Comprised of six villages—Hamilton Square, Nottingham, Mercerville, Yardville, White Horse, and Groveville – Hamilton Township does not have one distinct “downtown” area. Instead, this bustling suburb of Trenton is packed with things to do all over the 40 square miles of Mercer County it occupies.
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Art Scene: Take New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor Line to the second to last stop—Hamilton—and you’ll see unusual towering abstract sculptures at the 10-year old station. They are a part of the Grounds for Sculpture, a 35-acre public park dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of modern sculptural works.
The park—at the former site of the New Jersey State Fair—is home to more than 250 permanent outdoor sculptures and two buildings with seasonal exhibits, all set among the park’s beautifully manicured gardens. It also holds special educational programs and adult workshops, such as Winter Wonders Photography and Mixed Media Workshop this February. Open year round Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm. (18 Fairgrounds Rd, 609-586-0616, groundsforsculpture.org).
A Taste Around the World: While you are strolling the Grounds for Sculpture, make plans to dine at Rat’s Restaurant, located inside the park. At this upscale French restaurant with a setting reminiscent of a watery Monet landscape, you can enjoy entrees including a braised pork shank with apple risotto, fennel salad, and cinnamon jus, or opt for the restaurant’s acclaimed Sunday brunch (16 Fairgrounds Rd, 609-584-7800, ratsrestaurant.org).
Hamilton has many other wonderful dining options—some with an international flair. For authentic Spanish cuisine, don’t miss Málaga Restaurant, with its paella a la Valenciana with shellfish, chicken, sausage, and saffron rice as well as festive flamenco dancing the first and third Wednesday of each month (511 Lalor Street, 609-396-8878, malagarestaurant.com).
For a quick trip to Asia, experience Banzai Restaurant. Known for its sushi and hibachi tasting shows, Banzai is a fun place to spend the night with friends, while trying signature drinks such as the Tokyo cocktail with plum wine and sake (3690 Quakerbridge Road, 609-587-5454, banzairestaurant.com).
Saturday in the Park: For winter fun, check out Mercer County Park’s Public Ice Skating Center, where the whole family can get some exercise on the ice and then curl up by the fire with cocoa from the snack bar. The outdoor pavilion rink is open seven days a week (1638 Old Trenton Rd, 609-371-1766, mercercounty.org).
Shop and Save: A little bit of patience and plenty of time to browse add up to a great weekend outing at the privately owned Red White & Blue Thrift Store in Mercerville. With a huge selection of clothing, shoes, fabric, home décor, furniture, electronics, jewelry and accessories, toys, books, and records from the Vietnam Veterans of America (vva.org), you are sure to find great bargains in this clean and well-lit shop. But just a warning—it only accepts cash, and there are no dressing rooms, so you will have to rely on the other friendly shoppers you meet there for their opinion on your “finds” (2055 Nottingham Way, 609-586-1608, redwhiteandbluethriftstore.com/trenton).
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Reach new heights at the Rockville Climbing Center, an indoor rock-climbing facility. For beginners to experienced climbers, the center offers a variety of options to start your trek to the top. Call for reservations and pricing options (200 Whitehead Road, 609-631-ROCK, rockvilleclimbing.com).
Movie Magic: The AMC Hamilton 24 includes the first Imax movie theater in central Jersey among its two dozen screens. The Imax auditorium can accommodate 375 people in love-seat style stadium seating (325 Sloan Ave, 609-890-8307).
Spring Awakening: The Sayen Gardens—the result of lots of hard work by avid gardener Frederick Sayen—features 30 acres of azaleas, rhododendrons, and more than 250,000 flowering bulbs from all over the world. The well-kept walking trails, ponds, and gazebos provide the perfect backdrop to admire the colors of the spring (155 Hughes Drive, 609-890-3874, sayengardens.org).