It’s fun to get out of the house and enjoy what your area has to offer, but we don’t always want to spend money to enjoy such experiences. Thankfully, Bridgewater, New Jersey, and its surrounding areas have lots of exciting things to do that are also free. Here are seven free, nearby places worth checking out with the family or on your own.
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Image via Flickr by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region
Covering more than 7,600 acres of land, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors plenty to see and explore. The refuge is free to enter and is open daily from dawn until dusk throughout the year. You can reach the main entrance to the refuge from New Vernon Road, about 18 miles from Bridgewater. The Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center on Pleasant Plains Road is a great place to start if you’ve never been to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge before. Pick up a map, decide where you want to explore, and check out the various programs and learning opportunities the refuge offers.
If you’re interested in birds, the Great Swamp Refuge is known for sightings of a wide range of waterfowl species including the American black duck, American wigeon, mallard, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern pintail, northern shoveler, Canada goose, hooded merganser, gadwall, and the bufflehead. There are also about 39 species of mammals who make their homes at the refuge as well.
Walk along the trails, look for frogs in the marshes, and bring your binoculars to search the skies. Keep an eye out for temporary closures due to weather, flooding, or special events. The closures typically don’t last long, but it’s a good idea to check before planning your visit.
Just a few minutes south of Interstate 287 in Bridgewater Township, Duke Farms is a family legacy started by James Buchanan Duke and carried on by his daughter, an environmentalist and preservationist at her core. Doris Duke envisioned that Duke Farms would carry on as a place for environmental education, conservation, and horticultural studies. Opened to the public in 2012, the farm is now a favorite place for local families and schools to visit with zero admission costs from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Starting at the Orientation Center, visitors can embark on their adventures using 12 miles of bike trails or 18 miles of walking trails. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the farm with a large group or family, check out the family activity ideas on the Duke Farms website. You’ll find printable activity sheets for scavenger hunts, bird watching, field guides, and more.
Monument Square Park
Head over to New Brunswick, just 13 miles east of Bridgewater to experience Monument Square Park. This small area of space in the center of New Brunswick has been a tourist attraction that honors the many people who died during the American Civil War. Monument Square Park is a public space, so it’s open all day, every day, all year round.
You can visit the park to see the monuments and soak up some local history without spending money, but there are lots of great restaurants, theaters, and other nearby attractions that might be worth budgeting for. For some extra excitement, plan your visit during one of New Brunswick’s annual events like the Holiday Tree Lighting Festival, New Year’s fireworks, and the Central Jersey Jazz festival.
Washington Valley Park
Washington Valley Park is right in Bridgewater Township, so it’s an easy spot to visit any time. The park is open daily from dawn until dusk with no entrance fee. Enter the park from one of the two available parking areas. One is off of Newman’s Lane and the other off of Miller Lane. There are tons of must-see spots throughout the park including Buttermilk Falls, a natural waterfall that flows from a man-made dam into a refreshing swimming area. Access the falls from the Yellow Trail, which you can hop on from the Miller Lane parking lot.
The Washington Valley Reservoir is right in the center of the park and welcomes visitors to enjoy shoreline fishing along the many surrounding trails. Common catches include black crappie, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, and bluegill. Mountain biking is also welcome along most of the park trails.
KidStreet Playground on Garretson Road near the Bridgewater Municipal Complex isn’t your average playground. Covering more than 10 acres, this old-school wooden playground features everything from a pirate ship to a zip line. Children of any age are sure to have a blast climbing and playing throughout the park. There are bathrooms, picnic tables, and vending machines available to help make your time easy and enjoyable.
Bridgewater Farmers Market
Stop by the Bridgewater Farmers Market to shop local produce and goods while enjoying regular live music. The market runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Sunday from June through October and one Sunday a month from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. from November through March. You’ll find the booths set up in the Bridgewater Library parking lot at 1 Vogt Drive. Spend a little money on fresh-grown fruits and veggies or locally raised meats or simply browse the market and enjoy connecting with your community.
East Jersey Old Town Village
Head back toward New Brunswick, about 10 miles away, to East Jersey Old Town Village to take a free, self-guided tour of 16 reconstructed buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit the town any time of year during any time of day to get a glimpse of what life looked like for merchant and farm communities during and after the American Revolution. If you visit between April and October, you can learn from some on-site historical interpreters.
There you have it! Our list of recommended things to do in and around Bridgewater that won’t cost you a dime! At Crème de la Crème of Bridgewater, NJ, we encourage families to get out and explore their communities. There’s always something new to experience. Did you try out a few of these spots? Let us know what you thought! We look forward to hearing from you.