The annual Branchville Scarecrow Contest is one of the most unique Halloween activities in New Jersey. Why would anyone want to spend an afternoon looking at scarecrows? Well, these are not your average scarecrows. Picture Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a scarecrow. Or Elvis Presley. Or circus acrobat scarecrows.
We stumbled upon these scarecrows accidentally while in Branchville playing pickleball (we have a home a few minutes away). We saw one and then another. Before we knew it, they were all over. Then, we learned that it is a Branchville tradition.
Since 2015, the Branchville Scarecrow Contest has been one of the lesser known attractions of New Jersey. Last year, there were at least 50 displays with more than 150 scarecrows. Our favorite was a witch scarecrow in a zoom meeting with nine pumpkin faces representing the attendees.
1. It Will Put A Smile On Your Face
Walking around town and discovering the scarecrows is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a couple hours. You can see many of the displays by walking through the main area of town. There are some, however, that you will miss if you stay only in the center of town. Prepare for a long walk up and down hills or drive through the rest of town. You can pick up a map that shows where all the displays are located.
2. A Great Family Activity
Visiting the scarecrows is a wonderful family activity. Kids of all ages (including those of us with many years under our belt) love the scarecrows. Have a competition to see who can pick the scarecrow display that wins first place.
3. Attend The Branchville Halloween Parade
The winners are announced at the Halloween parade. The judges select the top three, and there is a People’s Choice Award. Come early, see the scarecrows, and then enjoy the parade. Hundreds of children and families turn out for the festivities — parading down the street in their costumes, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winners of the competition.
4. Visit One Of The Tiniest Towns In New Jersey
One of the quaintest towns in New Jersey, Branchville, recently celebrated its 200th anniversary. It is a tiny town. We mean half a square mile and 850 residents tiny. And no stoplights. In Branchville, you’ll experience small-town U.S.A. where everyone knows everyone. Don’t be surprised if strangers greet you as if you are a lifelong friend.
5. Visit The Local Businesses
Walk down the main street in Branchville and you will find the barbershop, Barnyard Restaurant, Broad Street Books, A&G Pizza, Orr’s Clothes for Country Living, and a few other businesses. Like we said, it is small.
If you love books, then stop in Broad Street Books — it has a large and eclectic collection, and the owners are very knowledgeable. Orr’s has been in town since 1898. Make sure to meet Wayne, the owner. The Barnyard is the newest restaurant in Branchville and serves excellent food. Try the burgers or the empanadas.
6. Enjoy The Fall Foliage
You can combine a fall foliage tour with a visit to Branchville. Branchville is on the edge of the Delaware Water Gap. For hikers, Stokes State Forest is a few miles away. For waterfall lovers, Buttermilk Falls, the highest waterfall in New Jersey, is about 20 minutes away. You might also enjoy apple picking while you are in the area — there are a lot of farms nearby.
Branchville is 60 miles from New York City and makes a great day trip. It’s best to drive to the town — buses and trains are very limited. You can take a bus to Newton, New Jersey, and Milford, Pennsylvania, but then you will need a car to get around those areas.
If you spend all your time in the main part of town, the streets are paved with curb cuts, so it is accessible. Further afield is more challenging due to the hills.
There is plenty to do in the area if you want to spend the weekend in Sussex County. You’ll find excellent hiking, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, and tons of other outdoor activities.
If you want to make a weekend trip, there are several hotels and bed and breakfasts in Milford and Newton. Both towns are a 20-minute drive from Branchville, and both places have more restaurants and things to do.
Make sure to pick up a map of the displays. Most of the area’s businesses will have them.
Since we have a home a few minutes away, we go early and late to see all the scarecrow displays. If you are only going once, aim for the end of October when more of the scarecrows are on display.
It can get crowded the night before the Halloween Parade as everyone tries to see all of the displays before judging. Crowded is relative — remember only 850 people live in the town.
Lastly, enjoy the creativity of the scarecrows. We stumbled upon them by accident and now we make sure to go every year.
For more activities to explore in the Garden State, check out these articles on New Jersey: