What can I do in Princeton, New Jersey a couple weeks from now?
October 21, 2015 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in Princeton, NJ from November 2-6. I'll have a couple nights/afternoons free, and I'm looking for stuff to do. I won't have a car, but I will have Uber.

Monday is mostly a travel day.
Tuesday I'm busy until 9:00pm. I'm open to something after as long as it's not too late.
Wednesday I'm done at 3:30pm, so I'm open to what I can do between 3:30pm and midnight.
Thursday I'm done at 4:00pm, so again, stuff to do between 4:00pm and midnight would be great.
Friday I need to be at Newark airport around 11:30, so I'm open to any early morning activities.

Stuff I like: museums/galleries, hole in the wall restaurants (I'll try anything), independent movie theaters showing stuff the major chains don't run, trail running (I prefer technical stuff, but will be satisfied with jogging-stroller terrain), occasionally live music (if the vibe is right).

I'm a married dude in my late 30s. I'm comfortable walking if I need to. I'm not really into sports or sports bars. I tend to stick to myself on these types of trips, but I'll be with coworkers and they might want to join me depending on what the activity will be. I'm staying at the Princeton Marriot at Forrestal, which looks to be just northeast of campus.

So....what's good to do in Princeton?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Travel & Transportation around Elizabeth, NJ (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't exactly an activity but there's an amazing sandwich place called "hoagie heaven", I definitely recommend picking up a sandwich there! Also tour the Princeton campus, it's breathtaking.
posted by nightdoctress at 12:10 PM on October 21, 2015

posted by otio at 12:10 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you have even a little interest in music, you can spend hours in Princeton Record Exchange, and it's open fairly late. Right around the corner from there is Small World Coffee, which is open late and has live music some nights. There's also a small, independent movie theater right downtown.
posted by dayintoday at 12:12 PM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Delaware & Raritan Canal Towpath - Jogging/stroller territory; you can access it right on the Princeton University Campus. For trail running - Six Mile Run Reservoir by the canal in Griggstown or Sourland Mountain Preserve - about 5 mile loops, but you'd need to be driven there.
posted by Dotty at 12:33 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Bent Spoon is my favorite ice cream place anywhere. There's a place on the main drag right next to campus, but it is not nearly as good. Find the Bent Spoon.

There's also a walking tour starting from the historical society in downtown. It was fun to see the house Einstein lived in and some other notable homes around campus. +1 on the towpath. It's lovely.
posted by parkerjackson at 12:44 PM on October 21, 2015

+1 to parkerjackson! The Bent Spoon is my favorite place to eat in the world, basically.
posted by ferret branca at 12:51 PM on October 21, 2015

I think the Marriott is a little removed from the main drag since it's by the Forrestal campus rather than central, but if you make it over to downtown, I would second the Princeton Record Exchange and Small World recommendations. The Bent Spoon is good, but Halo Pub also has tasty ice cream. If you like Mexican, I've been really digging Aurelio's Cocina Latina, not to be confused with Tortuga's across the street. If you get all the way over to the Institute for Advanced Study, you can run through the grounds, Institute Woods, or around the back of the Princeton Battlefield, or you can just wander around the pond and pretend to hang out with Einstein.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:54 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bent Spoon ice cream and cupcakes are amazing. The Princeton campus will be beautiful in autumn and is small and very walkable. Seconding Hoagie Haven as well, which is legendary in New Jersey and open at crazy hours. There is also the Princeton University Art Museum, which is worth a visit and the Chapel, which is historical and lovely.
posted by armadillo1224 at 1:03 PM on October 21, 2015

On Nassau Street is Labyrinth Books if you're into independent/academic-bent bookstores. Around the corner on Witherspoon Street is the Princeton Public Library.

Princeton has a lot of ice cream joints, as mentioned above - Thomas Sweet, Bent Spoon, Halo Pub (my personal favorite...they also have great root beer floats and shakes and coffee/espresso drinks, etc.). Seconding dayintoday's recs for Small World Coffee and the Record Exchange as well.

Hoagie Haven is ... intense, gastrointestinally speaking. I could handle their cheeseburgers, but only just (I say this knowing full well how polarizing hating on 'Haven can be). Would recommend Witherspoon Bread Company Terra Momo Bread Company and/or D'Angelo for sandwiches.
posted by freeform at 3:54 PM on October 21, 2015

Princeton Marriott is in Plainsboro. You'll need a car/zipcar/uber/taxi/shuttle to get to the campus or downtown.

Avoid Conte's like the plague, sorry. Terrible pizza, far from downtown, depressing VFW-type room. Truly awful. Hoagie Haven is awesome if you are drunk and 19, less so as your age and sobriety increase. Bent Spoon is good, though. If it's too cold for ice cream, go with the amazing jalapeno hot chocolate. Good, if quirky, sushi at Ajihei.

Towpath is nice and shady, and any section will make a nice walk. If you want to see more of it, you can rent a bike at Jay's on Nassau Street (adjacent to campus). If you go all the way to the neighboring town of Kingston (~ 3 flat miles) you can see the locks, get a coffee and pastry at Main Street, and then return.

The Garden Theatre (art house) will be showing the current National Theater production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch.

The University is home to one of the best letterboxing routes I've ever been on. The Tiger Hunt box clues are three pages of rhymed couplets, taking you all over the campus. A fun way to organize your walk.

In addition to the amazing (free!) art museum, the campus also has a Frank Gehry-designed library and a complete set of Chinese horoscope sculptures by Ai Wei Wei.

McCarter Theatre has some great shows; looks like you'll be able to see either Chanticleer a Capella or Dance Cuba.

The student paper is The Daily Princetonian. The local events calendar is Princeton Online.
posted by apparently at 3:58 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take the train to Philly!
posted by Miko at 6:06 PM on October 21, 2015

It's a little further out, but you might love Grounds for Sculpture.
posted by pyro979 at 7:17 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I lived in Princeton for seven years and still go back once in a while. What townies know and students don't is that Halo Pub crushes Bent Spoon like a grape. But both are good.

Seconding the small but really excellent art museum. And a chicken parm hoagie at Hoagie Haven; this is not fancy food but it's basically the platonic ideal of a New Jersey hoagie and is longer than your arm, unless you have really long arms.

If you like records at all, Princeton Record Exchange is something really special to Princeton; even when there were a lot of record stores, Prex was a special one, and now that there are almost none, it's more special still. Labyrinth is great but not greater than good academic-y bookstores in big cities.

The rare books collection at Firestone Library is the only place on earth you can read J.D. Salinger's uncollected short stories, if you're into that.

Finally: if you like Richard Serra (I know not everyone does), The Hedgehog and the Fox is one of my favorite sculptures of his, tucked between the math department and the stadium. Walk through it for the full effect.
posted by escabeche at 7:51 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

It looks like Grounds for Sculpture is only open until 6 pm, so if you could make it there on Wednesday you'd get about 2 hours. That's probably enough to tour the outside sculptures, but I don't know if you'd get to see much in the galleries. It's a fantastic place, and worth the 15 minute trip, but you might not appreciate being rushed if you're really into that sort of thing. (As an aside, I can't believe such a place now exists in the formerly culturally barren suburban hell of the town I grew up in.)
posted by mollweide at 4:51 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hate to disagree with Miko, but public transit from Princeton to Philly is formally possible but extremely annoying - none of the trains sync up and you have to transfer a bunch. Total time can be >2h each way; not something I'd chance on a weekday.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:55 PM on November 1, 2015

If you did want to take a longer trip outside of Princeton, there's a lot of good regional South and East Asian cuisine in the New Brunswick/Highland Park/Edison area, though some of it is only accessible by car.

I'd co-sign the art museum, the chapel, PREX, the Garden Theatre, the rest of Princeton's campus, the IAS campus and woods, and the tow-path. The Graduate College, which is southwest of the main campus past an expansive golf course, is also quite beautiful and well worth a short trip. I also think apparently had a great suggestion of renting a bike, biking from downtown to Kingston, and then getting a treat at Main Street Cafe (I'm a fan of their egg bakes); that's something you'd want to do in the early afternoon, especially post-daylight-savings. Even though it's a bit less direct, going northeast on the tow-path is probably the least stressful way to get there from Princeton; Rt. 27 has a great view with a bunch of places to pull over and hang out by the lake, but the bit of Rt. 27 that goes over the lake suddenly has a relatively high speed limit and no shoulder.

I would not recommend any of Princeton's bars for live music.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:25 PM on November 1, 2015

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