Princeton: Where History, Art and Culture Make the Grade

The Mercer County town's got something for everyone.

Drumthwacket Photo by Steve Greer

Though it’s possible the median IQ in Princeton is higher than anywhere else in the state, you don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out how to have a good time here. But an appreciation for history, art and culture will come in handy.

Start your day at Drumthwacket, the governor’s official residence. If you’re coming on a Wednesday, when they’re offered, sign up in advance for a tour of the sprawling estate. Don’t worry about running into Phil and Tammy Murphy; they, like other recent governors, only use the historic mansion for special events. It’s not hard to understand why they would entertain here. A series of gold-accented and antique-filled rooms are home to intriguing historical objects.

From Drumthwacket, it’s a short drive on Stockton Street to Morven Museum and Garden, a former governors’ mansion, this one built in the 1750s. Like Drumthwacket, it now reliably enchants architecture and history buffs. Morven, though, is a museum, with two floors of changing exhibits focusing on New Jersey’s storied past.

Hungry? Across from the ivy-covered bastion of intellectualism that is Princeton University, there is a downtown bustling with restaurants. For a snack, try a flaky and tender croissant at the Little Chef Pastry Shop (8 South Tulane Street), or indulge in artisanal ice cream or hot chocolate at the Bent Spoon in Palmer Square. The square is also the place for shopping in boutiques like Lace Silhouettes Lingerie or mall staples like Brooks Brothers. If you prefer to linger over lunch, do it at Agricola (11 Witherspoon Street), a three-star New Jersey Monthly restaurant that spins local ingredients into edible celebrations. If it’s Saturday or Sunday, Agricola is your brunch spot, too.

While downtown, you may as well make believe you’re Princeton material. Stroll the impressive campus in all its fall splendor. A visit to the Princeton University Art Museum (free; open Tuesday-Sunday) is essential. The museum’s more than 100,000 works range from American and European painting and sculpture to masterpieces of Islamic, Byzantine, Asian and African art. (For an official campus tour, go to

Now, head back outdoors to the D&R Canal State Park. Here, you’ll encounter walkers, runners and bicylists as they roam past 19th-century bridges, cobblestone spillways and the glistening Lake Carnegie. Watch closely—you can spot as many as 160 species of birds on the tree-lined path.

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