20 things to do around Boston for under $20 this holiday season

Holiday fun doesn't have to cost a lot.

Frog Pond skating rink
Mary Martha Checketts pushes her son, Thomas, 3, around the Frog Pond skating rink on Nov. 14, 2017. –John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

December is chock-full of holiday celebrations, from live performances to seasonal markets to dazzling light displays. It’s also full of travel and gift expenses that can put a real strain on your wallet.

But not every event has to be that way. Ahead, discover 20 ways to have fun in the Boston area for under $20 this holiday season.

Food + Drink

The Kane’s Chocolate Candy Cane Donut is offered through the month of December. —Kane's Handcrafted Donuts

1. Eat a holiday doughnut at Kane’s Handcrafted Donuts
Sink your teeth into a sugary and festive Kane’s doughnut throughout the month of December. Chocolate Candy Cane Donuts are chocolate cake-style treats topped with creamy peppermint frosting and crushed candy canes, while Eggnog Donuts are made with Privateer Silver Reserve Rum, and Ginger Beer Donuts are made with Farmer Willie’s ginger beer. You can also place an order for a dozen of Kane’s deep-fried sufganiyot for Hanukkah(90 Oliver St., Boston; 120 Lincoln Ave., Saugus)


2. Savor a hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick Chocolate Shop & Cafe
For a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day, head to this favorite among Boston.com readers. The cafe serves dark, milk, and white hot chocolate, spicy dark chocolate, as well as a special hot chocolate each month using cocoa beans from a different cocoa-growing region around the world. Customers can also order an espresso mixed with any of the cafe’s hot chocolates. (52 Brattle St., Cambridge; 220 Clarendon St., Boston)

3. Toast your friends with holiday-inspired cocktails at Sumiao Hunan Kitchen
This recently opened Kendall Square spot is getting into the holiday spirit by serving themed cocktails like the Mrs. Claus, made with Bailey’s Irish Cream, Campari, and Bombay gin, for $8, and The Red Nose, made with vodka, Villa Maria, and blood orange, for $10. Both cocktails are garnished with a candy cane, of course. (270 Third St., Cambridge)

4. Enjoy hot cocoa and cookies at MET Back Bay
During MET Back Bay’s annual “Storybook Christmas” event, kids can decorate cookies and make crafts, and families can sip free hot chocolate while Santa reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas beside the fire. The free event will take place Dec. 17 from 3 to 5 p.m. Reservations are recommended. (279 Dartmouth St., Boston)

Outdoor Activities

Families take photos amid the twinkling lights at Blink! —jeremy c. fox/boston.com

5. Watch the Blink! Light & Sound Show in Faneuil Hall
See the historic marketplace light up to music during this holiday light and sound presentation that takes place every 30 minutes between 4:30 and 10 p.m. through Jan. 1. This season, an all-new show promises “more lights, more music, more color, more sound and more fun.” (4 S. Market St., Boston)

6. Go ice skating on the Boston Common Frog Pond
Hit the ice in the middle of the city this holiday season. Skating costs $6 for skaters taller than 58 inches and is free for those who are shorter; skate rentals cost $12 for adults and $6 for kids. Parents can even rent skate aids shaped like seals to help little ones with balance. (Boston Common Frog Pond, Boston)

7. Go on an ice sculpture stroll in Somerville
Watch students create ice sculptures and compete for prizes during the Somerville High Ice Sculpture Stroll on Dec. 15 from 6-9 p.m. Students will carve ice creations at locations around Assembly Row, and supporters can watch and vote for their favorite designs while enjoying giveaways including candy canes and hot chocolate. (340 Canal St., Somerville)

8. Take part in a silent disco on City Hall Plaza
Enjoy daily free performances by local singers and dancers on the gazebo stage at Boston Winter, a holiday market on City Hall Plaza. On Fridays, the plaza transforms into a silent disco, courtesy of Dreamland Silent Disco. Participants can borrow LED-lit wireless headsets — in exchange for $20 or an ID as collateral — and choose between three types of music: electronic and hip-hop, mash-ups, and hits from the ’60s through today. (City Hall Plaza, Boston)


9. Ride a dazzling carousel on the Greenway
Through Jan. 1, the Greenway Carousel offers light shows timed to popular holiday songs. The shows run every 30 minutes each night beginning at 4:45 p.m. (The Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston)

10. Watch a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party
Celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party by joining a 100-actors-strong reenactment on Dec. 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The action will begin at Boston’s Old South Meeting House and continue on to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Tickets cost $30 and are sold out, but the public can watch for free from the streets and participate in the procession from one location to the other. (Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St., Boston; The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, 306 Congress St., Boston)

Arts + Entertainment

A previous free Hanukkah celebration at the MFA. —MFA

11. Celebrate Hanukkah at the Museum of Fine Arts
The MFA will host live music, storytelling, arts and crafts projects, a larger-than-life menorah lighting, and gallery talks about the Museum’s Judaica collection during “Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights,” billed as the largest community Hanukkah gathering in Boston. The free celebration will take place Dec. 13 from 4:30-10 p.m. (465 Huntington Ave., Boston)

12. Join a giant Candy Land event at Quincy Market 
Candy Land afficionados will appreciate the 13th Annual Candy Land Playathon to benefit Pitching in for Kids, which raises money for kids across New England through sports-related fundraising events and programs. Guests will travel down a “magical” road while enjoying food tastings, live entertainment, arts, crafts, and more. Every child in attendance will receive a brand new Hasbro Toy or game. Admission is $10 per person and payable at the door. Kids under age 3 are free. The fun will take place Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon. (Upper rotunda of Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston)

13. Nab a free picture with Santa at a Cambridge mall
You can snag a free photo with Santa through Dec. 24 on the first floor of the CambridgeSide Galleria. Visitors will get two free 4-by-6-inch photo prints and a digital download of a single image. Additional photos and merchandise are available for purchase. (100 CambridgeSide Place, Cambridge)

14. And get a photo of your pet with Santa at the Pru
The Prudential Center is teaming up with the MSPCA Boston Adoption Center to spread holiday cheer to pet owners this season. Take your pet to the Pru for Pet Photo Night on Dec. 13 from 6-8 p.m. All pets must be registered before the event and leashed while inside the mall. Packages start at $19.99. (800 Boylston St., Boston)

15. Join a caroling mob
Dress warmly and prepare your singing voice for the 14th annual Boston Caroling Mob, taking place Dec. 17 from 4-6 p.m. Organizers will provide the lyrics when everyone meets in Jackson Square, but they ask that you bring some type of light with which to read them in the dark. Donations are welcome — the organization is raising money for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. (Jackson Square, Boston)

16. Attend a free concert at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester
Join Boston Baroque for the orchestra’s annual free community concert at the Strand Theatre on Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. This year’s performances will include Handel’s “Water Music” and “Gloria” with soprano Mary Wilson and Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 1.” Complimentary tickets may be picked up in person at the Upham’s Corner Branch of the Boston Public Library or by calling 617-987-8600. (543 Columbia Road, Boston)

17. Ring in the New Year at Boston’s First Night First Day celebration
Head to Copley Square on Dec. 31 for a night full of free fun at Boston’s annual First Night First Day event. Expect live musical performances, ice sculptures, light displays, and plenty of fireworks, including a fireworks display for families in the Boston Common at 7 p.m. and a countdown in Copley Square followed by fireworks at midnight. Then, on Jan. 1, Copley Square will host children’s activities and entertainers from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (Copley Square in the Back Bay, Boston) 


Rutabega Bodega is selling postcards featuring celebrity vegetables at the Boston Public Market. —Boston Public Market

18. Shop pop-ups inside the Boston Public Market
The Boston Public Market is hosting its first ever Holiday CR[EAT]TOR Market, featuring local artisans at pop-ups selling everything from hot sauce to jewelry to home goods, on weekends through Dec. 17. Watch for Rutabega Bodega‘s veggie celebrity postcards (including a Broccoli Obama and an Elvis Parsley) on Dec. 16 and 17 and fresh cranberry products from the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association on Dec. 17. (100 Hanover St., Boston)

19. Find one-of-a-kind gifts at CraftBoston Holiday
Shop for unique handmade goods and meet the artists who create them at CraftBoston Holiday at the Hynes Convention Center from Dec. 15-17. You’ll find products made of ceramics, cloth, furniture, wood, glass, leather, paper, and metal. A $15 ticket, which supports the nonprofit Society of Arts + Crafts, allows shoppers access on all three days. (900 Boylston St., Boston)

20. Peruse the wares at the Harvard Square Holiday Fair
Shop products from dozens of artisans selling everything from stationery and jewelry to chocolate at the 32nd Annual Harvard Square Holiday Fair. The market, billed as one of the oldest fairs in Boston, will take place Dec. 15-17 and Dec. 20-23, and is free to attend. (50 Church St., 4th floor, with more vendors in the courtyard at Church Street and Mass. Ave., Cambridge)