So, those of you who are frequenters of my blog may have noticed that recently my travel writing has taken a front seat to the usual anthropological and spiritual offerings. I’ve been traveling a lot lately, but I’ve also been missing my hometown for five years of Princeton, New Jersey.
So while I won’t be spending a weekend in Princeton, New Jersey anytime soon, I do know a thing or two about what I would eat, where I would relax, and how I would spend my time. If you’re coming into quaint Princeton for a weekend out of either Philly or New York City, consider this your go-to guide to the best of what Princeton has to offer, in my humble opinion, that is!
Arrive Friday afternoon, 4pm
Head directly up Alexander Street toward campus and hang a left down College Road toward the Graduate College and locate the Porter’s Lodge. Weekday hours are your best bet to get a key to Cleveland Tower and climb for a picturesque view of Princeton’s campus and town.
Get settled into the Nassau Inn and then head across town, to Witherspoon Street into tiny Sakura Express, and order one of the dazzling, yet moderately-priced rolls from the Filipino-Chinese sushi brother duo, Andrew and Albert, whose stream of cussing and carousing is not for the faint of heart. It’s worth fighting for a table not only for the entertaining service, but for the heaping piles of sashimi and avocado. Try the spicy tuna roll, the spider roll, or the dragon roll, and enjoy free salad while you wait. Don’t forget to visit the bathroom, like the place, it’s, uh, “got character!”
Head down Witherspoon Street toward campus and walk through the gates of Princeton University to explore the architecture and scenery by twilight. After you’ve had your fill, stroll Nassau Street for some window shopping, before turning into the Nassau Inn’s basement tavern, the Yankee Doodle Tap Room for some draughts of Hoegarrden or whatever strikes your fancy. Gaze at the famous grads on the walls, take in the college atmosphere (warning- not college prices on beer and appetizers!), and wander into the hotel for glimpses of Princeton past.
Also, don’t miss a chance to try the sampler, at Triumph Brewing Company, just down Nassau Street. These seven microbrews change with the season: coffee cream stout, pumpkin ale, and wheat are some of my favorites. Get your fill, and turn in early- tomorrow will be a full day!
Saturday morning 7am
Walk to either Small World location and grab a cup of joe for a walk, bike, or some kayaking on the towpath, New Jersey’s true garden state material, 70 miles of beautiful wooded pathways along the Delaware-Raritan Canal.
Head back into town and poke around the Princeton Cemetery (if you’re into that sort of thing), where the likes of signers of the Declaration, preachers, and other bigwigs are buried. Consult their online map for your guide to the graves, or pick one up just outside the cemetery (which is located down Witherspoon Street, across from the public library on Wiggins Street).
For the afternoon, get out of town and experience more of the garden state in the fresh produce at the Trenton Farmer’s Market. Choose from heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs, and visit the speciality olive and cheese shop in the indoor portion. Then hop across the parking lot and sample the fresh dairy at Halo Farms.
OR make your way up to Terhune Orchards and depending on the season enjoy apple picking, pumpkin picking, hay rides, farm animals, fresh cider, blueberries, blackberries, and more. Note the two locations, one for farm store, trails, and animals, and the other for picking.
For dinner, head back downtown, just west of the Nassau Inn to Teresa Caffe, and make sure to arrive early as this place doesn’t take reservations, and they do fill up quickly. Part of the fabulous Terra Momo Group, which places emphasis on locally, sustainably grown produce and connecting kids with the earth, Teresa Caffe is my favorite Italian food in the United States, hands-down. So come prepared to spend on good wine, good pasta, good pizza, good bread, olive oil, and dessert. Whatever you choose, you won’t regret it.
If you’re still hungry after dinner, make your way across Palmer Square and join the line out the door of The Bent Spoon, for some artisan ice cream made with quirky combinations (lavendar marscapone, chocolate cardomom orange, organic nj sweet corn, and cucumber lemon basil, just to name a few) and excellent baked goods (the cupcakes are to die for!) and strong coffee. Find a bench on the square, anytime of year, and enjoy the best that ice cream has to offer.
Worship in the majestic Princeton University Chapel on the Princeton campus at 10:00 am. OR if you’re looking for something a little more low key, take in a service of silence at the historic Princeton Friends Quaker Meeting House at 10:30 am.
Walk into town to Olives or the iconic Hoagie Haven and grab a classy sandwich or a homestyle sub. Eat in town, or if you have the time, make it a picnic lunch out on the historic battlefield, before you have to head out of town and bid goodbye to wonderful weekend in Princeton, NJ.