Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Somerville, MA

  • Published 2023/02/09

Somerville is a pocket city in Boston’s northwest area.

This small city, once known as Cow Commons, was founded in 1630 as a minor settlement.

Somerville has a rich and colorful history, tradition, and heritage despite its small size, roughly 11 square kilometers.

It has numerous historical attractions renowned throughout Boston and Middlesex County.

Besides historical sites, Somerville has charming parks and outdoor attractions providing fun activities with family or friends.

Boston is also just a stone’s throw away from this city.

What makes Somerville an ideal place for a quick weekend getaway is most of its attractions are free.

Start planning your next travel adventure with this list of free things to do in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Rub Elbows with Locals at Davis Square

Night scene at Davis Square

Heidi Besen /

Davis Square is one of Somerville’s liveliest districts.

This place adjacent to Tufts University is iconic for its entertainment and leisure attractions.

Most art galleries, public art installations, local events, and shops are located here.

Stone marker of Davis Square

Heidi Besen /

Its streets are lined with charming shops housed in turn-of-the-century buildings, while next to them are historical attractions and performers entertaining pedestrians.

Davis Square is a vibrant place to get acquainted with Somerville’s locals.

Remember to drop by this area before heading out to explore Somerville.

People at Davis Square

Steven Isaacson from Somerville, MA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a Fun Time with Your Pup at the Zero New Washington Dog Park

The Zero New Washington Dog Park is a popular off-leash dog park along New Washington Street.

Like most top-notch dog parks, this one is fenced and has several amenities for your fur babies.

It has climbing rocks, ramps, and agility equipment to keep your dog busy.

Drop by Zero New Washington Dog Park if you’re traveling with your dog.

Stretch Your Muscles at Grimmons

Grimmons is a neighborhood park situated within the Charles A. Grimmons School.

You can visit this outdoor attraction along Governor Winthrop Road.

Like most neighborhood parks, this one has a picnic area, benches, a basketball court, and a water spray for everyone to enjoy.

It’s one of Somerville’s best places to sweat and enjoy the outdoors.

You can play basketball, join your toddler at the playground, or relax on one of the benches under a tree.

Grimmons is an ideal spot in Somerville to relax and take a break from exploring the city.

Discover History at Union Square

The road of Union Square

Pi.1415926535, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Union Square is an area and neighborhood in Somerville’s southeastern part.

This place is situated at the intersection of Somerville Avenue, Webster Avenue, and Washington Street.

It’s renowned historically in the city as a recruitment and mustering point during the American Civil War by the Union Army.

It has a plaque detailing and commemorating its historical background at the square’s southwest corner.

Union Square is an excellent place to dive deeper into Somerville’s rich history and heritage, especially its involvement in the American Civil War.

Whether you’re a historical enthusiast or an average tourist, this place in Somerville holds plenty of fascinating information to learn about its past.

Marvel at the Colorful Sapphire City House

Sapphire City House is a quirky attraction on Somerville’s Main Street.

It’s known throughout the neighborhood for its unusual but gorgeous objects in various colors.

Visiting this house allows you to take photos and pose beside these colorful glass and plastic figurines in different shapes and designs.

Local artists contributed some of their finest artworks to be displayed at this place which the public can see.

Most of the artworks can be seen from the sidewalks from morning until dusk.

Sapphire City House has been a unique art attraction in Somerville for more than 40 years.

It remains one of the top attractions in the city that you must not miss.

Chill Out at the Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park

View of mystic river from Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park

Percival Kestreltail, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park is one of the many community parks worth visiting during your trip to Somerville.

The park encompasses 6.1 acres meandering the Mystic River.

It gives parkgoers a scenic and relaxing view of the Mystic River.

The park is known for being a top-notch picnic and recreation area.

Besides its vast greenery and lush trees, it has walking and bike paths, perfect for a morning or afternoon stroll.

Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park is also a popular venue in Somerville for family-night movies, festivals, and concerts.

You can visit this park between Great River Road and Assembly Row.

Pose by the Mystic Avenue Mural

Mystic Avenue Mural is a public art installation that adds color to Somerville’s thoroughfares.

You can see this massive mural along Mystic Avenue just across the shores of the Mystic River.

Before the mural existed, this area was once an empty wall that served as a brickyard, harbor, and bottling work facility.

However, the Metropolitan Park Commission initiated a project to enhance Mystic River’s aesthetic appeal to the public.

The result is a masterpiece that drew many people to take photos of the unique mural.

David Fichter designed and conceptualized the mural as the head artist of the project.

Today, you can still see the Mystic Avenue Mural, which remains one of Somerville’s most charming public art installations.

Take a Dip at the Mystic River

Yachts docked at Mystic River

Jongpol Jujaroen /

Mystic River is the best place to explore Middlesex County’s unspoiled natural beauty.

This river which runs through Somerville, is known for swimming, boating, hunting, and fishing.

It’s one of the best places to enjoy time in nature without going far off Somerville.

Besides the usual water activities, you can also enjoy hiking and biking at the trails meandering the river, taking you to various neighboring cities and towns.

The waters of Mystic River

User:Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since it’s one of the Commonwealth’s most protected natural areas, expect a clean and calming atmosphere when boating through Mystic River.

At the same time, spot local wildlife, such as birds and small mammals, while traversing the river.

Whether hiking or boating, Mystic River will take you to some of the area’s most scenic natural locations, making it a must-see attraction.

Chair overlooking Mystic River

Daderot at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Play Sports at Foss Park

Foss Park is Somerville’s second most extensive public park.

The park covers over eight percent of the city’s open space, making it an excellent outdoor recreation spot.

The park has a multi-sport field, picnic areas, an outdoor pool, walking and biking trails, and plenty of green open space for various activities.

It’s the best place in the city to play sports, including basketball, soccer, baseball, tennis, or frisbee.

Remember to bring your sports gear when visiting Somerville to display your skills at Foss Park with your friends or locals.

Uncover the Story of the Destroyed Ursuline Convent

One of Somerville’s most fascinating historical events was the destruction of the Ursuline Convent.

The convent owned by Catholics in the 1800s was burned down by anti-Catholic mobs, mainly protestant Christians, in 1834.

The Catholic leaders of Boston constructed the convent in the former Charlestown, now Somerville, in the 1800s and was mainly run by Ursuline nuns.

It once served as a school for girls and was eventually renamed Mount Benedict before its destruction.

The predominantly Protestant Christian population of the area suspected the convent of mysterious crimes and activities, which led to its tragic fate.

Today, the City of Somerville installed a historical marker to commemorate the place where the Ursuline Convent once stood, which you can visit for a worthwhile historical side trip.

Drop by the Prospect Hill Tower

Daytime view of the Prospect Hill Tower

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Prospect Hill Tower is a historical attraction that saw two of the nation’s great wars—the American Revolution and the American Civil War.

You can visit this place along Munroe Street, particularly atop Prospect Hill Park.

The 34-foot-tall tower is made from granite and constructed in 1903 to preserve its historical value dating back to the late 1700s and 1800s.

The hill once served as a vital fighting position and encampment for soldiers.

Exterior of the Prospect Hill Tower

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The hill is also where George Washington’s 1776 flag-raising took place.

Today, the hill and the tower remain standing, which you can visit to explore its fascinating backstory, especially if you’re an avid history fan.

Besides history, Prospect Hill Tower offers a sweeping view of Boston and its surrounding areas.

Aerial view of the Prospect Hill Tower

Eric Kilby from Somerville, MA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend Time Outdoors at Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is one of Somerville’s most charming neighborhood parks.

This park reopened a few years ago with a new playground, basketball courts, a skate park, a garden, splash pads, and a dog park.

In addition, it has walking paths, exercise stations, community gardens, a toddler area, and plenty of greenery and picnic spaces.

You don’t need to go too far off Somerville for a worthwhile outdoor activity with your friends or family.

Lincoln Park has all the amenities for a fun-filled day.

You can visit this place along Washington Street.

Step Back in Time at the Old Powder House

Exterior of the Old Powder House

S. A. Branch /

The Old Powder House is another significant and fascinating historical attraction in the city.

You can check out this place along Highland Avenue.

This small historical building sits atop a small hill with distinct architecture.

This building is Massachusetts’ oldest stone building dating back to 1703.

Window of the Old Powder House

Matthew MIller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It originally served as a gunpowder storage facility during the American Revolution.

A visit to this historical building allows you to learn fascinating information about Somerville’s history and its role during the American Revolution.

Back in the day, the house stored more than 250 barrels of gunpowder used by the Union Army and the succeeding armies in the following years.

Historical plaque of the Old Powder House

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring Your Kids to Hodgkins-Curtin Park

Hodgkins-Curtin Park is considered Somerville’s best place for kids.

The park is renowned for its numerous play areas for kids.

Compared with other parks in Somerville, this one has multiple playgrounds equipped with a playhouse, slides, swings, a sandbox, and other amenities.

Don’t worry if you’re bringing your kid when visiting Somerville since Hodgkins-Curtin Park is open daily to provide kids with a safe and enjoyable outdoor space.

Besides the top-notch playgrounds, it has a splash pad, a little league baseball field, picnic areas, walking trails, and multi-use green open space.

You can visit this park along Holland Street.

Traverse the Somerville Community Path

Daytime view of the Somerville Community Path

Micha Weber /

The Somerville Community Path is a popular trail for locals.

This trail stretches from Davis Square to Cedar Street.

It’s an ideal place for a worthwhile hike or bike since the entire trail is paved, making it safe and enjoyable for everyone.

The entire trail, which runs around 1.3 miles, once served as part of the Fitchburg Cutoff Rail Line.

The Somerville Community Path lined with trees

Pi.1415926535, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The path was developed to extend the Green Line pathway that stretches to Boston.

Whether you’re an avid hiker or a biker, the Somerville Community Path is an excellent place to sweat out and enjoy the outdoor sceneries.

At the same time, the path takes you to various places around Somerville, such as parks and well-known streets.

Final Thoughts

Somerville’s laidback atmosphere and natural sceneries make it a charming city for outdoor adventure.

This city adjacent to Boston has plenty of exciting and free things to enjoy, especially with friends, family, or even solo travelers.

Add these free things to do in Somerville, Massachusetts, to your itinerary for an unforgettable travel experience in Somerville.

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