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Day Trip to Princeton

When you think of Princeton, do you envision a picturesque Ivy League campus?  Or perhaps you think of quaint tree-lined streets with fabulous boutiques and intimate restaurants on every corner.  This historic town in central New Jersey is home to all of the above and more.  Only about an hour from the Jersey shore, Princeton is a bustling mini-metropolis that has a little something for everyone.  If you have a day, come and play…

Princeton University

No visit to Princeton would be complete without a stroll around Princeton University’s scenic 500-acre campus.  Anchored by the historic Nassau Hall, the campus is a must-see destination for architectural buffs, history hobbyists, and anyone interested in a glimpse into the Ivy League lifestyle.  Guided tours are available through the Orange Key student tour guide group, but visitors are also welcome to explore on their own.  While here, be sure to check out the Princeton University Art Museum.  Located on campus, this esteemed collection boasts more than 60,000 works… and admission is free!

Shopping in Palmer Square

Both one-of-a-kind boutiques and well-loved brand name stores line the lovely streets of Palmer Square, a collection of Colonial Revival-style shops and restaurants originally built in the 1930’s.  Some favorites include: Bluemercury, a luxury apothecary and spa; Jazams, a unique toy store that brings out the kid in everyone; Zoe, a fun and funky shop featuring frocks from designers such as Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs; and the classic standbys of Ralph Lauren, Talbot’s, J. Crew, Kate Spade, and Banana Republic.

Fine (and Fun!) Dining

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a gourmet meal, delicious choices abound in Princeton.  On the casual end, try the famous buttermilk pancakes at PJ’s Pancake House, a favorite of university students, professors, and alums.  Also fun is a visit to Triumph Brewing Company where you can enjoy live music, microbrews, and such eclectic fare as kobe sliders, falafel, and sweet potato gnocchi.  The Bent Spoon is a must for delicious artisanal ice cream crafted with local, organic ingredients– try the blood orange sorbet or the clover honey ice cream.

For fine dining, you can’t go wrong with Mediterra, a restaurant whose menu is inspired by the 21 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, with an emphasis on the cuisine of Italy and Spain.  Specialties include the Paella Clasica for Two and the Moroccan Scallops, and an award-winning wine list rounds out the offerings.  For a more traditional Princeton experience, be sure to enjoy an elegant dinner at Lahiere’s.  Founded in 1919, this cozy eatery was a favorite of Albert Einstein, who reportedly ordered the roast chicken and vegetables each and every time he visited.

McCarter Theatre

For those intrigued by a world-class cultural experience, McCarter Theatre Center for the Performing Arts offers more than 200 performances of theater, dance, music and special events each year.  McCarter is especially renowned for its Theater Series which explores new works and redefines American and international classics.  Visit for more information on current and upcoming productions and to purchase tickets.

Other Places of Interest

If you’re interested in learning more about Princeton’s rich history, stop by The Princeton Historical Society on Nassau Street.  Every Sunday at 2 pm, guides provide a walking tour of downtown Princeton and the university, providing facts about Princeton’s people, its architecture, and its historical moments.  The two-hour tour costs $7 per adult; $4 for children ages 6 to 12; and is free for children age 5 and under.  The museum itself houses changing and permanent exhibitions and collections as well as a museum shop.

To further step back in time, Princeton Battlefield State Park– the site of one of the fiercest battles of the American Revolution– is located about 1.5 miles from the university in Princeton Township.  The beautiful 100-acre park includes hiking trails that lead to the Delaware and Raritan Canal.

And if You Can’t Bear to Leave…

The charming Nassau Inn, nestled in the heart of Palmer Square, has 203 rooms and suites resplendent with 18th-century-style furnishings.  The Yankee Doodle Tap Room pub and restaurant, located conveniently on-site, is famous for its thirteen-foot Norman Rockwell mural commissioned in 1937.

For more information about things to do in Princeton, visit and check out the resource list below.


Orange Key Student Tours:

Princeton University Art Museum:

Palmer Square:

PJ’s Pancake House: 154 Nassau Street,

Triumph Brewing Company: 138 Nassau Street,

The Bent Spoon: 35 Palmer Square West,

Mediterra: 29 Hulfish Street,

Lahiere’s: 11 Witherspoon Street,

McCarter Theatre: 91 University Place,

The Historical Society of Princeton: 158 Nassau St.,

Princeton Battlefield State Park:

The Nassau Inn: 10 Palmer Square,


Jennifer Stillitano is a freelance writer based in the Princeton, NJ, area. Her husband Paul grew up in Lavallette, NJ, and she, Paul, and their two young daughters, Sara and Emily, still vacation there each summer.


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