Boston on a Budget

With its New England charm and bustling college town spirit, Boston has so much to offer! Whether you are a history buff, an experimental foodie, an art lover, or a scientist, the city has something for everyone. The COMmunicator consulted COM students and went on a discovery tour for the best activities to explore the city. Here’s a bucket list of fun activities that you should consider, all on a budget of $20 or less. 

  1. Bike on the Charles River Esplanade

A classic Bostonian activity — renting out Bluebikes to ride along the Esplanade — is a must. You can find the bike stands throughout  Boston University’s campus and can rent a bike for 30 minutes for $2.95. Every additional 30 minutes costs $2.50, making this the perfect budget activity to experience the beautiful views of the city. Try and go during sunset hours: watching the sun disappear behind a beautiful mix of reds, oranges, and pinks is a surreal experience.

Photo by Armagan Birsel (COM ’22)

2. Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 

Recognized often by its iconic indoor courtyard garden, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum takes visitors on an artistic journey from Europe, to Asia, to the Americas. Having housed works by the greats, including Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Degas throughout the years, the museum is a national treasure. It is also known for being the location of the world’s biggest art heist: learn about the mystery of the stolen masterpieces worth $500 million!  

While the museum has had to operate under highly restricted visitor capacity due to the pandemic, it is still open to all. Purchase your tickets in advance through the museum website and bring your student ID with you for a discounted ticket price of $13. After touring the museum, check out Café G, the dining area in the museum, and grab your choice of coffee or tea for $4. 

3. Attend a show at the planetarium in the Museum of Science

Along with various exhibit halls, the Museum of Science offers visitors a chance to experience planetarium shows on many topics, ranging from discussing life on Mars to studying the works of famous artists such as Beyoncé and Prince. Caroline Creed (COM’21) says, “It’s just a fun hour-long show that’s something different and that you don’t always get outside of the city.” Planetarium shows cost $6 for non-members and $5 for members, making for a perfect out-of-the box weekend activity.  

4. Grab lunch at Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall’s famous food court

In New England, especially Massachusetts, clam chowder is a must-try specialty, made with clams, potatoes, and a thick, creamy base. One of the best places to eat chowder in Boston is the Boston Chowder Co. at Quincy Market, where it is served in bread bowls for $5. Make sure to get dessert from Carol Ann’s Bake shop, known for its delicious cookies, on your way out. 

5. Gorge on signature sundaes at The Scoop N Scootery

While you’re by Star Market in West campus shopping for groceries, take a short walk to The Scoop N Scootery ice cream shop in Allston. You will not be disappointed with the shop’s signature sundaes, which you can enjoy for $9. With its incredible assortment of flavors, it is easily one of the best ice cream shops in the area, according to Selen Yalcinkaya (COM’22). She recommends her favorite signature sundae, the “s’mores flavor, which is a delicious chocolate flavor mixed with marshmallow flush and graham crackers.” 

6. Dog watch at Amory Park

Frances Chen of the University of British Columbia’s psychology department conducted a study testing the effects of interactions with therapy dogs during periods of high stress, such as midterms week, on university students. The study found a significant decrease in stress and increase in energy levels and happiness in students who pet dogs before their exams. While therapy dog days were a regular practice at Boston University, the pandemic has prevented the organization from hosting this event. However, if you are looking to get your daily dose of free puppy love before finals, take a walk in Amory Park near West Campus.

Photo by Armagan Birsel (COM ’22)

7. Host a photoshoot and browse vintage shops in Beacon Hill

With the bloom of spring time, the streets of Beacon Hill are more charming than ever. Explore the streets of the beautiful, historic neighborhoods. Zoe Dewitt (COM’21) promises that you’ll get those insta-worthy photos while seeing a whole new side to Boston: “Everytime I go to Beacon Hill, I feel like there’s something new to see.” While you’re there, check out the vintage stores on Charles Street for unique finds. 

8. Have a picnic at the Commons

America’s oldest public park, the Boston Common, has a special place in the heart of every Bostonian. Located at the end of Newbury Street, this beautiful park is a wonderful place to spend time, especially when it’s warm out. You can take a walk, ride a bike, or have a picnic. Since the park is so centrally located, you can pick up a meal nearby. Caroline Creed (COM’21) recommends the Naco Taco food truck on Newbury Street, where you can get a delicious meal for $10-$15. You can also prepare your own picnic, after a shopping spree at Trader Joe’s. Some fun snacks to include are hummus ($2.50), fresh mozzarella sticks ($4), mini watermelons ($3.29), and Dunkers oatmeal cranberry cookies with fudge drizzle ($5). 

Photo by Armagan Birsel (COM ’22)

9. Explore the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

The Arnold Arboretum features a large collection of temperate woody plants, especially from eastern North America and eastern Asia. While the visitor center and indoor exhibits are closed, the Arboretum offers free access to a 281-acre landscape that functions as a tree museum. Mavis Manaloto (COM’22), a recent Arboretum visitor, says, “It’s such a peaceful place to walk around and it’s close to some great shops and restaurants.” Check it out for a fun and COVID-safe activity outside.

10. Study at the Boston Public Library

As a student hub, Boston offers students free access to the beautiful Boston Public Library. The library is open from Mondays to Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit Bates Hall, the most photographed room in the building lined with green lamps. If you’re feeling tired on your way back to campus, Caroline Mattoon (COM’22) recommends dropping by Pavement Coffeehouse on Newbury Street. “They have the best cold brew and it’s centrally located,” she says.

Ada Mesci, Staff Writer

Ada Mesci is a junior majoring in public relations and psychology and minoring in public health at Boston University. Originally from Ankara, Turkey, Ada moved to the United States when she was 18. Since then, she has explored many areas of interest, especially diving deep into her love of writing and storytelling as part of The COMmunicator team. Outside of school, Ada works as a public relations intern for Jasmin Santanen Paris, developing her expertise and passion for fashion. In her free time, she enjoys discovering new recipes, practicing pilates, and backpacking.

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