Summer is the season for no-cost fun all across New Jersey. From fireworks and festivals to free outdoor movies, we’ve rounded up 100 family-friendly events to enjoy all summer long that won’t break the bank.
You can find even more cool seasonal activities and destinations in our Summer Fun Guide and Events Calendar. Have a fabulous (and free) summer, New Jersey!
Many events in this listing occur on multiple dates, so be sure to read through the entire description. We’ve also rounded up a number of anytime activities your family can try all season long.
Free Things To Do in July 2017
See August and September Events | See Anytime Events
Saturday, July 1 – Sunday, July 2 Get free admission to the Morris Museum, Newark Museum, Montclair Art Museum and Liberty Science Center with your Bank of America card.
Get digging and see what you find. Photo courtesy of Liberty Science Center
Saturday, July 1 – Monday, September 4 While you’re at the Liberty Science Center, check out Jack Horner’s Dino Dig, named for the paleontologist who inspired Jurassic Park, where dino lovers can dig through 35 tons of sand looking for fossils.
Saturdays, July 1 onward Keep cool the first Saturday in every month at the Freehold Raceway Mall at the Kids Club: Powered by Nat Geo Kids, with fun activities, free carousel rides, and prize drawings.
Saturdays, July 1 – September 2 Visit Cape May Point State Park for a nautical-themed Lighthouse Storytime on Saturday morning.
Saturday, July 1 – Sunday, July 2 Add to your comic book fan's collection at the Sports Card, Toys, Comics and Collectibles Show at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
Monday, July 3 – Saturday, July 8 Swing by the Califon Fireman’s Carnival. Admission is free, and there will be fireworks on opening and closing nights.
Catch the Kiddie Beach Show on Monday nights at Jenkinson's. Photo courtesy of Jenskinson's Boardwalk.
Mondays, July 3 – August 28 Head over to Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant every Monday night for the Kiddie Beach Show, featuring a lineup of comedy and magic shows.
July 4 Oceanfest in Long Branch brings together all the sights, sounds, and sensations of the summer with a street fair, live music, costumed characters, a balloon artist, and fire eater. Stick around for the fireworks.
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Summit's Fourth of July celebration includes the Children's Decorated Bicycle Parade. Photo courtesy of Summit Community Programs.
July 4 Cheer for the red, white, and blue at one of the awesome fireworks displays happening all around NJ.
Tuesdays, July 4 onward Shop while your little one enjoys Weekly Story Time at Pottery Barn Kids every Tuesday morning.
Tuesdays, July 4 – August 29 Enjoy the sweet sounds of music during Westfield’s Annual Downtown Jazz Festival, every Tuesday night in July and August.
Wednesdays, July 5 onward Kids are encouraged to get creative at the New Jersey Museum’s Summer Maker Space program every Wednesday.
Wednesdays, July 5 – August 9 Cool off with Mickey and friends at the Disney Store’s Summer Play Days, with games, art, and storytime.
Wednesday, July 5 Nothing says summer like a free movie matinee. Check out The Peanuts Movie at your local Bow-Tie Cinemas or The Incredibles at State Theatre of NJ.
Wednesday, July 5 Swap popcorn for ice cream while you watch Beauty and the Beast at Applegate Farm’s Family Fun Night. Come early for the DJ and magic show.
Wednesdays, July 5 – August 30 The Cape May Lighthouse becomes a beacon of fun on Wednesday nights with kid-friendly activities, performers, and entertainers at the base of the lighthouse.
Wednesday, July 5 Magician Steve Woyce continues to wow kids all across the state with his Magic of Sharks show. Check him out at the Cranford Public Library.
Make a tie-dye shirt at the Riverdale Public Library. Photo by Jim Miner/CC BY 2.0
Wednesday, July 5 Bring something white (a T-shirt, socks, or bandana) and Make It Better With Tie-Dye at the Riverdale Public Library.
Thursdays through July 20 Head to downtown Glassboro Thursday nights for Summerfest. There will be live entertainment and craft activities for kids of all ages and abilities, plus local craft beers and wine for the parents.
Thursdays, July 6 – August 31 Enjoy free access to one of our favorite Jersey Shore beaches, Margate Beach, on Thrilling Thursdays. After a day in the sun, watch a family-friendly movie under the stars.
Friday, July 7 Discover the magic of fireflies at Duke Farms' Firefly Festival. Walk the 1.5 miles of trails to see fireflies in action, learn how they communicate, and find out how to build a home for fireflies in your own backyard.
Fridays, July 7 onward Stop by the Tuplehaking Nature Center for First Friday Storytime to listen to tales about wildlife and history.
Fridays through September 1 Experience a different kind of happy hour Friday nights at Donaldson Farm's Summer Nights. Check out a new performer each week plus lawn games and a sprinkler for kids to cool off.
Friday, July 7 – Sunday, July 9 Take in the aroma and taste of delicious ribs, chicken, and pork at the New Jersey State Barbecue Championship in Wildwoods.
Friday July 7 Cap off a fun day down the shore with a showing of Pete’s Dragon under the stars in Sea Isle City.
Friday, July 7 Mr. Joe from the Morris Museum Astronomical Society visits the Riverdale Library with his special telescope so kids can look at the sun.
Rock out at Maplewoodstock in Memorial Park. Photo courtesy of Maplewoodstock.
Saturday, July 8 – Sunday, July 9 Rock out at Maplewoodstock. Check out the Kids Zone for bouncy rides, face painting, arts and crafts, and ice cream.
Wednesdays and Saturdays, July 8 – August 30. Play it cool inside the Garden State Plaza at the Mad Science Summer Camp.
Saturday, July 8 If you love all things blueberry, don't miss the Blueberry Festival at Mood's Farm Market.
Saturday, July 8 Cool off at the Count Basie Theater with a free matinee of Despicable Me.
July 8 Belmar’s Movies on the Beach series kicks off with kid-favorite The Secret Life of Pets.
July 8 Take your little pirates to Elysian Park in Hoboken for a swashbuckling performance where they can hunt for treasure and walk the plank.
Mondays, July 10 – August 21 Bring a beach chair or blanket for a Bonfire on the Beach at Seaside Heights, held every Monday night.
Tuesdays July 11, 25, August 8 Pack a picnic lunch and head to downtown Morristown on Tuesday for Music Beyond Borders, a free lunchtime world music concert series.
Tuesday, July 11 Get your kids excited for their summer reading list when the Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip RV sets up camp outside Watchung Booksellers.
Get creative at the NJ Sandcastle Contest in Belmar. Photo courtesy of Belmar Tourism.
Wednesday, July 12 Who will create the coolest sandcastle? Find out at Belmar's New Jersey Sandcastle Contest.
Wednesday, July 12 Enjoy a sweet midweek treat with Ridgewood’s Movies in the Park's screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Wednesday, July 12 Put on your PJs and head to LBI's Bayview Park for storytime, songs, crafts, and a jammin’ pajama party.
Thursday, July 13 Catch a screening of Finding Dory at Rahway's Big Thursday Nights, offering a host of family friendly entertainment.
RELATED: Free Outdoor Summer Movies for NJ Families
Relax on the lawn and listen to great music at METC. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts
Friday, July 14 Bring a blanket and picnic dinner for a relaxing evening of music on the lawn of the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts.
Friday, July 14 Finding Dory swims over to Point Pleasant for a free screening on the beach at Jenkinson’s.
Friday, July 14 Meet on the Village Green in Scotch Plains for a Friday night sing-along with Sing.
Friday, July 14 Kick off your beach weekend with a sunset screening of Trolls in Wildwood.
Friday, July 14 Bring a non-perishable food item to donate as entrance fee for the Howell's Movies in the Park screening of Beauty and the Beast.
Saturday, July 15 Washington Street in Toms River will be closed to traffic for Summer in the Streets!, with live music, kids games, inflatable rides, face painting, and sand art.
Saturday, July 15 Take advantage of everything the Hoboken waterfront has to offer, including free boat rides, at City of Water Day.
Saturday, July 15 Babies, toddlers and preschoolers are invited to the New Jersey State Museum’s Small Explorer Series for easygoing activities exploring a different theme through stories. Held on the third Saturday of the month.
Sunday, July 16 Buy one cone, get one free at Carvel in honor of National Ice Cream Day!
Monday, July 17 A kids' movie in a theater for free? Yup! Mayo Performing Arts Center kicks off its summer movie series with The Secret Life of Pets.
Doktor Kaboom brings his science comedy show to Grunin Center for the Arts. Photo by Scott Suchman courtesy of Shaw Entertainment Group.
Tuesday, July 18 Doktor Kaboom's exciting experiments will have kids bubbling with laughter at the Grunin Center for the Arts.
Wednesday, July 19 Can’t make it down the shore this summer? Pack your beach bag for an urban beach party at the Newport Green Playground.
Wednesday, July 19 Get creative at South Orange's Summer Nights on Wednesdays with Art in the Park, featuring community-themed projects, followed by free summer concerts on the lawn.
Thursday, July 20 Meet the Caped Crusader before a screening of The LEGO Batman Movie at Summit's Screen on the Green.
Friday, July 21 The Montclair Film Festival will include an outdoor screening of Finding Dory. Come early for a pre-shoe performance from kid-friendly band, Parents Who Rock: The No Rehearsals.
Friday, July 21 Put on your PJs for Bridgewater’s Drive-In screening of Trolls.
Friday, July 21 – Sunday, July 23 See all that the YMCA has to offer when the Elizabeth, Rahway, and Union branches open their doors for summer-themed activities, sports, games, swimming, and art and crafts.
Friday, July 21 Plainsboro pulls out all the stops for Summer Blast with a screening of The Secret Life of Pets plus free snacks and drinks, live music, bouncy inflatables, games, face painting, and more.
Saturday, July 22 – Sunday, July 23 Head to the Oasis Family Farm’s Sweet Corn Festival for wagon rides, sand art, craft activities, and a corn-on-the-cob eating contest, as well as fresh corn delicacies.
Celebrate the culture of Oaxaca, Mexico, in New Brunswick. Photo courtesy of New Brunswick Arts.
Sunday, July 23 Boyd Park in New Brunswick plays host to Hub City Sounds: Guelaguetza, a colorful celebration of the food, music, and culture of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Sunday, July 23 Check out The Boy Band Project, covering the hit songs of popular groups during the Somerset Concert Series.
Monday, July 24 Celebrate Christmas in July at Somers Point. Take part in Christmas carol sing-a-longs and meet your favorite cold-weather pals, Olaf and Frosty the Snowman.
Wednesday, July 26 Bubble Trouble at the Grunin Center for the Arts will score you major cool-mom points.
Monday, July 31 – Friday, August 4 Take a bite out of summer as Jenkinson’s Boardwalk celebrates Shark Week.
A version of this article first published in 2013, but it is updated and revised each year.
Top photo: Duke Farms Firefly Festival. Courtesy of Duke Farms.