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Boston Marathon weekend: 178 free and inexpensive things to do

Museums, hikes, monuments, and more!

People sitting on chairs on a boat that is traveling through Boston Public Garden. Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

The big race is upon us.

Here are dozens of things to do and visit in the Boston region in addition to checking out the Boston Marathon itself. Best part: They’re either free or close to it.

A museum off the beaten path

The interior of an elaborate engineering museum, with many pipes and metal stairs. Photo via Waterworks Museum

Boston is home to some of the world’s most notable museums.

But the city also hosts some lesser-known institutions of collective preservation, including one of the oldest military museums on the continent and one of the nation’s most prominent repositories of African-American history.

This map pinpoints these and nine others.

Some Irish history

Sip Khoon Tan/Flickr

Boston has long been the loci of the Irish in America (and of Irish-Americans).

Not surprisingly, then, the city is awash in memorials, monuments, and other reminders of the influence here of the sons and daughters of Eire.

Here is a map of 11 of those key sites.

A little Revolutionary War trivia

Three vintage cannons arrayed in a public park. Wikipedia

No other region in the nation has quite the connection to the Revolutionary War as does Boston and its environs (British-free since March 1776).

Not surprisingly, then, the area also has some of the country’s most notable monuments and memorials commemorating the conflict.

This map marks 11 of the most important ones.

Boston’s two most famous parks


The Public Garden and Boston Common together account for 74 acres of urban escape. The parks are chock-full of things to do and see, some a lot more notable than others.

A lot of people probably know about the Frog Pond or Make Way for Ducklings or the Edgar Allan Poe statue. And the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts is surely one of the world’s best-known military monuments, if for no other reason than the movie Glory.

But there are plenty of hidden gems in the Garden and the Common. If you know where to look...

Cemetery tours are not just for Halloween


The Boston region has some of America’s oldest cemeteries, with a handful stretching back to the early 1600s and a goodly proportion launching well before the 1900s.

The region’s cemeteries, too, contain a veritable village’s worth of notables: presidents, poets, war heroes, jurists, academics, athletes, musicians, Ben Franklin’s mom and dad, you name it.

Here, then, is a map of the 27 most historic cemeteries across the Boston region.

Got kids? Desperate to keep them occupied? Relax.

A children’s carousel. There are people standing at a fence surrounding the carousel. There are trees in the background. Shutterstock

Thanks to its compact, historic neighborhoods and pleasant New England waterfronts, Boston is probably America’s greatest walking city. Similarly pedestrian-friendly cities such as Cambridge surround it, too.

This makes the Boston region especially easy to visit with kids. This map of 23 things to do with the wee ones and the adolescents proves it.

Take the ultimate JFK tour

A modern building housing the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on Boston’s waterfront. Shutterstock

Last year marked the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth in the family home in Brookline. From that moment in May 1917, the 35th president’s life was entwined with the Boston region.

He was educated in Brookline, Dedham, and Cambridge; lived and launched his political career in Beacon Hill; and lives on for posterity in institutions in Columbia Point and Harvard Square.

Here is the ultimate map of Kennedy’s life and legacy in the Boston area.

Or check out Boston’s most iconic buildings

The exterior of Faneuil Hall in Boston. The facade is red brick and there is a tower. Shutterstock

Given its age and its history, never mind its place as New England’s most populous city, Boston is one of America’s most iconic cities.

And, within Boston, are a handful of iconic buildings that represent the city to the rest of the world.

When people think of Boston and its physical landscape and architecture, they think of these 15. Check them out around the marathon.

Admire the region’s most beautiful building interiors

A cavernous library with an arched roof and rows of tables and chairs. Boston College

The Boston area has some of the world’s more exquisite and ambitious urban architecture, whether it be of the dated federal style or of more modern fare. (It also has brutalism.)

That architecture includes striking interiors.

Here are the 15 most beautiful in the Boston region.

Take a hike

An older man coming upon a trail marker in a forest. Boston Globe/Contributor/Getty Images

One of the benefits of being in one of the more bucolic regions of the United States is the abundance of hiking venues.

If you still have some energy post-marathon, here are 10 such superb options throughout the Boston region.

They include major state and city parks with miles and miles of scenic trails each as well as smaller, tighter rambles.

Or a stroll instead

People ride bicycles along a river esplanade. The bike path has grass on both sides. There are trees on one side of the path. Shutterstock

You’re in luck: Boston is one of the more beautiful places to be in the spring (trust us—the current weather is literally a freak of nature).

Here are 10 locations for the perfect springtime stroll—parks, squares, streets, and other runs perfectly suited for leisurely ambles amid just a touch of urban bustle.

Or just find yourself a nice bench


Boston has waterfront to spare; and along that waterfront are some fabulous parks. Here is a map of the 11 best.