Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Clifton, NJ

  • Published 2023/02/14

Clifton is a city in Passaic County, New Jersey, known for being a bedroom suburb of New York City.

With New York City only less than an hour away, Clifton has a thriving local community and commercial district.

While not necessarily known as a tourist attraction, there are a lot of underrated activities to do in Clifton, most of which are free.

This gives you incentive to visit the city, especially since it’s surrounded by all sorts of main thoroughfares that make it a convenient trip.

From city parks to nature preserves, you’ll find lots of cool things in Clifton and its neighboring cities under Passaic County.

To get you started, here’s a list of the free things to do in Clifton, New Jersey:

Take Stroll around Main Memorial Park

Sprawling with amenities and attractions, Main Memorial Park is one of Clifton’s most popular attractions for locals and tourists.

This place is a calm little pond teeming with wildlife, such as ducks, turtles, and fish, which gives it a serene vibe.

Besides its pond, Main Memorial Park has a military tank for photo opportunities and various sports amenities like tennis courts and a baseball field.

Various walking trails also accentuate the experience here, mainly because many trees and shrubbery are found throughout.

Main Memorial Park is located along Main Avenue in the city’s heart.

Bring a Camera to Morris Canal Park and Nature Reserve

Morris Canal Park and Nature Reserve is another scenic place in Clifton.

Known for its unique fixtures, the Morris Canal Park and Nature Reserve is an excellent place for photography.

Among the things you can find in this park is the Japanese torii gate right by a gazebo overflowing with vegetation.

There is also a ton of foliage that you can see here, further accentuated by a small pond home to various animals.

Walking trails are found throughout Morris Canal Park and Nature Reserve, giving you the incentive to explore every nook and cranny.

Unlike a typical city park, this place gives you a more serene immersion in nature.

See the Artworks at Clifton Arts Center and Sculpture Park

Clifton Arts Center and Sculpture Park is a must-see for art enthusiasts, especially for sculptures.

As an open space that’s great to walk around, Clifton Arts Center and Sculpture Park brims with unique art installations.

While its outdoor area is already a neat addition to your itinerary, there is also an indoor art gallery you can visit inside.

You’ll see various paintings from rising artists in the country, all at no cost.

Clifton Arts Center and Sculpture Park is a fantastic place to appreciate the unique art you can only find in the city.

You can visit the arts center and sculpture park along Clifton Avenue near the city hall.

Enjoy Yourself at Weasel Brook Park

Sitting along Westervelt Place is one of the best city parks in Passaic County, Weasel Brook Park.

Weasel Brook Park is geared to give you fun for family time or exercise.

One of the best features of this park is its kid-friendly amenities, spearheaded by its splash pad and playgrounds.

For teenagers and adults, Weasel Brook Park is also home to a skate park that’s newly remodeled to meet the demands of various skaters from all levels.

The picnic grounds here are also gorgeous, beautifully situated near a pond and amongst high arching trees further accentuated by well-maintained greenery.

Easily one of the best places to spend a whole afternoon, Weasel Brook Park is a must-visit during your trip to Clifton.

See the Historic Vanderhoef-Westervelt House

The Vanderhoef-Westervelt House is one of the many historical homes found in New Jersey, located in Weasel Brook Park along Park Drive.

It’s the home of Gilbert Vanderhoef, who once owned a grist and flour mill, the only operating mill during the 1700s.

It is one of the oldest mills in the country.

His home dates back to 1720, making this one of the oldest structures you will ever find in the region.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll see fantastic architecture here that will transport you back in time.

The red-brick Vanderhoef-Westervelt House makes for a fantastic photo opportunity.

You can also appreciate the house’s history as some reading material is nearby.

Read and Relax at Clifton Memorial Library

Clifton Memorial Library is one of the best libraries in Passaic County, complete with modern amenities, making this an excellent stopover for some quiet time.

Clifton Memorial Library is excellent whether you need to access the computers or spend a laid-back morning reading books.

It’s also dedicated to children’s learning as it’s well-stocked with books and board games to keep them busy.

Speaking of books, the library is also well-stocked with various titles from different genres, most especially fiction.

The architecture of Clifton Memorial Library also makes it a great photo opportunity, along with its surrounding greenery.

You can find this library within Main Memorial Park.

Go Sledding at Zelenka Park

Zelenka Park is another city park in Clifton found along Filmore Street near the banks of the Passaic River.

During the winter, Zelenka Park becomes a hotbed of winter sports activities, most prominently sledding.

This is possible thanks to the hilly area of Zelenka Park, which gets covered in snow during the peak winter months.

Outside winter, the park has family-oriented amenities, like a basketball court and playground, that make it a good stopover, especially near the river.

Still, there’s no better place to do some free sledding and snowball fights than Zelenka Park.

Explore Dundee Island Preserve

Dundee Island Preserve is one of the only places in the city where you can access the beautiful Passaic River, making it a great place to do some sightseeing.

Besides the river, you’ll see one of the best attractions in Clifton—the Dundee Dam—a perfect spot to see artificial waterfalls and how it seamlessly meshes with nature.

The preserve is also home to many wildlife, brimming with woodlands.

With many walking trails and information boards about the city’s dam and river, Dundee Island Preserve can easily take up your entire morning.

You can enter the Dundee Island Preserve for free along Ackerman Avenue.

Take Your Dog to Nash Park

Nash Park is just a stone’s throw away from Dundee Island Preserve, found along Lexington Avenue.

Nash Park is unique and popular because it has a dog park inside, making it a fantastic itinerary add-on for fur parents and their dogs.

You’ll find one of the best-kept grass fields in Nash Park, which becomes a snow field during the winter, a haven for winter fun.

Because of these wide-open areas, the dog park here is excellent for all breeds to run around off-leash.

Apart from the dog park, Nash Park is also home to a nice playground, baseball fields, and a basketball court.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

See the Sights at Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park

Scenic view of Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park

Brian Logan Photography /

Located in Paterson, New Jersey, the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park is one of the best things you can visit for free near Clifton.

This national park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts because of its scenic beauty, varied terrain, and abundant wildlife.

It’s located in the neighboring city of Paterson, right in the heart of the Passaic River, where the iconic 77-foot Paterson Great Falls is found.

Bridge at Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park

Brian Logan Photography /

Beyond being a picturesque park, there’s also a lot of history to read here because of its background as a hydroelectric power plant.

One of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park should be atop your list when visiting the Garden State.

This preserve is nine minutes from Clifton.

Waterfall base at Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park

Andrew Tuttle /

Explore Garret Mountain Reservation

Located eight to ten minutes from Clifton, the Garret Mountain Reservation is a 500-plus acre mountain area in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

Garret Mountain Reservation is known for its beautiful woodlands that get tons of foliage during the fall season.

This is also an excellent place to observe wildlife because many deer live there.

After successfully maneuvering its varied terrains, you’ll gain access to a scenic overlook atop the mountain.

You can also see the facade of the historic Lambert Castle from its nature trails.

This place is a luxury residence of a prominent elite built during the late 1800s.

Relax at Dahnert’s Lake County Park

Dahnert’s Lake County Park is a scenic respite in Garfield, New Jersey, 13 minutes from Clifton.

It’s a quaint spot brimming with all sorts of fish, primarily carp and trout.

This makes it a popular fishing spot for those with fishing licenses, but you won’t need to cast your line to experience the beauty of Dahnert’s Lake County Park.

Adorned with a walking bridge over the lake that connects to a gazebo, this park is a fantastic place to relax.

It’s a popular spot for families as playgrounds and picnic areas are also here.

Hike Rifle Camp Park

The view from Rifle Camp Park

quiggyt4 /

One of the closest nearby attractions in Clifton is Rifle Camp Park, a vast park in Woodland Park, New Jersey, 11 minutes from the city.

This park offers mountaintop views of Clifton through Garret Mountain that won’t cost you a single penny.

Hiking here is a fun activity, especially since the place is teeming with all sorts of animals, most prominently deer and migratory birds.

There’s also a reservoir and a dog park on top of its trails, so you have a lot of varied activities to plan before you visit Rifle Camp Park.

If hiking is too strenuous, Rifle Camp Park is also a go-to place for picnics and relaxation.

Take Photos of the George Washington Bridge

Sunrise at George Washington Bridge

Mihai_Andritoiu /

A trip to New Jersey won’t be complete without visiting the George Washington Bridge.

The bridge is in Fort Lee, New Jersey, 22 minutes from Clifton.

As an icon of New York and New Jersey, the George Washington Bridge is a must-see during your trip, especially if it’s your first time.

The bridge connects New Jersey to Manhattan; it is also a scenic way to reach New York City during your trip to the Garden State.

Aerial view of George Washington Bridge

Mihai_Andritoiu /

One of the best places to take photos of George Washington Bridge is along the riverfront areas of Fort Lee City, primarily at its historical park, which is free to enter.

Of course, if you want to experience the bridge up close, crossing it to reach the Big Apple is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Far view of George Washington Bridge

eddtoro /

Tour Central Park

The world-famous Central Park in New York City is less than 30 minutes from Clifton.

Don’t miss out on this attraction during your visit!

There’s much to see in Central Park, highlighted by the surrounding skyscrapers and sprawling greenery throughout Manhattan.

The park also changes appearance throughout the seasons, with one of the prettiest foliage in the autumn.

During winter, it becomes a winter sports wonderland.

You will also find many attractions within the park, as well.

Visit the castles, memorials, lakes, and plenty more landmarks inside Central Park, the best park in the world.

Final Thoughts

Clifton is a fun city with lots of free things to do, primarily involving the Passaic River and its suburban residencies.

You’d be hard-pressed to miss out on the free things to do in Clifton, New Jersey.

Plan your trip today!

© All rights reserved.