Princeton Things to Do

  • Winter sunset at IAS pond
    Winter sunset at IAS pond
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  • Nassau Hall?
    Nassau Hall?
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  • Mercer Oak/Princeton Battlefield
    Mercer Oak/Princeton Battlefield
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Best Rated Things to Do in Princeton

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    Chancellor Green Library

    by starship Updated Nov 20, 2010

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    One of the most unique-looking and beautiful buildings we saw on Princeton's campus was the "Chancellor Green Library." Designed by William Potter, and considered an example of High Victorian Gothic architecture, it has a central two-story rotunda with 2 matching, single-story reading rooms on either side (now probably used for different purposes). It is said that the architect was influenced by Thomas Jefferson's rotunda at the University of Virginia (1832).

    When built, this library took the place of the original college library which was said to have been open only 1 hour per week!! It was James McCosh, Princeton's 11th President, who saw the need for a library dedicated to the purpose, and which would also improve the college's academic stature. When it was built, the library could hold 150,000 volumes with seating for 100 students. Book stacks occupied both the first and second level of the rotunda then. Another newer library followed in 1897 named the "Pyne Library" and that also was followed by the current "Firestone Library".

    I saw some books still remaining in this remarkable building with some lounge chairs but it obviously serves another purpose now. The rotunda was locked. The hall leading to the rotunda's door (considered as "East Pyne") had some beautifully arched, stained-glass windows on either side. East Pyne was used with Chancellor Green as the university's library until the "Firestone Library" was completed in 1948.

    I did not see it but have read that an entrance which is no longer used today, featured a polished granite column and capitals which were carved into the shape of stacks of books. Sorry I missed that feature!!

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    Princeton University

    by starship Updated Oct 16, 2008

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    ".......Sorry, Roger. You Tiger now!!"

    Well, that quote may be from a funny commercial, but for me it kind of sums up how I felt when I visited Princeton University, home of the Princeton Tigers. Once I had seen this university and this town, I knew I would now forever be a fan of the Princeton Tigers.

    Princeton, one of the eight Ivy League universities in America, wreathed in colors of orange and black, steeped in academic and social tradition, is the kind of place that appealed to me immediately!!

    The university was chartered in 1746 as The College of New Jersey and kept that name for 150 years before it was officially changed to Princeton University in 1896. Today the university is also affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Westminster Choir College of Rider University.

    Did you know that the first ever collegiate football game played pitted Princeton against Rutgers University on November 6, 1869. The game, which was won by Rutgers 6 - 4, was played in New Brunswick, NJ.

    The physicality of the university is surprisingly small, but then so is the student population of well under 10,000 students. There is mixed but appealing architecture on the grounds and the section of campus we saw is great for strolling around to admire it. We were particularly impressed with University Chapel and Chancellor Green. I will address these buildings in subsequent tips.

    According to "Ivy Success Admission Strategists", the students entering Princeton next Fall are said to have an average combined SAT score of 2200. It does indeed take a carefully planned strategy for most students to be one of the fortunate few to be admitted to this elite institution!

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    Nassau Hall

    by starship Updated Nov 20, 2010

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    "Nassau Hall", the centerpiece and one of the most significant buildings on Princeton's campus has an intriguing history of its own. Completed in 1756 and named in honor of Prince William of Orange & Nassau, Nassau Hall was once the one and only building housing the institution now known as Princeton University. With its three stories and basement, it was said to be one of the largest academic buildings in the colonies. Members of the founding fathers of our country, the Continental Congress, met in Nassau Hall in the Summer of 1783, cementing the historical significance of the building in this county's history, though probably few are aware of it.

    The building was a victim of several fires and several structural changes and additions were made as a result; during the reconstruction phases fire safeguards were added to the architectural character of the building. Nassau Hall now houses administration offices.

    The pair of reclining stone tigers flanking the entrance of the building were sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi of Statue of Liberty fame. From that point you can look out upon the ornate black, iron FitzRandolph Gate and Nassau Street.

    Though we saw only the long, front rectangular side of Nassau Hall, in actuality it resembles a shortened "T" shape. The darkened brick exterior is highlighted only by the ornate, central tower.

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    Bainbridge House ~ Home of Historical Society

    by starship Updated Oct 16, 2008

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    Bainbridge House

    Bainbridge House has had many lives and has many tales to tell. Built in 1766 as a home for a wealthy member of the Stockton family, a familiar name in New Jersey, it is an attractive and solid looking house even today. It remained in the hands of that family for over 100 years, although it served many purposes during that time and afterward. It was leased to Dr. Absalon Bainbridge, and so it is that name which it is still identified by today. (Dr. Bainbridge's son, Commodore William Bainbridge, was born there in 1774. William Bainbridge was hailed as a hero of the War of 1812, in which he commanded the U.S.S. Constitution.)

    During the late 19th century it served as a boarding house for Princeton students; beginning in 1910 it served as the Princeton Public Library; and in 1967 it became the home of the Princeton Historical Society.

    To this day it retains most of its 1766 original physical structure including its staircase, and paneling. Today you will find that the downstairs has a small museum, which occupies several rooms, devoted to the history and artifacts of local Princeton history. You can spend about 30 minutes viewing the exhibits. The Historical Society's research library is free to members but charges a very nominal fee for non-members. The museum itself requests only a donation which benefits the Society. There is also a gift shop (and information desk) in the first room to the right of the entrance which carries a few items, a few postcards, and pamphlets for sale.

    Guided walking tours of Princeton are available each Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 pm costing $7 pp for adults. Tours begin at the Bainbridge House. The Self-Guided Walking Tour brochure, which costs $1 at the Historical Society, gives a brief history of Princeton and covers 16 separate sights which you can see at your own pace. Group walking tours or tours by bus can be arranged (probably at a discount).

    The Bainbridge House is an excellent place from which to begin your tour of Princeton!!

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    University Chapel

    by starship Updated Nov 20, 2010

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    Interior windows - University Chapel
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    "University Chapel" was a great surprise and a fascinating building!! University Chapel had a very humble entrance which opened into a marvelous interior with many fascinating nuances. Even the title of "chapel" is a simplistic and somewhat misleading misnomer IMHO. The cornerstone of the chapel was laid in 1925 and the cross-shaped building is a grand 249 feet in length & 61 feet wide but even feels much larger. The chapel can accommodate 1,800 people.

    The ceiling soars above and stained-glass windows on two levels flood the interior space with beauty and warm light. Various flags and banners add color and beauty to the center of the sandstone & limestone church. For such a large and imposing church, it had an exceptionally warm and inviting interior rather than a dark and dank feeling that similar European churches can sometimes have.

    Milanese stonemasons crafted this work of art. Remembrances, recognized donors, and memorializations of certain persons were carved into many of the sandstone blocks which make up the side walls. Closer to the main altar, and around the left side was a small, Catholic side-chapel or altar.

    At the head of the church were the main altar, towering organ pipes, and the ornate, woodcarved, facing pews which the choir or ministers would occupy during a service. In an alcove on the right was the framed, tattered flag which had flown from the mast of the U.S.S. Princeton (a carrier battleship), which was gifted to the university. (Picture 2)

    Another interesting piece was the wall-mounted portion of a bust created by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). It served as the original plaster used for the sculpture of St. Michael the Archangel and the Devil which is now placed in the Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, England, following its reconstruction after WWII. ( Picture 3) (I have been to Coventry Cathedral, but unfortunately don't remember the sculpture.)

    The University Chapel is fantastic and shouldn't be missed!

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    Revolutionary War Battle Monument

    by starship Updated Nov 20, 2010

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    Monument to the Battle of Princeton 1777
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    Commissioned in1908, this beautiful limestone monument commemorates the Revolutionary War ""Battle of Princeton" which took place on one day in January, 1777. Sculptor Frederick MacMonnies completed the monument in 1922 and the dedication took place in the same year with President Harding in attendance.

    Located in Princeton Battlefield Park in a little triangle of land, the grand monument was undergoing some kind of restoration when we saw it and was surrounded by fencing. On the large face of the monument, the sculpture depicts General George Washington leading his troops into battle, and the death of General Hugh Mercer on January 12, 1777. (General Hugh Mercer, a Scottish physician, had previously fought with George Washington in the French & Indian War and had in settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he opened an Apothocary Shop prior to the Revolutionary War. See my Fredericksburg, VA page.) On its sides are the seals of the United States and those of the original 13 states including New Jersey. In my opinion it is both a beautiful monument and moving tribute to those who fought in the Revolution.

    Just to the left are two much smaller but also important memorials: one finely cast metal plaque dedicated to the "Marines in the Revolution" has the following words:

    "Dedicated to the Continental Marines who fought with General Washington's troops during the Battle of Princeton January 3, 1777."

    The second colorful plaque shows portraits of General George Washington and French General Rochambeau of King Louis the 16th's army. The plaque depicts Rochambeau's encampment site in Princeton during the southward march to victory at Yorktown, Virginia (1781). This plaque was erected by the American Society of "Le Souvenir de Francaise."

    It is unfortunate that the area around the monument and plaques is unremarkable and very plain. The monuments deserve a better surrounding. Hope that happens in the future.

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    Drumthwacket ~ Governor's Official Residence

    by starship Updated Oct 16, 2008

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    Drumthwacket and front lawn
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    I am still researching the origin of the name, Drumthwacket!! It's rather peculiar for a house so beautiful. The stately house was built in 1835 for Charles Smith Olden, Governor of New Jersey during the Civil War. It was purchased by the State of New Jersey in 1966 for the purpose of making it the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey, but it took funds raised by the New Jersey Historical Society to finish the project. Drumthwacket official became the home of the Governor in 1982. Ironically, New Jersey's capitol is Trenton, and not all New Jersey Governors have lived in since it became available in 1982 (I believe).

    The Drumthwacket Foundation claims to have completely restored the somewhat Southern- looking mansion and added period antiques and furnishings befitting such a grand place. Fine art, on loan from some of the state's museums is on display featuring a New Jersey orientation and work by New Jersey artists. Italianate gardens on the grounds have been restored as well. The front lawn is a sweeping, green expanse and is surrounding by high, wrought iron fence. A little white guardhouse stands at the entrance to the property.

    Both Drumthwacket and the restored Quaker farmhouse of the Olden family are open on Wednesday except in August. Tours for groups or individuals require reservations. A $5 donation is suggested.

    A Giftshop is now located in the Quaker farmhouse portion of the property.

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    Princeton University Art Museum

    by SmileyLeSa Written Dec 10, 2004

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    Princeton University Art Museum

    If you like museums, you'll like this Princeton museum housed on two levels. There are over 60,000 pieces of art inclusing ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America.

    Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    Sunday: 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

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    Princeton Cemetery ~ History in Headstones

    by starship Updated Oct 16, 2008

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    The Princeton Cemetery, established by the Nassau Presbyterian Church in 1757, has been called the "Westminster Abbey of the United States" by 19th century historian John F. Hageman. It is the final resting place of some of the most illustrious citizens of New Jersey and some who were also important national figures as well. Here you will find graves of those who were notable theologians, a signer of the "Declaration of Independence," academicians, athletes, military officers, prominent Princeton citizens from the American Revolutionary Period, giants of business, those who endeared themselves to Princeton, & an American President, Grover Cleveland!!

    The oldest surviving monument is that of Aaron Burr, Jr, a colonel in the Army during the time of the American Revolution who also became the Vice-President of the United States from 1801 - 1805. He is probably best known for his duel with Alexander Hamilton.

    Other notables, to name a very few, are George Gallup, a distinquished statistician & journalist who founded the Gallup Poll; Barbara Boggs Sigmund, one-time mayor of Princeton, sister of TV journalist Coki Roberts, and daughter of the prominent Louisiana Boggs family (Hale & Lindy Boggs); William and Maria Robeson, parents of the legendary Paul Robeson; J. Paul Baldeagle, a Native American who taught in the area for many years and bequeathed his extensive collection of Native American artifacts to the New Jersey State Museum; and Richard Stockton, Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

    Pick up a pamphlet guide which lists and locates sites of graves of the many famous people buried in the roughly 19-acre cemetery. You can find this pamphlet at the Princeton Historical Society on Nassau Street.

    "The life of the dead consists in being present in the minds of the living."
    Cicero, Orationes Phillipiae*, ca 60 B.C.E.

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    Tiger Park ~ Memorial to Edgar Palmer

    by starship Updated Oct 16, 2008

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    Tiger Park Memorial to Edgar Palmer
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    Just on Nassau Street and somewhat in front of Palmer Square is a nice little park called "Tiger Park." This is a smallish park with a couple of benches surrounded by low shrubs and green areas all in the shape of a rectangle. A brick walkway cuts through the park and leads to a granite memorial topped with a Tiger and hence the name, "Tiger Park" (the Tiger is also the mascot of Princeton University).

    The park & the memorial are dedicated to Edgar Palmer for which Palmer Square is named. Edgar Palmer was the heir to the "New Jersey Zinc" fortune and Palmer square was the fruit of his vision. Palmer announced his plans for Palmer Square in 1929 which was fashioned in the style of Colonial architecture which was experiencing a revival of popularity at that time. Palmer Square is a major feature of downtown Princeton.

    The Tiger has long since turned a milky green shade of verdigris. But the plaque on the front of the memorial is still readable and is inscribed as follows:

    "In memory of Edgar Palmer whose vision and generosity built this square for Princeton which he so loved. Erected by his friends 1944."

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    The Princeton Cemetery

    by acemj Updated Aug 8, 2005

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    If you've seen some of my other VT pages, you might remember that I have a thing for cemeteries. This one, which is officially the cemetery of the Nassau Presbyterian Church, is filled with historic gravesites of a number of prominent local figures. You can pick up a map and guide to the cemetery (basically a listing of the folks taking their permanent dirt naps here) at the Bainbridge House (see previous tip).

    I thought it was interesting that there was a large number of Chinese names on the headstones, probably because the Presbyterian church was one of the first to heavily reach out to that demographic.

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    The Princeton Battle Monument

    by acemj Written Aug 6, 2005

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    The Princeton Battle Monument is an interesting work of art that commemorates the Battle of Princeton, which took place on January 3, 1777 during the American Revolution. The monument was designed by Thomas Hastings and sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies and was ceremonially unveiled in 1922 by President Warren Harding. The large, imposing monument is located at the end of a long, tree and bench lined path and depicts General George Washington on horseback inspiring his troops to victory over the British.

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    Morven

    by acemj Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Morven is a historic house that was once the headquarters of Lord Cornwallis' during the Revolution. The land was originally owned by William Penn and was purchased from him in 1701 by Richard Stockton. Around fifty years later, Stockton's grandson, also named Richard Stockton, built the Morven house. Generations of Stocktons lived here and eventually it became the home to the governors of New Jersey. It wasn't until the early 1980s that it became a museum.

    For $5 you can visit this National Historic Landmark as part of a guided tour. Ed and I arrived here after 4pm when the house and museum close, so we just checked it out from the outside and spent about 45 minutes walking the grounds and through the gardens. The museum/tour hours are as follows:

    Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
    11 a.m. – 3 p.m
    Tours at 11:15, 12:15, 1:15 and 2:15

    Saturday and Sunday
    12 Noon – 4 p.m.
    Tours at 12:15, 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15

    Check out the website for more details.

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    Palmer Square

    by acemj Updated Aug 6, 2005

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    Ed (etfromnc) enjoying an ice cream

    Palmer Square is just across Nassau Street from the university and is a nice shopping and dining area full of unique places to spend some time. You will also find places to park here as well as a movie theater and a couple places to spend the night . It's definitely worth a stroll of an hour or so or a whole day if you plan to do some serious shopping.

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    Princeton University Reunions

    by remosito Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Princeton University Reunions

    Tons and tons of silly looking orange colored
    Princeton Alumni running around, small talking
    and getting blasted...

    Lot's of concerts and disco's all over
    campus in tents

    You need a student to get you a visitor pass
    ahead of time!!!!!

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