The town of Princeton, NJ may be best known for its namesake Ivy League University, but there are plenty of other fun things to do in Princeton!
I’m a New Jersey local of over 30 years. I love Princeton because it offers interesting activities for different types of visitors. From historic venues and sites to scenic parks, there’s something for everyone. After all, this charming and historic town is one of the best places to stay in New Jersey.
Without further ado, here are the best things to do in Princeton:
Table of Contents
- 21 Best Things to Do in Princeton
- Princeton University
- Palmer Square
- Morven Museum & Garden
- Princeton Battlefield State Park
- Princeton Battle Monument
- Carnegie Lake
- Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park
- Marquand Park
- The Princeton Garden Theatre
- Princeton Playspace
- Princeton Public Library
- Music Fest in Palmer’s Square
- McCarter Theatre Center
- Princeton Forrestal Village
- Witherspoon Grill
- Herrontown Woods
- Bunker Hill Golf Course
- Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve
- Turning Basin Park
- FAQs About What To Do In Princeton
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21 Best Things to Do in Princeton
Walk the halls and picturesque campus of this prestigious Ivy League University.
Princeton University is a renowned Ivy League University. It’s often the first thing that comes to mind when many think of Princeton, New Jersey. This university is a national historic landmark that has been around for over 275 years.
The Princeton University campus is large, spanning over 9.5 million square feet! This includes a temporarily closed art museum. The architecture of Princeton University alone is stunning and merits great admiration. Whatever aspect of Princeton University appeals to you most, it’s still a must-see place to visit.
Fun fact: one of Princeton’s buildings, Nassau Hall, is the oldest building on campus. In fact, it was even instrumental in the Revolutionary War. Today, it’s home to Princeton University’s Administrative Offices.
Explore a unique outdoor shopping mall in the heart of downtown Princeton.
Downtown Princeton is proudly home to the popular and quaint, Palmer Square. Here, visitors come to shop and take in the sights. There are a variety of restaurants and boutiques featuring unique finds.
You’ll even find seasonal activities such as ice skating in the winter—a personal favorite! Outdoor concerts are held in Palmer Square when the weather is nice. For example, Music Fest in Palmer’s Square. Checking out these unique events is a great way to experience the local side of Princeton.
Morven Museum & Garden
Experience some of Princeton’s history in this quaint museum.
Discover some interesting and unique historical gems at the Morven Museum. This local history museum is small and unassuming, but it’s home to a few unique items.
The second-floor exhibit features several antique clocks made in New Jersey. This makes the Morven Museum an interesting place for history lovers. The museum also puts on new and rotating exhibits, always with a historic appeal.
The gardens are another popular feature of Morven Museum. The gardens are particularly beautiful in the springtime, which is one of the best times to visit New Jersey. Overall, this is an inexpensive, classic activity, especially for first-time visitors to Princeton.
Princeton Battlefield State Park
Learn more about Princeton’s rich history as you stroll through this serene park.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (609) 921-0074 | Hours: Daily, from Sunrise to Sunset | Entrance: Free
Princeton Battlefield State Park is a historic park. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a tree-lined walk on a warm day.
Throughout the park, you’ll find plaques. These plaques explain the history of the park and its significance in the American Revolutionary War. Simply put, you can get a history lesson and a great workout, all in one!
Sometimes there are even war reenactments, which bring history to life before your eyes.
Princeton Battle Monument
Visit the site of one of George Washington’s war victories.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (609) 921-0074 | Hours: Daily, from Sunrise to Sunset | Entrance: Free
Located within the Princeton Battlefield State Park, is the Princeton Battle Monument. This monument is distinct because it honors one of George Washington’s most renowned victories.
The Princeton Battle Monument depicts George Washington and his troops during the American Revolutionary War. It was unveiled and dedicated in June of 1922. Since then, it’s become a recognizable piece of American history and a local staple of Princeton.
Visit the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey.
The New Jersey Governor’s Mansion is a great place to visit when you’re in Princeton. Although the governor lives here, you can still get tours of this elegant mansion.
A knowledgeable tour guide will take you through the halls of this historical home. Here, you’ll learn about the mansion’s rich history. For this reason alone, history lovers of all ages will find the Drumthwacket mansion especially interesting.
Enjoy activities like fishing at this reservoir behind Princeton University.
📍 Google Maps | Hours: 24/7 | Entrance: Free
Carnegie Lake is situated behind Princeton University and is named after Andrew Carnegie. This lake is especially popular with students and faculty of Princeton University, as well as New Jersey locals. Other visitors will enjoy taking in the tranquility of this serene lake.
Activities such as fishing and kayaking here are local favorite things to do in Princeton. No swimming or motorized boats are allowed on Carnegie Lake. However, you can use a non-motorized boat. A place for kayak rentals is available nearby for your convenience.
Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park
Take a stroll along the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
The Delaware and Raritan Canal is a river that runs throughout parts of New Jersey and Delaware. A particular portion known as the ‘Towpath’ runs through Princeton. The name has historical significance, as it used to be a pathway where goods were moved via mule long ago. The Towpath also runs parallel to Lake Carnegie.
This particular park sits right near Princeton University, making it a popular place for students and faculty alike. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as walking, running, and biking. If you pay a visit to the University, be sure to stop by the Canal for a relaxing walk.
Play the day away in this 17-acre recreational area, perfect for a picnic.
The beauty of Marquand Park is its simplicity. Large grassy fields create the perfect spot for a picnic. The trees along the paved pathways are labeled so you can learn about the natural world. And to keep the kids busy? There’s a nice sandbox with toys.
Marquand Park is especially nice to enjoy on a warm spring day when the trees and flowers have come to full bloom. It’s also a sight to see in fall when the leaves have turned, giving you a gorgeous palette of colors to gaze upon!
The Princeton Garden Theatre
Sit back and enjoy a film at this historic and cozy Princeton movie theater.
Princeton Garden Theatre is the perfect local movie theater for enjoying a cozy atmosphere. This small, historic movie theater has classic charm and an old-school feel.
A mix of newly released movies, Indie films, and older classics (dating as far back as the 50s!) are played at Princeton Garden Theatre. So, grab some popcorn and settle into the comfortable seats!
👉 Local Tip: Check the website before going to see what’s playing. Don’t forget to buy your tickets online for the best possible experience.
Let your kids play and roam free at this fun and creative indoor play space.
Families with little ones will particularly appreciate the Princeton Playspace. This indoor playspace is the perfect place for your toddler or preschooler to exercise their mind and body.
The play area is designed to spark creativity. Children play with realistic replicas of items like tools, trucks, and more.
Princeton Playspace is the perfect place to take your children year-round. Whether rain or shine, hot or cold, little ones can still get their energy out. Go to their website to reserve a play time, and you’re all set for a day of play!
Princeton Public Library
Get lost in a book at this cozy, three-story library.
As a bookworm myself, I love visiting libraries wherever I go. And Princeton Public Library is quite the library! It has three floors and even a cafe. It’s comfortable and modern, with an amazing collection of books.
Grab a coffee at the cafe, find your next favorite book, and enjoy a quiet afternoon of reading. Sometimes the library hosts events like storytime for little ones or cultural experiences for a more mature audience. Check the website before you visit to see what’s coming up soon.
👉 Local Tip: Although visiting the library is free, you have to pay for parking across the street. Library cardholders can get up to two hours of free parking.
Music Fest in Palmer’s Square
Vibe to lively music at this open-air, annual festival in the heart of Princeton.
Music lovers, get ready for a good time! Every year, the Music Fest in Palmer’s Square is an event held for all to enjoy. If you love a good street festival, get ready to have a great time with family and friends in downtown Princeton.
Music Fest in Palmer’s Square features live music in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. It takes place rain or shine, so bring an umbrella, just in case.
McCarter Theatre Center
Catch a show at this popular local venue for theatrical productions.
McCarter Theatre Center is within walking distance from Palmer’s Square. This classy theater features live shows and musical performances. Local and traveling performers come here to put on a variety of events.
You can delight in different productions, including dramatic productions with impeccable surround sound. The center contains two theaters so it can accommodate more than one performance at a time. Check the website to see what’s playing next!
👉 Local Tip: Parking can be difficult to come by and costly, especially the closer to the theater you are. For more parking options, consider parking further from the venue. Rideshare is also an option.
Princeton Forrestal Village
Dine and shop at this mixed-use shopping and business center.
The Princeton Forrestal Village is one of Princeton’s hidden gems. This village is technically located in Plainsboro but still has a Princeton address. Pay a visit to the Forrestal Village to see another side of Princeton.
This mixed-use complex is home to popular restaurants and shops. One such restaurant is the popular Ruth Chris Steakhouse. Princeton Forrestal Village is also home to the luxurious Westin Princeton Forrestal Village, a gorgeous hotel perfect for a weekend getaway.
Delight your palate in this sophisticated local restaurant specializing in small plates.
Don’t miss out on Mistral for a delightful foodie experience. This restaurant offers a variety of culinary delights and well-crafted cocktails. The wait staff is pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu, which is always a plus.
In good weather, you have the option to dine outside if you choose. As the night cools, the restaurant has heaters so that you’re comfortable. Mistral is without a doubt one of the best places to enjoy a meal in downtown Princeton.
Enjoy classic American fare and outdoor dining at this local Princeton steakhouse.
Stop at Witherspoon Grill for casual, yet delicious fare after a long day of exploring Princeton. This steakhouse has a variety of items that are sure to delight your taste buds.
Enjoy a Ribeye or a perfectly cooked Angus burger. Witherspoon Grill offers outdoor dining as well, so you can enjoy your meal with the breeze of a nice summer evening. Finish it off with an ice-cold beer or cocktail.
Take a peaceful stroll through this nature preserve’s forested walking trails.
Pay a visit to Herrontown Woods for a unique experience in nature. You can walk or hike through this nature preserve’s many trails. However, taking a stroll isn’t the only thing you can do here.
Herrontown Woods is home to historical sites, such as the Veblen House from back in the 1920s. Events like guided nature walks—some featuring mushrooms, or even dragonflies—are held at Herrontown Woods. Check the website ahead of time for more information and to see what events are happening.
👉 Local Tip: Herrontown Woods is a great nature preserve for walking. Unfortunately, biking on the trails is not permitted.
Bunker Hill Golf Course
Spend an afternoon teeing off at this local golf course, where anyone is welcome.
Bunker Hill Golf Course is one of the best things to do in Princeton for visitors who like to golf. This is because most golf courses in Princeton are part of country clubs or are for members only. Bunker Hill Golf Course is open to the public! Occasional events are held here as well. So, grab a few friends, and book your tee time online ahead of time.
👉 Local Tip: Bunker Hill Golf Course is in the process of making some improvements and renovations. Because of this, some areas may look a bit rough for the time being. Call ahead for more information, and to see if these will affect your visit.
Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve
Enjoy a quiet walk through woodlands and along a lake in this 400-acre nature preserve.
📍 Google Maps | Hours: Dawn to Dusk daily | Entrance: Free
Connect with nature in the scenic Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve. This open area is 400 acres of peaceful scenery for nature lovers.
Take a stroll along one of the many hiking and walking trails. Here, you can see a variety of forest animals such as beavers and snapping turtles. You may even catch a glimpse of some butterflies!
The trails are a fan favorite around here. Along with beautiful views, they also provide great exercise for avid hikers and casual walkers. However, there isn’t much in terms of restrooms, except by the Farm View Fields and Community Park South areas.
Turning Basin Park
Go on a kayaking adventure at this 9-acre park.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (609 921-9480 | Hours: Dawn to Dusk daily | Entrance: Free (Kayak Rental Costs Vary)
Turning Basin Park is a great place for taking in beautiful weather. But what stands out about Turning Basin, is that you can also enjoy relaxing water activities. This is a popular place to go kayaking and canoeing. If you don’t have your own kayak or canoe, rentals are available across the parking lot from Princeton Canoe & Kayak Rental.
Turning Basin doesn’t have a playground. So if you’re traveling with little ones, this may not be what you or they are looking for. But it’s a great place if you want to enjoy activities like cycling, taking a stroll along the water, or kayaking.
👉 Local Tip: There are some decent portable toilets by the parking area, but that’s it. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go back to the parking area. Don’t go too far if you’re traveling with little ones.
FAQs About What To Do In Princeton
What are the best things to do in Princeton?
What are the best things to do in Princeton with kids?
Is Princeton NJ worth visiting?
Princeton, NJ is definitely worth visiting, especially if you love history. This relaxing town has a rich history and beautiful architecture. Princeton also hosts fun events and activities for all ages.
What is Princeton New Jersey known for?
Princeton, New Jersey is best known for its namesake Ivy League University, Princeton University.
Is Princeton University open to the public?
Yes, Princeton University is open to the public. You can’t walk into all of the buildings. However, there are a variety of buildings such as the Princeton University Chapel, that are open to the public.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on the best things to do in Princeton! The variety of historical sites, peaceful parks, and great dining options make Princeton one of the best towns in New Jersey.
(Featured Image Credit: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock)
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