How to Spend a Day in Princeton, New Jersey

by Lauren Kim
day trip to Princeton itinerary

Princeton, New Jersey, the town that is home to the prestigious Princeton University has become a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike. With its rich history and undeniably quaint atmosphere, days in this suburban college town have become a core memory throughout my childhood. Whether you are a native to the area like myself, or a visitor from across the state, here is the best way to spend your time in Princeton, New Jersey. 

Where to Get Coffee in Princeton:

Start the morning with a delightfully strong coffee from Small World Coffee. This cafe has been emphasizing the communal aspect of coffee since 1993. Choose your house-made blend on a scale of “acidity” to “body” ratio. Be sure to check out the exciting variety of “added notes” that are sure to bring character to your daily cup of coffee. Can’t decide on one? No worries. They offer a rotating subscription service of beans or grounds right to your doorstep every month. Try them all and pick your favorite! 

If you prefer to intake your caffeine through other outlets such as myself, the Tough Chai is known for its kick of spice. This comes from the added ginger, black and white pepper and clove. Not for the faint of heart, this seriously spicy chai has become a personal favorite, but consider yourself warned and beware of the burn. They also have exceptional baked goods, granola, and healthy grab-and-go desserts that are the perfect start for the day ahead of us.

Let Yourself be a Tourist:

Explore Princeton’s rich history free of charge through attractions like the Albert Einstein House at 112 Mercer Street. This was his official residence while contributing to the Institute for Advanced Study until his death in 1955. History buffs will also love visiting Princeton Battlefield Park. Here you can walk the very grounds where the Battle of Princeton during the American Revolutionary War was fought in 1777. Behind the battlefield are some light trails for the explorers and/or beginner pioneers.

Now for a Well-Deserved Meal:

All that exploring has probably left you famished just in time for lunch. Hoagie Haven has been around since the early 1970s and is the first establishment to serve giant hoagies in the Princeton area. A family-owned business, they pride themselves for having the best hoagies in the world for over four decades. With over 50 menu options, you are bound to find one you’ll love. Try the famous Sanchez Sauce, a mix between hot sauce and creamy honey mustard. If it wasn’t obvious enough already, I’m a sucker for the “Sanchez” hoagie, but I’ve heard raves about the “Phat Lady” and the “Body Bag” (ranked #1).

There’s Always Room for Dessert:

Satisfy your post-meal sweet tooth with a scoop of ice cream from The Bent Spoon, an inventive ice cream shop with a different menu every day. All the flavors are crafted with locally sourced and organic ingredients. Those daring enough may try the seasonal flavors like the iconic summer ‘21 cicada ice cream, but don’t worry, they have all the classics like chocolate and vanilla. Their inclusive menu comprises vegan flavor options along with refreshing sorbets, my personal recommendations being the mango or coconut. Fan favorites include the local NJ ricotta and lavender mascarpone. If you find yourself getting really hooked on a flavor they offer them for sale by the pint too.

Treat Yourself to a Shopping Spree After All That Eating and Exploring:

While you’re already there for the ice cream, shop in Palmer’s Square for souvenirs, artisan cafes, boutiques and more while soaking in a gorgeous view of the Princeton University campus. For added entertainment, enjoy live music performances all summer long on Saturdays from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. on the Green. View the official list of performances and other events the whole family can enjoy here.

A Tourist attraction for the Artist:

Channel your inner art critic at the Princeton University Art Museum. Admission is free as long as you abide by the policy of provattesting to your vaccination status. Masks are requested to be worn in the galleries for those who are not vaccinated. While the main museum building is currently under construction until 2024, several exhibitions are still open and fully running. The museum also offers a variety of digital experiences, including online exhibitions, on-demand videos, art for families, and art-making classes. These can all be viewed on their calendar of upcoming live programs.

Yeah, I’m Hungry Again:

It seems like all we do is eat around here, but alas, hunger is calling. For the avid foodie, dinner at Roots Ocean Prime is a must for both seafood and steak lovers. The aged-steak is highly acclaimed and the raw bar has exceptional reviews. Whether it is filet mignon, lobster or wine, they are sure to provide a luxury dining experience with a beautiful atmosphere. Pricey as it may be, considering all our daytime activities were free of charge, that makes our wallets just a little more prepared to take the damage.

For a More Affordable Option:

A more affordable but still delicious option is Winberie’s Restaurant & Bar. The award-winning Princeton hot spot for casual comfort food. Winberie’s accommodates all eaters including a gluten-free menu for those with dietary restrictions for the perfect end to a perfect day. They serve all the best classics like french onion soup and chicken pot pie, and boy do they do a good cajun mac and cheese.


About the Author/s

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Lauren is the Editorial Assistant Intern at New Jersey Digest. She is a rising sophomore at Rutgers University New Brunswick where she studies Journalism & Media Studies. She was most drawn to the storytelling aspect of The Digest's publication. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her at the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet eating an obscenely large, yet affordable meal, or running the trails of South Jersey. She looks forward to writing articles that tell a story and continuing her sushi escapades all throughout this summer.

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1 comment

Patrick T Reilly June 21, 2022 - 8:56 pm

Einstein never worked at Princeton University (or taught in Princeton). He worked in research at the Institute for Advanced Study.


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