Hatch Shell

When the Pops and the Beach Boys are done doing their thing at the Hatch Shell for the Fourth of July, Landmarks Orchestra will take over with free Wednesday night concerts starting July 16. Look forward to free performances of Carmina Burana, Fiesta Sinfónica, and a program by Longwood Symphony. Landmarks Orchestra will also perform three “Concerts in the Community” shows this month, including during Summer Arts Weekend (more below).

Free, Wednesdays, July 16 through August 27, 7-9 p.m., DCR Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, Boston,

Caliente: A Celebration of Latin Music

The city’s annual festival dedicated to Latin culture returns, with live performances by local music and dance groups. Grupo Mania headlines the event this year, which first began in 2008.

Free, Friday, July 18, 7-9 p.m., City Hall Plaza, Boston,

National Sand Sculpting Festival

Each year, Revere Beach hosts a national competition where silica is sculpted into statuesque figures, castles, animals, and more. For the competitors, there are thousands of dollars at stake. For viewers, it’s nothing more than a game of “Whoa, how did they do that?” See photos from last year.

Free, July 18-20, Revere Beach, Boston,

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle

At 295 feet in length, this tall ship is the largest that flies the star and stripes. For those who missed out on Fourth of July ship tours, you can check out the Eagle later this month when it visits Boston to hang out next to our own USS Constitution.

Free, July 22, 1-5 p.m., July 23, 1-7 p.m., July 24, 1-7 p.m., Charlestown Navy Yard,

Shakespeare on the Common

The annual event returns to bring one of William Shakespeare’s classics to life. For 2014, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company presents Twelfth Night. The comedy promises plenty of laughs for audiences young and old as main character Viola arrives in a new land, dresses up as a young man named Cesario, and causes a heap of confusion. Duke Orsino confides in Cesario to help him woo Olivia. Olivia, in turn, falls for Cesario, really Viola. And Viola falls for Orsino, who think’s she’s a man. Confused? Good. Now we’re having fun. Just wait until you meet Malvolio…

Free, July 23-August 10, Boston Common,

Lowell Folk Festival

The 28th annual event offers entertainment across five stages as well as craft demonstrations, ethnic food, and activities. Genres you’ll find include everything from polka to Cajun and Irish to East African.

Free, July 26-28, various locations in Lowell,

Summer Arts Weekend

This free annual two-day festival—hosted by the Globe and WGBH—will have music and dance performances right in Copley Square. Performers this year include Los Lobos, the StepCrew, Anne Akiko Meyers, and more.

Free, July 26-27, Copley Square, Boston,

Figment Boston

Also the weekend of July 26 and 27 is the fifth annual Figment Boston, an open arts festival that encourages interactivity from the audience. Open calls for projects took place throughout spring, and artists were asked for projects that ranged from games to experiments to challenges, but above all—interactivity.

Free, July 26-27, Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston,

Out of the Park

The City of Boston, Red Sox, and Highland Street Foundation teamed up this year for “Out of the Park,” a series of free outdoor events that transform a park into Yawkey Way complete with a live NESN broadcast of the Sox away game, free Hood ice cream and famous Fenway Franks by Kayem, and plenty of other entertainment including music from Red Sox DJ TJ Connelly, Wally the Green Monster, face painting, and more. The final “Out of the Park” event this summer is at Boston Common, when the Sox will be playing the Tampa Bay Rays.

Free, Sunday, July 27, 1:40 p.m., Boston Common, Boston, more info.