One of the easiest ways to save money on your vacation is to take advantage of free attractions. There are plenty of free outdoor things to do in New Jersey from wooded parks and hiking trails to sunny beaches and boardwalks, but there are also top-notch museums and attractions that won’t cost a penny. Here are just some of the things to see on your New Jersey vacation.
Explore more than 85 acres of lush country gardens at this county park, or bring the whole family to the Cape May County Zoo, a free attraction featuring more than 550 animals. You can find lions, tigers and bears (plus much more!) at this exciting kid-friendly destination.
The zoo is well kept and clean and along with other wildlife it offers an aviary and reptile house. The Pathway to Diversity features animals from different regions of the world via an elevated wooden trail through the woods. There is a concession stand, gift shop, a playground, a small mini train for kids to ride, free parking, and picnic tables.
Definitely put this zoo on your short list of must see/do activities while you’re at the shore in Cape May County.
Located in the heart of the Princeton University’s campus, this is one of (if not the best) free art museum in New Jersey. It is a beautiful museum, and for its size/scope probably among the finest in the country. Collections are eclectic and range from modern photography to a collection of African, American, Islamic and even Asian art! 92,000 works of art showcase an array of styles, from ancient to contemporary.
The museum is nestled in a pretty park. It’s also home to one of the country’s most significant collections of 20th and 21st-century sculpture dispersed throughout the walkways and green spaces.
If you’re in Central NJ and looking for a fun way to spend a couple of hours, this is a TOP choice.
Visit this early 1900s horse-powered farm for a glimpse into a bygone era. At the Howell Living History Farm you family will be given the chance to see and learn about various farm animals. The farm has been in continuous operation for over 250 years and provides a wonderful impression of farm life between 1890 and 1910. You will see a wonderful array of farm animals—pigs, rams, horses, cats, ducks, geese, barn swallows, oxen, roosters, hens and Maggie, the cattle dog.
Check the farm’s calendar to see the various special events they offer, whether they are educational programs for the kids or fun activities inspired by the season or upcoming holiday.
Admission and parking are always free at this NJ attraction.
Officially known as Navesink Light Station, this National Historic Landmark is most commonly known as Twin Lights, due to its dual, non-identical light towers – one flashing and one fixed – situated 200 feet above sea level. Explore the castle-like structures of this iconic landmark, and take in breathtaking views from the bluffs. While you’re here, make sure to check out the photographs and relics on display in the museum.
Originally built in 1828, Twin Lights became the second light station to help navigate ships in the New York Harbor area. With two beacons standing at a whopping 320 feet tall, this was said to “Spark a scientific revolution in America.”
Today, it acts as an awesome historical site in NJ that is free and open to the public. For hours please call ahead before planning a visit. Donations are also welcomed, but not mandatory.
If your family loves wildlife, visit the Sea Life Museum Marine Stranding Center. It is a non-profit organization created to help preserve marine wildlife that washes up on the Jersey Shore. The Marine Mammal Center is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of small marine mammals and the occasional other sea animal. It is a small facility open to the public to learn about the rehabilitation process. The Center is also a gateway for the largest wildlife refuge in the country!
Throughout the years they have collectively responded to over 3,900 calls of whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles and countless other animals stranded on beaches along the Jersey Shore coastline. You can either opt for a docent led tour for a small fee or just wander about the public areas for free. The museum is fairly small, but is still a neat place to spend a few hours. In addition to seeing and learning about the rescues this center has done, you can be a part of the solution and adopt a seal for only $25!
Pack up your towel, bathing suit and sunscreen and get ready to head down to the beautiful beaches in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This popular town, best known for their casinos, restaurants and entertainment, also has great beaches where people can relax and have fun in the sun.
Atlantic City is also home to a family-friendly boardwalk where children can play games and families can grab a quick bite to eat. Everyone, whether they are 5 or 85, can have a good time and enjoy themselves in this well-known town!
Learn about one of the most important NJ landmarks! The official residence of the Governor of New Jersey since 1981, Drumthwacket is an important part of the state’s history and culture.
Drumthwacket was built in 1835 by Charles Smith Olden, who later became the 28th Governor of New Jersey. Governor Olden’s family had owned the land almost continuously since 1696. The house is near the site of the historic Battle of Princeton, one of the most significant battles during the American Revolution.
This free attraction in Princeton even has a second building on the premises, The Olden House, which shows you the kitchen past governors used. After the tour of the mansion is complete you can go for a walk through the gardens on the land. Tours focus on the architecture and history of Drumthwacket. A tour begins every Wednesday at 1pm. Always call before planning your trip to ensure your family is able to take part in that day’s tour.
Although admission is free, some may have additional fees for shows, programs, and parking. We suggest you call ahead to confirm their hours and parking arrangements. Some have limited hours or require advance reservations. There may also be a suggested donation.
To help plan your New Jersey vacation, read our post – 10 Must See Attractions in New Jersey..