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14 free things to do in Boston this holiday season

"Entre les rangs," a creation by Kanva Architecture, shown in Montreal.
"Entre les rangs," a creation by Kanva Architecture, shown in Montreal.Cindy Boyce

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday can leave you with Broke December. So in lieu of piling onto your already obscene credit card bill, we’ve put together a list of (very) wallet-friendly activities in the Boston area this holiday season.

For the kids

Being stuck at home with kids after one too many snow days can drive anyone nuts. Here are a few holiday activities that are free and family-friendly:

1. Mail a Letter to Santa: This isn’t your typical neighborhood mailbox. At the Ritz-Carlton, Boston, this extra special white mailbox with fancy gold lettering is for kids looking for a direct line to the North Pole. Bring your little ones by to make sending off their Christmas list a very special event. The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, 10 Avery St.

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Santa's Mailbox at the Ritz-Carlton, Boston. (Person + Killian Photography)
Santa's Mailbox at the Ritz-Carlton, Boston. (Person + Killian Photography)Jill Person

2. Make a balloon animal: Take a break from shoveling to check out “The Balloon Guy” Mr. Twister at Time Out Market Boston. The master balloon artist will be there on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 1-4 p.m., and on Sunday, Dec. 22, from 1-3 p.m. to mesmerize your kids with his creative array of balloon animals. Time Out Market Boston, 401 Park Drive

3. Climb aboard a fire truck: If your little ones have a thing for trucks, let them get close to the real thing at the Envoy Hotel’s annual Touch-A-Truck event on Dec. 31 from 1-4 p.m. Families can climb aboard the working vehicles on Sleeper Street and meet the first responders who operate them. The Envoy Hotel, 70 Sleeper St.

Take the kids to the Touch-A-Truck event at The Envoy Hotel.
Take the kids to the Touch-A-Truck event at The Envoy Hotel.The Envoy Hotel

4. Check out the new Disney Junior Play Zone: Let your kids loose at the new Disney Junior Play Zone at The Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, N.H. Kids 10 and under are welcome to slide down Mickey’s Garage Slide, celebrate at the Puppy Dog Pals Dance Party, and lots more. The Mall at Rockingham Park, 99 Rockingham Park Blvd., Salem, N.H.

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5. Get crafty and sing your heart out: Because what household doesn’t have enough masterpieces taped to the fridge? Bring your tots to the Kids’ Nook at the Boston Public Market on Dec. 12 and 17 at 10 a.m. to make some holiday-themed crafts. On Dec. 10 and 17 at 11:30 a.m., the Kids’ Nook will feature sing-alongs starring Jeff Jam, known as a favorite on the kids’ birthday party circuit. Boston Public Market, 100 Hanover St.

For the holiday enthusiast

Do you live for decking the halls and lighting the menorah? These free events will put you in the holiday spirit without draining your bank account.

6. Celebrate Hanukkah: Christmas isn’t the only holiday that deserves some major celebration. On Thursday, Dec. 26, at 5 p.m., head to the Seaport Common at 85 Northern Ave. for a special menorah lighting in partnership with with the Chabad of Downtown Boston. Enjoy live music and delicious Hanukkah treats in honor of the eight-day Jewish festival of lights. Seaport Common, 85 Northern Ave.

7. Watch the pros hit the ice: Check out former US National Champion Mirai Nagasu at The Boston Common Frog Pond as part of First Night Boston on Dec. 31. The Skating Club of Boston hosts a free figure skating show with a bevy of international skaters. The show starts at 6, and the Mugar Family Fireworks go off on the Common at 7 p.m. Boston Common Frog Pond, 38 Beacon St.

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8. Black Nativity at the Museum of Fine Arts: See the power of neighborly love in these vignettes from Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” at the MFA on Wednesday, Dec. 11. Admission to the museum is free on Wednesdays after 4 p.m., so you can explore the art before checking out the scenes from “Black Nativity,” which start at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Avenue of the Arts, 465 Huntington Ave.

See scenes from "Black Nativity" at the MFA on Dec. 11.
See scenes from "Black Nativity" at the MFA on Dec. 11.Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

9. See the Encore’s elaborate holiday decor: The Encore Boston Harbor is done up for the holidays with 5,000 poinsettia plants, 27 Christmas trees, and a dozen wreaths. Grab the free shuttle and tote along that jug of pennies you’ve got stashed in the closet, and hit the coin slots. (It’s not like you’re going to take the time to roll them and bring them to the bank.) Encore Boston Harbor, One Broadway, Everett.

10. Watch the Blink! Tree in all its Christmas Glory: Head to Faneuil Hall Marketplace to see “Blink!" It’s a light and sound show featuring the gigantic Christmas tree in the marketplace center. Watch the lights twinkle starting at 4:30 p.m. every night, and playing every 30 minutes until 10 p.m. On select days, there’s complimentary hot chocolate from noon to 4 p.m. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 4 South Market St.

The "Blink!" holiday lights show returns to Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
The "Blink!" holiday lights show returns to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Faneuil Hall Marketplace

For the holiday’d out

Sometimes the best part of the holidays are taking a bit of a break from them. Here are some fun, free activities for those looking to (briefly) escape the holiday cheer.

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11. Take a free brewery tour: At Jack’s Abby Beer Hall in Framingham, tours are free every Sunday at noon, 1, 2, and 3 p.m. You’ll learn about the brewery’s history and then explore the 60-barrel custom brewhouse, and the cellar that houses the 240-gallon fermenters and giant tanks. Though tours are free, be sure to reserve your spots online. Jack’s Abby Beer Hall, 100 Clinton St., Framingham, jacksabby.com.

12. Find your Zen: Head to The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Boston on Dec. 11 for the annual Silent Night, a complimentary silent journaling and intention setting class followed by a quiet Reiki experience. Just be sure to call or email the hotel to make a reservation because this one’s extremely popular. Mandarin Oriental, Boston, 776 Boylston St., (617) 535-8888.

13. Stroll through a shimmering field of “wheat”: Winter will be a whole lot brighter on Seaport Common, where a shimmering field of 28,000 handmade crystalline stems, topped with white reflectors, appear in “Entre les rangs,” a public art installation by that lands in Boston Dec. 9. Stroll the glittering installation through Feb. 2. Seaport Common, 85 Northern Ave.

14. Check out a vintage Ford Edsel Ranger: Get a taste of the location’s past as a Ford assembly plant at The Row Hotel at Assembly Row, where guests and passersby can snap photos with and sit in a vintage Ford Edsel Ranger, of which less than 3,000 were made. Bonus points for the complimentary hot cocoa bar inside on the weekends. The Row Hotel at Assembly Row, 360 Foley St., Somerville

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See a vintage Ford Edsel Ranger at The Row Hotel at Assembly Row.
See a vintage Ford Edsel Ranger at The Row Hotel at Assembly Row.Ana Baptista