Princeton was settled in 1696, became a town in New Jersey in 1813 and was settled by Quakers in 1838. Although Princeton is most famous worldwide for its university, founded in 1746, there is much more to this New Jersey city. Princeton is a lively, trendy and vibrant city with a welcoming casual element making many visitors feel at home. Partway between New York City and Philadelphia, Princeton has excellent transportation links to both, making it the ideal place to call in for a day out if staying in one of the major cities.
Princeton is filled with excellent restaurants ranging from luxury gourmet haunts to quirky and laidback cafes. The city has plenty to offer for those interested in history, arts and the outdoors. Popular museums include the Morven Museum & Garden and Princeton Universities Art Museum. After taking your fill of the culture, head to one of the city’s many parks to relax and unwind. Here are 20 things to do in Princeton (NJ) to entice you to visit this incredible city.
- Princeton, NJ
- 20 Things To Do In Princeton NJ
- 1- Explore History At Princeton Battlefield State Park
- 2- Relax In Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park
- 3- Be Inspired By The Princeton Battle Monument
- 4- Step Back Into The Past At Nassau Hall
- 5- Enjoy Incredible Displays At Princeton University Art Museum
- 6- Go Fishing At Lake Carnegie
- 7- Admire The Architecture Of Drumthwacket
- 8- Take A Tour Of Bainbridge House
- 9- Dine At The Peacock Inn
- 10- Drink Craft Beer At Yankee Doodle Tap Room
- 11- See A Show At Princeton Garden Theatre
- 12- Explore Morven Museum & Garden
- 13- Admire The Gothic Cleveland Tower
- 14- Eat Apple Pie At Terhune Orchards & Winery
- 15- Listen To The Choir At Princeton University Chapel
- 16- Wander Around Palmer Square
- 17- Watch A Performance At McCarter Theatre
- 18- Have A Picnic At Marquand Park
- 19- Visit Princeton University
- 20- Walk The Lawrence Hopewell Trail
- 20 Things To Do In Princeton NJ
20 Things To Do In Princeton NJ
1- Explore History At Princeton Battlefield State Park
Princeton Battlefield State Park is a tranquil escape today, but during the American Revolution, it where a fierce battle of the war was fought.
The battle began on January 3 1777, when General George Washington and his American troops surprised and defeated a group of British Regulars.
This battle gave Washington his first victory against the British and set in stone his future as a keen military mind.
The park is filled with reminders of this important battle through informative signs and guided walks.
The monument to the battle is located on nearby Nassau Street.
Princeton Battlefield State Park is at 500 Mercer Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.
2- Relax In Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park
During the early 19th century, the Delaware and Raritan Canal was built to allow safe and effective passage for cargo to travel between New York and Philadelphia.
Approximately 70 miles (112.65 km) of the canal and its tributaries have been transformed into a park now popular for running, hiking, fishing and canoeing.
Within the park, 160 species of birds can be found nesting in the trees or diving toward the water for food.
Many 19th-century wooden bridges cross the canal, and bridge tender houses remain on its banks.
Delaware and Raritan State Park is at 145 Mapleton Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.
3- Be Inspired By The Princeton Battle Monument
Princeton Battle Monument is within Historic Princeton, the oldest part of the city.
Frederick MacMonnies and Thomas Hastings designed the monument and took inspiration from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The monument features a 50ft (15.24m) statue of General George Washington leading his troops into what would prove to be a victorious battle.
The monument is at the end of Nassau Street, along a pathway lined with cherry trees.
After visiting the statue, explore the rest of the Princeton Battlefield State Park to learn more about the historic battle in 1777.
Princeton Battle Monument is at Princeton Borough Hall, Princeton, NJ.
4- Step Back Into The Past At Nassau Hall
Nassau Hall has been used for a variety of purposes during its long history.
Robert Smith, Benjamin Latrobe and John Notman were the principal architects of the project. Thanks to their mix of styles, architecturally, Nassau Hall is unique.
The hall was originally used to house American and British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War.
Today, its National Historic Landmark status preserves its historical value even though the hall now houses the Princeton University administrative offices, a student residence, a library and classrooms.
Nassau Hall is at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08542.
5- Enjoy Incredible Displays At Princeton University Art Museum
Within the grounds of Princeton University is its famous Art Museum which is one of the best small museums in the world thanks to its incredible collections.
There are more than 92,000 pieces of art inside the museum, ranging from pieces dating back to ancient times to more modern additions.
As the collection is so vast, only five per cent is ever displayed at a time, and each season, the gallery collections rotate, which introduces more of the museum’s pieces to the public.
Princeton University Art Museum is at McCormick Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544.
6- Go Fishing At Lake Carnegie
Lake Carnegie is an artificial lake in Princeton designed to allow Howard R Butler and his varsity crew team a place to row away from the narrow canals.
Construction on the lake was completed within three years and has remained under Princeton University’s ownership since.
The Princeton Rowing Team exclusively uses the lake itself, however, the grounds surrounding it are open to the public.
It is possible to fish in the waters of Lake Carnegie, with a variety of fish, including bass, catfish and trout attracting those interested to its shallows.
Lake Carnegie is at New Jersey, 08540.
7- Admire The Architecture Of Drumthwacket
The New Jersey governor’s official residence dates back to 1835, when Charles Smith Olden, the 28th Governor of New Jersey, built the beautiful house.
Drumthwacket has, during its history, undergone many renovations and additions to its structure and lands.
Moses Taylor Pyne, a former owner, made many additions to the property, including the greenhouses, dairy farms and large garden.
As Drumthwacket is still a private residence, the public can only visit by attending an official tour exploring the house and gardens on Wednesdays.
Drumthwacket is at 354 Stockton Street, Princeton, NJ 08540.
8- Take A Tour Of Bainbridge House
Job Stockton built Bainbridge House in 1766, which makes it one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city and an incredible example of Georgian architecture.
Bainbridge House is historically significant, not because of its age but because of its role in America’s fight for independence.
Bainbridge House served as accommodation for the Continental Congress during 1783.
The house also served as a public library and a boarding house for university students.
Today Bainbridge House has been restored to allow its structure and contents to remain intact for future generations.
The Historical Society manages the house and offers guided tours of the house.
Bainbridge House is at 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542.
9- Dine At The Peacock Inn
Within an 18th-century colonial mansion and a few minutes’ walk from the Princeton University Art Museum is the Peacock Inn, a restaurant that feels like a step back in time.
Its interior is sophisticated and filled with high-quality art and furniture.
Displayed around the inn are menus from the 1930s.
Executive Chef Jason Ramos utilises seasonal and local ingredients to create mouthwatering and visually enticing dishes.
The best way to sample all the Peacock Inn offers is by ordering the tasting menu with wine pairings.
Peacock Inn is at 20 Bayard Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540.
10- Drink Craft Beer At Yankee Doodle Tap Room
Yankee Doodle Tap Room has some of Princeton’s best food and beer, including 19 craft beers on tap.
Meals served at the taproom are typical American comfort food such as traditional burgers and fries, fish, and of course, large, juicy steaks.
Yankee Doodle Tap Room has ample indoor and outdoor seating making it a great spot year-round to relax with friends.
Yankee Doodle Tap Room is at 10 Palmer Square East, Princeton, NJ 08542.
11- See A Show At Princeton Garden Theatre
For an unusual afternoon or evening out, head to Princeton Garden Theatre, a historic movie theatre specialising in classic and foreign language films.
Proposals for the theatre began in 1909 however, construction did not begin until 1919.
The theatre opened in 1920 with a showing of Civilian Clothes, a silent comedy film accompanied by a live orchestra, while plants decorated the stage to add to the atmosphere.
Princeton Garden Theatre is at 160 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542.
12- Explore Morven Museum & Garden
Richard Stockton, a high-flying lawyer, built Morven House in 1750 as a home for his family.
Stockton is particularly important to the history of America’s independence as he was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence.
The house served as the New Jersey Governors’ mansion from 1944 to 1981, when it was turned into a museum.
The museum records the lives of the Stockton family during the mid to late 1700s and their role in America’s independence.
The house is filled with decorative arts, and it has a beautifully maintained garden outside.
The house frequently hosts exhibitions, historical and cultural events.
Morven Museum and Garden is at 55 Stockton Street, Princeton, NJ 08540.
13- Admire The Gothic Cleveland Tower
Cleveland Tower was built as a memorial to Grover Cleveland, an American president and trustee of Princeton University.
Boston College’s Gasson Hall inspired the tower’s Gothic architectural features.
It was completed in 1913, with the university carillon added to the tower in 1927.
The tower is 173ft (52.73m) high and is a notable addition to the city’s skyline.
Cleveland Tower is at the main entrance of Princeton University at College Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.
14- Eat Apple Pie At Terhune Orchards & Winery
On the outskirts of historic Princeton, Terhune Orchards and Winery is a tranquil destination that is a perfect day trip if you’re looking for country air.
Only a short drive away from the city, gently rolling hills surround the orchard, and animals graze freely in paddocks.
Terhune is famous for its freshly baked apple pies and ciders using apples grown in their orchards.
Visit during autumn to pick your apples and pumpkins while year-round, the farm is open to the public to interact with their animals.
Terhune Orchards and Winery is at 330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.
15- Listen To The Choir At Princeton University Chapel
Princeton University Chapel has drawn visitors and worshippers through its doors since 1928.
Within the chapel is a Mander-Skinner organ that is frequently played to accompany the 60-voice choir that holds regular concerts, as well as singing during the weekly service.
Concerts held in the chapel include performances from local choirs, singers and speakers, and those from further afield.
The chapel is Tudor-Gothic in its style, seats 2000 people and is bookable for various events, including weddings.
Princeton University Chapel is at Green Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544.
16- Wander Around Palmer Square
Palmer Square is the centre of Princeton, where history and the modern-day meet.
The square itself is centred around the historic Nassau Inn, lined with many shops, bars and restaurants, and its centre is wide and open with plenty of seating areas.
The square regularly hosts concerts, classes and traditional holiday activities that date back centuries.
Palmer Square is at Palmer Square East, Princeton, NJ 08542.
17- Watch A Performance At McCarter Theatre
McCarter Theatre Centre is one of Princeton’s most prestigious performing arts centres, hosting more than 200 dance, theatre and music performances each year.
The theatre has been open to the public since 1930 and continues to attract local audiences of more than 200,000 people across the year.
Many performances held at the centre are a reimagining of classical works for a more modern-day audience.
The theatre prides itself on its community engagement and regularly works with school groups to introduce themes of diversity and originality to the curriculum.
McCarter Theatre Centre is at 91 University Place, Princeton, NJ 08540.
18- Have A Picnic At Marquand Park
Marquand Park is another idyllic spot in Princeton to explore, covering 17 acres (6.9 ha) of land and includes an arboretum, paved trails and baseball fields.
Marquand Park is renowned for its arboretum, where more than 140 native and exotic species of trees grow.
The arboretum is historic and reflects the tastes of the land owners when it was part of a landscaped garden in a 19th-century estate.
After exploring the beauty of the trees, stop for a picnic and with many picnic benches and tables throughout the park, finding a lovely picnic spot is easy.
Marquand Park is at Lovers Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540.
19- Visit Princeton University
Princeton University is a top Ivy League university founded in 1746, making it the fourth-oldest higher education establishment in the USA.
The university was originally built in Elizabeth before moving to Princeton in 1756.
The university and its grounds cover 600 acres (242 ha), much of which is open to the public to explore.
While not all of the university is open to the public, after strolling through its grounds, head to the chapel or art museum to absorb more of what this prestigious university has to offer.
Princeton University is at Princeton, NJ 08544.
20- Walk The Lawrence Hopewell Trail
A short drive from Princeton University is the start of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail.
The trail runs through the townships of Lawrence and Hopewell and is perfect for those wanting to explore the stunning countryside around Princeton.
It’s a safe, off-road location for joggers, families, cyclists and hikers.
The trail covers 18.7 miles (30.1 km) however, there is a plan to add a further 3.3 miles (5.3 km) soon.
There are 24 possible routes varying in length and difficulty, offering up something for everyone.
Lawrence Hopewell Trail is at 197 Blackwell Road, The Historic Hunt House, Pennington, NJ 08534.