free things to do in January
© / Imgorthand

Looking for free things to do in January? Now that the holidays are over and the cold is setting in, January is all about budget-friendly winter fun. Although going down the Shore is a summer activity, NJ’s beaches can be beautiful for a wintertime walk. Liberty State Park is another great destination — stop by the Central Jersey Railroad Terminal to learn the role it played in NJ’s history, take a walk on the promenade and then let the kids burn off some energy at the playground.

The Noyes Museum of Art is another great winter destination. Head to their Atlantic City or Hammonton locations for an art-filled adventure. Admission is free!

Want more fun stuff? Check out these local hiking trails. If you missed the First Day Hikes that took place on New Year’s Day, don’t fret. There are so many great trails to check out all winter long including Van Saun County Park in Paramus. This park is home to the Bergen County Zoological Park, which is free during winter months, and has open picnic space and a cute playground.

Saturday, January 1

First Day Hikes
Various locations
Ring in the new year at a New Jersey state park, forest or historic site with a guided First Day Hike! The New Jersey State Park Service is hosting 28 hikes and 1 lighthouse climb in state parks, forests and historic sites on New Year’s Day as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes program.

Cape May Lighthouse
Start the year off with a fun family activity by visiting the Cape May Lighthouse, which will be open from 12pm -4pm on January 1, 2022.

Monday, January 3

Let’s Cook: Polar Bear Cupcakes
Bake and decorate a cupcake to look like a polar bear, then share this tasty treat on a cold winter day. It’s grrr-eat fun for grades 3-5!

Wednesday, January 5

Craftin’ Around: Penguin Windsocks
Celebrate the frosty weather by making a penguin windsock! Using a toilet paper roll, construction paper, pom-poms, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and party streamers, we will create a penguin that’s all dressed up to attend a Snow Ball. For grades 3-5.

Now – Thursday January 6

Smithville Holiday Light Show On The Lake
Historic Smithville
Over 120 Christmas Trees constructed from over 50,000 Christmas lights, magically float on Lake Meone in the center of Historic Smithville and the Village Greene. The moment darkness falls, an orchestrated show of lights and music is played out across the lake. The lights seem to dance and chase each other to the music all the while reflecting off the water’s surface. This show can be seen from either side of the village as well as the bridge, 5:30- 8:30 pm.

Thursday January 6

Winter Beach Walk at Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the beach! The winter months are some of the best times to go shell collecting. Take a Park System Naturalist guided walk along the beach collecting and identifying some of the ocean’s natural treasures. Be sure to dress in warm clothing and bring along something to carry your beach finds.

Three Kings Day Celebration Belleville
Children of all ages can look up to the sky and follow the lights to the Third Annual Three Kings Day celebration. The light will be leading all to make the pilgrimage to Belleville High School- 100 Passaic Ave. Participants will enter this drive-thru via Division St. and exit via Passaic Ave.

Now – Saturday January 8 

Fanwood’s Famous Christmas House
See over 30,000 lights at Fanwood’s Famous Christmas House, which has bright displays and a light show every evening. All donations to the Christmas House go to NJ Institute for Disabilities.

Saturday, January 8

January Snowflake Kids Zone Event
During the January Kids Zone event, kids will create a fun Snowflake craft to decorate their room for the winter. Kids also receive a collector’s pin, and a special lanyard to hold their Kids Zone pin. Mom & Dad receive a special coupon offer that can be combined with other coupons on that day. 

Small Explorers: Color and Light!
This month children 6 months to 5 years old with their caregivers will hear “Rainbow Crow: A Lenape Tale” Retold by Nancy Van Laan and explore the galleries to find color and light in the amazing art collection. Come see fluorescent rocks, explore how color and light make you feel with Dr Seuss’ “Many Colored Days,” and play with color mixing. You are in for an EnLightening and Colorful Experience!

Winter Festival, Fireworks and Bonfire
Park it at the Municipal Complex Baseball Field for live music, a petting zoo, horse-drawn carriage rides, carnival rides, ice carvings, marshmallow roastings and free hot chocolate. There will also be food trucks in case the kids get hungry.

Sunday, January 9

Queen’s Cottage by Candlelight
Learn about the early history of Queen’s College, the first tutorials at the Sign of the Red Lion, and the metaphor of Enlightenment and illumination in the 18th century of New Jersey. This event is for ages 10 and up.

Monday, January 10

Storytime & Craft
Rochelle Park
Bendy Bookworms Yoga Storytime will feature silly yoga poses and a read-aloud story.

Popsicle Stick Snowman Craft
Kids ages 5 and up can make a snowman that will last all winter. Every kit includes supplies, written instructions, as well as a YouTube link for video instructions.

free thing to do in January
© / UrsaHoogle

Tuesday, January 18

Craft Kits To-Go for Kids
New Providence
Craft kits will be available once a month and are on a first come, first served basis.

Act of Kindness Program
Earn community service hours and make wreaths for the library’s outreach partner, Country Arch Care Center.  The library provides the supplies to make a variety of wreaths for the residents to hang on their doors. Not only does that brighten the hallways, but it also gives each door a unique look to make it easier for the residents to find their rooms.

Community Day: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Newark Museum of Art
Join for the annual celebration honoring the life and legacy of one of this nation’s greatest heroes: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s program highlights how barriers were broken and continue to be broken with a woman of color to become vice president of the United States.

Wednesday, January 19

Wonderous Winter Walk at Thompson Park
Nature walks are like snowflakes, each one is unique in its own way. Toss on your winter gear and tag along with a Park System Naturalist as you explore the serenity that is nature in the wintertime. Please Note: Sturdy footwear recommended, trails used may have inclines or tree roots to step over. Open to all ages; under 18 with adult.

Thursday, January 20

Nature Lecture Series: Chickadees of Monmouth County
Aberdeen Township
Chickadees are cute, small, social birds that flock to bird feeders during winter. Even if you have never seen a chickadee, you have probably heard its common winter chick-a-dee-dee-dee call. Discover more about these adorable birds and learn how to identify and attract them to your bird feeders.

Friday, January 21

Reindeer Craft To-Go Kit
Pick up a kit in the children’s department while supplies last.

Saturday, January 22

Nature on the Move, Adaptations – How Do Animals Stay Warm in the Winter?
A park naturalist will present a 45-60-minute hands-on interactive program. Keep warm with some hot cocoa while exploring how nature survives the colder weather through fun games and activities.

Tuesday, January 25

The Casual Birder at Seven Presidents Ocean Front Park
Long Branch
Join a Park System Naturalist for these laid-back morning bird walks. No need to be an expert at identifying birds to enjoy these walks. A limited number of binoculars will be available to borrow if needed. Open to ages 10 and up, under 18 with adult.

Wednesday, January 26

Little Panda Storytime
Guest readers from YingHua International School share storytime in Mandarin Chinese. For ages 3 and up, depending on Chinese proficiency level.

Wonderous Winter Walk at Hartshorne Woods Park
Nature walks are like snowflakes, each one is unique in its own way. Toss on your winter gear and tag along with a Park System Naturalist as you explore the serenity that is nature in the wintertime. Please note: Sturdy footwear recommended, trails used may have inclines or tree roots to step over. Open to all ages; under 18 with adult.

Saturday, January 29

Fire and Ice Festival
Downtown Mount Holly
On the last Saturday of January, every year now for 28 years, Mount Holly plays host to about a dozen professional ice carvers from up and down the east coast, an equal number of professional chili chefs plus a wide variety of interesting entertainment for young, old and everyone in between.  The ice carvers transform 300-pound blocks of ice into beautiful crystalline works of art, right before your eyes.

Ice Harvest
Neighbors once called Howell Farm the “ice farm” because they could buy ice from the pond to keep their milk cool on the way to the train station on Pleasant Valley Road. In late January, visitors to the farm will learn about the tools and technology that made ice harvesting a successful business at the turn of the 20th century with demonstrations of ice cutting, hauling and handling. Visitors can also help pull ice blocks up the ramp to the ice house, chip ice to make ice cream and make an ice candle to take home.

Sunday, January 30

Escape Room
Brown Mills
Look for clues and solve puzzles to see if you can break out of our escape room. For ages 5 and up.

Seashore Open House at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park
Long Branch
The whole family will love engaging in hands-on activities about the shore and the sea. Speak with a Park System Naturalist about your own shell collection or the aquatic animals on display.

Various dates in January

Read to a Dog
For readers and pre-readers in Pre-K through grade 5 who wish to practice their reading skills by reading to a lovable therapy dog. Pre-readers must be able to explain the events happening in a story book, even if they are unable to read the words. The child will have a 15-minute in-person private sitting with the animal.

Guided Nature Hike
Cheesequake State Park
Try a 1.5-2 mile guided nature hike for ages 8 and older. Dress for the weather; dogs are welcome on a leash. Call on the day of the event to check for weather cancellation.

King George’s Winter Walk
Run, walk, or roll 22 miles from the Twelfth Night (January 6) through Washington’s Birthday (February 22). This walk is open for all ages. Return a completed walker’s log by March 1 to enter a lottery for a Washington’s Birthday surprise.

Looking for more free things to do in January? Check out our calendar.