Family Fun in and around NJ

Free and Almost Free Places For Family Fun in New Jersey And The Surrounding States
2014

 

Summer is here, and soon the kids will be done with school.  Every summer I love having a bucket list: a list of places I want to visit with the kids before the summer ends.  This year, I am going to help you with your bucket list.  Here are some of the amazing places in New Jersey area that the family can go for free, or at a very small cost.  NJ and the surrounding states are abound with some wonderful places for families to have a break from the everyday routine.  These are but a few.  Each place is amazing and fun, definitely worth a visit!

First here are the places with, to the best of my knowledge, no admission fee at all.

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 CastleDoylestown 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. Ponderosa Park Spray GroundLocated on Cooper Road in Scotch Plains, NJ.  It is a spray ground.  There is a playground, and a grass are for parents to sit on while the kids splash.  Make sure to wear water shoes, as the rubber gets hot in the summer.  It is a great place to spend the afternoon.  The best part is that the spray ground is free.  To read more about our visit there, click HERE.
4. Environmental Education CenterLocated 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.  Take a look at our visit HERE, and their website with directions HERE.

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.

5. Trailside Nature CenterWatchung NJ.  This place is very similar to the center in Lord Stirling.  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.  Read more about it HERE.
6. Duke FarmsLocated in Hillsborough Township, NJ.  It is a gem of a place.  The admission is free.  You can also rent bikes for free for teens and adults, just bring a helmet. 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, but do come and explore this amazing place.  Read about our experience HERE, and visit their website HERE.

7. Raptor Trust

Raptor Trust 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, but it was quite a few years ago.  It has always been an interesting experience.  You can find out more about them, including hours and directions HERE.

8. Ringing Rocks ParkRinging 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.
9.  Reeves Reed ArboretumThis was our most recent family outing.  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.  I am going to write about our visit there very soon, in the meantime take a look at their website right HERE.  They also offer classes, camp, and workshops there, as well as a concert series.

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.

10.  NJ State Parks: Spruce RunThis is such a wide statement.  NJ has so many amazing and beautiful state parks.  Each with something great to offer.  Below are 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.  Read more about our visit there HERE.
11.  High PointHigh 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.  You can read more about our visit HERE.
12.  Sandy Hook BeachNJ is full of lovely beaches.  Sandy Hook is a state 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, read more about it 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.
13.  NJ Botanical GardenLocated 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 $10.00 for out of state.  Read about our visit HERE, and visit the NJBG website HERE.

The following places have days with either free admission or highly discounted admission prices, so make sure to pay attention to dates and times.

14.  Morris MuseumMorris 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.
15.  Zimmerli Museum Of ArtIn 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.

A few places that are on my list to visit. These are also free, or very low cost, or they offer free days for families.

16.  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!   There is an admission fee.  It is a very small admission fee: $5.00 for adults, kids 4 to 14 are only $2.00, and children under four are free.  As everything else, they have a website with directions, hours, tours and prices.  Take a look at their website HERE.

17.  Cape May Zoo

I have heard so many wonderful things about this zoo.  It is quite far from us, but I think this year 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.

18.  Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park, Edison

This museum was recently renovated. I think it will be an interesting field trip for the kids during the summer.    See their website HERE with all the visitor information.   The admission is free, but there is a suggested donation.

19.  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 $7.00.  They have a great website with so much information before you head there, I highly recommend you take a look HERE.

20.  Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

We have visited here before, but it was many years ago, and I think we are due for a repeat visit.  Take a look at what it’s all about HERE.

It has been brought to my attention that # 4, 7, and 20 are all very close to each other and go together!

21.  Princeton Campus and Princeton University Art Museum

I have wanted to go to the Princeton University Art Museum for a while now.  Hopefully this summer will be the summer that we will make it there, aside from the museum there are many other places that I would like to explore in Princeton.  There is a free admission to the museum. HERE is their website.

22.  Twin Lights Light House

We pass it by everytime we make our way to Sandy Hook.  This year 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.


Places Recommended By Our Readers

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.  I am going to do my best and find a few places that will make a great addition to this list.  Please feel free to recommend any place that is free or inexpensive in NJ or the surrounding states, within driving distance.

22.  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.

23.  Metuchen’s Junebug Artfest

Brought to my attention by Linda L.  Linda, I am happy to put the Metuchen’s Junebug Artfest on the list!   It sounds wonderful!  Every Friday night in June, 6-10pm!   Lots of art-related things, interactive things for the whole family!  Check out their website HERE for complete program and weekly performance schedule.
Check FB page Junebug Artfest for updated photos and comments!

24.  Bridgeton Hall of Fame All Sports Museum

If sports are your thing, head down to Brigeton Hall of Fame All Sports Museum.  Located in Cumberland County.  Read more about them HERE.

25.  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.

26.  Cumberland County Prehistorical 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 Prehistorical 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.

27.  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.

28.  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 this year.

29.  Emery’s Berry Farm

Recommended by Lori M., this great farm grows organic blueberries and is located in New Egypt.  You do have to pay for the blueberries that you pick.  HERE is their website.  Here is what Lori shared about it:

“There is a great organic blueberry farm called Emery’s in New Egypt, NJ. We took my 89 year old mother in law there who lived on a farm when she was young in Italy and she loved it. My niece who was 7 had a great time too. In the fall they do hayrides to the pumpkin fields. You pay for your blueberries, which are great!”

30.  New Jersey State Museum

I can’t believe I forgot the NJ State Museum.  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.  HERE is thier website with all the information.

31.  Estell Manor Park

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.

32. Rankokus Indian Reservation. 

Located in South Jersey, it looks amazing.  Recommended by Barbara S.  You can find their website HERE, with upcoming events and museum opening times.

33. 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.

34. The Barnegat Lighthouse

The Barnegat Lighthouse was recommended by Kathy L. Kathy says: “Admission is free, gorgeous scenery, you can walk on the beach. Even has a gift shop, snack place and picnic areas.”  More info HERE.

35. The Hunterdon Art Museum

The Hunterdon Art Museum is recommended by Dave.  It is located in Clinton, has ArtZone, a room for kids to come in and make art. There’s a small suggested fee to enter the museum. They also now have a free art-making program (the Katherine Trubek Sundays on the Terrace) on most Sunday afternoons on the terrace where kids and families can participate in art projects outside.  HERE is their website.  It is most definitely a place I would like to visit.  Thank you, Dave.

36.  Popcorn Zoo

Located in Forked River, NJ.  I have heard of it before, but have never been there.  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. The only downfall is be prepared to not want to use bathrooms.” HERE is a bit more info about them.

37.  Waterloo Village and the Lenape Indian Village at Waterloo

Recommended by Eva.  Sounds like a great historical place, it is located in North Jersey, Sussex county.  HERE is a website about them and HERE is their website.

38. Holmdel park

Located in Holmdel NJ.   Recommended to you by Patrice J: “Holmdel park,  Holmdel NJ.  Free park.  Free working farm.  Free playgrounds.  Free hiking trails.  Excellent day trip for family.  Updated bathrooms. Please check this one out.   Not to miss.”  While I couldn’t find an official website, I found this HERE with some information. Eva was kind enough to provide the address for the farm located there: Don’t forget the Longstreet Farm in Holmdel!  50 Longstreet Rd, Holmdel, NJ  (732) 946-3758

39. 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.

Information Courtesy of http://www.happyfamilyart.com/Free-Places-For-Family-Fun-NJ.html


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