Free Things To Do In NJ: You’ll Never Guess What’s On Our List


Sure, there are the typical free things to do 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 spending a dime? We found everything from a zoo (yup, the Cape May Zoo is entirely free), a museum with vintage aircraft, and even a few lighthouses you visit, all without charge. Scroll down for your not-so-typical free attractions in NJ that will keep your family busy all year. (featured image taken at Cape May County Park & Zoo)

(Note: It’s always best to check ahead for in-person events.)

Free attractions in NJ for the whole family

Discover the secret trails of Allaire State Park that lead to the dinosaurs. Photo taken at Allaire State Park.

Discover a town set back in time while wandering the trails of Allaire State Park. Photo taken at Allaire State Park.

Find a historic village at Allaire State Park

A 19th-century village frozen in time or a train on the vintage Pine Creek Railroad—these can all be found at the one and only Allaire State Park in 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 and for some special events.
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 you can use your NJ Library card to get into a museum for free? Visit places like Battleship NJ or Insectropolis in Toms River 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 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 museums throughout NJ. Or visit the New Jersey State Museum free of charge on weekdays or weekends.

Get up close and personal with falcons

Take a self-guided visit to see hawks, eagles, falcons, and vultures at The Raptor Trust. The Raptor Trust provides free care and assistance to sick, injured, or orphaned wild birds while educating the public about wild birds and birds of prey. Self-guided tours are free, but donations are encouraged. There are also staff-led guided tour talks available for a group fee. 
1390 Whitebridge Rd, Millington, NJ 07946
Free attractions in NJ Big Brook Preserve New Jersey

If you’re looking for more free attractions in NJ, did you know you can find real fossils at the Big Brook Park Preserve? Photo taken at Big Brook Park Preserve.

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, become a paleontologist and explore the Big Brook Park Preserve to try artifact hunting of your own. Look for cretaceous fossil shark teeth, including Goblin shark and Mosasaur teeth, and you can fill a sandwich baggie with your discoveries to bring home (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 the former Doris Duke estate and explore the areas with rich history and natural wonders (with multiple flat surfaces, you can bring your bikes or scooters). Don’t miss the sculpture gardens, greenhouse, and waterfall along the way. And if you’re hungry, 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 10 participating bowling alleys throughout New Jersey. This program is designed by bowling centers to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure, and fun way for kids to learn skills and socialize with friends. 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 to burn off some energy and cool down at the same time. There are free splash parks 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.

Free attractions in NJ Cape May Zoo New Jersey

Cape May County Park & Zoo has zebras, flamingos, and other wild animals you can see without an entry fee, making this one of the great free attractions in NJ. Photo taken at the Cape May County Park & Zoo.

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 lions to bald eagles to snow leopards for free (though donations are always appreciated). Open year-round, kids will love spotting their favorite animals in every season. Check out their calendar of events, including free summer concerts and a holiday light show in November and December. 
707 N. Rt. 9, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210

Float away on free canoe and kayak rentals 

Spend the day on the water where your crew can paddle a canoe or hop in a kayak during the weekend for free at Scotland Run Park in Clayton, NJ, from June to September. The boats are first come, first serve, and an adult must accompany all children 14 or younger. They provide life jackets and paddles, but you must print out a waiver and fill it out before your visit. If you like a city view, the Hoboken Cove Community Boat House has free kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and outrigger canoes available—a reservation is not necessary but can be made in advance if you’re worried about a long wait. 

Head to the beach

Here’s one of the best-kept secrets of the Jersey Shore— there are free, no-badge-required beaches you can visit during the season. Lather on some sunscreen at Cape May Point State Park, or travel down the 5-mile Atlantic City Boardwalk and enter the beach for free. North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest are all badge-free beaches where you can plant 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 a fine art museum in South Jersey, the Noyes Museum of Art in Hammonton and Atlantic City, or inspect thousands of species of seashells and ancient fossils in one place at the Discovery Seashell Museum in Ocean City.

Empty Sky Memorial New Jersey

The Empty Sky Memorial is a tribute to the 749 NJ lives lost during 9/11. Photo Feature Credit: istock/olli0815

Take time to reflect

The Empty Sky Memorial is dedicated to 749 loved ones who 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 who called New Jersey home. Or teach your kids about history and service by visiting one of the Veterans Memorials located all over New Jersey to remember those who gave all.
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

Feel the magic of the fairies

If you want to give your kids a magical experience without a price tag, travel down a half-mile trail inhabited by fairies. Kids will be mesmerized as they walk along the white-blazed path to see fairy homes built into tree hollows and roots and use their imaginations to figure out how they got there. It’s one of the free things to do in NJ that’s truly unique and special. 
197 Glen Ave., Millburn, NJ 07041

Take in the beautiful gardens at Sayen House & Gardens

In Historic Hamilton Square sits Sayen House & Gardens, which you can use daily from dawn to dusk. Enter a garden filled with azaleas and 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

Free attractions in NJ Twin Lights

Twin Lights Lighthouse is up on the hill in Atlantic Highlands along the Jersey shore. Photo Credit: istock/andykazie

Spend time getting nautical

Skip the pricey aquariums and visit the Sea Life Museum, which displays marine mammal artifacts and helps rehabilitate sea life at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Or tour the Highlands of the Navesink overlooking the entrance to New York Bay, some of the highest points along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Due to their geography, the Highlands have been used in many ways to preside over shipping traffic entering New York Harbor.

Take some time to smell the flowers

Head to Middletown Township and discover Deep Cut Gardens and its 54 acres of beauty. It’s free to get into Deep Cut Gardens, and before visiting, you can print out a park brochure and map online to plan your trip. While no food or drinks are available for sale, you can bring your lunch for a picnic (with a spectacular view).
152 Red Hill Road, Middletown, NJ 07748

Celebrate sports heroes in Southern NJ

Got kids that are sports buffs? Check out sports artifacts from pro athletes with ties to southern New Jersey. The All Sports Museum of Southern New Jersey features stories and trophies from NFL greats, MLB all-stars, MVP heavyweights, and NHL champs who grew up in South Jersey or once lived there.
8 Richie Kates Sr Way, Bridgeton, NJ 08302

free attractions in NJ jockey hollow

Explore a Soldiers’ Hut at Jockey Hollow, Morristown National Historical Park. Photo Credit: istock/Andrea DiSavino 

Take a step back in time at a Living History Farm

It’s one thing to see historical items in a museum but another to immerse yourself in living history. At Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell Township, Howell Farm’s calendar reflects the cycles of a fully functioning, working farm in Pleasant Valley, New Jersey, from 1890 to 1910. You can take your kiddos to help with a potato or honey harvest or participate in wheat planting for free. Or visit Longstreet Farm in Holmdel to see a blacksmith demonstration, corn harvest, or a 19th-century woodworking demonstration.

Get a nautical view

Did you know 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. Sneak in some exercise at “Old Barney,” known as the Barnegat Lighthouse, as you make your way up the 217-step lighthouse and are rewarded with sweeping ocean views.

See Revolutionary War sites

Relive history with a free tour with Friends of Monmouth Battlefield, including a walking tour of the Battlefield, programs about different battles, and even living history encampments. Or visit the Revolutionary War site of the Hancock House in Hancocks Bridge. The Morristown National Historical Park is also a place to immerse your family in free history, where Washington made his headquarters during a crucial time of the Revolutionary War, and soldiers encamped in nearby Jockey Hollow.

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, giving a glimpse into fallen officers’ history, artifacts, and memories. 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.

Visit a national park with your fourth grader for free

Do you have a fourth grader? If you do, they can visit National Parks for free in the United States. Through Every Kid Outdoors, a national-funded government initiative, your fourth grader and their guests can get a free pass to explore all of America’s federal lands and waters spanning millions of acres. In NJ, they can visit Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, Morristown National Historical Park, and Thomas Edison National Historical Park, all for free.

See the stars

While an NJ planetarium visit is a cool way to see the stars, a telescope gives you a real-time version without any entry fees. The Sperry Observatory in Cranford is open every Friday for observation through two large telescopes. The Buzz Aldrin Astronomical Center in High Bridge is also free and is an ideal way to view the night sky since it’s the most extensive public telescope in New Jersey.

Naturally fun activities

Nature centers are like tiny museums that put a spotlight on the animals, flora, and fauna in the environment and surrounding areas and are usually attached to walking paths and trails where you can explore hands-on. And the best part? They are FREE. The Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center in Howell is full of ecology, wildlife, and habitat exhibits. Another great spot is the Huber Woods Environmental Center & Reptile House in Middletown, which has reptiles, amphibians, hands-on exhibits, a puppet theater, and a Discovery Path. Or see reptiles and insects and even try to fit in a replica of a bear den at The Great Swamp Preserve Outdoor Education Center and Visitors Center in Chatham Township for a nature-filled day.

What free attractions in NJ have you been to? 

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.