Free at Last: The Cheapskate’s Guide to Boston Summer

All of you sticking around campus or riding out your AC-less Allston sublet for summer, rejoice! Boston is awash in ultra-cheap means of fending off vacation doldrums. This overview kicks off The Quad‘s summer-long effort to keep you Harpoon entertained on a Rolling Rock budget.

Old-Faithful Standbys

Museum of Fine Arts is always gratis for BU students (and they hold periodic free admission days for the general public — next one’s on Memorial Day). Free admission includes all special exhibitions likeĀ  “Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass” (open through August 7) and the new Art of the Americas wing. The MFA offers a number of free one-hour tours on various themes, including the Art of the Americas wing, major pieces in the permanent collection and regional survey tours. Once a month the museum hosts the First Fridays music series (guess which day, 21+) featuring local artists, cash bar and light grub , no cover (drinks and food extra, of course).


View from the gallery at ICA | Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Found5dollar


The Institute of Contemporary Art is likewise free with a Terrier Card (plus every Thursday from 5 to 9 PM for the unwashed non-BU masses), including the multimedia, multi-artist exhibition on vinyl culture “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl” (up until September), and conceptual art installation “Nobody needs to know the price of your Saab” (until July). The waterfront views (and, you, know the art) are more than worth the schlep.


Boston Public Library is prime free entertainment territory, and not just the Copley Mecca. Small and central branches alike host movie screenings, art and architecture tours, lectures, author talks, yoga sessions, and all manner of other public programs. Major branches are also great to meander around. The Public Library of Brookline also has a great summer movie series. And in case you needed another reason to become a cardholder (open to all students in Boston), the BPL has a great museum pass program that grants members free or heavily discounted admission to the Museum of Science, Zoo New England and other edu-funtimes.


Last year's EarthFest in the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade | Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot

The Hatch Shell on the Esplanade has free outdoor concerts and movies throughout the summer. Concert highlights include EarthFest 2011 (May 21, 11 AM to 5 pm, featuring OK Go and Atomic Tom) and more Boston Pops and Landmarks Orchestra sets than your high brows could handle. The movie lineup (which starts June 17 at sunset) hasn’t been announced yet, but last year’s was a nice mix of classic and recentĀ  family friendlies (Up, Wizard of Oz, Back to the Future , etc).


Jamaica Pond hosts its own lineup of movies and concerts every Sunday beginning June 26, including BSO and Berklee ensembles, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and Toy Story 3. Tricky to get to by MBTA but a fantastic (if long) walk or ride from the campus/Allston area.


Shakespeare on the Common starts July 27 and runs Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm until August 14. This summer’s production is All’s Well That Ends Well.


Boston City Hall also hosts a series of sporadic summer concerts, most of them free and paired with some sort of festival. June 11 the plaza will close out Boston Pride Week 2011 with a daylong festival, and the June 29-July 4 Boston HarborFest will also center around the Government Center area.


Prudential Center has a weekly farmer’s market and lunchtime garden concerts by Berklee students starting June 7 (weekly until July 26). Starting July 9 Prudential also hosts an outdoor family movie series — lineup TBA.


Kendall Square has an afternoon concert series every Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 2 PM, beginning June 9. Kendall’s farmer market starts up in June as well.


A few other staples like Harvard and Davis Squares haven’t posted summer events yet, but are usually good for a street fair or festival at some point each month.


Check back each week for preview (and selected reviews) of upcoming free and intensely cheap gigs, grub and gawking throughout Boston. If you’ve a hot tip that should be included, send it in []!

Cheapies, skate on.

Shawn Musgrave

Shawn Musgrave is a senior studying economics and global development.

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