Free Things to Do in Boston, January 2016

Including open houses at the MFA and Gardner, as well as yoga at the BPL.

First Day Hikes

Start the New Year on a good note with a free guided tour of one of 11 state parks that are carrying on the decades-old “First Day Hikes” tradition. In addition to offering dog- and kid-friendly options, a few locations will even dole out free hot chocolate and soup.

Free, Friday, January 1, various locations listed at

The Ice

Part of the city’s “First Night” celebration, “The Ice” will bring dazzling ice sculptures to Faneuil Hall. Expect to see a 2016 sculpture backlit by psychedelic lights and some of Boston’s favorite characters in frozen form, as well as live street theater performances.

Free, Friday, January 1, ends at 11 p.m., Faneuil Hall Marketplace,


It takes more than 350,000 LED lights, 12 miles of copper wire, and 4,000 watts of sound to put together the annual extravaganza at Faneuil Hall, and you’ll still have three days to catch it in January.

Free, through January 3, starting at 4:30 p.m. every night, Faneuil Hall Marketplace,

America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve

You can count on New York Times bestseller Roger Lowenstein to turn the humdrum topic of the Federal Reserve into a riveting historical yarn. Listen to Lowenstein read and discuss his latest book, America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve, at the Boston Public Library.  

Free, Tuesday, January 5, 6-7:30 p.m., Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston,

Snowflake Festival

This year, visitors at the Brookline Arts Center’s annual open house can participate in a community art activity, contributing to a piece that will later be given to a local nonprofit. There will also be two free drop-in workshops, offering introductions to bangle-making and monoprinting.

Free, Saturday, January 9, noon-4 p.m., Brookline Arts Center, 86 Monmouth St., Brookline,

Cambridge Winter Farmers Market Opening Day

With temperatures dropping, many farmers markets close down for the season. Not so with the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market, located in the indoor, heated Cambridge Community Center. At the Opening Day event, local artists and musicians will ring in the new year and fresh produce.

Free, Saturday, January 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Cambridge Community Center, 5 Callender St., Cambridge,

Urban Gardening Class at Cambridge Public Library

An instructive series offered at the Cambridge Public Library focuses on addressing the challenges of rearing a garden in the urban sprawl. This class focuses on water conservation, ensuring that you wring the most out of every precious drop for your winter-withered plants.

Free, Sunday, January 10, 1:30-3 p.m., Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge,

The Winter Wellness Walk at the Arnold Arboretum

The Arnold Arboretum offers a brisk walk through the woods for sun- and exercise-deprived Bostonians. While you’re taking in the nature, guides will share information about the trees, shrubs, and perennial plants along the way.

Free, Sunday, January 10, 1-1:45 p.m., Arnold Arboretum, 125 Arborway, Boston, registration requested at

The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner at Harvard Book Store

Travel writer and author Eric Weiner went in search of how and where creativity gets a foothold on imagination. From Freud’s favorite coffeeshop to the ruins of Socrates’ Athens, Weiner travels to history’s most famous genius haunts and begins to question what influence setting has on the psyche. Catch Weiner’s discussion on his latest book The Geography of Genius at the Harvard Book Store.

Free, Monday, January 11, 7 p.m., Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge,

Yoga at the BPL

For the first time, you can do a supervised downward dog at the central branch of the Boston Public Library. Every Tuesday from January 12 to February 16, the BPL will offer a yoga class with popular instructor Rebecca Pacheco. It’s the perfect serene substitute for your daily lunch-hour scramble—just don’t forget to bring your own mat.

Free, every Tuesday starting January 12, 12-1 p.m., Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston,

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Open House at the MFA

Every Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Museum of Fine Arts throws open its doors for all, waiving entrance fees. Visitors not only get access to the exhibits, but also various tours and art-making activities. Collaborative works of art contributed by local students in honor of MLK will also be on display.

Free, Monday, January 18, 10 a.m.-4:45 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston,

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at the Gardner Museum

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is hosting an open house on MLK Day as well, focusing on the theme of community service. Visitors can work alongside guest artist Ifé Franklin in the museum’s studio space, participate in a seed-sorting activity in the greenhouse classroom, and create an object for a family member or friend as a way of giving gratitude. The open house will also feature tours, gallery talks, and live music from the Lance Martin Jazz Trio.

Free, Monday, January 18, timed entry begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston,

BSO 101: Are You Listening? Shakespeare in Music

Boston Symphony Orchestra offers another free lecture on the finer notes of classical music. This time, the Bard himself is considered. Marc Mandel and Double Bass player James Orleans discuss the songs that Shakespeare used in his plays, such as Ophelia’s bawdy tune in Hamlet and Ariel’s magical song in The Tempest.

Free, Reception $15, Wednesday, January 20, 5:30 p.m., Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston,

Hackathon for Students

The weekend-long Hackathon is geared toward the young techie generation, inspiring kids of all ages to engage in the world of programming, coding, and hacking. It’s also a chance to meet fellow hackers, gaming gurus, and wiz coders, bringing your online universe to life.

Free, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, January 22-24, Cambridge Innovation Center, 1 Broadway, Cambridge,

Beyond Lolita: Literary Writers on Sex and Sexuality at Porter Square Books

Highbrow literature rarely screams sexy, but this writers’ panel on the changing politics of sexuality breathes new life into old classics. Emerson professor Benoit Denizet-Lewis, New York Times‘ “Modern Love” editor Daniel Janes, author Cathi Hanauer, and feminist writer Jaclyn Friedman discuss the new taboos and rules on writing about sex and sexuality.

Free, Monday, January 25, 7 p.m., Porter Square Books, 25 White St., Cambridge

free events in boston january 2016

Elizabeth McAlpine, The Map of Exactitude (#13), 2012. Two photographs on positive paper, framed. Courtesy of Private Collection and Laurel Gitlen Gallery, New York.

“On Exactitude of Science” Opening Reception at the SMFA

The latest art installation at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts focuses on the material representation of architecture and artifice. Taking its name from a Jorge Luis Borges short story, the exhibit features mixed media pieces of photography, sculpture, performance pieces, and prints contributed by four different artists.

Free, Thursday, January 28, 5-7 p.m., School of the Museum of Fine Arts, 230 The Fenway, Boston,

The Sketchbook Show at Nave Gallery

If you’ve ever desired to see the creative process in its earliest stages, then head to the Nave Gallery for a free look at a collection of sketchbooks. Local artists have surrendered their sketchbooks, full of their unformed and in-flux art projects, for a look into the initial threads of genius.

Free, Friday, January 29, 6-8 p.m., 53 Chester St., Somerville,