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Princeton Travel Guide: 125 reviews and 261 photos

Beauty and Brains

For over 25 years I have lived within an hour's drive of Princeton, New Jersey, but had never visited there before now. Had I known what I was missing, I would have visited Princeton long ago. On a pleasant Saturday, just before a devastating Nor'easter hit New Jersey (April, 2007), hubby & I took our time driving to Princeton and arrived in late morning. Finding parking was simple; but having a large supply of quarters available to feed the parking meter took a little work.

Our first stop was a little coffee shop which university students seem to like and I did too! Spending about 30 minutes here was enough time for me to get that "academic buzz" that I love. I find myself drawn to places steeped in academics & academic tradition. Within a very few minutes, I actually found myself wanting to be immersed in some sort of study or art project and to be a serious student again. I haven't been a serious "student" since I graduated from college over 30 years ago now, so that would be quite a stretch!! But that is the effect that Princeton had on me. To me, Princeton is the more Northerly counterpart of Williamsburg, Virginia: both are historic towns with tons of charm and personality and both have top-notch universities--Williamsburg has the College of William & Mary and Princeton has Princeton University. While Princeton can claim more academic prestige, William & Mary can claim to be the second oldest university in the country. Another connection--Princeton was named in honor of Prince William of Orange and the "William" in William & Mary was the same honoree.

A Town of Substance

I had the preconceived notion that Princeton University WAS Princeton, New Jersey, and to a large extent, it is; but Princeton also has quite a history and many people of note have lived, worked, studied and fought here. For example:

The Battle of Princeton of the Revolutionary War took place here;

Drumthwacket, the Official Residence of the Governor of New Jersey is here;

Albert Einstein did research at the Institute for Advanced Study and lived here from 1936 until his death in 1955;

Queen Noor of Jordan, the former Lisa Najeeb Halaby, studied at Princeton and graduated in 1974 with a degree in Architecture and Urban Planning;

The great African-American scholar, athlete and actor Paul Robeson grew up in Princeton and his father, William Drew Robeson, a self-made man, was a Pastor of the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in Princeton;

Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland at one time called Princeton home.

Princeton is set in a bucolic portion of New Jersey with rolling hills and woods. The town itself is filled with well-preserved 18th & 19th century historic buildings, along with museums, monuments, shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and an atmostphere so charming that I could see myself wanting to spend much more time there.

One great advantage of visiting or living in a university town is that it usually offers a plethora of activities, events, musical and theater performances, guest speakers and more which commonly are open to the public gratis or for a nominal fee.

While in some quarters Princeton students might be considered a little snobby (they have the right to be), I thought the students I encountered were helpful and friendly. While I've seen other comments on VT (particularly one) complaining about Princeton students being "rich brats", I did not get that impression from the students I saw. (Not so with a Princeton postal employee---he was horribly rude and offensive, but what's new!?!!! ) Students are accepted to Princeton because they are exceptional, and if they happen to come from wealthy families, then they have been doubly blessed. They should be given respect just like anyone else.

A Brief History

Originally named "Prince-Town" in honor of Prince William of Orange, Princeton earned its place in history for several reasons. The Revolutionary Battle of Princeton in January, 1777, was a major victory for General George Washington and his troops following very closely on the heels of his victory over the Hessians in Trenton in December, 1776. With this victory in Princeton, Washington had driven most of the British troops out of New Jersey and the prospect for total victory during the war was greatly improved.

In the Summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Princeton's Nassau Hall and the town actually became the country's capital for approximately four months. Princeton can also boast of being the home of two signers of the "Declaration of Independence"
: Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon.

The university, originally named "The College of New Jersey" and chartered in 1746, was located in several other spots before being moved to Princeton in 1756; however the university's name was not officially changed to "Princeton" until 1896. Ironically, currently a college formerly named "Trenton State College" now carries the title of "The College of New Jersey", also known locally as TCNJ.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Historic, quaint & charming, lively, a great university!
  • Cons:Expensive to live & study here!
  • In a nutshell:Worth exploring!
  • Last visit to Princeton: Apr 2007
  • Intro Updated Nov 24, 2014
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Reviews (20)

Comments (22)

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Nov 24, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Sylvia, excellent page with great tips about Princeton here. If I ever come here, I will probably not buy a golden Lindt Easter Bunny for 8 USD. - And thanks a lot for visiting my Stockholm page.

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    Princeton looks like an interesting location to visit and explore. We certainly would like to visit the city one day. Thanks for your virtual tour with lovely photos. Thanks also for visiting our Germany travel pages. ~ho & pang

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Nov 20, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    It must be surreal to see such great architecture dating many decades ago. I recently read about the "eating halls" that used to semi serve as frat houses but now more open to being that. Your pictures and comments are very good.

  • ranger49's Profile Photo
    Nov 5, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    A most interesting page -brought back memories of the years my sister spent there. In 1978 I arrived from NYC via Amtrak at Princeton Junction - first solo trans-Artantic flight and trip.! I loved the town of Princeton too - as it was back then.

  • Andraf's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    Great page Sylvia. I spent some lovely weekends in Princeton back when I was living in NJ and enjoyed very much the atmosphere of the town. P.S. I just realized I didn't eat a cheesesteak since moving from East Coast in 2000. Need to remedy that asap :)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jun 14, 2010 at 6:36 AM

    Hello, Sylvia! Thanks for your great page!

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Jul 13, 2009 at 2:44 AM

    Fabulous tips. I may have to visit the cemetery. Amazing how much Revolutionary history NJ has! Thanks for visiting my Lakewood page...I'm not sure which "theatre-style" building you mentioned. Would love to know.

  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo
    Nov 24, 2008 at 10:16 AM

    Princeton was one of the first places we visited when moving to New Jersey in 1998..we posed by the Tiger, strolled through campus, then browsed the interesting little stores....it was a nicely laidout college town! I see you discovered the shopping, too!

  • Sep 1, 2008 at 4:07 AM

    Great information and nice design about Princeton. Keep traveling. Nikos

  • Toshioohsako's Profile Photo
    Jul 29, 2008 at 7:52 AM

    Nice introduction of PU and a photo. I have been here twice but I recall it was a beautiful campus. I drove from Newwark airport.


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