NEW JERSEY — Keeping the kids busy during the long summer months or entertaining visiting relatives can be challenging and expensive. Of course, trips to one of the Garden State's amusement or splash parks is a must, as is heading to the Jersey Shore.

There also are some free activities in New Jersey that make for fun day trips whether you are traveling with a friend or the family.

The Cape May County Zoo is located on Route 9 North in Cape May Court House. This delightful zoo is the ideal size for little ones and interesting enough to keep older tweens and teens engaged. The zoo contains more than 500 different animals. Entrance to the zoo is free though donations are accepted. Parking is free as well. The Cape May Zoo is open year round from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. while the adjacent park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Activities like the Zoo Camp, train ride and carousel are extra.

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Head to the Princeton University Art Museum on a rainy or sunny day. Admission is free and the museum includes a collection of over 90,000 works of art ranging from ancient to modern. Many of the art exhibits are displayed in green spaces. The museum is closed on Mondays and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The glass industry has been a mainstay in New Jersey since 1779. The Heritage Glass Museum in Glassboro helps to preserve that history with a unique collection of glass spanning the decades. It is closed on Wednesdays during the summer, but is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free though donations are recommended. Larger group tours should be made two weeks in advance.

Take a step back in time with the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville. The farm provides a glimpse into what life on the farm was like in New Jersey in the late 1800s. Admission and parking are free. There is a fee for extra activities such as the camps, corn maize and hayrides. The farm is closed on Mondays and open on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On weekends, it is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

When the temperature climbs and the humidity is high, a spray park can be a fun place to keep cool especially for families with little ones. Dorbrook Recreation Area in Colts Neck, Veterans Park in Monroe Township and Ponderosa Farm Park in Scotch Plains all have inviting spray parks to wile away a hot afternoon that are free.

New Jersey has 18 lighthouses and 11 are open to visitors. The Twin Lights in the Highlands makes for a picturesque day trip that includes breathtaking views of the Sandy Hook Bay and New York Harbor along with a history lesson in lighthouses at the accompaning museum. One of the lighthouses is available to climb and be sure to make time to explore the surrounding grounds.The Twin Lights is free to explore, but donations are accepted. The lighthouse is closed on Mondays, but is open on Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Park grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The website recommends visitors traveling to the Twin Lights from a great distance to call ahead to ensure the hours haven't been changed.

New Jersey sports fans may want to plan a trip to the Bridgeton Hall of Fame All Sports Museum in Bridgeton. This free musem contains a complete history of Garden State athletes and sports teams.