Atlantic City and free family fun? These two things may not seem to go together at first glance. But if you combine affordable lodging with these free activities, you’ve got a family-friendly destination that’s entertaining, relaxing, and reasonable.
Free in Atlantic City
Beach: While most beaches on the Jersey shore charge a fee, Atlantic City beaches remain free to the public. With the Boardwalk nearby and many beach vendors setting up shop in the summer, you have plenty of options for water sports, shopping, and food.
3-D Light & Sound Show: Beginning at dusk and running on the half hour, this light show is projected onto the front of Boardwalk Hall – just stand on the Boardwalk in front of the building and you’ll see a countdown to the next showing. The 8½ minute show reflects the personality of Atlantic City through surround sound, theatrical lighting, and the latest architectural video mapping technologies.
Boardwalk: While you’ll probably spend some money on food or arcade games, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is an exciting place to just walk or people-watch.
Miss America Walking Tour: Located in the lobby of the Sheraton Convention Center, the “Road to the Crown” walking tour showcases dresses, shoes, crowns, and other memorabilia honoring Miss Americas of the past.
Thunder Over the Boardwalk Airshow: Some of the most amazing military and civilian aircraft in the world are showcased as pilots perform flyovers and thrilling stunts over the beach and boardwalk. Takes place in August.
Cape May County Park & Zoo: This wonderful zoo is also a beautiful park complete with a playground, picnic tables, fishing ponds, a disc golf course, and trails to hike. It’s completely free and about 40 minutes from Atlantic City. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a leisurely day. Print out their scavenger hunt list to enhance the experience!
Nearly Free in Atlantic City and Nearby
The following attractions can be enjoyed for under $10 per person:
Atlantic City Aquarium: You only need about an hour to tour this cozy aquarium, but it’s worth the nominal admission fee just for the numerous touch pools. Your little ones will love touching tropical sharks, starfish, and stingrays. Be sure to wander the adorable shops at the adjacent Crafter’s Village in Gardner’s Basin after your aquarium visit.
Lucy the Elephant: About 20 minutes south of AC in Margate, NJ, is the iconic Lucy the Elephant. The kids can climb up to the top of six-story high Lucy and look out over the Atlantic Ocean. And since I’m all about the learning as a homeschooler, I appreciate that the tour includes an explanation of Lucy’s history and why she’s listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks.
Absecon Lighthouse: The tallest lighthouse in New Jersey – though still dwarfed by the casino-hotels nearby – is open for your family to climb the 228-steps to the top. You’ll learn about shipwrecks and tide water in the replicated Keeper’s House/educational museum, and the gift shop is simply adorable. They also have frequent special events – check out the “Full Moon Climb” in the summer months.