Best Towns for Day Trips

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With its prestigious university, busy town square and hidden treasures, Princeton is the perfect spot to spend a Saturday.

Its stunning architecture and lush green lawns provide a pretty backdrop to start your day. Grab a coffee or dirty chai from Small World Coffee, walk around the campus and lay out on the grass or seek out some of the university’s more unique art—the Circle of Animals/ Zodiac Heads sculptures are worth searching for.

Palmer Square is considered the heart of Princeton and there’s so much to explore. The first stop for finding games, puzzles, dolls and toys is jaZams toy store. The place is a kid’s dream come true and its helpful, friendly staff ensures you’ll find a unique treasure like no other. Another special place for shopping is Morning Glory on Nassau Street. This eclectic shop is chock full of cute knick-knacks, toys and accessories. Music lovers should head to Princeton Record Exchange to show the kids those round flat things that music came on before there was TikTok.

Princeton offers a variety of cuisines and you’ll have a hard time deciding what to eat first. Small Bites by Local Greek is a popular spot for lunch (the larger, more extensive nearby restaurant Local Greek is BYOB). For that 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!). Princeton has a thriving sidewalk café scene happening and 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 people watching from an umbrella-covered table. A foodie favorite is The Bent Spoon for artisan ice cream. (Insider tip: the dark chocolate sorbet is so decadent you may even prefer it to the chocolate ice cream!)

TERHUNE ORCHARDS

If you’re ready for more exploring, seek out the bust of Albert Einstein near the Battle Monument. No trip to Princeton is complete without passing by Einstein’s house on Mercer Street (but please heed the private property sign since 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.

Not far from downtown, Terhune Orchards has pretty much everything a family could want in a day’s outing—seasonal pick-your-own fruits, barn animals, a farm store and flower picking in the springtime where they hand you scissors to cut your own stems. There’s even wine tasting and live music on the weekends—save room for the excellent cider donuts, which you really should buy by the bag.

Another spectacular outdoor destination is Grounds for Sculpture in nearby Hamilton. Spend a few hours taking in contemporary art at this 42-acre museum, sculpture garden and arboretum. Located on the former New Jersey State Fairground, this haven was opened by artist Seward Johnson and features 300 contemporary sculptures and other works of art.

Agricola is the place you want for enjoying a farm-to-table, craft cocktail, out-of-this-world dining experience. With a Rosemary Gimlet in hand and the restaurant’s famed mushroom flatbread in front of you, you’ll be plotting your next visit to this amazing university town.

The McCarter Theatre has live shows for children and adults and the Princeton Garden Theatre is a go-to for indie films. Both are temporarily closed, but check 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 shop with fresh smoothies made-to-order. House of Cupcakes was a winner on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars for good reason—the Hostess-style cupcake with white filling and swirls is the one you want. Olsson’s Fine Foods in Palmer Square has the yummiest grilled cheese! Add some fig jam to your sandwich for a taste sensation.

Marquand Park is a 17-acre arboretum with gorgeous trees, winding paths and a playground. Go during spring to see everything in full bloom.

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