Free Things to Do in New Jersey

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5 Free Things to Do in New Jersey for Families on a Budget

You may be looking for ways to be more budget-savvy as a family, but that doesn't mean you have to stay at home or say "no" to playdate invitations. New Jersey has tons of free activities for the fun-loving family, whether you're museum enthusiasts, cinephiles, animal lovers or just ready for an adventure.

Enjoy the Big Screen Under the Stars

For a summer twist on a classic movie night, pack a picnic basket and take your family to one of New Jersey's several free outdoor movie screenings. Jenkinson's Boardwalk (300 Ocean Ave., Point Pleasant Beach, NJ) screens kid-friendly movies weekly in the summer, from animated new releases to time-honored classics. In Hoboken, weekly movies are shown at the Pier A Park (100 Sinatra Dr., Hoboken, NJ), which offers a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline. Bonus: Children's activities are offered on select dates, so get there early to take advantage of even more free fun.

Chances are, there's a free outdoor movie series in a park near you, no matter what part of the state you're in. Most movies start at or around sunset. Check your county's website to find a location convenient to you. Pass the popcorn, please!

Lions, Tiger, and Bears, Oh My!

You might be surprised that a zoo with around 500 animals and 85 acres of land is totally free for the public, but in this case, it's not too good to be true. Cape May County Park & Zoo (707 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ) has an eclectic ensemble of animals, like stately African lions, playful river otters, inquisitive lemurs and long-necked giraffes. The park is open year-round and is completely free, making it an easy activity choice whether you have only a couple hours or you want to spend the whole day there. Parking is free as well.

Light Up Your Day, Twice

Ever seen two lighthouses just a few hundred feet apart from each other? The Twin Lights Historic Site (2 Light House Rd., Highlands, NJ) is a National Historic Landmark with two lighthouses, each featuring its own unique light pattern to flash out to sea. Kids will love exploring the castle-like towers and climbing to the top for sweeping views of the area. On a clear day, you might even catch a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline.

Under the Boardwalk

Sure, strolling the boardwalk with your family is a tried-and-true free summer activity (unless you are persuaded to buy some saltwater taffy, of course). This year, pair the boardwalk stroll with a look back at history via the Atlantic City Experience (1 N. Tennessee Ave., Atlantic City, NJ). Housed inside the Atlantic City Free Public Library, this exhibit shows off everything that makes Atlantic City unique and includes items from the Atlantic City Heritage Collections. Learn about the history of the Miss America Pageant, how saltwater taffy got its name, and just what a jitney is. Your kids will leave with a broader vision of the boardwalk beyond its bells and whistles, and you'll be proud that you can now explain what the Boardwalk in Monopoly has to do with the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

Be Old McDonald for a Day

You can bet the farm that kids will love the Howell Living History Farm (70 Woodens Ln., Lambertville, NJ), even if they're normally city slickers. Established in the early 1900s, this farm features tons of hands-on activities, like visiting the hen house or exploring the blacksmith area. And of course, don't forget to visit with any farm animals you meet along the way! This working farm is open year-round. Special activities and programs take place often, so check the farm's website before visiting.