Free things to do this summer

There are plenty of beaches you can drive to and pay a pretty penny just to park (hello, Crane), and there are water parks all over the area where a family of four will drop $100 or more just to get in (hi there, Canobie), and don’t even get us started on a quaint day at the ballpark (we’re looking at you, Fenway). At the other end of the cost spectrum are those events, ideas, and places where your wallet is not needed, where the cost of participating is a big fat zero, free, nada, zilch, nothing whatsoever. Here’s a short list to get you started:

AP Photo/Universal Pictures

Free to see ‘Me’

  • One of the great Boston summertime traditions is the Free Friday Flicks, at the Hatch Shell just across Storrow Drive from Beacon Hill. Bring a blanket, a picnic, a lawn chair if you wish, and settle in. Movies start around sundown, but it gets crowded early, usually filling up starting around 6 p.m.

  • What movies are coming up?

  • Despicable Me” (pictured) is July 12, “Wreck It Ralph” is July 19, “Here Comes the Boom” is July 26, and “Madagascar” is Aug. 2. For more details and the full schedule, go to

Harborside hot list

  • The Boston Harbor Hotel has really embraced this whole free thing, with movies and music almost every night of the week for the duration of the summer.

  • A few highlights coming up include:

  • Rat Pack Mondays will see the Adrian Sicam Group on July 8, the Dave Burdett Orchestra on July 15, the April Hall Band on July 22. Summer Soul Tuesdays will have Good Will & Them Apples on July 9, Manhattan Touch on July 16, Sweet Tooth & Sugarbabies on July 23, and Ray Greene and Innervisions on July 30.

  • Country Pop Wednesdays includes Greg Burroughs on July 10, Digger Dawg on July 17 and Whiskey Wild on July 24. Blue Barge Thursdays has lined up the James Montgomery Band on July 11, Jeff Pitchell on July 18 and Bruce Marshall Group on July 25.

  • Fridays are for both music and movies, with “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, pictured) on July 12, “Bye Bye Birdie” on July 19, and “The Sting” on July 26.

Shakespeare for the common people

  • Another wonderful tradition here is the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s free Boston Common summertime shows. This year it’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and the performances will run Saturday through July 28. Free Shakespeare on the Common goes back to 1996, and has grown so popular that it’s estimated more than 60,000 people attended last year’s production of “Coriolanus.’’

  • The performances generally start at
    8 p.m., with a few scheduled for 8:30 and a few Sunday nights for 7 p.m. A 2 p.m. matinee is also scheduled for Saturday, July 27, and another is set for 1 p.m. on Thursday, July 18. Check the website ( for dates and times. The shows are at the Parkman Bandstand. There is food to buy, but the best plan is to bring your own, spread out, and revel in the fact that you are in one of the prettiest, and oldest, public parks in the country, watching a stellar performance of Shakespeare. For free.

Fred Greissing

Playlists put Boston on the festival track

  • Almost overnight, this town went from having no big summer music festival to having two. And they bleed into each other, so by the time the second one ends you will have heard so much great music you will wish all concerts were free, all the time.

  • Ted Cutler’s “Outside the Box’’ festival should be quite the show. A full week of free entertainment, from July 13-21, is supposed to include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (pictured), Buffalo Tom, Boys Like Girls and “American Idol” star Siobhan Magnus, Los Lobos, Blind Boys of Alabama, Taj Mahal, and more, in a lineup that includes more than 200 acts.

  • Hungry? Ming Tsai, Todd English, Lydia Shire, Jody Adams, and Gordon Hamersley are supposed to be doing cooking demonstrations and there are sure to be samples. The only downside is you’ll have to bounce between City Hall Plaza and Boston Common to keep up with all the activities.

  • The dust will barely have settled when “Summer Arts Weekend” will kick off July 26-28 at Copley Square.

  • Put together by WGBH and The Boston Globe, the lineup is a blend of jazz, blues, rock, pop, and indie sounds. Della Mae will be there, and so will Grammy winner Dr. John, and the New Orleans sounds of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Kid-friendly Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys will perform as will ukulele wunderkind Jake Shimabukuro. The star highlight will be a performance on the final day by Grammy-winning bluegrass singer Alison Krauss.

Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff

Performance art

  • Do not, we repeat, do not roll your eyes at the idea of watching the street performers at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Just because the tourists do it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Throughout the summer there are almost daily performances all day, from musicians to acrobats to jugglers to comedians. You might get lucky and see Wacky Chad. Who? Just go and you’ll know him when you see him.


Bunker Hill: A revoluationary climb

  • If you haven’t climbed to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, it’s one of those bucket list items you need to check off. This is near the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution, so it’s not just another war monument in a city full of them. It’s a serious climb, with 294 steps, and while the tiny windows afford a tricky view, if you live in a city with as much history as Boston, you have to experience some of it. Might as well check out the most important sights.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Children’s centenary

  • On Friday, Aug. 2, the Boston Children’s Museum will throw a birthday party for itself (100 years old!). And it’s free and it will last all day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Just think of the last children’s birthday party you attended — maybe there was a bouncy house? This party is sure to put that one to shame.

Essdras Suarez/Globe Staff

Freely Subsidized

  • Speaking of Fridays, do you know about Free Fun Fridays?

  • Highland Street Foundation is giving out more than $600,000 in grants for 60 local institutions to have a free Friday this summer. It’s an impressive list that goes far beyond city limits, out to the Berkshires for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, down to New Bedford for the Ocean Explorium (pictured), as well as old favorites like the Museum of Fine Arts, the Cape Cod Children’s Museum, the JFK Library and Museum, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, and dozens more. See www.highland The Fridays run all the way through Aug. 30.

Doug Most can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Globedougmost.
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