20 Things to Do in Massachusetts Under $20

northeast island vacation
budget wise

Finding something fun to do in Massachusetts shouldn’t break the bank. Luckily the Bay State is full of things to do on a budget – some are even free.

These are our top 20 things to do in Massachusetts for $20 or less.

Portugalia Marketplace – Free

All the perks of Portugal, without the flight. Portugalia Marketplace is 20,000 square feet of authentic Portuguese merchandise from baked goods to home goods, including specialty prepared foods, jewelry and cork products. Explore the mosaic-tiled aisles and try not to fill up your cart to the brim.

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University – Free

Did you know there’s a 281-acre nature preserve in the middle of Boston? Nestled within the shadows of its neighboring skyscrapers is the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, a living museum that holds over 15,000 plants. Great for families, the arboretum can be enjoyed through a casual nature stroll, guided tour or via their informative mobile app.

Ashuwillticook Rail Trail – Free

Grab your bike and head to the scenic Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, a 12-mile converted train route that winds through the beautiful towns of Cheshire, Lanesborough and Adams. Along the way, catch glimpses of local wildlife as well as the picturesque Hoosic River. Rollerblading and fishing are allowed; leashed dogs welcome.

Brimfield Flea Market – Free

There’s nothing like a good thrift, and Brimfield Flea Market is the place to go to find one (or many). Operating for six days in May, July and September, Brimfield is the oldest flea market in America and garners crowds that are upwards of 50,000 people every year. You’ll encounter thousands of dealers selling everything from antique rugs to oil paintings, clothing, housewares and more, making it almost impossible to leave empty handed.

The Clayroom – $10 studio fee

Paint your own pottery in Brookline over at The Clayroom. It’s a cheap thing to do in Massachusetts that will leave you with a souvenir you can keep for years. Choose from a wide selection of pottery pieces (plates, mugs, vases, soap dispensers – you name it) before getting to work drawing, stenciling and painting your one-of-a-kind creation. After a five-day period for glazing and firing, your piece will be ready to take home and admire.

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Dinosaur Footprints – Free

Calling all Jurassic Park enthusiasts! Walk among the dinosaurs in Holyoke, where the prehistoric footprints of some of the earliest-known dinosaurs still remain today.

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway – Free

A 90-mile stretch of coastline beginning in Lynn, Mass. and ending in Salisbury, Mass., the Essex Coastal Byway is the perfect way to experience the state’s scenic coast and learn all about its history. Situated within the Essex National Heritage Area, the Byway features miles and miles of charming towns, beautiful shorelines, grand historic estates, walking trails and more.

Explore the Berkshires – Free

Visiting the Berkshires is an experience all its own, and something that can be enjoyed during any season. Whether its snowshoeing in the wintertime, hiking in the spring, swimming in the summer or visiting in the fall when the foliage is at its peak, there’s always something to enjoy in this western haven.

Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard – $20 roundtrip

If it’s an escape you’re seeking, look no further than Martha’s Vineyard. Right off the mainland, you can ferry to the gorgeous island for a day packed full of relaxation, good eats and plenty of laidback fun.

Franklin Park Zoo – $14.95-$18.95

Part of the Emerald Necklace of Boston, Franklin Park Zoo is home to more than 100 wild animals and 12 engaging exhibits from a butterfly hollow (operating seasonally) to the tropical forest where free-flight birds roam and western lowland gorillas make their home. The zoo also features a playground and carousel, as well as shopping and dining options to enjoy at your leisure.

The Freedom Trail – $17

Experience the history of the American Revolution by walking in the footsteps of those who lived it. Follow the 2.5-mile red line with a knowledgeable (and costumed) guide to 16 nationally significant sites like churches, museums, meeting houses and even a historic ship.

Ghost Tour with Salem Ghosts – $17 for AAA members

It’s no secret that Salem has a haunted past, but how much do you really know about the town and its infamous witch trials? A ghost tour with Salem Ghosts takes you deeper into the story as you get up close and personal with the town’s most haunted hot spots. Tours are carefully curated to be spooky, informative and family-friendly.

Hancock Shaker Village – $18 for AAA members

Hancock Shaker Village falls somewhere between a historic farm, museum and venue. Open from April through December, you can find so much to do here between the 20 historic buildings to explore, its gardens, nature trails, cafe and shopping opportunities. Opt for an informative guided tour or peruse the landscape on your own.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – $20; free on first Thursday of the month

Isabella Stewart Gardner was a unique leader of the arts during her time, and as the perfect homage – so is her dedicated museum. What used to be her living quarters are now portrait-lined galleries bestowing some of the most treasured historic acquisitions. Come for the art, stay for the unsolved robbery.

Lowell Folk Festival – Free

Every year on the last weekend of July, the Lowell Folk Festival takes over the town – and the stage – for three straight days. You’ll get to see performing artists from around the country and the world as well as enjoy craft demonstrations, food and merch stands and a family activity area for those with little ones in tow.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens – $16

Walking through the double doors of the Magic Wings Conservatory elicits awe as more than 3,000 live butterflies and moths flutter amidst vibrant tropical greenery and flowers. Below, koi fish swirl lazily in their pond. Guests are free to walk or sit and enjoy the show happening all around. Conservatory grounds also have a cafe and gift shop.

The Mount – $20

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s 1902 estate, is a place where all can come to learn about her humanitarian legacy and life as an author of over 40 novels. Tour the magnificent mansion, stop into the bookshop and sit down at the Terrace Cafe for lunch with a view.

Mountain Meadow Preserve – Free

The Mountain Meadow Preserve sits on the border of Vermont, making it the best of what both states have to offer. You’ll find lush forest, wide open meadows dotted with wildflowers and stunning mountain views over 240 acres. Hike the four miles of trails, spot a variety of animals in their natural habitat and get to see the ruins of Mausert’s Camp.

Shakespeare on the Common Free

Bring your own blanket and settle onto the Boston Common for Shakespeare’s greatest works live. Performed by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, each show is free and open to the public during the summer months.

Swan Boats – $4.50

Operating since 1877, the swan boats in the Boston Public Garden are as joyous as they are budget friendly. A quaint 15-minute boat ride takes you around the perimeter of the serene lagoon and back again, making it the perfect respite after a day exploring the city.

Find more things to do in the Northeast for under $20.

Need a ride? Rent a car.

What are some of your favorite activities to do in Massachusetts on a budget? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments.

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