Carl Craft

Carl Craft

Carl Craft

DOYLESTOWN, PA - JULY 18: Max Derham (L), 5, Drew Goga (C), 9, and Grayson Goga, 6, exit Kid's Castle at Central Park Playground. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

For the price of a car ride, these day trips are a great way to spend family time and not break your budget.

Pack a lunch and you can skip the awful fast food and don’t have to hear them ask for a “happy meal toy” that’s just gonna break in 3 minutes and collect plastic junk in the bottom of your car.

There’s playgrounds, spray grounds, a zoo, a castle and a bunch of parks.  I’d say, “Just go to the beach” but we all know that adults have to pay for beach access.  Personally, I find the rental of a beach locker and a beach badge to be totally worth it for me and the kids, but this post is about “free”.

So have a look and let me know if you have something to add.

One thing to note: these destinations are free but they do accept donations, so heads up on that.


  • The Doylestown Kids Castle

    When I first heard about driving into Pennsylvania to go to a playground I thought everyone had gone full on crazy.  Boy was I wrong!

    This kids playground is freaking awesome!  It’s a three-story place that will capture your kids imaginations for hours.  If your kids are under 12, they’re in the prime zone for imagination play at the Kids Castle.  Bring water, snacks, and lunch.  Take a break, eat in your car or at a picnic table nearby and then go back to playing.  It’s pretty sick.  One of those, “I wish this place existed when I was a kid” type places.

    Here’s a map.

  • Cape May Zoo

    Down there at the bottom of the Garden State Parkway is the Cape May Zoo!

    This destination has free admission, but they do accept donations.

    You’ll find plenty of zoo action at the Cape May Zoo.  Alpacas to Snow Leopards and quite a bit more.  Plus the Cape May Zoo is in the Cape May Park and there’s play grounds and picnic tables and so forth there.


  • Manasquan Reservoir Nature Center

    The Manasquan Reservoir nature center is cool if your kids are really young.  Not gonna lie, it’s a toddlers type place.

    You’ll find a small collection of amphibians and a few fish tanks along with a nature program.  There’s information about conservation and protecting the environment and there’s a small amphitheater as well.

    Outside the nature center are some cool trails and then there’s the full 5 mile trail that goes around the entire reservoir.

  • Spray Parks

    In the hot summer months, sometimes a trip to the spray park is all that everyone needs to calm the you-know-what-down… chill in the spray and cool down.

    We’re pretty lucky that there’s a few decent ones that you can bring the kids to around here.

    There’s the spray park in Colts Neck that got a bit of a makeover a few years ago.

    There’s the one in Jackson at the Jackson justice complex.

    There’s a splash park in Manchester township too.

  • Sandy Hook

    Believe it or not there’s no parking or admission charge outside of the traditional summer months at Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

    However, even in the summer months when a parking pass is a whopping twenty bucks you’ll find a few days that are free as well.  Like, August 4th is a day of free parking here because it’s the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act which was passed in 2020.


  • Jackson Jungle

    The Jackson Jungle is a very cool playground that they made at the Jackson “justice complex”.

    The playground is a cool maze-like structure with slides and stairs and monkey-bars and a separate spot for younger kids.  It’s a great place for a game of tag or hide-and-go-seek.

    There’s also a short nature trail.

    There’s also a library and a spray park (for little kids).  The library is a nice touch!

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