13 Cheap or Free East Coast Places to Take Your Family

Family vacations can get expensive, especially on the east coast. The following is a list of family and budget friendly places you should visit.

1. National Naval Aviation Museum

This museum is located on an air force base in Pensacola Florida. Due to it being an active military site there is some security to go through before getting inside. It is well worth it though. The museum is huge. You will see airplanes from all over the world and spanning through time. Also make sure to get on the trolley tour of the back lot, where you will see some of the planes they can’t fit inside the museum. Kids will love getting inside some of the planes, the best part is that it’s free.

2. Dauset Trails Nature Center

Nature and animal lovers alike will enjoy a visit to Dauset Trails. This nature center in Jackson Georgia is close to the city of Atlanta. It is educational, well maintained, and family friendly. Walk the trails, enjoy the animals, and bring a picnic. There is a large pond with fish and turtles, you can buy food to feed them too. Dauset Trails has plenty of free parking and no admission cost, but if you enjoy it make sure to leave a small donation to help their cause.

3. Congaree National Park

Not all National Parks are admission free, but Congaree in South Carolina is. This small park is not well known, but it should be. All the trails are on boardwalks due to common bouts of flooding. This makes it perfect for kids. With it’s interesting history, easy walking trails, and chances to see many types of wildlife, you are sure to enjoy this beautiful east coast National Park.

4. North Carolina Transportation Museum

Even if you’re not a train lover this museum is worth checking out. It has one of the last remaining roundhouses in the country, several different types of trains, and a variety of other transportation as well. They offer a train ride which takes you by the four large exhibit buildings. This location was once the largest steam locomotive repair facility on the east coast and offers some interesting history. It is a Smithsonian affiliate and an ASTC passport member as well. The cost is low for the fun you will have at this family friendly, educational museum.

5. Virginia’s State House

Virginia is a state rich in history. In this state is one of America’s earliest English settlements, lots of Civil War history, and the Revolutionary War as well. With so much history it is not surprising that they have an amazing state capitol building to visit. Take a free guided tour of the building with your kids to learn more about this state. They have built their expansions underground in order to keep it’s historical appearance. It is also on the national register of historic places. After the tour you can wander around on your own, the kids will enjoy seeing some of the statues and exploring the grounds.

6. Johnson Victrola Museum

If you know what a Victrola is you will enjoy a stop in this small museum. Even if you are not familiar with the Victrola this place is so cool. Their collection of Victrola related memorabilia is incredible. It doesn’t take long to explore, but the volunteers are so nice and they even play some old records on these music machines. I still can’t believe we stumbled across this free, educational, family friendly museum in Delaware.

7. Greenbelt National Park

Just outside Washington DC, in Maryland, you can find an urban oasis. The east coast does not have as many large national parks and forests as the west coast does. That makes the ones they do have even more unique. Greenbelt National Park is only about 20 minutes from Washington DC, but makes you feel as though you are in the wilderness. There are trails, picnic areas, a playground, camping, and wildlife to observe. There is no cost to visit this park for day use only and the camping fee is very reasonable, especially considering the location.

8. Thomas Edison National Historic Site

The workshop of Thomas Edison is located in New Jersey. This place is fun for kids because they can observe the area where this amazing historical figure actually worked. It was left just as it had been when he was alive so all the materials you see are things that he used. So many great inventions and technologies, that haven’t changed much, started in this location. There are also tours of his home available, but check the schedule for days and times.

9. The High Line

Everyone knows about Central Park, Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building in New York City, but if you want a free place to go with your kids in this metropolis east coast city then try the High Line. It is a park developed by the community on an old elevated railway. It spans about three miles in length and a story or two high making for great photos. With gardens, benches, and art it makes for a unique way to explore. You can stroll the entire length or take one of the many stairways to get on or off at several points along the way.

10. Boxcar Children Museum

Kids love the Boxcar Children book series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. In her hometown of Putnam Connecticut you will find an old boxcar made into a museum dedicated to her and the children in her stories. It is small, being that it is in a boxcar, but fun for kids. They can get a feel of what it would have been like for the stories characters living in the boxcar. There are several activities available and a small gift shop where you can purchase the books. Feel free to make a donation because there is no charge to visit.

11. Minuteman National Historic Site

History is so much more interesting when it is experienced. A visit to the Minuteman National Historic Site in Massachusetts will help bring the Revolutionary War to life. It is the where the first shots of the war were fired and you can stand on the bridge where this event actually took place. The kids really enjoyed getting to see a real musket being fired. There is no cost to walk the Road to Revolution and most programs offered are free of charge. It is a great way to learn together and have fun too.

12. Fun Spot

Do you love video games? Then why not visit the world’s largest video arcade in Weirs Beach New Hampshire. While this place is not free, it offers games and food at a decent price. There were so many games to choose from and most were only one token. Games for young and old alike are found here. They offer a wide selection including games that give out tickets for prizes, pinball, and tons of stand up arcade games as well. You can also play mini golf, let the little ones ride the bumper cars, and get a bite to eat.

13. Baxter State Park

When visiting Maine this state park is a must. The land was donated by a former Mayor that left it to the state with the stipulation it must be kept in a natural state, and it definitely has been. The roads are all gravel and the development it does have is minimal. This makes it a great place to go hiking, camping, and view nature. If you are a citizen of Maine entrance is free, but those of us from out of state are charged a fee to enter. You will not regret it though, as this state park is amazing.

If you are looking for some inexpensive or free educational family fun for your next visit to the east coast, check out some of these great locations. I tried to include something from each state and hope you get a chance to check them all out. Thanks for reading and please leave a comment to share your experiences on the east coast.

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