Looking for something to do with the kids? From nature centers, hiking, beaches and more we have compiled a list of our favorite fun FREE family outings. Luckily, here in NJ, there are tons of places and things to do where you can leave your wallet at home. Pack up the kids and get ready to explore our top picks for Fabulous and Free!
Get in Touch with Nature
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
The center covers 7,768 acres of varied habitats and is an important resting and feeding area for more than 244 species of birds; Fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, frogs and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants can be found on the refuge. Stop by the Visitor Center to get a map of their miles of trails and boardwalks to explore.
The Raptor Trust – Close to the Great Swamp, this is one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers located in central New Jersey. Open to the public seven days a week. You can view at close range the many hawks, eagles, falcons and owls that are permanent residents at the facility. There is no charge to visit, but a modest donation of $2.00 per person is encouraged.
Trailside Nature and Science Center – It may seem small, but it is chock full of displays, including live animals, dioramas, exhibits on Native Americans, the night sky and more. Located in Watchung Reservation, there are miles of trails, a deserted village, and a fabulous playground in the “Loop”.
Hawk Rise Sanctuary
A short, but beautiful hike along a converted landfill, marshlands and wooded boardwalk. Interpretative signs explain the history of Hawk Rise and provide a good lesson on landfills and how they can be returned to nature PLUS lots of birds.
The Scherman - Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary - Owned and operated by the New Jersey Audubon Society, it has 276 acres of woodland, field, and floodplain habitat that is home to over 200 species of wildlife over the course of a year. The Sanctuary is open to the public and offers a variety of programs throughout the year. Be sure to stop by the visitor’s center to see some live animals.
Explore the Vibrant Colors of a Garden
Freylinghausen Arboretum – Spend the day exploring the blooming landscaped gardens, including wetlands, native woodlands and the meadow. There is a Braille Garden for our sight-impaired friends.
Deep Cut Gardens – Visit an array of roses, a Japanese-themed garden that features a Bonsai collection, and a beautiful fish pond. They offer free schedule family activities year round.
Sayen House & Gardens
Situated in historic Hamilton Square, Sayen House and Gardens provide a welcome sanctuary for nature lovers, garden enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Spring unveils a magnificent display of color and beauty with more than 250,000 flowering bulbs, as well as dogwoods, heirloom azaleas and rhododendrons. Mother's Day marks the garden's annual Azalea Festival. Throughout the year annual and perennial displays fill the gardens with splendor, highlighting the many walking trails, fish ponds and gazebos that permeate the grounds.
Burn Some Energy on a Hike
Gateway National Recreation Area – Thousands of ocean and bay front areas for swimming, sailing, fishing, bird watching, and of course nature hikes. Fort Hancock and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse are also located here. It is free admission until Memorial Day.
Poricy Park Convervancy – You can explore over 250 acres of open space, wildlife and their habitats, dig in prehistoric fossil beds, and wander through the Historic Murray Farmhouse.
Liberty State Park
Enjoy miles of nature with the NYC skyline as the backdrop. Central Railroad Terminal of New Jersey AND Richard Sullivan Nature Area are adjacent and there are ample spots to play and picnic.
High Line - The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The walkway runs 1.45 miles long and is lined with flowers, bushes and benches. Take a stroll above the roof tops (and peek down to look into hidden courtyards - near 30th Street, one imaginative person created the 'Highline Zoo' – a series of animal sculptures). Children will love the bird’s eye view of Manhattan! Running from Gavensort to 30th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue, NYC – there are various entrance points
Fun, Sun, and Sand at the Beach
Here are the top 16 free beaches in NJ
- Atlantic City
- Barnegat Beach
- Cheesequake State Park, Matawan
- Corson’s Inlet State Park, Strathmere
- Ideal Beach, Middletown Township
- Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park
- Leonardo Beach, Middletown Township
- Lower Township Beach, Villas
- Ocean County Park, Lakewood
- Somers Point
- Strathmere, Upper Township
- Union Beach
- The Wildwoods Beaches