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10/23/2008 - By by Teja Anderson
Everyone knows that Princeton is a picturesque University town...
Everyone knows that Princeton is a picturesque University town, renowned for its ivy-covered campus buildings, and bordered by designer shops, fabulous restaurants, quaint art, and college-minded businesses. But there are many reasons to visit Princeton, and a lot more to keep you busy than just shopping, eating, or going to school!
If you need or want to get away for a little longer that just a day, there are premier accommodations, including major hotels and conference centers, such as the Princeton Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Nassau Inn, Hyatt Hotel and Conference Center, Westin Hotel and Conference Center, Wyndham Princeton Forrestal Hotel and Conference Center, and the ETS® Chauncey Center. In all, the Princeton region has over 5,200 rooms in 47 different hotels, and more than 330,000 square feet of meeting space. In fact, Princeton is home to seven of New Jersey’s 50 largest conference centers.
In addition to being home to a world-renowned center of learning, there are numerous historic landmarks, five-star restaurants (164 restaurants featuring 11 different types of cuisines), first-class shopping, and various parks and recreation areas. With an incredible amount of activity in and around the town, there are always the arts, culture, history, sports, and entertainment venues to enjoy.
The Bainbridge House (www.princetonhistory.org) is located at 158 Nassau Street, and is currently the headquarters of the Historical Society of Princeton. With a museum and changing exhibits, Bainbridge House was the birthplace of Commodore William Bainbridge, U.S.N., who was the commander of the warship Constitution (Old Ironsides) during the War of 1812. Built in 1765 by Job Stockton, Bainbridge House was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War, and was the place where Sir William Howe made his headquarters. It was here that Elias Budinot, a college trustee for 49 years and President of the Continental Congress, proposed the congressional resolution that established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1789.
Drumthwacket (circa 1834; www.drumthwacket.org), on Stockton Street (Route 206), is a Greek revival mansion that was built for Charles S. Olden, Governor of New Jersey during the Civil War. Now owned by the State of New Jersey, it is the official residence of the governor. Check out the website for details on guided individual and group tours.
The McCarter Theatre (www.mccarter.org; 91 University Place) was established in 1929. In addition to the Triangle Club productions, popular plays, and concerts, many shows that are established old favorites, such as “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker,” often become annual events. McCarter Theatre Center for the Performing Arts is one of the most active cultural centers in the nation, offering over 200 performances of theater, dance, music, and special events each year, and the audience is mostly regional; however, with more than 200,000 people attending each season, attendees come from all 21 counties in New Jersey, as well as Pennsylvania, New York, and 23 other states.
Morven Museum and Garden (www.historicmorven.org; 55 Stockton Street) was established in 1701. Morven was part of a 5,000-acre tract purchased by Richard Stockton from William Penn. In 1754, Richard’s grandson Richard, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife Annis Budinot, acquired a portion of this land, where they built their home. Anis, a published poet, renamed the house Morven after the mythical home of Fingal in “The Poems of Ossian.” Morven was considered to be the grandest of Princeton’s country estates. It was also the home of four New Jersey governors and their families, until the late 1980’s.
If it’s a beautiful day and you’d like to spend some time outdoors, why not visit beautiful Princeton Battlefield State Park (www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/princeton.html), located on Mercer Street. This 85-acre park is the site of Washington's victory over British forces on January 3, 1777, which completed the Ten Crucial Days – a major turning point in the American Revolution. Who says history can’t be fun, too!
Within 10-acres in the heart of Princeton, is Palmer Square (www.palmersquare.coma), a Colonial-type village full of shops, restaurants, and businesses. Lindt Chocolates, Kate Spade, Simon Pearce Glass, Origins, Coach, Lace Silhouettes Lingerie, and Stacy Gemma, for shopping, are just a few favorites you’ll find there. And if it’s food you’re looking for, you can visit Winberies, Mediterra, or Chez Alice Gourmet Café & Bakery. If you happen to venture into the Bent Spoon, the frozen whipped banana is not to be missed!
The Princeton Battle Monument at Borough Hall is a depiction of General George Washington on horseback, inspiring his men to final victory, and on his left is mortally wounded General Mercer. The monument was designed by Thomas Hastings, sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies, and unveiled in 1922 by President Warren Harding. The inscription on the reverse side was written by Andrew Fleming West, Dean of the Graduate School of Princeton University.
Of course, one of the main attractions in town is Princeton University (www.princeton.edu) itself. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth oldest university in the United States. An independent, coeducational, non-denominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, it also serves as a research center and seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. There are approximately 4,760 undergraduate students enrolled at Princeton, and the faculty includes recipients of Nobel Prizes in physics, literature, economic sciences, and medicine. Famous alumni include three United States Presidents (John F. Kennedy, James Madison, and Woodrow Wilson), ten governors of New Jersey, nine Supreme Court Justices, not to mention, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, Brooke Shields, David Duchovny, and Michelle Obama!
Take a walk around the grounds of the university and you will find University Chapel. Its collegiate Gothic architecture makes it one of the most beautiful buildings on campus. It was built between 1925 and 1928 with donations from alumni and friends to replace the Marquand Chapel, which had been destroyed by fire. University Chapel seats nearly 2,000 people, making it the third largest university chapel in the world. It boasts a collection of stained glass by American artists, and is used for services of all faiths.
Upon further exploration you’ll come upon Nassau Hall, the largest stone building in America. It was named in memory of King William III of England, House of Nassau and Prince of Orange. Its 26-inchthick walls withstood 2 years of occupation during the Revolution by British and American troops, and two devastating fires during the 1800’s. After the Battle of Princeton, on January 3, 1777, the British surrendered to General Washington here.
McCormick Hall, on the main campus, houses the Princeton University Art Museum (www.princetonartmuseum.org), which was erected in 1889. It was later established by Allan Marquand as a teaching museum to complement the department’s curriculum. Its collections range from ancient to contemporary, and include pre-Columbian artifacts, Italian 17th-century paintings and drawings, a window from Chartres Cathedral, sculptures from the Sung Dynasty, and 20th-century paintings and photographs.
Princeton Theological Seminary (www.ptsem.edu/look/qtvr/seminarytour.htm) on Mercer Street was founded in 1811, and is the oldest, most influential, and most popular Presbyterian theological school in the country. There are tours available by appointment only.
A day spent in the beautiful town of Princeton will likely leave you feeling as though you were temporarily living between two worlds – historic and modern day. There is an energy in the air that is very much generated by the university students who fill the streets day and night, and a visit here will surely make you want to come back again and again.
Take I-195 West to I-295 North. Exit onto Route 206 North (exit 7B – formerly exit 69). Drive 5.7 miles. In Princeton, near the municipal building/police station on the left at the traffic light, Route 206 continues to the left. Do not turn left here. Bear slightly right onto Route 27 North (Nassau Street). After two traffic lights, make the first left onto South Tulane Street. You will approach Witherspoon Street and Palmer Square.
For a more scenic drive, take Highway 33 West towards Hightstown/Trenton. After about 10 miles, make a slight right onto the Route 133 Bypass, and after another 3 miles make a slight right onto Route 571/Princeton Hightstown Road. Make a right turn, then a left, and another right to stay on Washington Road to Nassau Street. At Nassau Street (Route 27) make a left and follow it into town.
Downtown Princeton offers both metered street parking and public metered lots. Public lots closest to Palmer Square are located at the corner of Witherspoon and Hulfish Streets, and directly off of Spring Street. Parking meter rules are strictly enforced Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm, so bring lots of quarters with you unless you plan on using one of the many parking garages.
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