With its sprawling university, busy town square and plenty of hidden treasures, Princeton is the perfect weekend day trip for families. Ever since moving here three years ago, we’ve enjoyed exploring around on foot and by bicycle. Wear comfortable shoes and bring an appetite to visit gorgeous collegiate Princeton and I guarantee you’ll want to return soon since there’s so much to see and do.
Start on Campus
The stunning architecture and sprawling green lawns are the perfect backdrop to start your day in Princeton. Grab a coffee or a dirty chai from Small World Coffee and walk around the campus and layout on the grass or have fun finding some of the more unique art (my kids are fascinated by the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads sculptures). Although it’s only welcoming visitors online right now, the amazing Princeton University Art Museum is normally free to the public.
Our public square is considered the heart of Princeton and there’s so much to see, eat and do. My kids’ very first recommendation is The Bent Spoon for artisan ice cream and is absolutely the best we ice cream connoisseurs have tasted anywhere! (Insider tip: the dark chocolate sorbet is so decadent and like nothing you’ve ever tasted!)
The next stop, according to my twins, is jaZams toy store. The store is a kid’s dream come true and the helpful, friendly staff ensure that we go here for toys, never Amazon.
If you’ve eaten dessert before lunch or dinner, that’s okay, we do it all the time! Small Bites By Local Greek is a great spot for lunch (their larger, more extensive nearby restaurant Local Greek is BYOB).
For that real collegiate feeling, stop by the Yankee Doodle Tap Room for burgers and craft beer (and don’t forget to check out the Princeton alumni photos on the wall inside – extra points for spotting Brooke Shields!).
We also have a great sidewalk café scene happening, and to me, there’s nothing better than grabbing a to-go beer or glass of wine from Alchemist & Barrister and a slice from Jules Thin Crust and just people watching from an umbrella-covered table.
My kids are now begging me to add Morning Glory to the to-do list. This eclectic shop on Nassau Street is chock full of cute knick-knacks, toys and accessories.
Now it’s my turn to have some fun, and when our favorite “Uncle” Mark visits we head straight to Princeton Record Exchange to show the kids these round flat things that music came on before there was TikTok.
History on Foot
If you’re ready for more exploring, seek out the bust of Albert Einstein near the Battle Monument. And although you’ll feel slightly dorky taking a picture of it, you must pass by Einstein’s house on Mercer Street (but please heed the private property sign as it is NOT a museum).
As you walk around, look for the green ovals on select buildings which signify some of Princeton’s oldest remaining structures.
If you need a break from downtown, our nearby Terhune Orchards has pretty much everything a family could want in a day’s outing – fruit picking in season, barn animals, a farm store and my personal favorite – flower picking in the springtime where they hand you scissors to cut your own stems. There’s even a wine tasting room and live music on the weekends – save room for the excellent cider donuts, which you really should buy by the bag.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to have a babysitter, or are maybe coming to Princeton for a girls’ night out, Agricola is the place you want for enjoying a grown-up, farm-to-table, craft cocktail, out-of-this-world dining experience. With the twins tucked up in bed, a Rosemary Gimlet in hand and their famed mushroom flatbread in front of me, I’m one happy girl.
More to See and Do
The McCarter Theatre has shows for children and adults – check back for reopening dates in 2021.
The Princeton Garden Theater is out go-to place for indie films. Check back for reopening dates.
Jammin’ Crepes is the food you’ll leave craving more of whether it’s the sweet or the savory.
The Pastry Room and Salad & Smoothie Market is a cute little shop with giant, fresh smoothies made to order.
House of Cupcakes were winners on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” for good reason – the Hostess-style cupcake with white filling and swirls is the one you want.
Click here for more great places to eat and drink.