New Jersey offers endless opportunities for fun but sometimes that fun can be costly. Museum admission prices can add up and even outdoor activities can put a dent in your wallet. Certain state parks and beaches charge small fees and, while it’s worth it, sometimes you want to spend less. How does free sound? Good to me! Here are 10 free outdoor activities to enjoy in New Jersey:
1. Navesink Twin Lights
This architecturally impressive lighthouse is also home to a free museum. Learn about local history and discover the birthplace of the Pledge of Allegiance. Climb the towers and enjoy spectacular panoramic views or simply stroll the grounds and take in the scenery. This spot was once known as the best and brightest lighthouse in America; now non-operational, it still retains its beauty. Visit Wednesday-Sunday at 2 Light House Road, Highlands.
2. Cape May County Park & Zoo
An area favorite, this free zoo is home to over 550 animals and 250 species. Parking is also free and there are plenty of play areas for children. Strollers, wheelchairs and motorized scooters are available for rental. For a small fee, kids can enjoy the train, carousel and rock wall. Visit them daily at 707 N. Rt. 9, Cape May Court House.
3. Howell Living History Farm
This working farm recreates rural life in New Jersey circa the year 1900. Expect authentic processes and practices that will take you back in time. Best of all, the farm is very interactive. Help plant, cultivate and harvest crops, care for animals, sweep the barn or make soap, butter and ice cream. Visit on weekends for events like sheep shearing and potato planting. You'll find the farm at 70 Woodens Lane, Lambertville.
4. Marine Mammal Stranding Center
This marine life rescue center along the shore has responded to over 4,800 strandings of whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles that have washed ashore over the years. Their mission is to "Rescue, Rehabilitate, Release, Preserve." Visits are free and educational. Enjoy the Sea Life Center with its "Please Touch" displays and gift shop or stop by the outdoor observation tank in summer months. Visit at 3625 Brigantine Boulevard, Brigantine.
5. Atlantic City Beaches
Atlantic City may be going through a rough patch with several casinos closing but it's still a wonderful place to be. Grab a meal at a great restaurant, try your luck on the slots, take in a show or swim in the fantastic free beaches. Or, enjoy ocean views from the sand inside the Playground Pier. It's incredibly relaxing and always the perfect temperature.
6. Frelinghuysen Arboretum
This 127-acre arboretum is open daily, free of charge. Themed gardens highlight everything from summer shrubs to shade trees. For a small fee, your family can pick up a discovery backpack or take part in a springtime scavenger hunt (with prizes). Visit the arboretum at 353 East Hanover Ave.
7. Hawk Rise Sanctuary
Linden is often known as industrial town off the New Jersey Turnpike but it isn't all refineries. This free to visit nature sanctuary offers hiking trails, geocaching and beautiful views. Find this urban oasis at
1811 Lower Road, Linden.
8. The Raptor Trust
The Raptor Trust is one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States and it is open to the public daily during daylight hours. View hawks, eagles, falcons and owls up close and learn all about these incredible birds. Find them at 1390 White Bridge Road, Millington and donate if you can.
9. Fort Hancock
This beachfront former military base now serves as an open air museum complete with gun batteries and barracks. It is a wonderful place to walk around and part of the National Park System. They also offer free events, like the upcoming Arbor Day Tree walk (4/28 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM). You'll find Fort Hancock at the northern end of Sandy Hook.
10. Funny Farm Rescue
This 15-acre sanctuary is home to around 150 farm and domestic animals. While the sanctuary operates 24/7, it is open to visitors on Tuesdays-Sundays from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.. Enjoy feedings at 8:00 and 3:30. They also offer fun, family friendly events like a fall festival with hayrides and face painting. Visit at 6908 Railroad Blvd., Mays Landing.