Day Trip to Princeton from New York City
>> The city of Princeton, NJ, is a picturesque community composed of early 1900, well-maintained, middle class homes. These homes are kept up so perfectly, in fact, that they look like they were styled for a movie set.
While Princeton's tuition targets the rich, extreme affluence does not affect the city's home town qualities. Princeton's neighborhoods, surrounded by towering trees and random gardens, are so inviting that no matter what's in your wallet, you'll feel comfortable. It's a great place to unwind your dreams and contemplate the future!
I recommend visiting Princeton by train. Without depending on a car for short distances within the city, you'll be more likely to stroll down side streets and silent paths as well as along more typical tourist areas.
Walking gives you a sense of proportion. Look at the Princeton University archway pictured above. Notice how one arch frames the next. Learn what it feels like to stand in the middle of an archway, with the sun streaming in from one side and shadow on the other. Aim for a "been there; com'n back" experience, rather than a "seen that" check-off tour.
To arrive by train, go to New York's Penn Station. On the announcement board in the main room, look for lines that read "NE Corridor" to Trenton. This route takes you to Princeton, leaving approximately every half hour on the hour. Purchase tickets at a New Jersey Rail automated teller or from a standard ticket counter. If crowds are too thick, or you are late, purchase your tickets on the train for a nominal extra fee.
You get off at Princeton Junction, a pretty little park-like station, then walk a short distance to a second train that takes you into Princeton itself. Once there, walk north on University (the scene pictured will eventually appear on your right) to Nassau Street, then turn right on Nassau.
I recommend that you always prepare for a day trip by bringing a map. Hunting for one once you are there wastes time.
Unfortunately, I did't walk my talk and it took over an hour on this trip before I found one. Even though Princeton has tourist stands, maps were in short supply.
I eventually found a terrific map at the Historical Society of Princeton near the corner of Nassau Street and Washington Road. This colorful, easy-to-read map, called "The Best of Princeton New Jersey," gives you an overview, plus pinpoints where shops are located.
The company that produces this map also does numerous maps for East Coast cities and other destinations. Find out more on www.ResortMaps.com. I've asked ResortMaps whether they could mail packets of their maps upon request. If so, I highly recommend them as your primary day trip guides.
I arrived around 10:30 AM craving coffee. Although several attractive coffee shops were opened along Nassau at that time, Panera Bread arrested my attention. Its picture windows were loaded with huge loaves of bread and a sample basket containing slices sat just inside the door.
I found Panera's coffee, muffins, bread and salads so outstanding, that I returned three times during my visit and ate my two main meals there. Their moist breads don't need butter or oil, but had I used either, I'm sure I would have never left my table. Highly recommended.
Panera Bread was formerly the St. Louis Bread Company. Call 609-683-5222 for more information.
On Monday through Saturday, Princeton gives tours at 10AM, 11AM, 1:30PM and 3:30PM. On Sunday, they are at 1:30PM and 3:30PM. Call 609-258-3603 for more information, especially for non-English tours.
Refer to a standard Princeton guide book to learn about the other universities and special sites in the community. You might, for example, want to eat a picnic lunch on Lake Carnegie.
For an excellent private tour, arm yourself with a map and notebook, then hail a cab, asking the driver to show you were things are. My 76 year old cab driver (a Princeton native) showed me the tower at Harvard Graduate School and the home Einstein once lived in.
Make sure, of course, that you get a gabby cab driver. If the driver isn't prepared to show you around town, hail another. Tip accordingly. My driver was just great. I hope I can get him again when I return in fall for a day of photography, a basket of bread and a tranquil setting in which to untangle an assortment of dreams that have been dormant for way too long.
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 8/26/2003. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.