Cranbury is a township in Middlesex County, New Jersey, about 18 miles from the state capital Trenton.
Steeped in history, it is one of the oldest towns in the state, said to be settled as early as the late 1680s.
The origin of its name remains unclear, appearing in old maps as “Cranberry.”
It was changed to the present spelling in 1869, and the township was officially created in 1872.
Cranbury is considered the best-preserved 19th-century township in the county, and its entire downtown was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
It is nestled among scenic woodlands and lush meadows, offering opportunities to explore and enjoy nature.
Here are some of the best things to do in Cranbury, New Jersey to get you started on planning your visit to this historic town:
Stroll around the Cranbury Historic District
Witness the township’s enduring historic charm when you stroll around the Cranbury Historic District, which includes Main Street and portions of other village side streets.
Walk along beautiful tree-lined streets and see over 200 buildings that form the district.
Most of these structures were built before the 1930s, with most buildings dating back to the mid-19th century.
Admire the lovely architecture of these houses and buildings, with styles from the Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian periods.
In 1980, the Cranbury Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture, commerce, and historical significance.
Visit the Cranbury Museum
Deep dive into the town’s history when you visit the Cranbury Museum.
Run by the Cranbury Historical and Preservation Society, it is housed in an early 19th-century house.
The museum, which opened in 1972, features artifacts that tell the story of Cranbury life across the centuries.
The collection includes furniture donated by the township’s residents.
See an 18th-century rocking chair, antique dolls, an 1846 clock, and a century-old pump organ, among other notable antique items.
A beautiful garden with colorful flowers adorns the house outside, dedicated to the museum’s founders.
You can find the Cranbury Museum on Park Place East.
See Local Art at the Gourgaud Gallery
Get a glimpse of the local art scene when you visit the Gourgaud Gallery.
It is the town’s center for the arts, featuring a new exhibit every month.
Run by volunteers, it also hosts drama and poem readings, film screenings, musical gatherings, and lectures.
If you happen to have your eye on a piece, you can also buy artwork at this gallery.
The Gourgaud Gallery is located on the first floor of the Cranbury Township Town Hall.
Dine and Wine at The Cranbury Inn
No trip to Cranbury would be complete without stopping by The Cranbury Inn.
One of the oldest businesses in town, this historic establishment traces its roots to a tavern that served as a place for travelers to eat and drink in central New Jersey in the mid-18th century.
Experience a fine dining experience at their restaurant, where many famous people have also dined and wined, including Albert Einstein, foreign dignitaries, and other celebrities.
You can also spend time at the lounge, where you can enjoy a full-service bar while relaxing in the homey atmosphere.
The Cranbury Inn sits along South Main Street.
Explore the Reinhardt Forest Preserve
If you’re up for some nature exploring, head to the Reinhardt Forest Preserve.
This 61-acre open space features expansive woodlands, wetlands, and wildlife.
You can hike along three well-marked trails totaling about 1.6 miles and enjoy the lush greenery.
See beautiful and interesting plants such as the native spring beauty and highbush blueberry.
The area is also great for birdwatching.
You can spot red-tailed hawks and woodpeckers up in the trees.
The Reinhardt Forest Preserve is located along Plainsboro Road.
Have a Picnic at Village Park
Take the family on a relaxing picnic day at Village Park along Maplewood Avenue.
This 19-acre park near the town’s center features about 750 feet of lakefront.
Have a barbeque and enjoy a feast with your family at the picnic site.
Take the kids for some play time at the park’s play area, equipped with structures for young and older children.
Hop on your bike and ride around the park’s open spaces.
On the south side, you can stroll along the lakefront and enjoy the serene atmosphere.
Village Park has several sports fields, including basketball and tennis courts if you’re looking for more active recreation.
See Historic Barns at Barn Park
Get a glimpse of the town’s early agricultural history when you visit Barn Park.
Sitting on a former farm property, this small park features three historic barns.
See the centuries-old Parsonage Barn, which belonged to the 18th-century Parsonage Plantation and is said to be the oldest barn in Cranbury.
You can also see at the park an 18th-century Dutch-style wagon house and a double corn crib dating back to 1890.
Barn Park is along Cranbury Neck Road.
Enjoy Nature at the Cranbury Brook Preserve
Spend a quiet, relaxing day in nature when visiting the Cranbury Brook Preserve.
Protecting the Cranbury Brook stream area, the preserve covers 50 acres of open grasslands and woodlands.
It features nature trails and open spaces great for strolling, birdwatching, or just enjoying the scenery.
Explore the trail along Cranbury Brook and take a break on one of the benches to spot some birds.
It is also home to other wildlife, including beavers, deer, squirrels, and rabbits.
The Cranbury Brook Preserve is located along Trenton Road.
Spend a Lazy Day at Heritage Park
Head to Heritage Park for a quiet day outdoors.
This 13.5-acre park features expansive open grass fields and landscaped areas, offering plenty of space for a relaxing day.
Pick a bench and settle down to catch up on reading.
If you visit in spring, take a walk in the meadow, and enjoy the beautiful sight of flowers blooming.
You can also fly a kite, play frisbee, or bike around to enjoy the lovely fall foliage.
Heritage Park is located between Old Trenton Road and South Main Street.
Enjoy the Scenery of Brainerd Dam
While exploring downtown, stop by Brainerd Dam for a beautiful lake view.
The open space is an excellent spot for a quick rest and relaxation.
Catch up on reading while you enjoy Brainerd Lake’s calm atmosphere.
Trees surrounding the water add to the serene view and turn into a colorful vista come fall.
You can find Brainerd Dam along South Main Street.
Visit and Shop at the Cranbury Craft Show
If you’re in town and like arts and crafts, don’t miss out on the Cranbury Craft Show.
The annual event features over 100 artisan exhibitors showcasing their craft talents and products.
Shop for art, pottery, jewelry, candles, toy, and other handmade items.
You can also find gourmet treats and other tasty food items.
The Cranbury Education Foundation hosts the Cranbury Craft Show to support projects that benefit the school district.
The show is held at the Cranbury School along Main Street.
Hike along the Pin Oaks Loop Trail
Go for a short, laid-back hike along the Pin Oaks Loop Trail.
About a mile of trail will take you through a young forest area, stream, and meadows.
As you explore the woods, you will get a glimpse of red-winged blackbirds, woodpeckers, and red-tailed hawks.
You can also see many lovely plants, including wildflowers, in the meadows.
You can find the access point to the Pin Oaks Loop Trail along Old Cranbury Road.
See the Cranbury Township Town Hall
While strolling around town, don’t miss out on seeing the historic Cranbury Township Town Hall.
This beautiful structure was built in 1897 and served as a school until 1967.
In 2001, after renovation works, the building was officially reopened as the town hall.
Its vivid color looks beautiful in winter amid a snow-white landscape.
The building’s tower bell dates back to 1897, while the tower clock dates back to 1906.
The Cranbury Township Town Hall sits along Main Street.
Visit Simonson Farms
If you’re in town during the Christmas season and looking for a tree, stop by Simonson Farms.
The farm features more than 50 acres of fields, where you can cut your own tree.
They have several varieties, so you can pick one that best fits your home.
If you’re not keen on chopping your own tree, they also have a lot of fresh-cut trees you can choose from.
They also have a Christmas shop where you can get gifts, wreaths, lights, and other accessories for the holiday season.
You can find Simonson Farms along Cranbury Neck Road.
Discover Flavors at The Market On Main
Interested in discovering the local dining scene?
Visit The Market On Main and sample some fresh Mediterranean and Greek fare!
If you’re looking for a breakfast spot or a place to have a full lunch or dinner, this beautiful restaurant offers sumptuous dishes.
Have your meal on the porch to enjoy it with the town’s serene atmosphere.
They also have sweet treats and gourmet pantry supplies you can enjoy back home.
The Market On Main takes place along Main Street.
Other Things to Do Nearby
There are many other attractions and recreation spots near Cranbury that you can add to your list.
Here are some spots you can explore:
Explore the Plainsboro Preserve
If you’re looking for a trail to explore nearby, visit the Plainsboro Preserve in Plainsboro Township, 10 minutes from Cranbury.
The preserve features over 1,000 acres of beautiful open space and nature trails, protecting the habitat of many wildlife and plant species.
Hike along the trails and admire the natural beauty of the preserve.
The Plainsboro Preserve is also home to the 50-acre McCormack Lake.
Play Golf at The Meadows at Middlesex
Head for a relaxing golf game at The Meadows at Middlesex in nearby Plainsboro Township, 10 minutes from Cranbury.
This golf facility features a lovely par 70, 18-hole golf course.
Play a round on their beautiful bent grass course and enjoy the fresh air and peaceful atmosphere.
After a round, grab a snack or enjoy their happy hour drinks.
The Meadows at Middlesex also offers golf clinics for those wanting to learn the game.
Shop at the Englishtown Auction Farmers and Flea Market
Drive to nearby Englishtown for a fun shopping experience at the Englishtown Auction Farmers and Flea Market.
This open-air market, one of the largest in the country, traces its origin to a marketplace for farmers to trade produce and goods in 1929.
Find antiques and collectibles, jewelry, home furnishings, clothing, and many more items.
They also have gourmet food items and bakery goods if you need a quick bite.
The Englishtown Auction Farmers and Flea Market is about an 11-mile drive from Cranbury.
Have a Pint at Old Hights Brewing Company
If you’re looking for a place to unwind after sightseeing, head to Old Hights Brewing Company.
This brewery features taps serving a great selection of traditional and new craft beer types.
Enjoy your pint at their beautiful taproom or the loft.
You can also head out with friends to their beer garden for an outdoor drinking atmosphere.
Stop by their to-go shop for some cans you can enjoy back home.
Old Hights Brewing Company is located in Hightstown, just five minutes from Cranbury.
Cranbury is a destination worth exploring for its enduring historic charm and natural beauty.
Various leisure opportunities await you in this lovely New Jersey township with green open spaces, natural areas, and plenty of historical spots.
Start planning your trip and experience some of the best things to do in Cranbury, New Jersey.