Free Things to do in NJ This Summer

Map of New Jersey CountiesThe summer travel season officially begins Memorial Day weekend, but because of high gas prices and tighter budgets, many families are being forced to rethink their vacation plans.  In an attempt to save money, many families are considering staying closer to home which would eliminate expensive airfare, baggage fees, and hotel fees.

Are you looking for fun, free ideas that are close to home? New Jersey offers many attractions that fit the bill. I have compiled a list of some wonderful free things to do in New Jersey this summer.

Outdoor Activities

Atlantic City Boardwalk

Atlantic City Boardwalk - Free things to do in NJ this summer

The Atlantic City Boardwalk is the perfect place to go for a stroll. Download their  Atlantic City Boardwalk Walking Tour and learn more about the heart soul and backbone of Atlantic City. It’s also a great place for bicycle riding.

Cape May County Park Zoo

Cape May County Park and Zoo
[Photo Credit]

The Cape May County Park Zoo is a medium sized zoo housed on 85 acres.  It is located in Cape May, NJ.  It features over 200 species including monkeys, tigers, bobcats, leopards, prairie dogs, raccoons, exotic birds, and reptiles.  There is a picnic area on the premises as well as a playground.  Admission is free, however, donations are greatly appreciated.

Cattus Island County Park

Native Reptile Display at the Cooper Environmental Center in Cattus Island County Park in Toms River, New Jersey, USA

Cattus Island County Park is housed on approximately 530 acres of land in Toms River, NJ.  It’s not a real island, however, it features walking trails, a butterfly garden, picnic areas, a playground and an environmental center.

Cohanzick Zoo

The Cohanzick Zoo, which was established in 1934, is considered to be New Jersey’s first zoo.  It is somewhat small.  It sits on 15 acres of land and is home to approximately 100 animals.

Ponderosa Farm Park Sprinklers

Ponderosa Park Sprinkler Park This little gem opened in 2012 and is a wonderful place to bring the kids during the summer.  Best of all it’s 100% free!

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

The Great Swamp is not all swamp land.  Instead, it is a mix of meadows, marshes, and woods.  It is home to more that 200 different wildlife species.  It is a great destination for nature lovers and photographers.

You may also like:  Family Fun At Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark

Great Falls in Paterson

Great Falls in Paterson New Jersey

The great falls in Paterson are one of New Jerseys hidden wonders.  It’s not often you find waterfalls right in the midst of a city.  These 77-foot-high falls are the second highest falls in the Northeast.

Howell Living History Farm

The Hopewell Living Farm is a real working farm that portrays how a farm would operate in the early 1900’s.  The staff wears period clothing as they demonstrate how to work on a farm was done in that era.  Admission is free, however, there is a small fee for some activities.

Johnson Park Zoo
Johnson park zoo is really a small petting farm housed within Johnson Park in Piscataway, NJ.  It is open daily from dusk until dawn and admission is Free.

Thompson Park Zoo
Thompson Park Zoo is another small petting farm/zoo.  It is housed within Thompson Park. It is open from sunrise until sunset, all year long and admission is free.

New Jersey Shore


The New Jersey Shore is a great place to go for a day trip.  While most of the beaches charge a fee, Wildwood, North Wildwood and Atlantic City are FREE!


Princeton University Art Museum

Princeton University Art Museum

photo credit

The Princeton University Zoo is located on the campus of Princeton University.  They have a large collection that dates back 128 years.  Admission is free.

Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey

The Aviation Hall of Fame is a small museum that is jam packed with all types of air and space artifacts, including model airplanes.

State Museum

The New Jersey State Museum is comprised of four museums. Its features include Archaeology/Ethnology, Cultural History; Fine Art; and Natural History.  The museum also houses an 150 seat planetarium.

Heritage Glass Museum

The Heritage Glass Museum has taken on the task of preserving and promoting the legacy of South Jersey’s glass-making history.

I am hoping that this list of free things to do in New Jersey is helpful.  If you know of any more please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Free things to do in NJ

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About the author


Diane is a New Jersey-based writer and blogger. She is a wife and the mom of a 13-year old boy. Through her blog, she wants to inspire moms to find Zen in their lives while offering practical tips and other valuable information to help families deal with everyday issues. Contact her at


    • Thanks. I’m sure they’ll find it helpful. I will also be posting links to staycation ideas all around the country.

  • Great list! We love the Cohanzick and Cape May Zoos! And of course the shore! Glad to see they all made the list! (-:

  • Hi! Fellow Year of the Staycation blogger here, checking out all the cool places in the US and wishing I had buckets of money to travel to all of them!!

    I have been to Atlantic City and agree with the Boardwalk… so much fun and there was a great little art museum we went to…it’s been 12 or so years ago, but really enjoyed it. Good times!

    • Yes, the Atlantic city Boardwalk is always a lot of fun. I love to just go out there and people watch! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Good list but nothing really in northern/ northwestern NJ. Too far to drive to get to most of this list.

  • Hey, It’s always nice to see what free things are available in other communities. My family and I are always looking for free or cheap things to do here in Madison.

    I thought our free zoo was unique but it’s cool that you also have a free zoo in New Jersey!

  • Great list! Glad you included the Newark Museum. As a lifelong resident, we often take advantage of it, and the “suggested donation” is just that, a suggestion. You can walk in, as you can to any federally funded museum, and suggest your own donation, such as nothing (do this in NYC too).
    Went to Howell Living History Farm this past Saturday and it was wonderful! The kids had a blast and we spent not a dime.

    • Glad you liked the list. I’m always on the lookout for free and low cost activities here in NJ and NY. We haven’t been to Howell Farm yet but plan to visit this summer.

  • Oh, also, it’s not free, but not terrible either. The Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange is $10 for adults, $7 for kids and seniors, under 2 are free.

    • I just checked the Turtle Back Zoo’s website and see that they are offering free admission this Saturday! Woot!

  • Thanks for the nice information.
    – Want to mention “Assunpink Lake” which is surrounded by a wildlife management area. Two other smaller lakes “Stone Tavern Lake” and “Rising Sun Lake” are nearby. Great location for fishing enthusiasts.
    – Another great place nearby is “Mercer County Park”, which has over 2,500 acres and contains a nice lake too.
    Lastly want to point out a small correction. Under the description of Princeton University Arts Museum you have written “Princeton University Zoo is located on the campus of Princeton University”.

  • How about if you live in sussex nj up here there is not that much to do need more free stuff up this way

Free Things to do in NJ This Summer

by Diane time to read: 3 min