Whether you’re headed out for a couple’s getaway, family trip or solo jaunt, there’s plenty of fun, free things to do in New Jersey. From exploring arboretums to perusing art museums to visiting the lions at the zoo, there’s something for everyone in the Garden State, and you don’t have to spend a penny.
Head to Rutgers Gardens to be immersed in 180 acres of gardens, natural habitats and a student-run farm, or just go to pay a visit to the robust farmers market. Students, staff and faculty of Rutgers University study in the gardens, but they’re also open to the public to peruse for free.
Take a walk through the Helyar Woods or enjoy over a dozen gardens including an Asian garden with a bamboo grove, collections of holly bushes, an ornamental tree collection, rhododendron and azalea gardens and a succulent garden.
Check the website before you go to download children’s activities designed to get them involved and excited to learn about nature.
Located in Holmdel Park, the Historic Longstreet Farm is a living history farm featuring interpretive costumed reenactments of what life was like on a New Jersey farm in the 1890s. Visitors watch as the farmers go about their daily activities, including working in the fields and tending to the animals.
On site is a farmhouse and the original home of the Hylin family, owners of Longstreet Farm, now used as offices. The farm hosts events including demonstrations on blacksmithing, cooking, cider making, harvesting corn and even playing the accordion.
The Cape May County Park zoo is home to 550 animals representing 250 species, including African lions, a bald eagle, best friend alpacas Stanley and Norman, Marty and Walter the camels and multiple snow leopards. If you’re interested, you can pay for private animal encounters with giraffes and capybaras, or for private tours.
The park itself features an 18-hole disc golf course, carousel and bike paths that converge with the Middle Township Bike Path, which runs through Cape May on a former railroad line.
Both the park and zoo are open year-round, making a visit here one of the best free things to do in New Jersey.
Drumthwacket is the official home of the governor of New Jersey, and on Wednesdays, the property opens its doors for free public tours of the architecturally inspiring early 1800s building.
Tours run 45 minutes to one hour and take visitors through six of the residence’s rooms, which are used by the governor for meetings and receptions. Learn about the history of the building as well as the fine art and antiques throughout. Holiday tours are given in December. Registration is required for all tours.
The Princeton University Art Museum consists of various gallery spaces in downtown Princeton. Collections include works centered around African art, Chinese paintings, magazine photographs and sculpture. Be sure to check out some of the engaging children’s activities designed to immerse youngsters in the works featured in the various galleries.
A visit to the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the free things to do in New Jersey that’s great for the whole family.
Wall Township and Howell
The biggest attraction at Allaire State Park is the 19th century Historic Allaire Village, a living history museum centered around life in a once self-sufficient industrial era iron production town.
Buildings in the village include a general store, blacksmith shop, carpenter’s shop, church and a workers’ row house, now converted into the village’s visitor center and museum. The museum hosts exhibits on the iron industry and the original owner of the village’s iron business, James P. Allaire.
Allaire State Park is also home to the Pine Creek Railroad, which offers diesel narrow-gauge train rides in the park. Additionally, there are trails throughout the park for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking; a nature center, open seasonally; and great trout fishing and deer hunting.
Hammonton and Atlantic City
The Noyes Museum of Art of Stockton University has two sites: The Noyes Art Garage in Atlantic City and the Noyes Galleries at Kramer Hall in Hammonton. Exhibits at the museums change regularly, but include works of photography, ceramics, painting and sculpture by significant U.S. artists, New Jersey artists and Stockton University faculty and students.
Set on 127 acres along the Whippany River in the north-central part of the state, Frelinghuysen Arboretum is one of the best free things to do in New Jersey.
The property features a variety of habitats to explore including gardens, woodlands and meadows. During your visit you’ll find a rose garden, gazebo, water fountain features, a fern garden, vegetable garden, rock garden and even a labyrinth. It’s all set around the arboretum’s Colonial Revival mansion, which is the headquarters of the Morris County Park Commission. Deer hunting is allowed in fall and winter.
Sports fans should pay a visit to the All Sports Museum of Southern New Jersey, which pays tribute to athletes, coaches and sports announcers from southern New Jersey who have made an impact in the sports world. On display are vintage helmets, jerseys, baseball gloves and other sporting equipment, and a plethora of photographs celebrating athletic achievements.
Hall of Fame inductees have included pro baseball player Goose Goslin, tennis coach James Breech, Emmy Award-winning sports announcer Michael Barkann and bowler James Campani.
And for more things to do in the Northeast, check out Budget-Wise.
What are some of your favorite free things to do in New Jersey? Share them in the comments below.