Free Things to Do in Boston, August 2016
Comic Con Costume Parade
Hoping to capture some of the Comic Con fun minus the hefty price tag? Preview the nerdy extravaganza at Faneuil Hall’s parade. Whether you watch or participate, be prepared to let your freak flag fly. Bonus: Several lucky costume contest winners will receive free passes to the real event.
Free, August 4, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Faneuil Hall Marketplace, South Market St., Boston, reserve tickets.
Dancin’ in the Park
A warm summer evening, a live DJ, and catchy tunes make dancing irresistible. Bring comfy shoes for a fun night at Christopher Columbus Park.
Free, August 4, 6-9 p.m., Christopher Columbus Park, Boston, foccp.org.
Salem Maritime Festival
This yearly festival brings together all things nautical. Relax on a 90 minute harbor cruise, tour a historic boat, or watch demonstrators create traditional crafts. If you prefer to join in the action, paddle around Salem Harbor yourself or try a hands-on craft. Options for kids are even more extensive, ranging from a tent filled with activities to Junior Ranger programs.
Free, August 5-7, Salem Maritime National Historic Site, 160 Derby Street, nps.gov.
Welcoming its 15th year, GospelFest features both newcomers plucked from its open auditions and well-known favorites. The music promises to be filled with feeling, making for moving performances.
Free, August 7, City Hall Plaza, Boston, boston.gov.
Coolidge at the Greenway
The avant-garde Coolidge Corner Theatre is bringing cult classics to the Greenway this summer. August’s film, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, contains everything you could want from a 50s horror movie: laughably bad special effects, an exotic location, and a sympathetic monster who falls in love with a beautiful girl. Witness this masterpiece outdoors and in 3-D 35 mm.
Free, August 10, dusk, Greenway’s Wharf District Park, Boston, coolidge.org/films.
Neighborhood Nights at the Isabella Stewart Gardner
This summer series concludes with a botanical theme. Everything from mocktails and flowers to games and gallery talks will fill the museum. Plus: live music. Shea Rose, an artist with a passion for social justice, and Alea, an Afro-Carribean jazz singer, will be performing.
Free, August 11, 5-8 p.m., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston, gardnermuseum.org.
Boston Green Fest
Ever been to a “multicultural environmental music festival”? Us either. This eclectic event includes an eco-fashion show, test-runs of an electric car, film screenings, and a community-wide art piece, to start. Go for the cool events but leave with practical tips about how to make your lifestyle more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
Free, August 19-21, Boston City Hall Plaza, Faneuil Hall, and Sam Adams Park, bostongreenfest.org.
DO IT FOR THE KIDS
West End Children’s Festival
Now is the perfect chance to visit the West End at this family-friendly event. Whatever your child’s interests, the festival is sure to excite: athletics, arts, cultural performances, and more.
Free, August 20, 12-3 p.m., Thoreau Path in Boston’s West End, www.westendchildrensfestival.org.
Salem Jazz & Soul Festival
Salem Willows shorefront park welcomes talents ranging from a high school band to last year’s show stealers, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers. To enjoy the music but avoid the parking hassle (finding an open spot will be a headache), consider the Salem Trolley or take advantage of the festival’s $25 Uber discount.
Free, August 20-21, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Salem Willows, 167 Fort Ave., salemjazzsoul.org.
Gloucester Waterfront Festival
Antique cars, live music, free samples of gourmet foods, and art exhibits ranging from music boxes to carved birds will be populating Gloucester’s shoreline this August. Insider tip: Arrive early to snag a free parking spot at Gloucester High School or along Stacey Boulevard.
Free, August 20-21, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Stage Fort Park, Hough Ave, Gloucester, capeannchamber.com.
EVERYTHING THAT FLOATS
Antique & Classic Boat Festival
Ever dreamed of owning a yacht to sail around the world—or just to relax in the middle of the ocean on a hot day? Indulge your fantasy at the Antique & Classic Boat Festival. Note that while admission is free of charge, purchasing your own yacht is not.
Free, August 20-21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday, Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina, 10 White St., Salem, boatfestival.org.
Quincy August Moon Festival
A traditional Chinese festival celebrating the end of the harvest season is coming to Quincy. Highlights include the opening lion dance and the food—bring a couple of bucks to sample the vendor’s creations.
Free, August 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., North Quincy MBTA Parking Lot, facebook.com/events.
Party in the Park
The Friends of the Christopher Columbus Park, a nonprofit group devoted to supporting the park, is turning 15, and to celebrate, they’re bringing free festivities to the park. The U.S. Air Force Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble will be headlining.
Free, August 23, 6-9 p.m., Christopher Columbus Park, foccp.org.
DO IT FOR THE KIDS
Children’s Summer Festival
The ingredients for a perfect day with the kids: face-painting; cool science experiments; live performances; and a visit from the Franklin Park Zoo. The Children’s Summer Festival offers all of that, plus take-home art projects, to make sure the fun lasts.
Free, August 23, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Franklin Park, Dorchester, www.cityofboston.gov.
FILM AND CULTURE
Films at the Gate
A new reason to visit Chinatown (in addition to the delectable dim sum and dumplings): movies. The films shown will be in the original Mandarin or Cantonese (with English subtitles, of course) and will be followed by live cultural performances. To enjoy the festival at its best, grab takeout from your favorite Chinatown spot (for tips on where to go, check out here and here), and bring a blanket or fold-out chair.
Free, August 26-28, Chinatown Park, John F. Fitzgerald Surface Rd., Boston, asiancdc.org.
COLORFUL CULTURAL CELEBRATION
On August 27, the route stretching from Martin Luther King Boulevard in Roxbury to the Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester will be covered with bright colors and energetic dancers for a parade to celebrate Caribbean American culture. You may come planning just to watch, but be sure your shoes are comfortable for dancing—the music is infectious. If you want more afterwards, check out the follow-up events in Worcester and Cambridge.
Free, August 27, 1-6 p.m., Boston, cacab.org.
Boston Jazz Fest
Because you can never have enough free music. This year’s diverse jazz line-up includes Pat Braxton, Emy Tseng, LoveSexy Band, Bradley Bartlett-Roche, and The Groovatos.
Free, August 27, starting at noon, Maritime Park, 600 D St., Boston, bostonjazzfest.org.
Cambridge’s Summer in the City
The summer-long series finishes strong with events every Tuesday and Thursday, including a masked theatre performance on August 2 and movie screenings throughout the month—including a sure favorite on August 18. The catch: They won’t be officially revealing the film titles until the time of the screening, but the website includes some helpful hints. The clue for August 18 reads “Join us for an adventure with fencing, fighting, true love and miracles, but watch out for the ROUSs!” (ROUS = Rodents of Unusual Size.) Sounds like The Princess Bride!
Free, July-August, various times and locations across Cambridge, cambridgema.gov.
ALL YOU CAN EAT
North End Feasts
Visit your favorite cultural neighborhood in Boston to celebrate a time-honored tradition. The feasts include live entertainment, religious processions, and—of course—food. Check out the Fisherman’s, St. Anthony’s, Santa Lucia’s, or Saint Agrippina’s Feast. Scattered throughout August, each features its own distinctive traditions.
Free, August, various times, Boston’s North End, northendboston.com.
THE BARD IN BOSTON
Shakespeare on the Common
Experience Shakespeare the way he intended: in performance, not on the page. This year’s show is Love’s Labor Lost, the bard’s take on a romantic comedy.
Free, Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m., through August 7, Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common, commshakes.org.
Sunday Evening Movies at Christopher Columbus Park
Get ready for the vamped-up girl power remake of Ghostbusters with a throwback screening of the original. The showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark also isn’t one to miss, because let’s be honest: Harrison Ford really was the best Indiana Jones. Pack a picnic for a perfect night.
Free, Sundays at sundown, through August 14, Christopher Columbus Park, Boston, 781-639-6002, full lineup.
Riverfront Park Summer Movie Series at Assembly Row
Take a break after a day of shopping with a free film. If you decide to go on August 20, be warned: UP might be a kid’s movie, but it is a tear-jerker. Bring tissues.
Free, Saturdays at sundown, through August 27, Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park, Somerville, full lineup.
Magic 106.7 Family Film Festival at the Prudential Center
The opportunity to see one of these movies might just buy you a complaint-free day of shopping with the kids. August’s line-up features a strong Disney Princess with wild red hair, a law-enforcing bunny, bugs, and a magical nanny. Arrive early for kid’s activities starting at 6 p.m.
Free, Saturday at sundown, through August 27, South Garden at the Prudential Center, Boston, full lineup.
Free Friday Flicks at the Hatch Shell
More free movies, because why not? August opens with The Good Dinosaur and closes with Ant-Man.
Free, Fridays at sundown, through August 26, DCR Hatch Shell, 47 David G. Mugar Way, Boston, full lineup.
Theater Thursdays at Revere Beach
Remember when Frozen’s “Let it Go” was constantly stuck in your head? Relive those days at Revere Beach on August 13. Visit the beach on August 6 for Over the Hedge if animated comedy is really your thing, and end the summer with an August 20th Avengers screening. With showings in the sand, bring a beach chair or towel and you’ll be all set.
Free, Thursdays, films start at sundown, through August 20, Waterfront Square, Revere Beach, 781-286-8190, full lineup.
MUSIC & MOVIES
“Summer in the City” at the Boston Harbor Hotel
There’s nothing like free music and movies to ensure that summer is the funnest and most relaxed season—even in the middle of a busy work week. Rat pack Wednesdays will give you something to look forward to on hump day (other than the weekend, of course), but Tuesdays and Thursdays also promise musical excitement. Fridays offer movies, including Marilyn Monroe’s steamy Some Like it Hot on August 26.
Free, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 6-10 p.m., and Friday at sundown, through September 9, Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, 617-856-7744, full lineup.
Boston Calling Block Parties
Thursdays after work just got a little bit better. The live music series ensures you won’t miss Boston Calling too much with an August line-up that includes The Swinging Johnson’s, Salem Wolves, SYM, and Workman Song.
Free, Thursdays, 5-8 p.m., through September 15, Dewey Square Parks, 185 Kneeland St., Boston, 617-292-0020, full lineup.
Dorothy Curran Concert Series
Release your inner disco queen in City Hall Plaza. Boston’s longest running outdoor music series promises fun this August with two nights of disco and one night of R&B/soul performed by Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes.
Free, some Wednesdays, July-August, 7 p.m., City Hall Plaza, Boston, 617-635-4505, full lineup.
Landmark Orchestra at the Hatchshell
Expect anything but boredom at August’s concerts. Mix it up on August 3 with On the Town, a classical film starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly and on August 17 with live dance performances.
Free, Wednesdays, through August 26, 7-9 p.m., DCR Hatch Shell, 47 David G. Mugar Way, Boston, full lineup.
Berklee’s Summer in the City
The merits of being a college city include not only a highly-educated metropolitan area, but also free music. Berklee students are giving back to the city this summer with shows in locations ranging from the BPL courtyard to the Pru at lunch.
Free, June-August, various times and locations, full lineup.
Free Fun Fridays
The Highland Street Foundation is sponsoring free admission to 80 museums and sites each Friday this summer. With offerings ranging from the Franklin Park Zoo to ICA, this is an event that any tastes can take advantage of.
Free, Fridays, through August 26, various locations, full lineup.