Princeton is best known for its Ivy League university, but this charming New Jersey town has much more to offer than an excellent education and stunning architecture. It is home to a number of notable attractions. Art exhibits, theater productions, and kayaking are all available to visitors at princeton tour company.
Things to Do in Princeton NJ, Princeton is an ideal weekend getaway in New Jersey due to its convenient location between New York City and Philadelphia.
History buffs will learn about the Battle of Princeton, which took place in 1777. Walk around Princeton Battlefield State Park to get a sense of what the battle would have been like, then head to the Princeton Battle Monument to see a 50-foot sculpture commemorating George Washington’s victory, and then to the McCarter Theatre Center for some great entertainment terhune orchard.
Do you need some retail therapy? You’re in for a treat! Palmer Square has an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants that line multiple streets that jut out from its downtown borders. With so many options, deciding what to do first can be difficult. Plan your trip with our list of the best Princeton tour company, NJ attractions and things to do.
14 Best Things to Do in Princeton NJ Today
1. In Palmer Square, treat yourself to some ice cream.
Palmer Square, anchored by the historic Nassau Inn, is located in the heart of Princeton nj downtown. The square’s innate charm lies in its collection of two- and three-story Colonial Revival-style buildings dating from the late 1930s.
This attractive town square, the brainchild of Edgar Palmer, serves as a hub for everything from shopping to dining to entertainment. Visitors are enticed to spend time window shopping, sampling food, or people-watching from well-shaded benches and picnic tables.
Customers line up for tasty treats, especially those that are frozen, on warm, sunny days. Bent Spoon’s small batch, artisanal ice creams are worth a second scoop. Bring a blanket if you want to enjoy your sweets on the Green.
Speaking of the Green, this is where all the action is, especially during the summer, with art exhibits, concerts, and movie nights.
Palmer Square, Princeton NJ, New Jersey, between Hulfish and Nassau Streets
2. Attend a Performance at the McCarter Theatre Center
Visitors to the McCarter Theatre Center are in for a treat, regardless of their preferred form of entertainment. While watching a musical, you can be transported to another world, bob along to the funky tunes of a concert, or be inspired by a dance performance. There are over 200 shows and events held each year, so you’ll never be bored and learn more.
This Tony-award-winning theater, housed in a historic stone building on the Princeton University Campus, is one of the top attractions in Princeton for good reason. The theater’s play development program, which promotes new works, helped spark and encourage the idea for the award-winning play, which premiered here at cape may.
The Princeton Triangle Club, which still performs on its stages, founded the theater in the 1930s. Since then, the theater has grown into what it is today: a large performance venue with the 1,100-seat Matthews Theatre, the 360-seat Berlind Theatre, and the spacious Richardson Auditorium at duke farms.
Across the street is the Dinky Bar & Kitchen, a hidden gem that has served theatergoers tasty, locally sourced food in what was once the Dinky train station house (in 1918).
Princeton, New Jersey, 91 University Place
3. Visit Marquand Park and get some fresh air.
Marquand Park has 17 acres of historic nature and forest preserve to explore atlantic city. This area is also home to a popular arboretum, where visitors can get nose to leaf with some of the region’s most beautiful species at jersey shore, such as Autumn Purple white ash and Mockernut hickory.
Marquand Park is an excellent fun things choice for a family-friendly day out. Little ones will enjoy the playground, large sandbox, and children’s arboretum, as well as the handmade free library. Pack a picnic to extend your time enjoying the fresh air at this natural wonder.
There’s also a baseball diamond, several walking paths, and plenty of picnic tables. The addition of port-o-potties during the hot summer months is much appreciated.
Princeton, New Jersey, 48 Lovers Lane
4. Princeton Battlefield State Park transports you back in time.
This field was the site of a famous battle, hence the name Princeton Battlefield State Park, one of New Jersey’s top tourist attractions asbury park. It happened on January 3, 1777, and it was George Washington’s first field victory over British troops.
Visitors can also see the quaint, white home once owned by Quaker Thomas Clarke. It’s no surprise that it’s now known as Thomas Clarke House. Visitors can get a glimpse of life during the Revolution on the inside that historical society.
The bloody Battle of Princeton was fought and won on the grounds of Clarke and his brother, William. In the field, a large oak stump reminds visitors of the ancient Mercer Oak, which stood stoically during the battle. It stands next to a younger tree that sprouted from its acorn in 1981 garden state.
If you plan to hike the park’s perimeter paths, wear comfortable shoes. A large trail system connects to the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
Princeton, New Jersey, 500 Mercer Road
5. Take a Hike at Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park
This expansive natural space, known locally as the D&R Canal State Park, is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts. This is one of the state’s most popular activity attractions, stretching for 70 miles. There are many things to do in this beautiful New Jersey State Park, including ancient locks, wooden bridges, and, of course, a sparkling canal at ellis island.
From fishing to canoeing to kayaking to hiking to jogging to horseback riding, you’ll never be bored in this breathtaking location. And make sure to bring comfortable clothing, a change of clothes, and plenty of snacks and water because it will be difficult to leave once you’ve experienced this oasis.
History buffs will appreciate the bridge tender houses from the nineteenth century, as well as the adorable villages dotted along the water. The Blackwell Mills are a must-see, as is the Bulls Island Natural Area, which is easily accessible via a bridge. Port Mercer also has a bridge tender’s house that is worth seeing.
If you’re visiting in the spring or summer, sign up for a guided Wednesday Evening Walk. Also, bring binoculars because you’re bound to see some impressive wildlife, particularly birds.
Princeton, New Jersey, 14 Mapleton Road
6. Travel Through Time at Morven Museum & Garden
Morven Museum & Garden is lovely at any time of year, but the end of spring brings blooms so lovely that your camera will go into overdrive. It is a National Historic Landmark and a historic home from the 1750s.
This lovely property, which once served as the state’s Governor’s Mansion, has five New Jersey governors named after its founder and first tenant, Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
The mansion was restored in 1999, and the gardens were greatly improved, making this an excellent place to learn about the history of the area. The second floor houses an exhibit space where new shows are featured every few months.
Head next door to the Stockton Education Center, the museum’s larger and more contemporary space, for a more modern perspective. The majority of the museum’s exciting events take place here.
Morven Museum & Garden is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Princeton, New Jersey, 55 Stockton Street
7. Take a look at the architecture at Nassau Hall.
Nassau Hall is impossible to overlook. This architectural masterpiece, surrounded by a lush Green and massive iron gates, houses Princeton University’s administrative offices. This historical treasure has housed everything from a library to dormitories to classrooms to British and American soldiers’ barracks. It has survived a turbulent history that has included battles of the American Revolution and two fires.
The Memorial Atrium inside is imprinted with the names of Princetonians who died in various wars. The Faculty Room is also noteworthy. It now serves as the meeting place for the university’s Board of Trustees and faculty, but it was previously used as a prayer hall, portrait gallery, and natural history museum.
The structure was built in 1756 as the home of the former College of New Jersey and was named after King William III of England.
Princeton University is located in Princeton, New Jersey.
8. Find Inspiration at Art @Bainbridge
Art @ Bainbridge is a must-see, especially if you enjoy being inspired. This downtown venue, a gallery project of the Princeton University Art Museum, is housed in the historic Bainbridge House on Nassau Street.
While visitors won’t be able to see the Princeton University Art Museum’s over 112,000 works (which are currently under wraps as the museum undergoes a massive renovation and modernization project set to reopen in 2024), they will be able to see rotating exhibits featuring works of all kinds.
The Bainbridge House is a work of art in and of itself. It was built in 1766 and is one of the few well-preserved structures from that era that still stands in downtown Princeton. The Art Museum curates the unique installations on the ground floor, so you know you’re in for a visual treat.
The works feature emerging artists in the contemporary field, and they change frequently, so check with the organization to make sure it’s open when you plan to visit.
Princeton, New Jersey, 158 Nassau Street
9. Visit the Princeton Public Library to Find a Book
While visiting a library may not be at the top of your list of things to do on vacation, you would be remiss if you did not pay a visit to the Princeton Public Library.
This interesting spot, located in the heart of downtown Princeton, is filled with everything you’d expect from a Princeton library: highbrow educational materials, tech classes, and film and book festivals. The library has over 145,000 books, so if you live there, it could take a century to read them all.
Outside, there is a courtyard and streets lined with shops and restaurants, including ones that sell tasty treats like bubble tea and cupcakes. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon than to grab a bite and read a book?
The Sands Library Building, which opened in 2004, is the library’s most recent addition.
Princeton, New Jersey, 65 Witherspoon Street
10. Lake Carnegie is a great place to find peace and quiet.
Did you know you could give a lake as a gift? It is-as long as you are a steel magnate living in the early twentieth century.
Andrew Carnegie learned about the poor rowing conditions on the Delaware and Raritan Canal in the early 1900s-apparently it was far too narrow for ideal rowing. This bothered Carnegie, who was determined to effect positive change.
Over the next few years, he purchased land and paid for crews to construct bridges and dams, resulting in Lake Carnegie, which opened in late 1906.
While the lake was designed primarily for competitive rowing by Princeton students, locals and visitors alike are welcome to use it at their own risk. The public can easily access it via a boat launch just south of Kingston.
Today, the nine-foot-deep lake (technically, a reservoir) attracts not only Princeton rowers, kayakers, and anglers, but also a variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can skate and play hockey on its frozen surface during the winter.
A word of caution: no swimming or gas-powered boats are permitted on the lake.
11. Take Time to Reflect at the Princeton Battle Monument
The massive Princeton Battle Monument is impossible to overlook. This 50-foot-tall masterpiece, located downtown, features a massive limestone carving of George Washington and his troops during their first victory at the Battle of Princeton. It also depicts the death of General Hugh Mercer, a friend and fellow soldier of Washington’s.
If this impressive monument looks familiar, it’s because it was inspired by Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. Get up close and personal to appreciate the intricate details.
Take a moment to reflect while sitting on one of the many benches that line the monument, or stroll around and admire the surrounding plaques and smaller monuments. Colonel John Haslet, the Continental Marines, Captain Daniel Neil, and the “New Jersey Patriots who served on land and sea during the American Revolution” are all honored.
Princeton, New Jersey, 55 Stockton Street
12. Princeton University Art Museum
The museum, which is located in the heart of the Princeton University campus, is currently closed for renovations. Construction on a new building began in 2021, with the museum set to reopen in late 2024.
In the meantime, visitors can see works on display at Art@Bainbridge, which is located downtown in the historic Bainbridge House, a short walk from the current Princeton University Art Museum construction site.
13. Take a Drumthwacket Tour
It’s not easy to get into Drumthwacket, New Jersey’s Governor’s mansion. Having said that, it’s worth peeking through the gate at this magnificent structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you really want to get in, go on a Wednesday at 1pm when tours are offered. Insider tip: Always check before you go, as some Wednesdays do not have tours.
When you visit this Drumthwacket Foundation property, you’ll learn about the home’s impressive former residents, the Battle of Princeton, and the historic art and furnishings that reside within. You’ll almost certainly be told the significance of the building’s unusual name, a Scottish Gaelic word that translates to “wooded hill.”
Take a tour of the gardens, especially if you’re visiting in the late spring or summer.
Princeton, New Jersey 354 Stockton Street
14. See a Movie at Princeton Garden Theatre
The Princeton Garden Theatre is located across the street from the main campus, just steps away from Nassau Hall and next to Bainbridge House. This small venue, a charming landmark, shows films with a bit more of a cerebral edge than your typical Blockbuster. After all, this is Princeton!
Don’t worry, current films, as well as foreign and indie films, are available. The theater also hosts Saturday matinée screenings for children, Hollywood summer nights, deep focus seminars, and an outdoor cinema series. This vintage cinema takes pride in showing “first-run films of high artistic quality.”
Despite the fact that the building is leased from Princeton University, the theater is run on a non-profit basis by Renew Theaters. Since 1920, it has graced this downtown location.
Princeton, New Jersey, 160 Nassau Street
FAQs about Things to Do in Princeton NJ
How should I spend a day in Princeton, New Jersey?
Take the family hiking, boating, or picnicking. You can rent bicycles and ride along historic trails in both parks. To use on the Canal, Princeton Canoe & Kayak Rental offers rentals. The kids can play on the playground or participate in activities near Mercer Lake.
Is it worthwhile to visit Princeton, New Jersey?
Princeton, NJ is an ideal weekend getaway from New York City. This college town has cultural institutes and is surrounded by parks and nature, making it ideal for family visits. If you visit Princeton in the summer, you will discover a town with just the right amount of bustle.
What is Princeton, New Jersey famous for?
Princeton University, founded in 1746 as The College of New Jersey, is the town’s most famous landmark. Princeton served as the nation’s capital for a few months in 1783, with Congress meeting in Nassau Hall on the college campus. Princeton attracts visitors and new residents for reasons other than its history.
Is there a downtown in Princeton?
Palmer Square, located in the heart of downtown Princeton, is a mix of offices, residential space, shops, bars, and restaurants. The square is anchored by the historic Nassau Inn and faces the University and Nassau Street, Princeton’s main commercial street and the campus-town boundary.