Home Culture Your Day Trip Guide to Princeton, NJ

Your Day Trip Guide to Princeton, NJ

by Ainsley Layland
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The town of Princeton is best known for being home to the ivy league Princeton University. Surrounding the historic campus, however, is a town that has a lot to offer by way of history, architecture, and walking trails with beautiful vistas. Read on for more information on the highlights of this quintessential 18-square-mile town.

things to do princeton new jersey

{Photo credit: @morvenmuseum}

The Ivy at Chatham

Historical Locales

Princeton University Art Museum {McCormick Hall}

Princeton Museum

{Photo credit: @princetonu_artmuseum}

The resident art museum on Princeton University campus was founded in 1882 and has no shortage of artwork. With more than 92,000 pieces of art, visitors should plan ample time to take it all in. The time periods featured in the art range from antiquity to the contemporary period. The museum actively supports the goals of the University to encourage teaching, research, and service in fields of art and culture. The museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 but keep an eye on the website for openings when you plan your next visit.

Morven Museum + Garden {55 Stockton Street}

morven museum

{Photo credit: @morvenmuseum}

This beautiful, historic 18th-century home belonged to Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, it sits on five landscaped acres and once served as the New Jersey Governor’s Mansion for almost 40 years. Visitors can enjoy exhibitions, educational programs, and special events showcasing the history and culture of New Jersey. 

Nassau Hall at Princeton University {125 Faculty Road}

nassau hall

{Photo credit: @apply.princeton}

Nassau Hall was completed in 1756 and served for a short time as the United States Capitol building. It is the oldest building on campus and upon completion was the largest academic building in the American colonies. The building originally housed a library, classrooms, a library, and a residential space. During the American Revolutionary War, the hall was used by both British and American troops and was damaged during the Battle of Princeton in 1777. The building would later be the victim of more damage in 1802 and 1855 when the building caught fire. It was remodeled both times, resulting in the present-day building. Tours of the interior are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions but the architecture is easily appreciated from the exterior. The listed address will take you to the south entrance of the campus. Parking is available on Stockton Street just south of campus.

Albert Einstein House {112 Mercer Street}

Albert Einstein House

Albert Einstein lived in this home from 1935 until his death in 1955. His wife Elsa shared the house with him for a short time until her passing in 1936. The house is not original to the Einstein family, however, as Elsa purchased it from the previous owner, Mary Clark Marden. When it was originally built, sometime before 1876, it stood where Stuart Hall on Princeton University currently stands. It was relocated, along with what is now 108 Mercer Street, when the University expanded. Following Elsa’s death, Albert Einstein lived in the house with his sister, step-daughter, and secretary.

Princeton University Chapel {125 Faculty Road}

Princeton University Chapel

The current chapel was built to replace the original which burned down in 1920. Designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, Ralph Adams Cram drew up plans in 1921 and the chapel was eventually completed in 1928. The building was restored in 2002 and rededicated in an interfaith ceremony. There are four beautifully designed stained glass “great windows” and four “Christian epic” windows nestled in the walls surrounding the elevated choir seats. The chapel is currently closed to tours due to COVID-19 restrictions but the architecture is easily appreciated from the exterior. The listed address will take you to the south entrance of campus and from there simply follow the signs for parking at Lot 23.

Drumthwacket Foundation {354 Stockton Street}

Drumthwacket Foundation

{Photo credit: The Drumthwacket Foundation}

After the Morven Estate was no longer used as the Governor’s Mansion, Drumthwacket became the official residence of the governor of New Jersey in 1982. The house and grounds are preserved and curated by the non-profit organization, Drumthwacket Foundation. The house was added to the National Register of Historic PLace in 1975. Interior tours are not currently running but the grounds are a must-see while in Princeton.

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Outdoor Activities

Princeton Battlefield State Park {500 Mercer Street}

Princeton Battlefield State Park

{Photo credit: @pbs1777}

American and British troops fought on the Princeton Battlefield in January of 1777 during the American Revolutionary War. The British soldiers eventually surrendered in Nassau Hall. This success improved the morale of American troops and sustained them through the war. Believe it or not, only a portion of the battlefield has been designated as a historical landmark. The Princeton Battlefield Society has been protesting construction on the land known as Maxwell’s field for years and finally, The American Battlefield Trust has agreed to buy the 15 acres for $4.5 million so it can remain preserved. The land features a monument that guests can experience while taking in the surrounding fields and history.

Delaware + Raritan Canal State Park Trail {10-58 Old Lincoln Highway}

Delaware + Raritan Canal State Park Trail

{Photo credit: Delaware + Raritan Canal State Park Trail}

The Delaware and Raritan Canal was built to connect the Delaware and Raritan Rivers in the 1830s. It was used for efficient freight transportation between New York City and Philadelphia. Visitors can now bike or walk the 70-mile canal trail and explore nature along the Delaware and Raritan rivers. The path can be accessed at multiple locations but the listed address brings visitors to an area with parking, trails, designated picnicking areas, an arboretum, restrooms, and playgrounds.

Mercer County Park {334 South Post Road}

Boasting more than 2,500 acres, Mercer County Park encompasses Mercer Lake which is home to the US Olympic Rowing Team’s training center. The park was renamed in 2009 for New Jersey State Senator Richard J. Coffee but is still commonly known as Mercer Park. Guests can enjoy playgrounds, walking trails, access to picnic pavilions, and rent boats at the boathouse at Mercer Lake.

Carnegie Lake {Route 27 Princeton-Kingston Road}

The construction of the reservoir that makes up Carnegie Lake was paid for by Andrew Carnegie, who donated the lake to Princeton University in 1906. The lake is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is primarily used by the US Olympic rowing team. While the lake is privately owned, it is open to the public for picnicking, swimming, and canoeing in the warmer months and designated areas are open for ice skating in the winter. Those who want to try their hand at fishing, have a chance at catching pickerel, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie.

Places To Eat

Blue Point Grill {258 Nassau Street}

Blue Point Grill

Reservations, curbside pickup, and delivery options are available. You’ll find seafood galore on the menu at Blue Point Grill. Sushi Mondays include a variety of roles including the three amigos roll, flaming salmon roll, yummy yummy roll with shrimp tempura, and the unique Princeton tiger roll with crab + avocado topped with smoked salmon, BBQ eel, and kabayaki sauce. Entree items include crab cakes, NJ sea scallops, Florida yellowfin tuna, Icelandic arctic char, and Falkland island Chilean sea bass. Closeout the night with a $9 dessert.

Jammin’ Crepes {20 Nassau Street}

Jammin’ Crepes

{Photo credit: @jammincrepes}

Serving their full line of savory and sweet crepes, Jammin’ Crepes specializes in made-to-order crepes filled with locally sourced ingredients alongside small world coffee and freshly baked pastries. Savory combinations include jammin’ turkey club, smoked turkey Reuben, pickled chicken BBQ, and smoky apple + brie. Dessert crepes are just as delicious, with fruit and chocolate combinations like feelin’ peachy, brownies in a blanket, and lemon + lavender. Guests can call 609-924-5387 to place an order for delivery or pickup. 

Olives Deli + Bakery {22 Witherspoon Street}

Olives Deli Bakery

{Photo credit: Olives Deli + Bakery}

Located conveniently in downtown Princeton, Olives offers up some of the best eats in town, from sandwiches to salads and homemade baked goods. Olives is a family-owned and operated catering and takeout food market with a focus on homemade recipes and imported specialties from Greece. 

Witherspoon Grill {57 Witherspoon Street}

Witherspoon Grill

{Photo credit: @witherspoongrill}

Combining exceptional food, drinks, and service in a refined setting, Witherspoon Grill is one of New Jersey’s premier steakhouse destinations. Featuring all-natural prime Angus beef, local-sourced poultry, and fresh seafood from Nassau street seafood company. Witherspoon Grill also offers classic American fare such as braised short ribs, lobster mac and cheese, raw bar favorites, and one of the best burgers in Princeton.

Mediterra Restaurant + Bar {29 Hulfish Street}

Mediterra Restaurant + Bar

{Photo credit: Mediterra Restaurant + Bar}

Open for outdoor dining by reservation only, Mediterra is a tavern-style restaurant with a warm ambiance. The concept behind the menu at Mediterra is a combination of nearly two dozen cultures surrounding the Mediterranean with an added Italian and Spanish flair. Ingredients are largely locally sourced.

Agricola Eatery {11 Witherspoon Street}

Agricola Eatery

{Photo credit: Agricola Eatery}

Self-proclaimed fresh, down-to-earth, and full of flavor, Agricola Eatery considers food to be a universal language. “Agricola” means farmer in Latin which embodies the farm-to-table spirit of this community staple. To place an order for delivery or pickup, you can call 609-921-2798.

Winberie’s Restaurant + Bar {1 Palmer Street}

Winberie’s Restaurant + Bar

{Photo credit: Winberie’s Restaurant + Bar}

Located across from Princeton University in Palmer Square, Winberie’s Restaurant + Bar has served the community, college students, and visitors since 1984. Offering a menu that blends modern craft with pub classics, Winberie’s also serves up craft brews, cocktails, and wine. Dressed up or dressed down Winberie’s is where you’ll feel right at home when visiting Princeton.

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Where To Shop

Palmer Square {3 Palmer Square}

Palmer Square

{Photo credit: @palmersquare}

This quaint, open-air plaza features brand-name retailers, indie boutiques, restaurants, and taverns. At the corner of modern and timeless, guests can enjoy ice skating, shopping, dinner, drinks, and more at Palmer Square. This shopping area offers an excellent selection of apparel, gifts, and home goods that can be found in these boutiques. Whether you’re shopping in person or ordering an item online, you are sure to find a treasure to take with you.

Shop The World {4 Spring Street}

Shop The World opened in 1992 a few blocks from campus. They promote fair trade by buying from cooperatives and artisans around the world in countries including Thailand, Bali, Nepal, and Guatemala. You’ll find unique items like handmade earrings, clothing, Indian tapestries, and statues. 

MarketFair Shoppes {3535 US Highway 1}

Located just outside downtown Princeton, MarketFair is a classy retail venue with upscale specialty shops and casual restaurants. The shops at MarketFair include GAP, Francesca’s, Corner Bakery Cafe, West Elm, Pottery Barn, The Waxing City, Starbucks, TGI Fridays, Sunglass Hut, and more. 

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