Every year I love having a bucket list: a list of places I want to visit with the kids before the year ends. Now, I am going to help you with your bucket list. Here is our list of free or inexpensive places for family fun in and around New Jersey. There are some truly amazing places in New Jersey area that the family can go for free, or at a very small cost. I have been to the majority of these with my family, and enjoyed it. The ones I haven’t been to (you can tell by the lack of photos for the listings that we haven’t been to) are on my wish list of places to visit. However, please contact each place before going with any questions you might have! These are but a few. Each place is amazing and fun, definitely worth a visit!
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First here are the places with, to the best of my knowledge, no admission fee at all, though I am sure that donations are very much appreciated. Some of the places further along the list have days with either free admission or highly discounted admission prices, so make sure to pay attention to dates and times!!! Some of the places below do have a small admission fee. Most of them are under $10.00, some are between $10.00 and $20.00 for the family.
Recently I found us traveling without a few essentials, which made our trip much more difficult. Whenever you go somewhere outdoors in the summer time, don’t forget to wear a HAT, bring a WATER BOTTLE, and make sure to keep your belongings safe from water in a WATERPROOF POUCH! Don’t forget to mind the heat and the sun! Also, a simple PAIR OF WATER SHOES very helpful on many trips, especially to protect feet of your little ones.
Here they are: Free Or Inexpensive Places For Family Fun In And Around New Jersey
1. Howell Living History Farm.
Howell Living History Farm is always a wonderful place to visit. Located in Lambertville NJ, it is fairly easy to get to. We have attended some classes and festivities there, as well as just came to enjoy the farm when no one is there. It is free to come, the classes do have a small fee. I highly recommend it as a day out with kids. To read more about our experience click HERE, and to see the classes, address and directions go to their website HERE.
2. Doylestown Castle
Doylestown Castel is located just outside of NJ, in Doylestown, PA. Why is it worth a visit? Well, simply because it’s amazing. The castle is a huge wooden castle playground. The pictures don’t do it justice, you really have to be there to believe how big it is. Even the most jaded playground goers will be amazed. Click HERE to read more about our trip, and HERE for the Doylestown website section about the castle.
3. Environmental Education Center
Located in Basking Ridge, NJ, Environmental Education Center offers great hiking trails, an education center with some interesting displays. What I especially liked about this place is the hiking trails were even, and you can make the hike as long or as short as you like, which is a big deal when the littlest kids are on board. They also offer some amazing low cost classes. Environmental Education Center is actually located in Basking Ridge, NJ on Lord Stirling Road around the corner from Lord Stirling Stables. It lies on the edge of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge which includes miles of hiking trails and wildlife observation. Take a look at our visit HERE, and their website with directions HERE. The next place is right down the road from the Basking Ridge Environmental Education Center.
4. The Great Swamp and Raptor Trust
The Basking Ridge Environmental Education Center, Raptor Trust and The Great Swamp each had their own listing in the last year’s list. However, they are all down the road from each other. The Great Swamp is a national wildlife refuge and covers a large area, and is a great place to get out and see some amazing wildlife. Before heading out there make sure to see their website HERE for visitor information.
Raptor Trust was it’s own listing, but I decided to combine it together with the Great Swamp, they just fit so well together. You could visit Raptor Trust on the same day as the Environmental Center or Great Swamp. It is a bird rehabilitation center located in Central New Jersey. They are open to public seven days a week, and while the admission is free, a small donation is encouraged. We have been there several times, you can read about our visit HERE. It has always been an interesting experience. You can find out more about them, including hours and directions HERE.
5. Trailside Nature Center
Located in Watchung NJ. This place is very similar to the center in Basking Ridge. Their nature museum is much more extensive and the kids will really enjoy it. The admission to the museum is free. They also offer many great classes. There is a great big playground a short walk away, and the Watchung Stables just around the corner. There are a ton of hiking trails, some are more challenging, and many lead to some curious spots, like the Deserted Village or Lake Surprise. We go there quite often, at some point we were practically there on a weekly basis. You can read about our visits there HERE. Find out more about this place on their website HERE.
6. Duke Farms
Located in Hillsborough Township, NJ. It is a gem of a place. The admission is free. You can also rent bikes for two hours at $5.00 a person for teens and adults, just bring a helmet or use one of theirs. Bird watching, historical value, hiking, biking, walking, classes, workshops and so much more. We have been there many times, and still have not explored the entire place. Bring your own bikes, or rent theirs, or walk, or even take the tram, but do come and explore this amazing place. Read about our experience HERE, and visit their website HERE for the latest visitor information, including hours, days off and so forth.
7. Ringing Rocks Park
Ringing Rocks is a fascinating park in Upper Black Eddy, PA. There is a giant field of boulders that ring when hit with a hammer. There is also a beautiful waterfall, and many hiking trails. We have been there on more than one occasion, and are planning on coming back again. It makes a lovely destination on a day off. Read about our visit right HERE. Park website with more information is right HERE.
8. Reeves Reed Arboretum
We went there last summer. We loved it! It is not too big, but beautiful and quiet. There are a few hiking trails, some lovely gardens, and places for a walk. The place is free, and we are definitely coming back again. It is located in Summit. HERE is our visit to this beautiful place, and you can also take a look at their website right HERE. They also offer classes, camp, and workshops there, as well as a concert series.
9. New Jersey State Museum
I can’t tell you how amazing our visit to NJ State Museum, and the Capitol has been. Absolutely wonderful. This place will take a full day and is guaranteed to take your breath away. Located in Trenton, it is such a great place to visit. Their admission is small: $5.00 for adults and children 12 and under are free (I believe that is a suggested donation). There is also a tour of the capitol building that you could go on, that is also free, and The Old Barracks that you could visit. It is definitely a full day. You can read more about our visit HERE. HERE is their website with all the information.
10. Rutgers Gardens
It has been a long time coming! Our visit to Rutgers Gardens that is. It had so many areas to explore: great hiking trail, tall grass maze, an amazing pine forest, complete with forts, various cultivated garden areas, great old trees, and so much more. It is easy to be there all day and not notice the day go by. The kids had a blast too, and want to go back there again soon. They also have many various activities and fun throughout the year! It is such an amazing place to spend the day with family, I can’t wait to do it again. Read about our visit to Rutgers Gardens right HERE. See the directions, visitor information and more on their WEBSITE.
11. Morris Museum
Morris Museum is, well, in Morristown, NJ. It is a lovely museum. They house an amazing collection of music boxes and automaton. We have gone there using our library passes and attended the lecture on automaton. The kids were fascinated, as was I. The museum does have an admission fee is $10.00 for adults, and $7.00 for kids. However on the 2nd and 3rd Thursday of every month from 4 to 8 pm they have free admission! Read about our visit HERE, and the link to their website is HERE.
12. Spruce Run
Spruce Run is one of NJ State Parks. NJ has so many amazing and beautiful state parks. Each with something great to offer. Through out this list, you will find many state parks, some of my favorites, and those I really felt like needed to be mentioned. One of my favorites is Spruce Run in Clinton, NJ. We love to go camping there, or just for a relaxing day at the beach. State Parks usually have an admission fee per car. Last time we were in Spruce Run, it was $5.00 for NJ car, $10.00 for out of state during the weekdays, and $10.00 for NJ car, $20.00 for out of state during the weekend. Read more about our visit there HERE. The website for the park info is right HERE.
13. High Point
High Point State Park is in Montague NJ. It is definitely called High Point for a reason, as it’s the highest point in NJ. Home to many hiking trails, a beautiful lake, and some of the most amazing vistas I have ever seen. It is most certainly worth a visit. Again, it is a state park so there is a small fee per car, the same fee as for Spruce Run ($5.00 for NJ car, $10.00 for out of state during the weekdays, and $10.00 for NJ car, $20.00 for out of state during the weekend). You can read more about our visit HERE, and of course they have a website with all the latest info right HERE.
14. Sandy Hook Beach
NJ is full of lovely beaches. Sandy Hook is a national park. There is an admission of $15.00 per car. However, if you come after 5 pm, there is no charge. Not only is Sandy Hook a great beach, it is home for the historic Fort Hancock. We have gone to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, on a tour, and it was wonderful, and free! Read about our visit HERE. Sandy Hook also has some great free beach concerts brought by The Sandy Hook Foundation. Every Wednesday on beach E at 6 pm. You can find the concert schedule HERE. You could visit the Twin Lights Lighthouse nearby on the same day. We pass it by every time we make our way to Sandy Hook. One of the years I would love to make it out early in the day, go to the Twin Lights Light House, then the beach, and then for some delicious ice cream. HERE is the website on the Twin Lights Light House. You can also read more about our visits to Sandy Hook HERE.
15. NJ Botanical Garden
Located in Ringwood, NJ, it is one of my favorite places to visit. The gardens are great: quiet, shady and beautiful. In the warmer months make sure to stop at the Shepherds Lake for a swim. NJ Botanical Garden is a State Park, thus there is an admission fee per car. I think last time we were there it was $5.00 per car for NJ residents, and $7.00 for out of state between Memorial Day and Labor Day, all other months the parking is free. Read about our visit HERE, and visit the NJBG website HERE for more information.
16. Zimmerli Museum Of Art
In the heart of Rutgers University, Zimmerli is a wonderful art museum with so much to explore! Their admission is rather small to begin with, only $6.00 for adults, and kids under 18 go free. When I took my boys, it only cost us $6.00. They do have a free admission day on the First Sunday of every month. On that day they also do a scavenger hunt for the kids. We enjoy visiting this museum, and plan to come there again soon. HERE is our last visit, and HERE is their website.
17. Colonial Park in Somerset NJ
Located on 156 Mettlers Road, Somerset, NJ 08873, this park is a must. Complete with hiking, biking, a great playground, a beautiful gardens, and even paddle boats! We have gone there several times this year. You can spend your day in this park and never get bored. We went once during the Rose season, and the garden is beautiful. The second time we went it was a chilly November day. We rode our bikes there, and played in the playground, still plenty to do! HERE is their very informative website. HERE is more about our visit there.
18. Big Brook Park Fossil Site
We went to Big Brook to look for fossils last summer. It was an amazing adventure filled day. Big Brook is a stream that runs through Monmouth County, NJ. The specific location we went to is in Marlboro NJ, but there are other spots. It is a great spot for a hike, but wait, there is more! On the outside it looks like a very ordinary stream, but on the inside it is filled with fossils from the late Cretaceous Period. The kids and adults all had fun being archeologists for the day and looking for real fossils. You can read about our visit HERE. You can also find more info about the location HERE.
19. Rutgers Geology Museum
Rutgers Geology Museum is a fairly large hall filled with all sorts of archaeological and geological treasures to explore. There are many fun family events that happen there too. Not only that, but the museum is only a short ride away Big Brook Park Fossil Site (#19), and you can make it into a day of adventure. It is also right across the street from the Zimmerli Museum (#16). They have a fantastic WEBSITE that lists all the events and hours of operation. Also, it is free to visit, but donations are much appreciated. If you would like to read about our most recent visit there, click HERE. We always have a good time there.
20. Double Trouble State Park, Lacey Township NJ
We went to this lovely place this summer, it is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. It has an active cranberry farm, a creek to canoe or kayak in, lots of shade, excellent hiking trails and a historical village. HERE is their website with all the information for the park. HERE is more about our visit there. I highly recommend a visit there on a hot summer day. When we go, the kids had a great time going down the stream using their little body surf boards, and just splashing in the water. Plus, we sat right under a wild blueberry bush.
21. Bowman Hill Wildflower Preserve and Bowman Hill Tower
Located in New Hope, PA, this place has been on my list to visit for a long time, and this year we finally made it. It makes for a great day, a wonderful place to hike! Right across the street you can also visit Washington Crossing State Park, and the Bowman Tower. They do have a website with directions, hours, tours and prices. Take a look at their website HERE. You can read about our visit HERE. Bowman Hill Wildflower Preserve is also minutes outside of New Hope and Lambertville. For ideas on what to do there, check out THIS PAGE It has a very small admission fee (Adults: $6.00, Seniors (65 and older): $4.00,
Fulltime students (with ID): $4.00, Children (3 through 14): $3.00, Children under 3: Free). I don’t mind paying admission to this place at all. Interestingly enough I found a Groupon Deal (sponsored link) for this place.
22. Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park, Edison
This museum was recently renovated. We went on a tour there this February (2015). It was a great educational experience. The staff was knowledgeable and the tour interesting. They do have regular museum hours: Thursdays – Saturdays 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. You could also schedule a group tour in advance during other times. Which is what we did. The general admission to the museum is free, but there is a suggested $5.00 donation per person. The tour lasts about 1 hour, maybe a just little bit longer. They have an excellent WEBSITE with all the information you could possibly want before your visit: hours and directions, virtual tours, history, and more, or you could always call them at 732-549-3299. You can read more about our visit HERE.
23. Thomas Edison National Historic Park
This is another Thomas Edison place we would like to visit. The admission is $7.00 for adults, and since kids under 16 are free, for us that would just be the $10.00. They have a great website with so much information before you head there, I highly recommend you take a look HERE. We have recently visited this place, and found it to be very interesting. Be sure to check out more about our visit HERE.
24. Princeton Campus and Princeton University Art Museum
Hooray! We finally made it to Princeton. As a matter of fact, I now have to be there often with my kids. We have only began to explore this great town. Of course, Princeton University Art Museum was the first place on my list to visit. You can read more about our visit to Princeton HERE. There is a free admission to the museum. HERE is their website. I can’t wait to explore more of Princeton University.
25. Drumthwacket Mansion in Princeton.
While you are in Princeton, make sure to visit the Drumthwacket Mansion. It is more of a historical stop, and not so much a fun, kid friendly spot, but if you are in the area, it is certainly interesting to see. You can read about our visit to Drumthwacket here. You can also see information about visiting Drumthwacket on their official website. Princeton itself has so much to offer, and so many places to see, that you won’t be amiss in visiting the town. Check out number 25 for more information on what is around that area.
26. Willowwood Arboretum
Willowwood Arboretum is an amazing place to visit. The kids can explore nature’s wonders in a beautiful and safe environment. The walk or hike can be short and manageable or it can be as long as 9 miles. We recently visited this place, and fell in love with it. Our visit took place on a hot Saturday afternoon. The gardens were cool, shady, and not crowded one it. Nearby you will find Hacklebarney State Park, in fact I have been told that it connects to Hacklebarney by trail for a long hike. I am looking forward to exploring it even more. Read more about our visit HERE. It is lovely. There is no admission fee on regular days, however on special events there is. Check out their website HERE for more information.
27. Leonard J Buck Garden
This is a delightful garden located in the heart of NJ. The admission is free, and the grounds are beautiful. It is lovely in any season and can be enjoyed at any age. HERE is their website for more information, and HERE is more about our visit there. I have sneaked out there by myself several times, just to have a peaceful walk alone. It is beautiful in any season. One thing to remember is that the parking is limited, and on the weekend during spring, summer and fall it fills up very quickly. Be sure to call ahead and check for open hours.
28. Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
There is only a short time in May and June when you can visit this garden in full bloom, and it’s definitely worth it! It is a suggested donation of $8.00, but give what you can. We visited this year, and you can read more about our visit HERE. I will be back to see it again next year. It had every color of Iris imaginable. While this trip might not be as fun for the youngsters as it is for adults, it is easy enough to combine it with some of the awesome places nearby, like Turtle Back Zoo and Montclair Art Museum. Also Van Vleck (31), and Kip’s Castle (32) are within a mile of Presby Gardens. You can find more about them on their web page HERE.
29. Montclair Art Museum
I can not believe that I forgot about this place. Montclair Art Museum is a wonderful museum to take the kids to, and we have recently visited it! It has free admission for kids 12 and under, and the adult admission price was only $12.00. They have Free First Thursday Nights: a free family event complete with a full service bar, life music and art activities. You can read more about our visit. For more information about the admission, exhibits and events HERE is their website! You can combine your visit to the Montclair Art Museum with several places on this list. Specifically numbers 29, 31, 32, 28 and 24.
30. Van Vleck House and Garden
I highly recommend combining Van Vleck House and Garden together with Presby Memorial Iris Garden (29) and Kips Castle (32). Van Vleck is free to visit. Their garden is lovely. Just large enough to explore fully in a single visit. They also offer a variety of programs for children and adults. You can read about our most recent visit there. We have gone back to Van Vleck House and Garden throughout many seasons, with various family members. It is always a pleasure to walk through the garden.
31. Kips Castle
Kip’s Castle is a lovely place to visit. It is within a mile of Van Vleck House and Garden (31), and Presby Memorial Garden (29). It is free. The castle is impressive, and they offer tours Tuesday to Friday 12 to 3 pm. The view of the city from that spot can’t be beat! Look for more information on their website HERE. We have visited Kips Castle as part of a garden hopping date, along with Presby and Van Vleck gardens on the same day. They are all within a mile of each other.
32. Island Beach State Park
Located in Seaside Park, NJ, this gem is not to be missed. It requires a standard entrance fee for a state park, per car. $10.00 on the weekend, and $6.00 on the weekday for a NJ resident. Double that if the car is out of state. What a wonderful place it is! I loved how wild and untamed it was, with so much to see. With it’s silky sand, lush green dunes, teeming wildlife and clear blue waters, it has so much to offer to it’s visitors! You can read more about our visit HERE. See their WEBSITE for more information.
33. Sourland Mountain Preserve
Sourland Mountain Preserve is located in Hillsborough Township, and is a wonderful place to go for a hike in NJ. It has a path that explores the mountain (read: goes upwards and has lots of awesome boulders), so wear good hiking boots and be prepared. Beautiful scenery, fun hiking trails and a good long hike awaits! Find out more HERE and read about our visit HERE. We have gone back to Sourland Mountain Preserve many times over the years. It never disappoints with it’s hiking trails.
34. Stairway to Heaven Hike
This hike is part of the Appalachian trail. It is right off rt. 94 in Vernon NJ. We hiked the more difficult side of the hike that scaled a side of the mountain, and it was all uphill on the way there. The views were worth every step. We saw an amazing forest filled the the most beautiful yellow leaves (October!), and a cool sculpture, and of course the views! Across the street, the trail continues North, going through farm pasture, across the train tracks, and looks much easier. It can be a little difficult to find where the hike starts, but if you read more about our visit you will see how to get there. Click HERE.
35. Hacklebarney State Park
It is one of the state parks that doesn’t charge an entrance fee. We have been there with some friends, as well as just us, and this park has some great hiking trails. Here is some info from their website: “The freshwater Black River briskly cuts its way through rocky Hacklebarney State Park, cascading around boulders in the hemlock-lined ravine. Two tributaries, Rinehart and Trout Brooks, also course their way through this glacial valley, feeding the Black River. Even in the heat of midsummer, the temperature of Black River gorge is cool and refreshing. Today Hacklebarney is a favorite place for avid anglers, hikers and picnickers, yet in the 19th century the park was a mined iron ore site. The gushing river against the grey boulders and dark green hemlocks creates a majestic beauty in any season. Three rare and endangered plant species exist within the park: American ginseng, leatherwood and Virginia pennywort. Over a hundred bird species and wildlife such as black bear, woodchuck, deer and fox live in the park.”
HERE is their website. It is one of our favorite parks! Love the rocks and river.
36. Batsto Historic Village
We had a chance to stop and explore Batsto Historic Village recently. You should absolutely give this place a go! It was fantastic. There was so much to explore: from nature trails to historical buildings. HERE is their website with the directions and hours of operation. From their website: “Batsto Village, is a New Jersey historic site located in the South Central Pinelands, which is administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks & Forestry. This site is nationally recognized for its historical significance and beauty. The roots of Batsto Village can be traced back to 1766. Two centuries of American history are available to visitors, with the Pinelands environment as a scenic backdrop.”
The response to this article has been overwhelming! It is so wonderful. I included this section to make sure that the great recommendations by the readers are heard! Here you will find the places folks recommended, plus a few more places that I have researched. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to explore South Jersey extensively, and nothing beats the advice of someone that has been there. Please feel free to recommend any place that is free or inexpensive in NJ or the surrounding states, within driving distance. Please know, that I appreciate all your feedback!
37. Columbia Trail Hike
Located in High Bridge, The Columbia Trail has so much you can see. It is a fairly short and easy hike, but on your way you pass gnome homes, a historic bridge, and abandoned house, an iron forge, a gorgeous lake with a huge dam. It was fantastic. To find out more about the hike please visit the Hunderdon County website for it. We were there in the beginning of summer and had a great time. You can read about our visit HERE.
38. Cape May Zoo
I have heard so many wonderful things about this zoo. It is quite far from us, but I think sometime soon we are going to have to make the drive down there. Take a look at their website HERE. The admission to this zoo is free and it looks like a wonderful place to visit. There is a suggested donation, and the zoo needs donations to keep taking care of the animals.
39. Allaire State Park
Recommended by Kristine. It is a wonderful park with many hiking trails and a lot of history. Actually, I think it’s one of the few state parks that we haven’t been to, so this year I will try and make it there with the kids. HERE is the park website with all the information, like directions and prices. It is best to visit this park during one of the wonderful events they hold, so please make sure to check their website.
40. Bridgeton Hall of Fame All Sports Museum
If sports are your thing, head down to Bridgeton Hall of Fame All Sports Museum. Located in Cumberland County. Read more about them HERE.
41. George Woodruff Museum of Indian Artifacts
Located in the Bridgeton Free Public Library this museum houses more then 30,000 pieces of Native American Relics. The admission is free. After I spoke to a wonderful lady there on the phone, she informed me that Wednesday afternoon is the best time to come, as there is some one there that is very knowledgeable and will be able to help and answer all the questions. Take a look at their website, with a LOT of information HERE.
42. Cumberland County Pre-historical Museum
It is run by the Cumberland County Historical Society. HERE is the website for the Society. They have several museums listed there and the Pre-historical Museum sounds very interesting. The museum address is 1461 Bridgeton Road, Greenwich, NJ, 08323, and their phone number is 856-455-8141. From the brochure they have online, it looks like the admission is free as well.
43. Noyes Museum Of Art
Noyes Museum Of Art is a part of Stockton College. I love how open they are with their artists. They have some amazing classes and events listed on their website. Many events and classees are free with admission. Their admission is not expensive: it is $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for students and seniors, and the kids go free. To see the list of events look HERE, the general website is HERE.
44. Cohanzick Zoo
Located in Bridgeton NJ, it is another free zoo. It is the first zoo of NJ. That fact alone makes me want to visit. The admission is free, but they do accept donations. They have a website and it is lovely, take a look at it HERE. This place is definitely on my bucket list. Next to the Cohonzick Zoo there is a Splash Zone. This Splash Zone was recommended by Delores P. There is a small admission fee. Here is what Dolores says about it: “There’s is a 2.00 per person fee and it’s a fun and cool place to cool down in the summer. HERE is their website.
45. Tenafly Nature Center
Tenafly Nature Center is recommended by Tim P. The admission to the center is free. From their website: “A non-profit independent member-supported nature preserve. Our mission is to protect almost 400 wooded acres, all of its inhabitants and teach the next generations to do the same. Since 1961, TNC has nurtured an appreciation for nature, been a leader in open-space preservation and in environmental education for our community in Tenafly, Bergen County, and beyond. Tenafly Nature Center is a sanctuary for human visitors – an island of green where bonds with nature can be renewed. Whether you have an hour or a day, our woods offer a peaceful respite from the rush of daily life. Trails are open 365 days a year. We welcome visitors to take a 10 minute stroll to Pfister’s Pond or a 3 hour hike in the woods. You can observe wildlife, go birding, take nature photos, snow-shoe, and much more. Stop in at the Visitor Center for information and up-to-date-trail information.”
HERE is their website.
46. Estell Manor Park, Atlantic County, NJ
This great place was recommended by Crystal P. It does look amazing. It’s in Atlantic County, NJ. HERE is the website with all the information. There are so many things to do at the park, they have sports, and free equipment rentals, you can launch boats, rent free bikes and helmets. There is fishing, bird watching, hiking, biking and so much more.
47. The James A. McFaul Environmental Center
Recommended by Alison B. Looks like fun, folks. Here is what Alison says: “You should check out James McFaul wildlife Center in Wyckoff, NJ. Trails, the admission to the center is free. Small fee for some programs and classes (I believe?). My daughter loves it.” More information right HERE.
48. The Barnegat Lighthouse
The Barnegat Lighthouse was recommended by Kathy L: “Admission is free, gorgeous scenery, you can walk on the beach. Even has a gift shop, snack place and picnic areas.” More info HERE. While we have never visit the Barnegat Lighthouse, we have gone many times to Island Beach State Park, and were able to see the lighthouse in the distance.
49. The Hunterdon Art Museum
The Hunterdon Art Museum is located in Clinton, has Art Zone, a room for kids to come in and make art. There’s a small suggested fee to enter the museum. HERE is their website. We have visited Hunterdon Art Museum recently. The fee is $7.00 for adults and $5.00 for students, kids 12 and under are free. The museum is right across from The Red Mill Museum (66), so it makes sense to visit them both on the same day. You can read more about our visit HERE.
50. Popcorn Zoo
Located in Forked River, NJ. I have heard of it before, but have never been there. Please keep in mind that these sort of wonderful places need donations. It is recommended by Gina K. Here is what she says: “This is great! There is also The Popcorn Zoo in Forked River, NJ (Ocean County). There is a small fee, but it was only a few dollars. I believe kids under 3 were free. Also you can purchase popcorn and feed to animals. And there is an on site animal hospital.” HERE is a bit more info about them.
51. Lenape Indian Village at Waterloo
Recommended by Eva. Sounds like a great historical place, it is located in North Jersey, Sussex county, and I believe are a part of Kittatinny Valley State Park. HERE and HERE are websites with more information.
52. Holmdel park
Located in Holmdel NJ. Recommended to you by Patrice J: “Holmdel park, Holmdel NJ. This is a free park, it has a free working farm to explore, playgrounds and hiking trails. Excellent day trip for family. Updated bathrooms. Please check this one out. Not to miss.”HERE is a website with the info for this beautiful park. From the park website: “Holmdel Park is one of Monmouth County’s most popular locations for active recreation and nature appreciation. Acquired by the Park System in 1962, nearly one million visitors enjoy this 565-acre site yearly. This park features Historic Longstreet Farm, the David C. Shaw Arboretum, fishing, picnic areas, four tennis courts, two playgrounds, ice skating, sledding and 10 miles of trails – including a 1/2 mile paved loop linking the Pond View and Forest Edge areas of the park with group picnic facilities and playgrounds.” This park is on the top of my list of places to visit as soon as possible!!
53. The Roebling Museum
The admission is not expenisve, $6.00 for adult, and kids under 12 are free. It is located just South of Trenton. You get to learn all about how the Brooklyn Bridge was built. HERE is their website. Recommended by Alison K.
54. Whippany Railway Museum
Whippany Railway Museum offers a piece of railroad history for anyone that loves trains. The general admission is $1.00 for kids and $0.50 cents for adults. On the few select days that they have a themed train ride, the admission price is considerably higher and includes the ride on the train. You can see their train excursion days and themes on their website, right HERE. On any regular day you can check out the museum building, a huge out door model railroad that operates. There is also a steam engine, and smaller buildings to explore throughout the grounds.
55. Wawayanda State Park
Recommended by Joyce B. :”Have been going to Wawayanda State Park for the last 30 years. They bring in sand from the Jersey Shore. Absolutely beautiful. They have fishing, boating, hiking besides the beach. So close to Warwick, NY that most people in NJ do not realize it is in NJ.”
Brandy N. : ” Wawayanda State Park is beautiful to visit. It’s located in Hewitt. There’s a gorgeous lake for swimming, fishing, and boating. You can bbq. Boats are available to rent or you can bring your own. Trails for biking and hiking. A small camp ground. Clean public restrooms/changing rooms.”
The fees for this state park are the same as for many others: $5.00 for NJ car, $10.00 for out of state during the weekdays, and $10.00 for NJ car, $20.00 for out of state during the weekend.
HERE is their website for more information.
56. Sunset Beach in Cape May
Recommended by Jacki F. : “Don’t forget to add Sunset Beach in Cape May. The bay and ocean meat and you can look for Cape May Diamonds while waiting for the sunset. This is free.”
They have an excellent website with a ton of info, click right HERE.
57. Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center
This place was submitted by Pamela W. While there is an admission price, the admission is free during the months of January, February and March. Last year, the Center received a grant from PNC that will allow them to have free admission on select three day weekends from July to December, so make sure to call them ahead to find out more about which days have the free admission. Also, if you choose to go on the day that the admission is full price, there is a coupon available on their website!
HERE is their website, and here is the info Pamela shared :
“Map GPS directions to 1100 Village Dr, Millville, NJ | 856-825-6800 or 800-998-4552
WheatonArts is a national cultural treasure. Located on 65 wooded acres in southern New Jersey, WheatonArts is home to the Museum of American Glass, the Creative Glass Center of America International Fellowship Program, the largest folklife center in the Garden State, a hot glass studio, several traditional craft studios, five museum stores, and a beautiful pond-side picnic grove – a true Pineland Sanctuary! In addition to daily glass blowing and artist demonstrations, WheatonArts features special exhibitions, programs, workshops, performances and several weekend festivals (including the award winning Festival of Fine Craft) throughout the year. PNC Arts Alive! presents Wheaton Wide Open Weekends! Admission will be free on selected 3-day weekends July-December. Enhanced, culturally diverse programming will include interactive artist demonstrations, performances, and family hands-on art activities. Visit wheatonarts.org or call 856-825-6800 for more information.”
58. InfoAge Science Center
I was contacted by Evan from InfoAge Science Center. Doesn’t this place sound fantastic. HERE is their website, and here is what Evan said: “Hello! I’m with the InfoAge Science Center, in Wall, New Jersey. We’re a history/tech museum located at 100-year-old National Historic Landmark. We’re open Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 1pm-5pm. Our suggested donation is just $5. InfoAge is a very unique place. The campus was build 100 years ago by
the Marconi company. It was a Navy/RCA laboratory during World War 1, a college between the wars, and then a secret Army Signal Corps electronics research laboratory from World War 2 until the 1990s. Now it’s an all-volunteer museum. There are exhibits of computer history, radio/TV history, amateur (ham) radio, shipwrecks, military electronics, and much more. This sounds like a great place to check out one of the days.
59. Paterson Museum
Recommended by Frank. This place does have a small fee of $2.00 for adults and the kids are free. Here is what Frank says about it: “Housed in the historic Thomas Rogers Locomotive Building, one of the four great Locomotive manufacturers of the 19th century, all of which were located in Paterson. It has two Paterson built locomotives on site, as well as the museum has several pieces of period textile technology which also includes the first use of punch cards. This museum is also the resting place of John Hollands first two submarines. The Holland 2 is the first submarine to be made of a metal hull and have a working torpedo system. The museum is located just down the street from the Passaic Falls Overlook Park, which has the 2nd largest waterfall to be found east of the Mississippi. It’s also fairly close to Lambert Castle and Dey Mansion in Totowa Boro, as well as the Haledon Museum.”
HERE is their website with lots of information for your visit.
60. Dorbrook Park
Dorbrook Park in Colts Neck NJ was recommended by Lexa, and it does have free admission. Here is what Lexa says: “Great park with a huge playground and a spray ground in the summer. Bring the kids scooters or bikes for the many paths also! Bathrooms are very clean.”
Website can be found HERE.
61. Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park
Doesn’t it sound like a lovely and an easy day trip. The admission to the park is free, the Paterson Museum admission is $2.00 a person, and the children are free. HERE is their website with more info. This place definitely looks like somewhere I’d like to visit.
62. Buttermilk Falls
Recommended by Cathy C. : ” Buttermilk falls, in Delaware water gap, Jersey side. Then cross on the little private toll bridge at Dingmans Ferry and see more falls in Pa.: Dingman’s Falls. Some climbing, and NJ falls dangerous if kids try to climb on them off the trail.” You can find more information about Buttermilk Falls HERE and HERE. While we have not been to Buttermilk Falls yet, every time we go camping in Dingman’s Ferry, we visit some of the other falls in that neighborhood. Over the years we have visited Raymondskill Falls, Dingmans Falls and Childs Falls. All were great. You can read about our camping trips HERE.
63. East Jersey Olde Towne Village
This place looks absolutely amazing. They have various events throughout the year. They also have tours of the village at 1:30 pm Tuesday through Friday and on Sunday. The admission is free. HERE is their website. Here is a bit of information from their site about them: “The Village is a collection of original, replica and reconstructed 18th and 19th century structures. While most of the buildings have been relocated to the site, others were constructed here. They represent the vernacular architecture typical of farm and merchant communities, once found in central New Jersey. The Village functions as an educational model, dedicated to teaching the history, traditions, folk arts and craftsmanship of the people who lived and worked throughout the region. It offers public programs in the highest standard of excellence, among them: educational workshops, seminars and lectures, in-service training for teachers, exhibitions, concerts, storytelling session, community gatherings and theme based projects.”
64. Washington’s Headquarters Museum
Located in Morristown, this museum is free to visit. It is open Wednesday-Sunday in the spring and summer. The hours change during the other seasons. More information can be found on their website.
65. The Red Mill Museum Village
If you visit The Red Mill during the weekday, your admission will be nominal: $5.00 for anyone 6 and up. During the weekend, it goes up a bit, but not by much. The place is very pretty, soaked in history and fun to explore. We have visited it recently, and it is lovely. You could combine the visit with Hunterdon Art Museum (#50), explore the Columbia Trail (#38), or just the lovely downtown Clinton township. Read more about our visit there. You can visit their website for more information.
66. Quiet Valley Historical Farm
I stumbled upon this place by accident, but it looks like a lot of fun. It is on my list for this summer. The admission price is probably the highest on this list: $10 for adults, and $5 for kids, but it just looks like so much fun! Check out their website for more information.
67. Branch Brook Park In Newark
We had the chance to visit this park during the cherry blossom season. Who knew that right here in NJ, you can find a park that has more cherry blossoms that Washington D.C.. The park is large, beautiful, has many paths, a lake, a playground, and some amazing architecture around it. Worth a visit, especially in April. See photos and read about our visit here.
68. Deep Cut Garden
Deep Cut Garden is a gem of a place located in Middletown NJ. It has an easy amount of space to cover in about an hour to an hour and a half. Deep Cut Garden looks like something that stepped out of a fairy tale, and is not in NJ at all. It makes for a beautiful way to spend an afternoon, and after, go to the beach. It is free to visit, and they offer some fun programs to visitors throughout the year. Read about our visit here.
The Waterloo Village is an open air historical museum. It is quiet, not crowded, and overall, a wonderful place to explore. The teens, and adults enjoyed our walk through the beautiful historic grounds. Right after, we took a drive up to High Point to swim in a lake on a hot day, and have a bit of lunch on the way.
Final Word Of Advice
Here is the final word of advice, because, you know, unsolicited advice is fun. Make sure to check your library. Many libraries offer museum passes that you can check out for free, or buy tickets at discounted prices. Make sure to check your town hall because they also sell tickets for many places at discounted prices. Don’t forget groupon and other such websites. Call the place you want to go to and find out if there are any discounts for the day you are going on. Get out there and have a great time!
Also, did you know about the Every Kid in The Park program? Fourth graders can get free admissions to the National Parks around the country.
A while back my husband got this book for us. It was right before the kids were born, and it has been a wonderful source of information and trip destinations in our area. I highly recommend it!
Also, please take a look at all the comments folks left for this list of free or inexpensive places for family fun in and around New Jersey! There are some excellent suggestions there, some of which I already explored, and some are on my list of places to visit. I do, periodically, go through the comments and pick places to add to the list or go to and then write about. I also am dedicated to updating this list a few times a year with new knowledge and experience, so check back soon. Thank you to everyone that took their time to share and leave a comment, I really appreciate all the input! Enjoy your travels! Mariya.