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Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese

The best cheap things to do in Boston

For fun activities that won’t break the bank, here are the best cheap things to do in Boston

By Gerrish Lopez and Time Out Boston Staff

Though Boston is known for its high cost of living, there are a number of ways to enjoy some of the best things about the city while sticking to a budget. Believe it or not, there are many free things to do in Boston, as well as plenty of activities and outings that will usually cost less than $12. When you want to save your dough to splurge on the best fine dining in Boston or Boston’s best shopping, stick to our list of the best cheap things to do in Boston, from cheap eats to cheap activities.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Best cheap things to do in Boston

Photograph: Courtesy Saloniki

1. Dine for less with Boston's best cheap eats


Spanning Mediterranean and Mexican to Chinese, Italian and more, Boston has some great cheap eats. Find super-cheap Sicilian slices at Galleria Umberto, a steaming bowl of ramen at Sapporo Ramen, or a giant, filling burrito at El Pelón Taqueria—all for a great price. Many of Boston's cheapest eats are international in flavor, but you'll find some all-American bites on our list too too, like sub-$2 hot dogs and massive servings of brunch favorites.

Hong Kong
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ally G.

2. Hit up a happy hour for cheap bites with a drink


While bars and restaurants in Boston are not allowed to offer discounted deals on alcohol, if you’re looking for an after-work bite that won’t break the bank, there are plenty of great dining deals. From neighborhood joints to high-end restaurants, check out these places to find a happy hour food deal in Boston.

Sam Adams Brewery
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Thomas C.

3. Take a brewery tour

Bars Breweries

Boston's craft beer scene is booming, with dozens of smaller upstarts holding their own against standbys like Sam Adams and Harpoon. Enthusiasts can visit the breweries and try beers straight from the source. Even better, many of the best breweries off tours of their facilities (usually with a taste or two) for a very small fee or donation.

Concord Bridge
Photograph: Courtesy GBCVB

4. Take a hike


When you're looking for a cheap activity and a dose of nature, consider taking a hike near boston. The best hikes near Boston are not far, and will require only the cost of gas and park entry fees, which are nominal.

South Street Diner
Photograph: Courtesy South Street Diner

5. Get a retro-priced meal at a diner


Diners are a beloved product of New England—many believe the first one opened in Rhode Island in 1872. Today they’re a source of nostalgia, as well as a sure thing for a filling meal at (mostly) near-retro prices. While there are a few glammed-up diners around, most are greasy spoons or 24-hour joints. All offer friendly service, reasonable prices, and casual atmospheres.

Boston Public Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Have a picnic in a park

Things to do

Boston has a wealth of green spaces to enjoy. Whether you're dining alone, with friends, or on a romantic date, a picnic is an affordable option. Pick up what you need at a local market and find a spot in one of Boston's great parks, like the Boston Common, the Public Garden, or the Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway. No reservations required, no tipping necessary, and the bill will only be as high as the snacks you bring with you.

Bon Me Truck
Photograph: Courtesy Bon Me

7. Pick up a meal from a food truck


Thinking about having that picnic but don't feel like assembling your meal? You're in luck: many of Boston's best food trucks park near the best parks, most notably the Rose Kennedy Greenway. All you need to do is choose between all the delicious options and you're ready to go. Food trucks in general are cheap options for lunch and dinner, so check out our list of the best ones next time you need a fast, cheap meal.

Taza Chocolate
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Cristin S.

8. Take a Taza Chocolate tour

Shopping Chocolate and candy Somerville

Taza makes stone ground chocolate with hand-carved granite millstones, right in Somerville. Stop by the store to sample and shop for a wide variety of delicious chocolates and watch the chocolate being made in the manufacturing area. Tours are available 7 days a week—a delicious and informative activity that costs just $8.

Harbor Islands
Photograph: Kyle Klein Photography/GBCVB

9. Hit the beach


While Boston and coastal Massachusetts are not world-renowned when it comes to beach culture, many nearby beaches are a decent—and affordable—getaway option. Within the city limits or less than an hours drive, the best beaches near Boston won't cost you much: some require a small fee, and maybe you pay to take the T, but keeping the rest cheap is very doable.

Delux Café
Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero

10. Have a drink at a dive bar


Sure, you won't find any booze happy hours in Boston, but many of the city's notable dive bars keep a loyal customer base with consistently cheap pours. They may be a little messy, with cranky bartenders and questionable bathrooms, but for a cheap night out these dive bars are your best bet.

Bully Boy Distillers
Photograph: Courtesy Bully Boy Distillers

11. Tour the Bully Boy Distillery

Bars Cocktail bars Roxbury

Bully Boy produces handcrafted rum, gin, whiskey and more in its distillery in Roxbury. Head there for drinks at their intimate cocktail bar if you have extra cash on hand, but to keep it cheap, take a tour for $10. You'll get a behind the scenes look, plus the opportunity to sample a few spirits.

Jamaica Pond, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Rent a rowboat in Jamaica Pond

Whether you're looking for a peaceful afternoon on the water or planning a romantic outdoor date, renting a rowboat on Jamaica Pond is an affordable (and cute) option. The scenery is beautiful, and rentals cost just $10 an hour.

B&G Oysters
Photograph: Sarah Bentivegna

13. Check out an oyster happy hour


After rowing around Jamaica Pond, romantic date stop number two should be oysters. New England has some of the tastiest oysters around, and they're not just for a fancy night out. Fortunately many of the best oyster bars have happy hours where you can sample the cold bivalves for a cooler price.


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