While a Boston-area child’s summer may not technically begin until late June (thanks, snow days), the long-awaited reprieve from learning is now here, and children big and small have heard that final school bell and are ready for the days that will follow.
But after the honeymoon (filled with sleeping in, some much-needed downtime, and way too much Fortnite) is over, even the most creative child begins to mutter that dreaded summer phrase: “Mom, I’m bored!”
Now, if you are like me, you can’t exactly afford the daily fortune it takes to keep them entertained (or enrolled in a camp). So here are some excellent free (or extremely cheap) things to do in MetroWest Boston this summer.
Hike the local trails
Oak Hill in Littleton is a short hike that’s typically dry and has a great view at the top. The Acton Arboretum allows hikers to stroll along open meadows, woodland ponds, a glacial esker, and a bog. And Concord’s Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful way to experience New England’s vast open space.
Another favorite? The Thanksgiving Ground in Chelmsford. The hike is super short, stroller friendly, and culminates in an area filled with massive boulders for the littles to climb and explore. It takes less than 15 minutes to get to the rocks and is perfect for the non-hiker.
Peruse the farmers markets
Discover The Discovery Museum’s “Especially for Me” events
For parents of children with developmental challenges, The Discovery Museum’s “Especially for Me” events (in Acton) offer dedicated hours and free museum admission. These nights are designed for (but not limited to) families of children who have autism spectrum disorder, are deaf or hard of hearing, or have a visual impairment.
Have a “Free Fun Friday”
The Highland Street Foundation is once again offering Free Fun Fridays! This summer program features free admission to cultural venues around Massachusetts. Some of the MetroWest venues include The Discovery Museum, The Fruitlands Museum (in Harvard), and the Concord Museum. Also, if you want to drive a bit further west, the EcoTarium in Worcester is on the list, too.
Watch a performance
Free Fun for Kids performances will take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays in Lowell this summer, featuring crafts, a concert, and organic snacks. Some of the performances include an accidentally funny magician, an African dance and drum troupe, and a juggling, unicycling, accordion-playing clown.
Take advantage of the library
Visit your local library for free summer programs and events! Some pretty awesome ones in the area are the Maynard Public Library and Littleton’s Reuben Hoar Library, but you can find others around you here.
Visit a farm
Located in Weston, Land’s Sake Farm is a nonprofit farm devoted to educating the public. The farm features hay rides, a farm stand, and pick-your-own fruits and vegetables.
Another favorite is Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle. There you’ll find a short little trail to a pretty pond and farm animals (it’s a working dairy farm). Bring quarters to buy feed for the goats, sheep, and llamas. Also, there’s homemade ice cream, which is always a win for
me my kids. Finally, Chip-In farm in Bedford offers a petting zoo, fresh produce and eggs from their free-running hens, and a penny candy counter.
Live it up at Natick Nights
Natick Nights are held EVERY Thursday night in June and July, with themes like The Voice Competition and Christmas in July. These nights are sure to appeal to the kiddos.
Play in the water
Trying to stay cool? Head to the Concord Playground & Spray Fountain, the Philip J. Weihn Memorial Swimming Pool in Clinton, or any of the DCR’s swimming facilities — all free. Another idea? Visit Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord. Pack a picnic and go for a swim! (An $8 parking fee applies.)
Catch a flick
Regal Cinemas Summer Movie Express promotion offers $1 tickets for family-friendly flicks on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings — and Regal Solomon Pond Stadium 15 in Marlboro will be participating. Features include “The Lego Movie,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Paddington 2,” “Trolls,” and “Sing.”
Free bowling, anyone? That’s right, Wamesit Lanes in Tewksbury is offering two free games (plus a $4 shoe rental) every day during the summer! You do have to register, so make sure to plan ahead!
Get steeped in history
You could head into Boston to learn some history lessons, or you could visit some of the many historical sites in MetroWest. One of my faves? Minuteman National Historical Park in Concord. Be sure to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at either of the visitor centers, because kids who complete the booklet receive a Junior Ranger certificate and a special badge.
Scope out a sculpture
Fill your morning with art and play at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum‘s 30 acres of sculpture art. Designated “Play in the Park” and “Makemobile” days through the summer offer play, experimentation, and engineering activities. Kids under 12 are always admitted free, and you can find discounted passes through local libraries for adult tickets.
Frolic at a festival
The 2018 Lowell Folk Festival is the perfect spot to enjoy great music while soaking up summer vibes and making memories.