Raising a family often means living on a budget. If you live on the North Shore of Boston, however, it doesn’t have to mean staying home all the time. There are dozens of affordable and free family-friendly activities to enjoy throughout the area. An initial list below of activities gives you enticing options for the next time you get out of the house with your family. We would love to hear your feedback. Please submit your comments below or contact us if you have any additional ideas you would like to share with our community.

Free Fun Fridays

Since 2009, the Highland Street Foundation has offered visitors free admission to various cultural venues across Massachusetts. The Free Fun Fridays program provides no-cost admission to museums, gardens, festivals and other cultural attractions every Friday, from the last Friday in June until the last Friday in August. Through the program, the Highland Street Foundation helps to increase access and enrichment programs for children and families throughout Massachusetts.

There is a wide variety of attractions to visit, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, the Children’s Museum in Easton, the Hall at Patriot Place in Foxborough, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

Russell Orchards

Located in Ipswich, the 120-acre Russell Orchards has earned a reputation as a go-to destination for many family activities during spring, summer, and fall. The orchard is well known for great pick-your-own offerings, including apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apricots, cherries, and peaches, among other fresh fruit options. Availability depends on the time of year so check the Russell Orchards website for current offerings. A nominal per person fee is charged for entry to the fields and deducted from the cost of your pickings.

In addition, Russell Orchards is known for its apple cider doughnuts, pumpkin patches, and hay rides in the fall. A wide selection of fresh fruit, produce, and baked goods is available in the farm store. During the fall, kids enjoy watching apple cider being made from the orchard’s harvest. For adults, Russell Orchards offers wine tastings featuring the wines it makes with its own fruit and for the children, it offers a barnyard full of animals to observe.

Note a few items that visitors need to heed when visiting the farm:

  • When touring the barnyard, you may see chickens, pigs, bunnies, peacocks, or potbellied pigs, among other farm animals.
  • Do not bring outside food onto the farm to share with the animals. You can buy a handful of grain approved by the farm for kids to toss out for the animals.
  • Pet animals within reach at your own risk. Pay attention to their behavior and if animals appear to be getting frisky or annoyed, please leave them alone.
  • Always monitor children closely. They should not play alone near the animals or display cruelty or disrespect.

If you have been to the farm and have any suggestions for our community, please comment below or contact us to share your thoughts.


The North Shore of Boston is filled with a number of beautiful beaches, many of which are free or cost a fairly nominal amount to visit. Communities such as Beverly, Marblehead, Salem, Gloucester, and Salisbury all boast beautiful beaches. Crowding and parking are sometimes an issue on the weekends, especially for the better-known beaches like Crane Beach in Ipswich, but there are enough beaches in the area that you should be able to find one that is both low cost and open enough to enjoy regardless of which day you head out with your family.

Community Play Groups

Play groups can be a mother’s lifeline, especially during the dreary winter months when outside activities are often limited. Fortunately, many North Shore communities have play centers where play groups and play times for children are hosted regularly. Often, these activities are free for residents of the town and low-cost for non-residents who wish to participate. And, because they offer activities throughout the week, it is often possible to find something to attend even if your schedule is already full. The best way to locate these playgroups is to check your local online community center, such as CFCE of the North Shore, and other local resources such as North Shore Kid. Please provide your comments below or contact us if you would like to share any other additional resources.

Library Museum Passes

One of the best resources for affordable, family-friendly activities in the area is the local library. Many community libraries offer discounted passes to local museums and attractions to community residents on a first-come first-served basis. These may include half-price admission to the Boston Children’s Museum or free admission to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester. Check the local community library’s website to reserve a pass.

Trustees of Reservations

The Trustees of Reservations is an organization of more than 100,000 people who care for and preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts. The organization oversees more than 100 outdoor Massachusetts locations covering nearly 25,000 acres. These areas include farms, beaches, parks, reservations, and more. All are open to visitors, and many of them offer access for free. The list of Trustees of Reservations areas is available on their website.

The list above is just a sampling of the affordable, family-friendly activities offering rich cultural, natural and local offerings throughout the North Shore. Please also feel free to share your ideas with our community; we would love to hear from you!

Additional Resources