Boston on a budget: Free, fun things you can do this summer in the city

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Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR’s Saturday morning newsletter, The Weekender. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here


I’ve seen firsthand how a day of fun in Boston can get expensive fast.

It might start out with a fancy coffee from Tatte. Next thing you know, you’ve spent $27 for admission to the Museum of Fine Arts, another $30 for lunch and a drink at Time Out Market, and $40 for a parking ticket, after it slipped your mind to feed the meter.

Making memories with friends is priceless, but weekly outings costing over $100 aren’t exactly in my budget. Thankfully, with a little planning, there are ways to save a few bucks on a day out in the city — without having to sacrifice any fun.

Below, you’ll find details for free fitness classes, art showcases and music festivals happening around Boston this summer. And for local families, we’ve included a few places offering free admission for kids during summer break.

The Institute of Contemporary Art in the Seaport. (Hadley Green for WBUR).
The Institute of Contemporary Art in the Seaport. (Hadley Green for WBUR).

Art and music

A man runs on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
A man runs on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Fitness classes

  • The City of Boston’s Parks Fitness Series is back this summer with daily classes for locals to try. Now through Aug. 31, join a group at one of 16 different parks around Boston for Zumba, tai chi, yoga or a HIIT workout led by a fitness instructor. If an hour of dancing is more your style, you’re in luck: There are also opportunities to try Afrobeats or salsa dancing, and even low-intensity line dancing. Classes are held every day of the week. See the full schedule here.
  • River Fit is a series of free fitness classes created by the Esplanade Association in collaboration with DCR. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays starting July 15, they’ll host runs, walks, cardio workouts and sunset yoga at the Hatch Memorial Shell and Fielder Field along the Charles. Four of River Fit’s recurring classes start after 5 p.m. — perfect for the 9-5 crowd. Just make sure to register and reserve your spot in advance.
  • Seaport Sweat, a summer workout series on the Seaport Common, offers a mix of Pilates, barre, athletic conditioning and body sculpting classes meant to make you perspire. And you should definitely be able to find something that works with your schedule, as there are classes at a variety of times from Monday through Saturday. Apart from a mat (which you can bring yourself), classes are equipment-free.

Artwork at the zebra entrance to Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Artwork at the zebra entrance to Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Free activities for families

P.S. — Keeping in the theme of free-ish fun, we’d like to know: What local goodies are in your picnic basket? Perhaps it’s a few chocolate chunk cookies from Sofra or a creamy brie from MA France. Email us at newsletters@wbur.org to tell us which food, snacks and drinks you bring along on your summer picnics, and we might include your recommendation in a future newsletter.

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