Downtown Cranford: A New Jersey Treasure

Have you ever visited downtown Cranford, New Jersey? If not, it is totally worth the trip up the Garden State Parkway to exit 137. The quaint, but modern, business district features tons of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. Nestled among the Rahway River, the NJ Transit Raritan Valley Line, and Route 28 (North Ave.) Parking is plentiful, convenient, and inexpensive. Walking is easy, thanks to well-marked and controlled pedestrian crossings.

Cranford, in Union County, is one of New Jersey's most picturesque and thriving downtowns. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
Cranford, in Union County, is one of New Jersey's most picturesque and thriving downtowns. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
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It is so nice to see such a flourishing "downtown" in New Jersey. Full of thriving small businesses and a variety of residential spaces. (I couldn't find a single empty storefront!)

In recent years, Cranford has really stepped up their game in enhancing the town. Especially in offering special events and programs for residents and visitors. Their fall calendar is especially full and ambitious.

Halloween Capital of the World?

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year for special outdoor activities. And Cranford officials have even said they are vying for the title of "Halloween Capital of the World". That's a bold claim!

The town is celebrating the season with events including:
—Candy Strolls
—Howl-o-ween Pet Parade
—Great Pumpkin Carve Out
—Pumpkin Chunkin'
—Special events, classes, and discounts at area businesses
—Decorations galore at practically every downtown establishment

The Scarecrow Stroll

The signature event of Cranford's October 2022 calendar is the 15th annual Scarecrow Stroll. It has absolutely become one of my family's favorite outings of the fall.

Through Halloween (October 31st), over 100 scarecrows are on public display lining the streets of Cranford. They were created by area businesses, organizations, schools, families, and children.

You can pickup and dropoff your official Cranford Scarecrow Stroll ballot at this mailbox in Eastman Plaza. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
You can pickup and dropoff your official Cranford Scarecrow Stroll ballot at this mailbox in Eastman Plaza. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
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Of course, the Scarecrow Stroll is also a competition. Visitors can pick up a ballot from Eastman Plaza or select local businesses to vote for their favorites in six categories: Kids 10 and Under, Kids 11-17, Cranford Businesses, Adults & Families, Schools & Organizations, and Best Overall. Winners will be announced in November, and will receive Downtown Cranford gift cards.

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My Stroll

I took a walk around Cranford this week to check out the displays. And one thing's for sure — I didn't see a single crow!

For reference, I covered the whole stroll in a little under two hours. My watch tallied about 8,000 steps total.

Just wow — the creativity and craftsmanship are incredible! I especially loved the displays that directly tied in with a local business. And so many local Girl Scout troops participated, with such a wide array of great ideas.

It's so hard to pick favorites, because all the scarecrows were amazing works of art. I don't want to hurt feelings or sway the voting, but I have to pick out a few of my favorite displays around town, including:
—Audrey II, from Little Shop of Horrors (N Union Ave — both of them!)
—Home Alone, by Remax First Realty II Cranford (N Union Ave)
—The Gymnast, by Diamond Gymnastics (N Union Ave)
—Tattoo Scarecrow, by Inklightened Tattoo (Miln St)
—The Ghostbusters, in front of Think D'Sign Print store (North Ave)
—"Buzz", by Cranford Station House (North Ave)
—Trip Down Abbey Road (Eastman Plaza)
—Bob "Moss" (North Ave)
—Gene Kelly, singing in the rain (S Union Ave)
—Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, selling Girl Scout cookies, by Troop __ (Walnut Ave)
—The Recycle Fairy, inside Labo Refillery (Walnut Ave)
—Mad Scientist, by Lerner David (South Ave)
—Mirabel, from Encanto, by Cranford Daisy Troop 40400 (South Ave)

If you are looking for a casual, go-at-your-own-pace, family-friendly fall activity, I highly recommend this year's Scarecrow Stroll. Day or night.

Scarecrow Stroll Tips

Let me offer a few points to first-time strollers:

—Get a sense for the layout of Cranford before you start your stroll. All the scarecrows are easy to find, on main streets, throughout about a 9-block radius.

—Be sure to explore the area both north and south of the train tracks.

—Stroll safely. Share the sidewalk and use crosswalks at marked intersections only.

—Look up. Some scarecrows are located inside storefront windows.

—Pick up a ballot at Eastman Plaza (either before or after your stroll) and vote for your favorites. (Their "mailbox" looks like a Halloween-themed garbage can.) You'll need to pay attention to the number and color (category) of each scarecrow.

The official 2022 Cranford Scarecrow Stroll voting ballot. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
The official 2022 Cranford Scarecrow Stroll voting ballot. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
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—Enter the official Scarecrow Selfie Contest. Take a selfie photo with a scarecrow and email it to dmc@cranfordnj.org. Strollers in costume earn double entries!

—Stop by some of the shops. There are dozens of local businesses downtown, offering an impressive variety of stuff.

—Definitely plan to have lunch or dinner downtown. (I opted for a delicious sub from the legendary Mr. J's.)

I compiled a photo gallery of most of this year's entries. (The 107 scarecrow displays I walked by, at least.) Enjoy the scary, silly, stunning sights of Cranford, New Jersey. Bravo to the designers, creators, and organizers. And Happy Halloween to all!

PHOTO TOUR: The 15th Annual Scarecrow Scroll in Cranford, NJ

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