The best spots for free summer fun in Boston

Since CosmopoliDad Fatih took on a professional summer course in Boston last summer, we got to spend 2,5 weeks in this cosmopolitan city. Although not exactly the most popular choice for a summer vacation, we enjoyed every minute. And fun doesn’t always have to come with a price tag. So where do you go to have free summer fun in Boston? We’ve compiled a list of the city’s most popular hangouts for kids, tried and tested by our Clan.

The parks

  1. Public Garden

America’s oldest botanical park, located in the heart of Boston, offers plenty of space to enjoy a picnic or spend some time people-watching. To the delight of the kids, there’s an artificial lake featuring swan boats. A picturesque bridge crosses the lake and leads to the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue. What fascinated the kids most, apart from the squirrels, was watching painter David H. Lowry capturing the idyllic setting. This garden is a true hub for free summer fun in Boston.

Two CosmopoliClan sisters posing in the Public Garden, one of the best spots for free summer fun in Boston, with the swan boats in the backdrop

Two CosmopoliClan sisters posing in the Public Garden, one of the best spots for free summer fun in Boston, with the swan boats in the backdrop

Two CosmopoliClan sisters playing around the “Make way for ducklings’ statue in Boston’s Public Garden

Two CosmopoliClan sisters playing around the “Make way for ducklings’ statue in Boston’s Public Garden

Two CosmopoliClan sisters observing Boston painter David H. Lowry in Boston’s Public Garden

Two CosmopoliClan sisters observing Boston painter David H. Lowry in Boston’s Public Garden

  1. Rose Kennedy Greenway

We loved this mile-and-a-half narrow string of parks in the heart of Boston. It offers plenty of variety and that’s what makes it so fun. Art exhibitions, food trucks, splash pools… you name it and it’s on offer. The girls loved spending time at the Rings fountain and the North end splash fountain! The latter was their favorite and happens to have a nice stretch of grass allowing parents to relax while keeping an eye on the kids.

Two CosmopoliClan girls having fun at the splash fountain on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greeenway park on North End, one of the best places for free summer fun in Boston

Two CosmopoliClan girls having fun at the splash fountain on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greeenway park on North End, one of the best places for free summer fun in Boston

The name stones at the entrance of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park in Boston

The name stones at the entrance of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park in Boston

Little girl wrapped in a red towel and making a silly face as her dead kisses her on the forehead

Little girl wrapped in a red towel and making a silly face as her dead kisses her on the forehead

Two sisters looking out over the Rings splash fountain with playing kids in the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park in Boston, one of the best places for free summer fun in Boston

Two sisters looking out over the Rings splash fountain with playing kids in the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park in Boston, one of the best places for free summer fun in Boston

Two CosmopoliClan girls making scary faces in front of the dragon statue of Ai WeiWei’s Zodiac artwork in the Rings fountain of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park in Boston

Two CosmopoliClan girls making scary faces in front of the dragon statue of Ai WeiWei’s Zodiac artwork in the Rings fountain of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park in Boston

  1. Charles River Esplanade

Too bad we only discovered this 3-mile esplanade along the Charles River in the final days of our visit to Boston with kids. It’s a bit hard to reach, with pedestrian bridges over the busy roads. But still, well worth a visit. According to the girls, it features the best playground in Boston. You could spend your time rollerblading or waving at the sail boats and kayaks on the Charles River, like our kids did.

Little girls posing near the Charles River Esplanade, with the sailing boats in the background

And why not catch a free movie during the Friday Flicks? Movies start at sunset but it’s wise to be there a bit earlier because this is a popular summer activity.

The Hatch at the Charles River Esplanade, picture taken from behind the trees on a sunny day

Boston Common

Adjacent to the Public Garden is another park, Boston Common. It is the oldest park in the United States and the starting point of the Freedom Trail. The park itself feels less charming than the Public Garden. But the kids didn’t really notice since they were too keen on taking a ride on the carousel. Next to it, at the heart of the park, sits the Frog Pond. It’s used as an ice skating rink during winter and as shallow a splash pool in summer. The first day we arrived, it happened to undergo a thorough cleaning. When we returned a few days later, it was open but packed with day campers just like the playground next to the pond. The slopes around the spray pool are not ideal to sit back and relax. Let’s say it wasn’t our favorite place to spend the afternoon in Boston with kids.

The start of the Freedom Trail in Boston Common, indicated by a red brick line and showing the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House

Two girls and their dad on the carousel in Boston Common

The beach

Beaches galore in Boston! At first, the kids were a bit scared of the many crabs because we don’t have those on European beaches. But after some time, they got used to these new sandy friends. The sands is nice but, once you get closer to the water, it gets a bit rocky so water shoes are highly recommended. So I was mostly on bucket-duty as a preparation for the sandcastle project while the girls played a ping pong game. And of course we went on a seashell hunt as well.

A girl on the beach of Boston, her legs covered in sand and shaped like a mermaid tailA little girl proudly showing a shell while sitting in the surf on the beach in Boston

Public Library

Free summer fun in Boston can be found indoors too. The library is a must-visit with kids. The building itself is beautiful and the courtyard stunning! Why not enjoy it to the fullest with music in the air? Then attend one of the Concerts in the Courtyard on Fridays at lunchtime or Wednesday evening. The most classy summer fun in Boston!

Little girl jumping from the stairs in the courtyard of the Boston Public LibraryA girl waving next to a fountain in the stunning courtyard at the Boston Public Library

The kids corner in the library is really cute. And the kids can pick up a free language course while you’re at it. The girls learned to name farm animals in Spanish while we visited.

Two girls, one showing a book and the other waving, against the bright purple facade of the house-shaped reading corner in Boston Public Library

The Lawn On D

When this outdoor event space is not booked, then it’s open to the public. You can play one of the free lawn games (jingo, giant chess, ping pong) or have a swing in the solar-powered LED lights. These change color depending on your speed and height when swinging. How cool is that?

The silhouette of two little girls hugging while swinging in a bright pink lighted swing in the Lawn On D, one of the best places for free summer fun in Boston

Harbour Walk

The Harbour Walk is a 43-mile linear park along the city’s shoreline, connecting Boston’s neighbourhoods to the harbour. We especially enjoyed the part along Castle Island with its playgrounds and airplane views.

A girl happily sitting in her dad's neck while exploring the Harbour Walk in Boston, near Castle Island

Prudential Center

It’s not just a great mall, it’s also the location for the Family Film Festival during the summer months. With entertainment and children’s activities before the family movie starts, which is at sundown on Saturdays. You’re welcome to bring your picnic blankets and beach chairs.

Bonus: inexpensive summer fun on the Charles River

If only we had discovered the Charles River Esplanade earlier, then we would have rented a pedal boat. That way we could have enjoyed some quality time paddling on the Charles River.

A sailing boat sailing on Charles River in Boston, under a sunny sky and with the skyline in the backgroundAnd it would have cost us way less than the overpriced Duck Tour. These amphibious vehicles spark the imagination of every kid. But the magic disappeared as soon as we took our seat. the driver / tour guide seemed to really like talking about herself, mostly, and just recited the cultural and architectural facts as we passed the landmarks. We paid almost 100 bucks for me and the girls. It was definitely not worth the money for the sole exciting element, being the splash.

Why we miss this summer fun in Boston

Boston has been on our mind many times since we returned home. And because we spent quite some time there, we got the chance to slow travel and experience everything so much more intense. Since Fatih went to his summer course every day, we had our routine. All these elements really made us feel at home. And as you can see, fun is to be found around every corner.

But Boston has a whole other side too so make sure to check out our post on How to get your kid excited about Boston’s heritage.

Where to stay in Boston

Hotels galore in Boston. However, only a handful of these have outdoor swimming pools. Since this feature would definitely add to the summer fun in the city, we list them here:

Have you ever had the chance to spend more time in a destination than the usual tourist? If so, what is your experience? Or have you been to this vibrant city with kids and have more recommendations for summer fun in Boston? Let us know in the comments below!

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