25 Best Things to Do in Princeton (NJ)

Source: Flickr / Jon Niola | CC BY-SA 2.0

Princeton is a small city in the state of New Jersey. It’s also one of the most famous college towns thanks to its Ivy League research university, the Princeton. The town was established in 1675 near the Delaware River.

On one hand, Princeton is significant for its role played in the American Revolutionary War. On the other hand, the city became the place of high-quality education with the completion of Nassau Hall in 1754, and the university moved to Princeton.

The downtown of Princeton is filled with the pieces of history, being the residence of some of the most famous historical figures, such as George Washington and Albert Einstein.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Princeton, NJ

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. Princeton University

Princeton University
Source: Flickr / Harshil Shah | CC BY-ND 2.0

The campus of Princeton University lays on 500 acres in the bustling heart of New Jersey. Princeton is a private Ivy League research university known for its high standards and legendary graduates. If you’re headed to Princeton, you must add the university on your check list, starting with a campus tour.

Best to enter to the university from its ornate front entrance called FitzRadolph Gate. From here, you can walk up to Nassau Hall, where you’ll see the class of 1879’s tiger statue. If the weather allowed, stop by the Prospect Garden, designed by Ellen Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson, who lived there, while Woodrow was the University president. You can also enjoy a lake-side lunch at Lake Carnegie, that’s a popular community recreating area. You can also join guided tours through the campus, to learn more about the history, work, and study at Princeton.

2. Princeton University Art Museum

Princeton University Art Museum-1
Source: Flickr / llee_wu | CC BY-ND 2.0

Princeton University Art Museum is known as one of the best small museums in the world, holding a collection of over 92.000 art pieces from ancient to modern, from all around the world. The interesting fact is, that the exhibits are rotating, as depending on the season, each time different parts of the collections are exhibited.

There’s a part of the art collection that is always on display though, but it’s best to check before visiting what exhibitions are available. In addition, Princeton University Art Museum has a temporary exhibition of “The City Lost & Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980” three times a year.

3. Mercer County Park and Lake

Mercer County Park and Lake
Source: Flickr / slgckgc | CC BY 2.0

Mercer County Park encompasses over 2,500 acres covering areas of the Townships of West Windsor, Hamilton, and Lawrence. The Park has year-round facilities for all ages and includes both active and passive recreational opportunities, like walking, running, biking, but also fishing and boating.

Mercer Country Park features 17 athletic fields used for soccer, football, lacrosse, frisbee, and more. You’ll also find an ice skating center, a tennis Center -24 total courts, six of which are covered and are lit. If this wasn’t enough, you can also choose cross-country track mountain biking and you’ll find a boathouse/marina for boating, and 3 sand volleyball courts as well. Mercer Country Park also features 2 cricket pitches, 7 basketball courts 10 softball fields. Everything is given for outdoor activities at Mercer Country Park!

4. Princeton Battlefield State Park

Princeton Battlefield State Park
Source: Wikimedia / Daderot | GNU Free Documentation License

The fields and woods that are just a mile away from Princeton University were the sites of one of the bloodiest battles during the American Revolution in 1777. The battle that took place on-site at Princeton Battel field State Park marked George Washington’s first victory against Britain.

You can see there an old oak tree, called the Mercer Oak that stood in the middle of a battlefield, near which General Hugh Mercer was wounded during the battle. He died later on in the Clarke House. This house was built by Thomas Clarke, and it’s a witness of the battle, that’s today featuring was exhibits and furniture pieces from the 18th century. In Princeton Battlefield State Park, you’ll also find an iconic colonnade and a stone patio that marks the graves of the American and British soldiers who lost their lives in this battle.

5. Princeton University Chapel

Princeton University Chapel
Source: Flickr / mifl68 | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Princeton University Chapel is open for visitors since 1928. It’s a very popular site for weddings and memorial services, but it brings together many other people all around the year on weekly services. One of the most important things to see while visiting the chapel is the Mander-Skinner organ.

If you join a service or one of the events held over the year, this will be accompanied by an amazing sixty-voice choir. The chapel has a remarkable Tudor Gothic style, and space for two thousand people, which makes it possible for visitors to join the many events and ceremonies held in it.

6. Princeton Battle Monument

Princeton Battle Monument
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Princeton Battle Monument was inspired by the Parisian Arc de Triomphe, and it’s located on Nassau Street, in the Historic Princeton. The sculpture is featuring George Washington, and it’s surrounded by a stunning park. The monument itself is showing General G. Washington as he’s leading his troops into the victorious battle.

While walking over the path that’s leading to the Princeton Battle Monument, you’ll get to walk under cherry trees, which is absolutely beautiful while they are in full bloom. By visiting the Princeton Battle Monument, you can explore in the park some other sculptures as well, such the monument of Albert Einstein, The Newspaper Reader, and the bell of the USS Princeton.

7. Amazing Escape Room Princeton New Jersey

Amazing Escape Room Princeton New Jersey
Source: Pixabay / Ichigo121212 | CC BY 2.0

Escape Rooms are a fantastic hobby grabbing attention worldwide. Amazing Escape Room a national retail entertainment chain with locations specializing in bringing you fun. You can also find them in Princeton, with rooms waiting to amaze you! The escape rooms are about challenging your mind and working together with others in a high-stress and interactive environment. Also it helps to get families together!

At Princeton, you can join escape rooms such as the Knight’s Quest, the Notorious Speakeasy, the Robbery Job, or the Great Train Heist. All you need to do before joining this amazing escape is to book your time in advance, and the fun can begin!

8. Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park

Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park-1
Source: Flickr / Jim Lukach | CC BY 2.0

The Delaware & Raritan Canal was built across New Jersey during the 19th century, to provide a safe and fast route for moving cargo between New York and Philadelphia. Today, about 70 miles of the canal and its tributaries form a park that is one of the most popular spots for canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, jogging, bicycling, and fishing in Princeton.

While exploring the area, you can see some picturesque 19th century wooden bridges, and bridge tender houses, cobblestone spillways, and spectacular also stone-arched culverts. Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park is home to more than 160 species of birds, which gives a great purpose to visit for those who’re interested in bird watching and spending time in nature.

9. Morven Museum & Garden

Morven Museum and Garden
Source: Eye of Bri | CC BY-SA 4.0

The Morven house was built by a lawyer called Richard Stockton in 1750. The owner of the 18th-century family house was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Morven house served as New Jersey’s Governor’s Mansion from the 1940s’ to 1980s’, and now it’s a National Historic Landmark.

Morven Museum contains a significant collection of fine and decorative arts to explore. The gardens and the house are featuring the history of the respected New Jersey family, and a significant period of history and cultural heritage for New Jersey. Morven Museum is hosting frequently exhibitions and special events that can be visited while exploring Princeton.

10. Princeton Public Library

Princeton Public Library
Source: Flickr / OnMyWayTo | CC BY-SA 2.0

Princeton Public Library is one of the most visited public libraries in New Jersey. The Princeton Public Library opened in 1909. The library was originally located at the historic Bainbridge House on Nassau Street, which is the current home of the Princeton Historical Society. It was then moved to Bainbridge House, which is a 19th-century building.

When the Sands Library Building opened in 2004, it was widely hailed as a “modern library.” But it has only grown in recent years with new additions to our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors. Princeton Public Library is hosting round-the-year many events, as well as it can be visited by anyone interested during opening hours.

11. Nassau Hall

Nassau Hall
Source: Flickr / Anthony Cuffari | CC BY 2.0

Nassau Hall is currently the center of the administrative offices at Princeton University. However, Nassau Hall played an important role in the history of the United States. The hall was housing the American and British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. Today, besides its administrative role, it’s featuring a library, student and faculty residence, classrooms, and also a chapel.

The architecture of Nassau Hall features a combination of three different architects, by name Benjamin Latrobe, Robert Smith and John Notman. The style of aficionado’s marvel that are visible everywhere from the floor to the towers, and on the walls outside as well. Nassau Hall is also one of the National Historic Landmarks, and you can visit around the year the place that once hosted the Congress of the Confederation, New Jersey Legislature, and the first president of the United States, George Washington.

12. Albert Einstein House

Albert Einstein House-1
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund | CC BY-SA 2.0

Albert Einstein moved to Princeton in 1933, while he accepted a position at the Institute of Advanced Study. He and his wife Elsa, along with his personal secretary were living in two different family houses in Princeton. One is at 2 Library Place, while the other is at 112 Mercer Street. This second became their permanent home afterward. Albert Einstein was living on 112 Mercer Street until his death in 1955.

After this, his daughter Margot, and his secretary remained in the house until their deaths. The house on Mercer street was never turned into a museum, as per Einstein’s specific request. Therefore it can’t be visited from the inside, but it can be seen from the outside though! The building is still a private residence, owned by the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein once worked. Einstein being one of the most significant figures of science history in the 20th century, visiting his house is a must!

13. Terhune Orchards & Winery

Terhune Orchards and Winery
Source: Flickr / Patrick Stahl | CC BY-SA 2.0

Taking a quick walk outside of the historic center of Princeton, you’ll arrive in a neighborhood or rolling hills, many orchards, cows and horses grazing freely, and vineyards, where grapes are ready to be collected and turned into a great wine! Terhune Orchards & Winery is one of the most popular in the area, so it must be visited!

At Terhune Orchards & Winery the apple pies are beyond famous, while they also have ciders and wines. If you’re visiting with family, they offer farm activities, such as picking your own apples and pumpkins. You can also experience the farm life by caring or even playing with the farm animals. In addition, you can visit the Farm Store, where you can stock up with that famous apple pies!

14. Institute Woods

Institute Woods
Source: Unsplash / Dex Ochoa | CC BY 2.0

Institute Woods and the Charles H Rogers Wildlife Refuge lay on 300-acre. The woods feature numerous trails for those interested in a nice walk in nature. You can also explore a smaller area of virgin forest and harbor while wandering. Institute Woods has a high number of bird species, especially in the songbird migration seasons, which makes Institute Woods a great spot for bird watching.

Institute Woods is the closest set of hiking trails to the campus of Princeton University. The area offers trails of 13 miles. Most trails are fairly wide as well, and you can pick between the northernmost one, the old Trolley Tracks Trail, that has the highest elevation, or if you pick one of the trails that go downhill, you’ll end up at the brook.

15. Trinity Church

Trinity Church
Source: Wikimedia / Bestbudbrian | CC BY-SA 4.0

Trinity Church was founded in 1833 by a group of prominent citizens, including some with Southern connections. Warden Charles Steadman built a wooden church in the Greek style. The parish prospered and in 1870 the original structure was replaced by a stone Gothic-style church designed by Richard M. Upjohn.

While visiting the church, you’ll get to see the gorgeous stained-glass windows as well, as the beautiful architecture. You can enter and visit the Trinity Church at any time, as on a self-guided tour, the doors are always open!

16. Carnegie Lake

Carnegie Lake-1
Source: Flickr / Michael Stokes | CC BY 2.0

Carnegie Lake is named after Andrew Carnegie, and it’s a really unique place as in use as in history. Howard R Butler, a former member of the Princeton Varsity Crew painted a portrait of Andrew Carnegie in this area once. Carnegie funded the purchase of the surrounding properties to construct a lake, as this was the Varsity Crew’s plan. The work around the lake took about three years, and now it’s owned by Princeton University.

The grounds are open to the public, so you can visit at any time. On Carnegie lake, you can go ice skating, just roaming around, or picnicking too. The lake has a great variety of fishes, such as carp, catfish, trout, or bass, that’s making Carnegie Lake also great for those who are looking for a fishing spot around Princeton.

17. Drumthwacket Foundation

Drumthwacket Foundation-1
Source: Wikimedia / KForce | CC BY-SA 3.0

Drumthwacket is the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey. A tour through Drumthwacket Foundation will give you a glimpse of the history and cultural heritage that Princeton has to offer. Drumthwacket was built in 1835 by Charles Smith Olden, who was the 28th Governor of New Jersey.

The building went under many expansions, which were ordered by Moses Taylor Pyne, which include wings on each side of the house. He also added a paneled library, greenhouses, dairy farms, and a large landscape garden. However, if you’re visiting you can still see the original structure on the center hall and the large portico. With no additional fee, you can visit Drumthwacket on every Wednesday.

18. Marquand Park

Marquand Park-1
Source: Wikimedia / Ferahgo the Assassin | CC BY-SA 3.0

Marquand Park is a great place to spend the day exploring nature in Princeton with your family. The park has 18-acres and includes an arboretum, that both offer a variety of recreational experiences, from walking the paved trails to playing in the playground, or heading to the baseball field. You’ll find in the park benches and picnic tables, so it’s also great for a family picnic outside.

Marquand Park was originally a landscape garden of a 19th-century estate, and this explains the richness of different plants and trees. There are over 140 different native and exotic species on the historic preservation of trees and woodlands. Marquand Park offers a picturesque landscape, with a great lunch, surrounded by loved ones.

19. Historical Society of Princeton

Historical Society of Princeton
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Historical Society of Princeton headquarters is at Updike Farmstead at 354 Quaker Road. A hub for cultural enrichment, experiential education, and stewardship of collections and places. The Historical Society of Princeton shares, and preserves Princeton’s important and diverse stories, while sharing it with visitors, while maintaining a healthy civic culture.

The Historical Society is holding diverse exhibits all around the year, that are relevant to national, or global issues, to the state of NJ, by showcasing all this connected with primary historical materials. The permanent and also the changing exhibitions can be found on the first floor of Updike Farmhouse, and outside on the property. In the Einstein Salon and Innovators Gallery, you can have an up-close look at highlights of the Historical Society’s Einstein furniture collection, along with photographs of Einstein’s time in Princeton. The outdoor and Farmstead History Trails feature the history of the Princeton Battlefield as well.

20. Princeton Cemetery

Princeton Cemetery
Source: Wikimedia / David Keddie | CC BY-SA 4.0

The Princeton Cemetery was established in 1757, and it’s owned and operated by the Nassau Presbyterian Church. The cemetery is located near the town center. Why visit the cemetery? This is the final resting place of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. It’s also the final resting place of most Presidents of the College of New Jersey/Princeton University and the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Scattered throughout the cemetery are the graves of soldiers beginning with the Revolutionary War, professors, politicians, musicians, scientists, business executives, writers, a Nobel Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winners as well as those who have called the Princeton area home. As of last one, you can also find the grave of John Witherspoon here, who’s been one of those signing the Declaration of Independence.

21. Maclean House

Maclean House
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund | CC BY-SA 2.0

In the year of 1756, when the building of Nassau Hall was completed, the University relocated from Newark to Princeton. Maclean House was built in a Georgian-style, to serve as the residence to the president of the university. Over history, the Maclean House was home to ten presidents, and it gained his current name after the 10th, John Maclean Jr. Today it’s functioning as the home of the Alumni Association of Princeton University.

The Maclean house over the 18th and first part of the 19th century was also home to enslaved people. The first nine presidents of Princeton University were all slave owners at a point of their lives, and 5 of them brought their slaves with them into Maclean house, when they moved in. Maclean was the first president of the university, who lived in this house without slaves. As a National Historic Landmark, it’s open for visitors!

22. Van Horne Park

Van Horne Park
Source: Unsplash / Tusik Only | CC BY 2.0

Van Horne Park lays on 95-acres and spans Rocky Hill and Montgomery townships. The park features walking trails, baseball and soccer fields, two large climbing structures for children of all ages, as first. Then it also features a basketball court, a lacrosse wall, and you can also visit the gazebo.

Van Horne Park is great for outdoor activities, long walks, and exploring the natural area around it. You can easily access the park from Princeton North Shopping Center. It’s definitely a great place for families, to spend time in the park with kids, and there’s a little gym for them as well for entertainment and gymnastic classes.

23. Turning Basin Park

Turning Basin Park
Source: Pexels / Snapwire | CC BY 2.0

Turning Basin Park is another popular park to spend some quality time outdoors in Princeton. It’s a natural area that includes picnic facilities, a canoe launch, and a playground for the little ones. Turning Basin Park is located off Alexander Road.

It was built on the site of what once was a thriving commercial area which included two turning basins in which canal boats could turn around as well as unload. The basin east of Alexander Road can still be seen; the basin on the west side of Alexander Road has been filled in. Turning Basin Park is now a peaceful place that’s great for those visiting Princeton with families and looking for a lovely place to spend their time together outside.

24. Rockingham Historic Site

Rockingham Historic Site
Source: Wikimedia / Richard Arthur Norton | CC BY 2.5

Rockingham Historic Site served as General George Washington’s final Revolutionary War headquarters for two-and-a-half months in 1783, while the Continental Congress was meeting in Princeton. When this year, on the 31st of October the Congress received the news that the final version of the Treaty of Paris has been signed, and the 13 colonies were declared independent from Great Britain, G. Washington was still at Rockingham. As one of his last official acts, he wrote the Farewell Order to the Armies of the United States at Rockingham.

At Rockingham Historic Site, the original two-story farmhouse was built at the beginning of the 18th century, and it was then enlarged. The house is now preserved as the temporary residence of Geroge Washington, and it offers a fine collection of 18th-century furnishing, and Washington’s military and personal reproductions, as well as a children’s museum, a Colonial kitchen garden, and a Dutch barn.  While you’re visiting Rockingham Historic Sites, you can also visit their gift shop, for themed gifts and souvenirs.

25. The Watershed Institute

The Watershed Institute
Source: Unsplash / Max Letek | CC BY 2.0

Watershed Institute is formed on a 1000-acre space, and it’s hosting the Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education center, the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House, and also the Honey Brook Organic Farm. You can also explore at Watershed Institute a 4-acre Wargo Pond, and more than 10 miles long hiking trails.

The Watershed institute collects key data of the health of streams and other environmental factors, and through their “River-Friendly” programs, they help residents, schools, businesses, and visitors to learn and become more environmental-friendly. If you’re looking to visit this wild sight of nature, the institute welcomes visitors to explore the wildflower meadows, and trails, while joining their organized events to learn about environmental protection.