Day Trip: New Brunswick

A college town elevates its preppy profile with fine dining and cultural attractions.

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Situated on the banks of the Raritan River, New Brunswick is home to 50,000 residents, Johnson & Johnson world headquarters, acclaimed theaters, a host of notable restaurants, major health-care facilities, and Rutgers University.

Rock On: More than a dozen businesses in the revitalized downtown have joined forces for an initiative called New Brunswick Rocks ( Each Thursday a different venue hosts a celebration with happy hours, giveaways, live bands, DJs, special menus, specialty drinks, and standup comedy. The fun continues with Friday Date Night deals, offering complimentary desserts, discounted menus, and even a bargain rate on a stay at the Heldrich Hotel (10 Livingston Avenue).

Broadway Bound: Top-notch entertainment is on tap at three professional performing arts theaters. The State Theatre (15 Livingston Avenue, 732-246-7469) hosts dance, comedy, and musical performances, with headliners such as Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. The African-American experience is portrayed At the Tony-Award winning Crossroads Theater (7 Livingston Avenue, 732-545-8100). Known for a diverse lineup of new and time-honored theatrical productions, the George Street Playhouse through its Next Stage series, was instrumental in the development of Proof, which went on to win a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize (9 Livingston Avenue, 732-246-7717).

Hike & Bike: You can follow along the towpath of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park from New Brunswick for up to 70 miles, all the way to Milford on the Delaware River. Whether on foot or on two wheels, you can go from the heart of a bustling downtown to a woodland respite in minutes.

Eat & Drink: The melting in New Brunswick is reflected in the wide selection of culinary delights, with options for budgets small and large. You’ll find eclectic American cuisine at the Frog and the Peach (29 Dennis Street, 732-846-3216), authentic Ethiopian fare at Makeda (338 George Street, 732-545-5115), and sushi and hibachi favorites at Sapporo (375 George Street, 732-828-3888). At Due Mari (78 Albany Street, 296-1600), Italian-focused seafood and pasta are center stage.

Sophisticated palates will appreciate the fine selection and innovative presentation of wine at Daryl Restaurant and Wine Bar (302 George Street, 732-253-770). For fanciful spirits, visit Christopher’s at the Heldrich Hotel (10 Livingston Avenue, 866-609-4700), where they’ll stir up an eye-opening Noche, an espresso martini, or Decadence, a yummy fusion of vanilla vodka, caramel liqueur, and Kahlua. For beer drinkers, a must-visit is the Harvest Moon Brewery Café (392 George Street, 732-249-6666), where foamy brews are crafted on site.

Quick & Filling: The Fat Darrell sandwich, served at the RU Grill and Pizza (142 Easton Avenue, 732-828-1128), is a Rutgers tradition. The mélange of chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and marinara sauce was celebrated by Al Roker on the Food Network’s Roker on the Road. It was touted as one of the best sandwiches in the nation by Maxim magazine.

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