Sure, there are the typical free attractions in NJ like playgrounds, biking trails, and hiking spots, but did you know that you can also dig for fossils, visit the Governor’s mansion, and walk through a fairy garden without having to spend a thing? We found everything from a zoo (yup, the Cape May County Park & Zoo is entirely free), a museum with vintage aircraft, and even a few lighthouses that you can enter totally for nothing. Scroll down for your not-so-typical free attractions in NJ that are sure to keep your family busy all year long.
Featured Image taken at Cape May County Park & Zoo
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(Note: Since COVID-19 rules and regulations are continually changing, it’s best to check ahead for in-person events)
Free attractions in NJ for the whole family
Find dinos and a historic village at Allaire State Park
A 19th-century village frozen in time, a train on the vintage Pine Creek Railroad, or a secret path that leads to dinosaurs—this can all be found at the one and only Allaire State Park in the Monmouth County. The park and buildings are free to enter and enjoy all year, but there’s an entry fee for the village and nature center from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
4263 Atlantic Ave, Farmingdale, NJ 07727
Wander through 96 acres of beautiful gardens
The New Jersey Botanical Gardens are a part of Ringwood State Park, the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, and the Department of Environmental Protection. The park has free guided garden tours on Sunday afternoons at 2 PM from May through October. Self-guided tours are also available.
2 Morris Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456
See museums with no entry fees
Did you know that you can use your NJ Library card to get you into a museum for free? Visit places like Battleship NJ or Imagine That in Florham Park for up to four people for free. Most passes are loaned for three days, including the day you pick up the pass. While not every library participates, it’s best to check with yours to see if they do (here’s an example of what they offer at the Ocean County Library). Another way to visit museums for nothing? If your bank is Bank of America, you can sign up for free museum days at over 225 museums all over the USA, including 6 museums throughout NJ.
Get up close and personal with falcons
1390 Whitebridge Rd, Millington, NJ 07946
Take in the beautiful gardens at Sayen House & Gardens
In Historic Hamilton Square sits Sayen House & Gardens, and you can use it daily from dawn to dusk. Enter a garden filled with azaleas, rhododendrons surrounded by ponds, gazebos, and bridges, and pack a picnic to enjoy on the insta-worthy grounds.
155 Hughes Dr, Hamilton Township, NJ 08690
Dig through history
The museum, history workshop, and galleries are free and open to the public at Cumberland County Prehistorical Museum. The Prehistoric museum combines galleries of folk art, artifacts, and more, and it’s a popular stop for paleontologists and archaeologists alike. Or, if you are looking to dig deep and become your own paleontologist, explore the Big Brook Park Preserve and try some artifact hunting of your own. Find cretaceous fossil shark teeth, including Goblin shark tooth and Mosasaur tooth, and keep them too (just don’t forget to bring buckets and sifters).
Marvel at birds and sculpture gardens at Duke Farms
Duke Farms covers over 1,000 acres of land with native species, natural beauty, and sustainability efforts. It is free to enter Duke farms, and there is lots to explore at the former Doris Duke estate. Don’t miss the sculpture gardens and greenhouses along the way. And if you’re hungry, make sure to get a bite to eat at their farm-sourced, award-winning cafe while you are there.
1112 Dukes Pkwy W, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844
Bowl away an afternoon
Kids can bowl free—say what?! Yup, you read that right. The Kids Bowl Free Program lets your kids play the lanes at over 20 participating bowling alleys throughout New Jersey. Make sure to register so that your littles don’t miss their chance to be a part of this free activity.
Cool off at a splash park
Want to spend time at a waterpark but without the expensive ticket price? You can at one of the many splash pads in NJ. During hot days, find an aquatic wonderland near you and get ready to burn off some energy and cool down at the same time. Splash parks are sprinkled all over New Jersey from the north to the south, full of sprinklers, raining domes, and huge buckets ready to spill over to cool your kiddos down.
Take a step back in time at a Living History Farm
It’s one thing to see historical items in a museum, but it’s another to be able to see it in motion. At Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell Township, you can take your kiddos to help with a potato or honey harvest or participate in wheat planting. Or visit Longstreet Farm in Holmdel to see a blacksmith demonstration, corn harvest, or a 19th-century woodworking demonstration.
Make new friends at the Cape May County Park & Zoo
Love going to zoos but not the hefty ticket price? At Cape May County Park & Zoo, the whole family can see everything from African Lions to Bald Eagles to Snow Leopards for free. Don’t miss the Scarlet Ibis, Red Pandas, and Giant Zebras too.
707 N. Rt. 9, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Float away on canoes and kayaks at Scotland Run Park
Spend the day on the water—-the whole family can paddle a canoe or hop in a kayak during the weekend for free at this Clayton, NJ park from June to September. First come, first serve, and all children 14 or younger must be accompanied by an adult. They provide life jackets and paddles, but you must print out a waiver and fill it out before your visit.
Get a nautical view
Did you know that you can take in some fantastic views from several free lighthouses in NJ? Climb to the top of the Twin Lights Historic Site in Highlands or see a fourth-order Fresnel lens at the Sea Girt Lighthouse. “Old Barney,” also known as the Barnegat Lighthouse, is another must-see 217 step lighthouse. Did we pique your seafaring interest? Visit lighthouses all over the Garden State.
Take a walk through history
The Friends of Monmouth Battlefield hold many free tours, including the Walking tour of the Battlefield, Programs about different battles, and even Living History Encampments. Or visit the Revolutionary War massacre site of the Hancock House in Hancocks Bridge. The Morristown National Historical Park is also worth the visit, and you can use the free Access Pass, Military Pass, and the Every Kid In A Park Pass to visit the park.
Head to the beach
While during the season, you need a badge to get on the beach at most shore spots, there are some free ones you can visit in season. Lather on some sunscreen at Cape May Point State Park, or travel down the 4-mile Atlantic City Boardwalk and enter the beach for free. North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest are also all completely free to put your umbrella into the sand and relax in your beach chair. Of course, the off-season is always free at the shore.
Discover glass, art, and seashells
Whether you want to see the history of glass, fine art, or fossils, there’s a free place to do it in NJ. Check out the Heritage Glass Museum in Glassboro, a community nonprofit that collects, preserves, and curates historic southern New Jersey glass (historic and fine art), artifacts, photographs, and documents to preserve New Jersey’s glass-making heritage. Visit the only fine art museum in south Jersey, the Noyes Museum of Art in Hammonton, or check out 1,000s of species of seashells and ancient fossils in one place at the Discovery Seashell Museum in Ocean City.
Take time to reflect
The Empty Sky Memorial is dedicated to 749 loved ones that lost their lives during 9/11, and the towering memorial connects your eye to Ground Zero. This Liberty State Park Memorial honors the memory of those lost with New Jersey, the place that they called home.
1 Audrey Zapp Dr., Jersey City, NJ 07305
Drop into Dumthwacket, the Governor’s Mansion
Did you know that you can visit the official residence of the governor of New Jersey for free? Drumthwacket is a historical landmark with guided tours. See six public rooms used by the governor along with fine art and antiques. And don’t miss the beautiful gardens, weather permitting.
354 Stockton Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
Check out vintage police and military gear
Head to West Trenton to see vintage vehicles, confiscated weapons, and radar detectors from 1921 at the NJ State Police Museum and Learning Center. The Police Museum is free to enter, and it gives a glimpse into the history, artifacts, and the memory of fallen officers. Or, if aircraft and military history are more your speed, the Millville Army Air Field Museum in Millville contains vintage and military aircraft, and it’s an excellent place for students, aviation enthusiasts, and history buffs alike.
Feel the magic of the fairies
You don’t have to spend a ton of money for a magical experience—you can travel down a half-mile trail inhabited by fairies. Walk along the white-blazed path to see fairy homes built into tree hollows and roots during this visit of free things to do in NJ.
197 Glen Ave., Millburn, NJ 07041