From Maine to New York, the Northeast section of the United States offers every imaginable kind of family friendly activity. So many are free that it seems almost unpatriotic to spend any money. Whether you crave the beach or the mountains, city or country, cultural activities or history, you can find plenty of free things to do throughout the region.

free in New York City.

See these lush gardens on Governors Island free in New York City. Credit; Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

Fun Things to Do in the Northeast

A road trip can be the key to a family vacation on a budget. Whether you have one kid or three, if they fit in your car, it’s the same price for all of you to drive somewhere. Try that on a plane!

Then there’s exploring the free fun things to do wherever you go.

It’s particularly easy to plan a family road trip around free fun things to do in the northeast, especially in summer. Free theater and concerts, festivals and parks mushroom in every town.


Free Things to Do in Pennsylvania

The OvalFairmount Parks Conservancy

The Oval in Philadelphia, PA. Photo credit: Albert Yee for Fairmount Parks Conservancy

Consider Philadelphia. Every summer, a pop-up park rises along the southeastern edge of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The park, called the Oval, offers free movies, live music, kid-friendly activities, interactive games, and an original mural across a huge expanse of concrete. Other fun things to do include an obstacle course on Friday afternoons, sandboxes and water features, over-sized chess and checkers, mini-golf, and a mini-disk course, yoga, kickboxing, and learn-to-ride bicycle classes.

Discover more free things to do in Philadelphia.

Free Things to Do in New York 

fun things to do

One of the top free fun things to do in New York City: Shakespeare in the Park. Photo credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

As a New Yorker, I am partial to the free activities in my home state. It’s a point of pride for a New Yorker to dismiss the high price of a Broadway ticket ($849 for Hamilton!) by noting that she saw a current hit for free last summer at Shakespeare in the Park. Yes, you may have to wait for hours for a ticket, but you can also enter a daily lottery online. And if you can’t get tickets to the Public’s free Central Park shows, there are other productions around town: New York Classical Theatre, in Central Park, Battery Park City, Prospect Park, and Carl Schurz Park and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot on the Lower East Side.

Read about more free fun things to do in New York City here.

Best free things to do with kids in the Northeast USAFree Things to Do in Connecticut 

Connecticut can be challenging for the budget traveler; many beaches charge steep parking fees and admission fees for non-residents (though they are waived off season).

But if you stay away from the coast, you can easily find plenty of affordable and fun things to do in Connecticut.

Free Things to Do in Vermont 

The Green Mountains that give Vermont its name are perfect for skiing, but that costs money. In summer, those same mountains offer free activities, from hiking to mountain biking. Just find a trailhead and park your car; most spots offer free parking. Be sure to bring plenty of water; trailheads may provide free maps, but they usually provide no facilities.

Free Things to Do in Rhode Island 

fun things to do

The WaterFire Arts Festival Plaza on Washington Street in Providence, RI. Photo credit: Jennifer Bedford for WaterFire

Providence, Rhode Island, boasts one of the biggest free family friendly activities, ironic since the state is so small. WaterFire, an annual warm weather extravaganza, includes 100 bonfires on the three rivers that pass through downtown. Music and other entertainment make this a must on any family itinerary.

Free Things to Do in Massachusetts

fun things to do

American history comes alive in Boston, walk The Freedom Trail. Photo credit: Catherine Parker, National Parks TravelingMom

In Massachusetts, you can have a city weekend in Boston, a beach weekend in Cape Cod or a rural weekend in the Berkshires. Whatever your preference, there are always plenty of free and fun things to do. Boston is great because in warm weather, you can head to Faneuil Hall, where street performers entertain for free while you soak up the sunshine. Or you can walk the Freedom Trail and give your kids a free dose of history. With the money you save, you can splurge on cannolis and pizza in the North End.

Free Things to Do in New Hampshire 

Of course you know about New Hampshire’s mountains and lakes. But did you also know that you can tour a chocolate factory for free and snag samples? Then you can head back the mountains and lakes and work off the extra calories!

Free Things to Do in Maine

Maine is only for the hearty in winter, and even in summer, the cold ocean water can deter crowds – but that can make you feel like you are in on a secret. Great seafood, beautiful scenery, little traffic: explore some of the hidden charms of this state. And, of course, the many free things to do.

What are your favorite free and fun things to do in the Northeast? Share with us in the comment section below.