Free Fun Things to do in NJ
Even if you’re a New Jersey native, there are probably a number of free fun things to do in NJ that you never heard of. Tired of paying for every activity, and looking for some wholesome, family-friendly fun that does not break the bank? It’s easier than you might think. Whether you’re looking for a museum, a park, views, or gardens, New Jersey has free activities for your whole family.
Cape May County Park and Zoo is the perfect free destination for the whole family. Come see and learn about the African Lion, alpaca, American bison, black bear, ankole watusi, and the cotton-top tamarin on a private guided tour or by exploring the premises on your own. Unlike other zoos, Cape May County Park also engages in many conservation efforts in partnership with Colorado State University and animal conservation organizations, which you can read more about here.
Sourlands Mountain Preserve is located in Hillsborough Township, NJ, and is the perfect weekend hike for the entire family and all your dogs. This 17-mile expanse of land features optimal hiking conditions. Choose a shorter loop of 1.4 miles around the Maple Flats or take a longer way around in a 5.7-mile hike over boardwalks and through the boulder formation in Devil’s Half Acre and Roaring Rocks. Whatever path you choose, everyone will be sure to enjoy this beautiful nature center. Following the hike, Readington Brewery and Flemington Ice Rink are short rides away; they are not free but are wonderful additions to the day regardless.
In Hillsborough Township, Duke Farms is a free, fun thing to do in NJ because of the number of things to discover and enjoy on its premises. Duke Farms is a sprawling 1000 acre of land that focuses on ecological sustainability, preserving native species and natural beauty, and promoting environmental awareness. Prepare to spend the entire day here, as walking the entirety of the premises takes hours, and there are dozens of things to explore. Walk alongside the orchid gardens, explore the “Great Falls,” stop at the farmer’s market, and engage with many of the interactive exhibits and displays.
Wildwoods’ beaches are among the only ones along the Jersey shore that are completely free admission, as they are state parks and are completely enjoyable to the general public. Skip the beach tag stress and wade straight into the water. Enjoy the endless sandbars and unique water landscape, or perhaps walk down all 38 blocks of the boardwalk to get your steps in. Wildwoods’ beaches offer endless activities, restaurants, bars, and hotels for those looking to enhance their stay.
Liberty State Park and Liberty Science Center
At Liberty State Park in Jersey City, expect beautiful views of the sweeping NYC skyline while walking the entirety of its two-mile promenade. Discover playground areas, parks, greenery, restaurants, and an outdoor music venue all while looking at the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. Liberty State Park is the only place in New Jersey that provides ferry service. At the northern end of the park, the NJ Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial rests, which is an educational and commemorative opportunity for the family.
Also located within the Liberty State Park, find the Liberty Science Center, a must-visit, free general admission attraction for your whole family. Liberty Science Center is a state-of-the-art, family-friendly learning center with one of the biggest planetariums in the United States, a vast aquarium, a 110-species live animal collection, and 12 museum exhibits. This science center has cultivated many kids’ love for learning and science, making it an enjoyable and memorable experience to keep visiting.
Rutgers Gardens is a free-admission and free-parking 180-acre botanical garden open to the public all year round. A curated garden area presents beautiful flora and fauna, including a bamboo forest, flower garden, lily pond, and vast hiking trails. Relax and find a spot to rest either bringing your own blanket and picnic basket or grabbing a seat in a gazebo or bench. This garden is a vibrant spot within the New Brunswick community, providing students with service experience and serving as the culmination of years of research, care, and cultivation. Rutgers Gardens also offers the Cook Farmer’s Market and pottery shops.
Located in Ringwood State Park, New Jersey Botanical Gardens is 96 acres of gardens and over 1000 acres of woodlands open all year round. Its beautiful grounds allow for ample time in nature, wandering between different garden and flower displays and exploring attractions like the Lilac Garden, Magnolia Walk, and Hosta and rhododendron displays. Join a hike leader on a free child-friendly hiking tour, or schedule a tour at the historic Manor House.
The Sayen House & Gardens is located in Hamilton Township and is a favorite among many New Jersey residents who say it is a great place to stroll, read a book, and bask in the beauty of the gardens. This 30-acre haven features azaleas, rhododendron, dogwoods, and flowering bulbs. Sayen House is open to the public and also offers its space as an event venue for weddings, celebrations, and other gatherings.
The New Jersey State Museum (NJSM) in Trenton holds over 2 million artifacts in collections ranging from archaeology, ethnography, cultural history, natural history, and fine art. Current exhibits explore New Jersey’s past and how it manifests in the present, including the history of Delaware Native Americans and the Civil War. Admission to the museum is free, and in conjunction with the museum, the premises also hold a state-of-the-art planetarium with an 8k projection system.
Dedicated to “preserving and promoting the legacy of South Jersey’s glass-making history,” Heritage Glass Museum in Glassboro features historic glass, bottles, and other artifacts on display. New collections include the Blenko Glass, a unique display of glassmaking artisanship, and in the main exhibit hall, one can find antique glass, tools, whimseys, fruit jars, and demijohns, all showcasing the history of glass-making roots in Jersey.
Interested in reading about more free, fun things to do in NJ or local activities in general? Click here to learn about other events happening around town.