15 Free Things to Do in Newark, NJ

Newark, NJ

Welcome, adventurers and curious travelers!

Newark, New Jersey, is a city that pulses with a unique charm and rhythm.

The vibrant tapestry of Newark weaves together the old and the new, the historic and the contemporary, making it a compelling destination for all who visit.

In this bustling city, there's always something happening, and the best part? Many of these experiences come without a price tag.

This guide will navigate you through the myriad of free things to do in Newark, New Jersey.

With a rich history, a thriving arts scene, and beautiful outdoor spaces, there's plenty to discover and explore in Newark without having to spend a penny.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Harriet Townsend, Charles Brooks, Foster Ray, Bibi Richburg, Candace Britt, Brett Harmer and Zariah Villa.

Enter a Cherry Blossom Wonderland at Branch Brook Park

Hot air balloons over Branch Brook Park
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Every year, I eagerly await the arrival of late March, not because it signals the end of winter but because it marks the beginning of the cherry blossom season at Branch Brook Park.

Our beautiful 360-acre park transforms into a sea of pink and white, offering a spectacle that rivals even the most renowned parks in Japan.

When the blossoms peak, around April 15th, the park becomes a paradise for photographers and nature lovers.

I prefer the morning hours; the soft sunlight filtering through the blooms gives the park an ethereal glow.

One of my favorite spots to capture the beauty is near Mill Street, where the cherry trees line the creek.

Another must-visit area is directly in front of the Clara Maass Hospital and Starbucks.

Here, you can get a captivating view of the blossoms with the hospital’s charming architecture in the backdrop.

People walking under cherry blossom trees at Branch Brook Park
George Wirt / Shutterstock.com

Closer to the Newark Sacred Heart Basilica, the trees are equally splendid, offering a picturesque contrast against the imposing basilica.

No wonder this part of the park is popular among those seeking the perfect spot for their wedding photoshoots.

Parking is a breeze Even on the busiest days, as long as you know how to parallel park.

And if you get hungry after all the walking and admiring, some excellent food trucks are stationed nearby, offering everything from hot dogs to ice cream.

The park management ensures clean restrooms are readily available for all visitors.

Branch Brook Park is a springtime wonderland.

It’s a place that allows us locals to escape the city hustle, slow down, and soak in the beauty of the cherry blossoms.

Water fountain at Branch Brook Park
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Check Out the Whitney Houston Mural

When you live in a city as vibrant and diverse as ours, you often stumble upon gems tucked away in the most unexpected places.

The Whitney Houston Mural is one such treasure I've had the pleasure to encounter.

Whispering tales of our city's love for music, this mural is a breathtaking piece of art that pays homage to one of the greatest voices of our time.

Located right here in Newark, the mural creates an enchanting illusion as if Whitney Houston is serenading us with her soulful tunes.

It's a heartwarming sight that never fails to stir up a sense of nostalgia and awe every time I pass by.

The colors are vibrant, the depiction is realistic, and the overall effect is mesmerizing.

Anyone who has a fondness for art or music – or appreciates the beauty in everyday life – must not miss out on this captivating sight.

It's a visual symphony that sings a song of love and respect for The Voice herself.

Long Live The Voice!

Take a Stroll Through Artistic Splendor at The Newark Allery

Every day, I feel pride when I step outside my door and find myself enveloped by the vibrant colors and larger-than-life images that fill every inch of the Newark Allery.

This lively street is an open-air gallery, a testament to the creativity and talent that exists within our community.

The whole street comes alive when the first rays of sunlight touch these sprawling murals and graffiti.

It's like walking through an urban tapestry of stories and emotions; each piece is a testament to the artist who breathed life into it.

The graffiti events here are also a treat, a chance to see these talented artists create their masterpieces live.

But the Allery is also about community.

The street is home to a community chicken coop, a surprise amid urban living.

I love taking some time out of my day to feed the chickens.

It's a small act, but it adds to the sense of community that makes this place special.

The Newark Allery is a testament to our love and respect for our community.

It's our little outdoor art haven, a veritable beacon of creativity and community spirit.

If you're ever in the area, take a moment to appreciate the murals, maybe feed the chickens, and soak in the atmosphere of a community that thrives on love, respect, and art.

Explore the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Exterior of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart
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Imagine waking every day to the magnificent sight of the French Gothic-style Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

What a privilege it is to call Newark my home!

As I take my morning strolls, the silhouette of this grand structure against the morning sky never fails to inspire awe.

And it's not just the exterior that is breathtaking.

Once I step inside, I am immediately enveloped by an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

The beautiful sculptures, intricate carvings, mesmerizing mosaics, and vibrant stained-glass windows - every detail is a testament to this place's architectural brilliance.

Often, I take a moment to marvel at the door of the cathedral.

It is so beautifully crafted that it feels like stepping through a portal to another time.

And then there's the organ - the largest one ever built by Schantz Organ Co., adding a layer of mystique to the already breathtaking interior.

Right in front of the cathedral is a garden and a lake, which are the perfect backdrop to this majestic structure.

Seeing the cherry blossoms beginning to bud is one that you don't want to miss if you happen to be around in the spring.

Entrance to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Lucy Menshov / Shutterstock.com

The cathedral is a central part of my daily life.

Whether a wedding, a private event, or a Sunday Mass, the cathedral is always bustling with people, adding life to the otherwise busy Jersey street.

And the best part? It's open Monday to Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm.

So, you can visit it almost any time you want.

Don't worry about parking either. There's limited parking available as well.

If you ever find yourself in Newark, the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is one place you must visit.

Whether you're religious or not, you can't help but admire this place's architectural beauty.

Trust me, it's a sight for sore eyes.

You'll be left spellbound, just like I am every single day.

Interior of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Bestbudbrian, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Journey Through History at Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Nothing quite beats the experience of stepping into the shoes of one of history's most innovative minds, Thomas Edison.

My regular trips to Thomas Edison National Historical Park always leave me feeling inspired and in awe of the immense wealth of knowledge that shaped our modern world.

There's something genuinely remarkable about walking through Thomas Edison's laboratory, seeing the space where he experimented and invented, that feels utterly magical.

Every time I visit, I wonder how the park has managed to preserve everything in its original state.

The old machinery, the scores of books, and the historical artifacts create an immersive experience that transports you back in time.

The tour typically takes about two hours if you take your time to read most of the signs and trust me, it's worth every minute.

You can't help but be fascinated by how everything's set up, just as Edison was alive and working his brilliance in this lab.

One thing I always recommend to visitors is the junior ranger programs.

They're an excellent way for kids and adults to learn more about the park while earning a cool badge as a keepsake of their visit.

Regardless of your age or interest in history, a trip to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park is bound to leave you with a newfound appreciation for the man who brought light into our lives.

Explore Riverbank Park

Sunset over Riverbank Park
Kristopher Kettner / Shutterstock.com

I recall taking my family to Riverbank Park for fun and activities.

The first thing you notice when you get there is how tough it is to find parking.

There's no lot, so you're left hunting for a spot on the street.

However, the park is a fantastic place for adults and kids once you get past that initial challenge.

The baseball diamond is well maintained with a grandstand that offers an excellent view of the game.

Basketball and tennis courts are also available, providing a range of options for physical activities.

I appreciate the park also has a track for those who prefer a good run or a brisk walk.

And, of course, the playground is a hit for the children, keeping them engaged and active.

Riverbank Park is a great place to spend a day.

The covered stands are a nice touch, shielding you from the sun while you enjoy the games.

Just remember to bring something soft to sit on.

Yes, parking can be a challenge, but Riverbank Park offers a fantastic range of outdoor activities once you're in.

It's a gem in Essex County that's worth visiting.

Visit Weequahic Park

As someone who frequents Weequahic Park, I can confidently say that it has undergone incredible transformations over the years.

This green haven is now fabulous, from turf baseball fields to the well-maintained golf course.

It's a community hub where people of all ages engage in their favorite outdoor activities.

One of my most cherished morning routines is jogging on the soft rubber track that encircles the park.

It's comfortable underfoot, reducing the impact of running and making it a pleasant experience for joggers and walkers alike.

The park also boasts a beautiful lake that adds to its charm.

This lake has been the backdrop to some of the most breathtaking rainbows I've ever witnessed.

Moments like these make the park a serene place to unwind and reconnect with nature.

The playground at Weequahic Park is another asset, always kept in good condition and often bustling with the joyous laughter of children.

Whether you want a quick workout or a tranquil picnic, this park offers something.

Spend the Day at Essex County Riverfront Park

Trail at Essex County Riverfront Park
quiggyt4 / Shutterstock.com

I've always found Essex County Riverfront Park a true gem tucked away in our bustling city.

If you're looking for your next family outing or a peaceful solo retreat, I highly recommend you check out this beautiful park.

You'll find me with my family most weekends, soaking in the serene surroundings.

This 12-acre waterfront park is a breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically, with its athletic fields and courts, two playgrounds, and a wide-open green space.

The park teems with life yet never feels crowded.

It offers you a wonderful sense of freedom.

The park has always been an excellent venue for our family picnics.

For instance, the kids love frolicking around the playgrounds, while we adults enjoy a little competitive action on the basketball or tennis courts.

The water sprinklers become the kids' favorite playground on a hot summer day.

Overlook at Essex County Riverfront Park
quiggyt4 / Shutterstock.com

And on those lovely days when the sun shines just right, seeing the reflection of the Newark and New York skylines on the Passaic River is a view that never gets old.

As a pet parent, I find the park extremely accommodating.

It provides ample space for our furry friends to roam and play.

The restrooms are always clean - an aspect that always impresses me.

Initially known as Mayfair Park, the park was recently redesigned by Damon Rich, formerly the Planning Director and Chief Urban Designer for Newark.

His design transformed Riverfront Park, making it even more inviting while maintaining its original charm.

The incredible views of the bridges along the river make for a delightful backdrop for those who love a good walk or bike ride.

To sum it up, Essex County Riverfront Park is a scenic oasis that perfectly balances recreational activities and tranquility in the heart of the city.

You can't ask for more!

Tables and chairs at Essex County Riverfront Park
Alysson M / Shutterstock.com

Take a Stroll Along the Newark Riverfront Park

There's something about the Newark Riverfront Park that soothes my soul every time I visit.

The park, which you can find more about on the Newark City Parks Foundation site, offers an unforgettable view of the NYC/NJ bull arena and is breathtaking.

Sometimes, I like to come here at dusk, as the sun is setting, painting the sky with hues of orange and purple.

The trail here is one of my favorite spots.

Although I wish they would cut down the bushes a bit, the overgrowth often obstructs the view of the river.

I enjoy watching the river's rhythmic flow as I walk or sit down to breathe in the serenity.

The park is not just about the views and the walks.

I remember this one time when there was a music festival organized here.

Imagine walking along the trail with live music filling the air.

It was an energizing experience and an excellent opportunity to get your walk on.

Newark Riverfront Park is one of those places you find yourself returning to, whether it's for the view, the trail, or the occasional music festival.

See the Timeless Charm of Military Park

Wars of America sculpture at Military Park
Alysson M / Shutterstock.com

As the heart of downtown Newark pulses with life, there is an oasis of calm.

I've always found solace in the triangular expanse of Military Park.

The towering trees provide a cool respite in the summer, while the war memorial stands as a silent sentinel, watching over the park's visitors.

It has been a part of my entire life.

Over the years, I've enjoyed watching the park evolve and improve.

Adding a carousel for the kids has brought laughter and joy, while the restaurant offers a perfect spot to sit back and enjoy the views.

The beauty of it all is that it's right on the bus line, making it an effortless journey for anyone.

A carousel at Military Park
Alysson M / Shutterstock.com

Summer in Military Park is nothing short of magical.

The park transforms into a vibrant venue for shows, concerts, and events that make the season worth waiting for.

Despite its urban location, Military Park maintains its serene charm.

I've taken long, leisurely walks through its paths, often stopping to capture it in photographs.

Such peaceful moments are precious, especially amid the hustle and bustle of city life.

Military Park's timeless charm and scenic beauty remain a cherished part of my life – a quiet corner in the city I call home.

The grounds of Military Park
xiquinhosilva, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Walk Through Harriet Tubman Square

Every time I pass by Harriet Tubman Square, it offers me a pause in my daily hustle.

A few days back, I participated in the community day organized by the Newark Museum at this square.

The camaraderie, the guided tour, and the blend of history, technology, and art was an experience to cherish.

However, the crown jewel of the square is undeniably the Harriet Tubman Monument.

This recently established monument in downtown Newark is a sight to behold, especially as the sun starts to set and the monument begins to glow in the soft light.

It's not just a tribute to the remarkable Harriet Tubman and her brave fight against slavery.

But it's also a testament to the power of thoughtful design and the skillful use of building materials and lighting.

As I stroll down the square, I can't help but admire the vibrancy of Newark, the multitude of great restaurants, and the legacy that Harriet Tubman has left behind.

Discover History at the New Jersey Historical Society

Exterior of New Jersey Historical Society
USVIZIONCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Let me tell you, there's no place like home. Especially if your home is as rich in history as New Jersey.

To uncover this history, I recently visited the New Jersey Historical Society, a local treasure trove of artifacts and historical records that tell the stories of our past.

It's a library and an archive.

Stepping inside it felt like stepping into a time machine.

The museum is packed with a vast collection of artifacts and information relating to the diverse history of New Jersey, all meticulously arranged and preserved.

Each item and every exhibit tells a unique story, allowing us to learn more about our ancestors, our heritage, and the efforts that shaped New Jersey into the state it is today.

Their library was a treasure trove for me as someone who loves to dig deeper.

I was engrossed in old maps, photographs, letters, and other primary sources.

It's a haven for anyone with a thirst for knowledge or a love for research.

But the New Jersey Historical Society is also a place for everyone.

They've done a remarkable job of making history accessible and engaging to all, especially the younger ones.

Their children's classes are engaging, and their presentations are as informative as they are entertaining.

One of my favorite experiences was the walking tour.

And let's not forget my journey into the past.

I spent an entire day tracing my family's roots, uncovering surprising facts about my ancestors.

It was like connecting the dots of my history and learning more about who I am and where I come from.

The New Jersey Historical Society is a window into our past, a celebration of our heritage, and a testament to the resilience and diversity of the people of New Jersey.

Whether you're a history buff, a student, or just looking to spend a day exploring your home, it's a must-visit.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore South Mountain Reservation

Trail at South Mountain Reservation
Art by Amart / Shutterstock.com

South Mountain Reservation is a vast 2,000 acres of pure nature, and the best part is that it's right in my backyard.

I've spent countless mornings lost in its trails, feeling the crunch of the leaves under my boots and the crisp early morning air on my face.

My favorite trail is perfect for a casual walk, and if you're up for a challenge, the terrain going onto the summit can be tricky.

But once you reach the top, the view is worth it. You might be lucky enough to find some wild raspberries there.

Just a tip - if you're planning on some trail running, the early mornings are perfect.

The reservation is a favorite among the locals, and the parking can get crowded. So, be prepared for that.

Fall scene at South Mountain Reservation
Vadim 777 / Shutterstock.com

Also, while seeing so many dogs enjoying the trails off-leash is excellent, it's always best to be cautious around them.

For a magical experience, take the kids along the fairy houses trail.

Watching them get so excited and inspired to create their own fairy homes is a real treat.

The waterfall, although artificial, adds a beautiful touch to the scenery.

It's worth mentioning that the water level at Hemlock Falls can be a bit low, especially during drought periods.

South Mountain Reservation is a great mix of nature, sport, and leisure, minus the typical crowd you'd find in most public parks.

Experience the Serenity of Eagle Rock Reservation

Sculpture at Eagle Rock Reservation
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Every time I walk the trails of the Eagle Rock Reservation, I always find something new to marvel at.

This generous gift of Mother Nature is tucked away in our county, offering recreational activities and peaceful solace.

The awe-inspiring 9/11 memorial at the hilltop never fails to stir deep emotions within me.

I often find myself lost among the names etched alphabetically, a stark, solemn reminder of our shared history.

Close by, there are ample areas for setting down a picnic blanket or resting on one of the many benches.

It's hard to resist the lure of capturing the picturesque landscape with my camera, with the Manhattan skyline adding a surreal backdrop.

Despite its status as a memorial, the reservation has a certain rustic charm.

The grassy lawns are a perfect spot for a picnic or a casual game with the kids.

My personal favorite, however, is the hiking trails.

A gazebo at Eagle Rock Reservation
quiggyt4 / Shutterstock.com

The reservation offers a selection of trail lengths and difficulties, leaving me spoilt for choice.

Summer hikes here are enjoyable, but it's during the fall that the park truly comes alive.

The vibrant foliage adds a different dimension to the experience.

I've also had the pleasure of barbecuing here.

The reservation comes equipped with grills and enough space for everyone to enjoy.

There's nothing quite like running around with my nieces and nephews, their Nerf guns in hand, as the aroma of grilled food wafts through the air.

Honestly, I cannot recommend the Eagle Rock Reservation enough.

The reservation has something for everyone, whether for a quiet, reflective evening at the 9/11 memorial, a lively family picnic, or an invigorating hike through nature.

Final Thoughts

Despite its urban facade, Newark, New Jersey, offers many free activities catering to various interests.

It's a place where history, culture, nature, and urban life blend seamlessly, promising everyone a memorable experience.

Whether you're a local or a visitor, exploring these spots will undoubtedly add a unique flavor to your Newark experience.

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