Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Elizabeth, NJ

  • Published 2023/01/05

The first capital city of New Jersey, Elizabeth is a quaint cityscape that acts as a regional hub for the East Coast.

It’s also a city of many firsts within Union County, including becoming the first home of Princeton University.

A walk around the city’s district can take you several years back into the past with its numerous historic sites and markers.

Elizabeth is also a haven for outdoor lovers, with its lakefront points, public green spaces, and sports stadiums and fields.

If you want to stay within budget when you travel to New Jersey, Elizabeth offers the best of a suburban community with a hint of modernity for your ultimate adventure.

Here are the 15 free things to do in Elizabeth, New Jersey:

Take a Picture of the Remarkable Minute Man Statue

Daytime view of the Minute Man Statue

Jim.henderson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Within Union Square, the Minute Man Statue is a testament to the courage and bravery of the soldiers of yesteryears.

Depicting a soldier with a suit hanging from his arm, this statue lies at the center of one of the oldest streets in North America: Elizabeth Avenue.

During the 1780 battle, a heroic act changed the trajectory of the lives of those in Port Elizabeth.

Fifteen minutemen stood their ground in Union Square, fighting off the British and injuring their general.

Through teamwork and love for their country, they managed to drive away the enemy from New Jersey.

Now, the Minute Man Statue is the centerpiece of many annual and regular events hosted within the area, reminding everyone of the legacy of the minutemen soldiers long ago.

Discover Elizabeth’s Rich History through the Historic Heartline Walking Tour

Bring technology and innovation to your usual walking trip all over Elizabeth with the Historic Heartline Walking Tour.

Through this self-guided tour, you get to explore the city’s most significant historical sites.

Learn about the city’s initial land tract sale in 1664, as well as the place’s shift to becoming a transportation hub.

See New Jersey’s oldest home, the Nathaniel Bonnell House, and its showcase of past carpentry and architecture design.

Go past nature trails, churches, and other historic mansions along the route.

Historic Heartline Walking Tour spans 3.5 miles and offers a unique guide to Elizabeth’s history with an audio-led learning experience.

You only need to press play on your smartphone after scanning the QR codes you can see on each site.

Walking down midtown Elizabeth has never been this fascinating!

Cool Down by the Boardwalk at Veteran’s Memorial Waterfront Park

The beauty of nature mixes with the past at Veteran’s Memorial Waterfront Park.

This public park on Front Street and Elizabeth Avenue has many recreational amenities.

Dedicated in 1993, this site overlooks the New York Harbor, offering an unobstructed picturesque view of the large city’s skyline.

Its huge lawn is the best spot for a round of ball games or frisbee.

When you come by the boardwalk, take a stroll along the harbor.

Veteran’s Memorial Waterfront Park is the place to be for bikers and skateboarders, too!

Marvel at the Local Artworks and Scenic Views at Elizabeth River Trail

Entrance archway of Elizabeth River Trail

Jim.henderson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stay fit and refreshed while basking in nature and public art at Elizabeth River Trail.

Starting on South Broad Street, this trail runs parallel to the river, providing a seascape scenery while you trek toward the end of the route.

Eventually, you’ll get to the end of the trail on Bridge Street, but not before a wide display of local art unique to Elizabeth’s history.

Get your hiking shoes ready for the Elizabeth River Trail, or better yet, go all out with a helmet and biking gear for a faster journey.

Learn about Elizabeth’s Story and Culture through Art at Street Art Murals

Art is something Elizabeth doesn’t shy away from, and with its collection of street art murals, you know you’re in for a one-of-a-kind art exploration.

The murals are a result of the collaboration of the Elizabeth Board of Education, the Elizabeth Renaissance Foundation, and the local artists who were part of the project.

Besides the murals, the Foundation aims to also create monuments, lighted buildings, signages, and more.

Drive down Julian Place and view the Julian Kean Mural and its stunning depictions of heritage through historic building replicas.

On Broad Street, be inspired by the diversity in athletic pursuits of Elizabeth through the vibrant illustrations by Dario Scholis.

More murals can be found all over the city, so keep your eyes peeled!

Browse through the Interior and Furnishings of the Boxwood Hall Historic Site

Exterior of the Boxwood Hall Historic Site

Dmadeo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth’s Boxwood Hall Historic Site is one of the free historical sites that will pique your interest throughout your excursion.

One of the landmarks included in the Elizabeth Historic Trail, this furnished home is famous for being the residence of Elias Boudinot.

Boudinot, who was the President of the Continental Congress, consented to the Treaty of Paris and lived in this Georgian-style home between the years 1772 and 1795.

Built in 1750, its period-style rooms give you a glimpse of the affluent lifestyle back in the early days.

Get to know the owners who once graced the halls of the home and their contribution to the driving success of Elizabeth both in the past and present times.

The Boxwood Hall Historic Site is on East Jersey Street.

Play Soccer with Friends at Mattano Park

Need a breather from all the historic and art adventures over Elizabeth?

Mattano Park is the ideal destination.

This public park offers waterfront views of the Elizabeth River alongside vast green spaces for outdoor play.

Its half courts are perfect for friendly basketball matches with friends and loved ones.

There are also playgrounds for the little ones.

Mattano Park is on 5th Avenue.

Know More about Portuguese Culture at Elizabeth Portugal Day

Elizabeth comes alive with festivities every Elizabeth Portugal Day.

This annual festival has been around since 1978 and is a vital part of Elizabeth’s cultural scene.

It aims to strengthen the Portuguese community within the borders of the city and provide a gateway for other people to learn more about them.

Watch the Grand Parade—with its waving flags and drum performances—fill the streets of Elizabeth Avenue.

There’s also a pageant that hails a Royal Family to be the voice of the youth sector of the community.

Elizabeth Portugal Day takes place in June.

Curl up with a Book at Elizabeth Public Library

Exterior of Elizabeth Public Library

Jruizalvarez, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If your idea of a good trip involves having time for reading and research, jot down Elizabeth Public Library in your itinerary immediately.

This public library has everything you might need for your research.

It’s home to manuals, reading materials, virtual resources, and more.

Stay abreast of community events like children’s storytelling programs and English practice sessions.

You can find Elizabeth Public Library on South Broad Street.

Let Your Kids Play at Phil Rizzuto Park

Opened in 2008, Phil Rizzuto Park is your best option for sports fun.

This public park was a tribute to the Hall-of-Fame player Phil “Scooter” Razzo.

He was the best bunter of his era, earning the AL MVP title in 1950.

Spanning 10 acres, this recreation center has multi-use facilities for athletes, athletes-to-be, and sports hobbyists.

Phil Rizzuto Park also has a Boundless Playground that encourages children of all ages and skill ranges to play at their own pace.

Phil Rizzuto Park is right along North Avenue.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Admire the Flowers at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Daytime view of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum

littlelei /

Have a green thumb?

It’s best to enhance your gardening skills at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum.

This free arboretum, dedicated in 1971, once served as the working farm for the affluent Frelinghuysen family in the late 1800s.

It offers a budding display of blossoms and plants within a 124-acre space.

Trail lined with flowers at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Situated on East Hanover Avenue, it’s the ideal relaxation center filled with woodlands, meadows, and other habitats.

Lay out your blanket on the lawn and bask in the serenity of the place.

The Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township is only 27 minutes from Elizabeth.

Pergola at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Drive Down Route 21 to See the Portraits Mural

Have you ever wondered what and where the longest art mural on the East Coast is?

There’s no need to wander far!

Portraits, within Essex County in Newark, runs along the Amtrak retention wall.

Featuring as many as 18 artists, this mural is the same size as 25 football fields!

This is the length of the entire Lincoln Tunnel.

Bring your car to Route 21, or McCarter Highway, to see Portraits and its striking interpretation of culture and life.

This work of art is only a 14-minute drive from Elizabeth.

Explore the Green Landscapes at Riverfront Park

The grounds of Riverfront Park

Alysson M /

Riverfront Park in Newark is an oasis of green space within a waterfront setting.

Supposed to be home to a baseball stadium, this park runs across 12.33 acres and now serves as a community park.

It features winding trails and designated sports fields.

Tables and chairs at Riverfront Park

Alysson M /

If you’re looking for a tranquil setting to unwind, Riverfront Park’s boardwalk is the ideal spot.

This park on Brill Street takes less than 30 minutes to reach from downtown Elizabeth.

Trail at Riverfront Park

quiggyt4 /

See the Art Exhibitions at Gallery Aferro

The art gem Gallery Aferro, founded in 2003, is only a 13-minute drive from Elizabeth.

Located within the heart of Newark, this art space features an array of art forms and mediums that highlight the contemporary style.

Its curated exhibitions put visual arts to the forefront, showcasing various themes of empowerment and self-expression.

This art gallery is also home to artist talks, workshops, and even film screenings, which take place within the open-floor space.

On its second floor, distinct retreats fill the corners, as well as the special exhibition, Eleta J. Caldwell & Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery.

You’ll never run out of artistic inspiration when browsing the large-scale installations at this gallery.

Gallery Aferro is on Market Street, near Best Deal Furniture.

Enjoy the Sea Breeze as You Walk Down Carteret Waterfront Park’s Boardwalk

Aerial view of Carteret Waterfront Park

James Nesterwitz /

A short 17-minute drive from Elizabeth takes you to Carteret Waterfront Park.

This public park on Middlesex Avenue is a creekside paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Complete with fitness trails and a boat ramp, this park offers a relaxing atmosphere, allowing you to recharge.

Strut down the boardwalk for a meditative stroll or with someone for a romantic walk.

Its paved trails also add to its charm.

For a quick break, sit by the benches and watch some birds fly by.

Carteret Waterfront Park opened to the public in 2003.

Final Thoughts

Elizabeth—and all its charming attractions—continue to make a mark in New Jersey’s history.

Not only is the city home to recreation sites, but it’s also rich in budget-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy.

Keep this list of free things to do in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to make the most of your trip!

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