“Lazy and good-looking and aristocratic, you know, like a spring day” is how F. Scott Fitzgerald once described Princeton. He might have been describing the University, but he could easily have been describing the town as well. Although a lot has changed since Fitzgerald lived in the area, it is still “the loveliest riot of Gothic architecture in America … no feeling that it was all built yesterday at the whim of last week’s millionaire.”
Although one might point out the ultra-modern examples of architecture and the shiny, new neighborhoods on the outskirts of town, by and large the area continues to retain the classic ambience of years past, making it the perfect weekend escape. Here is our favorite weekend itinerary. It’s a mix of culture and art, outdoor pursuits, shopping, and just plain fun!
4pm: Arrive at the Inn at Glencairn
Leave work a little early, and treat yourself to an early arrival to the Inn. Once settled in, you can wander the nearly three acres of park like grounds, peek into the 19th century barn and admire the hand-hewn beams, then grab a complimentary glass of wine and a cookie to enjoy on the back patio or in the peaceful ambience of the Great Room.
6pm: Dinner at Cargot Brasserie
Drive ten minutes to Princeton University’s newly monikered “arts and transit” neighborhood to dine at a new favorite of ours: Cargot Brasserie, a French inspired bistro that welcomes locals, students, and theater-goers in a convivial atmosphere.
8pm: Grab a show at McCarter Theatre
McCarter Theatre is recognized as one of the country’s leading theaters, both a professional producing theater and a major presenter of the performing arts. Grab a play or a concert and you will understand why this theater is constantly receiving rave reviews.
9am: Breakfast at the Inn
Wake up to the smell of freshly ground coffee wafting up to your room. You may have a difficult time getting out of bed, but the promise of a fantastic breakfast urges you on. Today it is Eggs Glencairn, a new take on Eggs Benedict, with a poached egg served over a toasted croissant, broiled tomato slice, fresh sautéed asparagus and local greens topped with a lite Hollandaise sauce. Don’t forget to finish off your breakfast with a little chocolate decadence: Lydia’s homemade java truffle.
11am: Soak in some art at Grounds for Sculpture
The vision of J. Seward Johnson, Grounds for Sculpture was conceived as a place where audiences could experience sculpture in a familiar, accessible, and informal setting. The sculpture park is built on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds and now exhibits over 270 works on 42 acres. Spend an hour or spend a day here wandering the grounds and marveling at the truly awe-inspiring art and sculpture.
1pm: Wander over to Rat’s Restaurant for lunch
Rat’s Restaurant was conceptually designed by Seward Johnson with a Claude Monet styled atmosphere. The restaurant scenery features impressionist-inspired sculptures as well as a lily pond and bridge and is aptly named after the character “Ratty” from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Ratty, as you might recall, threw the best parties with the best wine, and Rat’s is no different.
3pm: Shop ‘til you drop at Palmer Square
Head back to the Princeton area and take a stroll on Palmer Square. Originally built in the 1930s, the Square was created as the town’s complement to Princeton University. In order to build the Square, Baker Street was removed and its houses, which were the center of the original African American neighborhood were moved to Birch Avenue. Today Palmer Square is unique mix of local and well-known apparel and home goods boutiques and world class restaurants all centered around the Nassau Inn. Although we truly enjoy perusing all of the shops along Palmer Square, we never miss a stop at the Bent Spoon, Labyrinth Books, Homestead or jazams. Meander a little further afield to check out the Princeton Record Exchange.
Saturday Evening Option I:
5pm: By now you need to sit down so catch a flick at the Princeton Garden Theatre
Built originally to accommodate Princeton University’s Triangle Club in 1920, The Garden took on a new life as a movie theater when Triangle moved to McCarter Theatre later that decade. The Garden changed hands several times in the next few decades until its latest renovation in 2014 and now shows independent, foreign, and classic films for local movie lovers. In 2017, NJ.com named the Garden, The Best Movie Theater in New Jersey.
8pm: Dinner at Agricola
Using fresh local ingredients from their own Great Road Farm as well as from other neighboring providers, Agricola serves food that brings people together to laugh, share and celebrate. Agricola is one of our favorites along with Witherspoon Grill, Mistral and Blue Point Grill.
Saturday Evening Option II:
5pm: Drive through the countryside to Hopewell and dine at the Brick Farm Tavern
A truly authentic farm-to-table dining experience in an 1800s Hopewell farm house. The bar features local craft beers, artisanal cocktails & wine tastings – guided by an experienced sommelier.
8pm: Enjoy a show or concert at Hopewell Theater
Hopewell Theater is a 180-seat theater that is equal parts indie arts venue and meeting place – a place where patrons can meet friends, and get inspired by an eclectic mix of entertainment by emerging and established talent in a setting that is welcoming, casual, intimate, and fun.
9am: After sleeping like a baby, wake up to some more fabulous scents from the kitchen
Today, indulge in some Glencairn French Toast. French Toast made with “Craque”lin (a Belgian brioche) topped with real maple syrup and fresh berries and served with our yogurt granola parfait. This will fill you up for your day’s adventure.
11am: Check out of the Inn
After checking out of the Inn, take a drive around the area and visit the local farms to take home some local goods and produce. Pop into Cherry Grove for some organic cheese, Blue Moon Acres for some organic greens and herbs, and Terhune Orchards for some apples. On your drive, stop at the Gingered Peach for a special baked treat to enjoy later.
1pm: Take the Princeton Tour Company’s “Name Dropping” Tour
Dubbed the best tour in town, the name-dropping tour visits the homes and hangouts of Albert Einstein, F Scott Fitzgerald, TS Eliot, Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Robert Wood Johnson and even ‘80’s icon, Brooke Shields, just to name a few.
3pm: Grab a quick lunch at Jammin’ Crepes
Oh so good, Jammin’ Crepes is the perfect spot for a quick lunch before heading out of area. Imagine a fresh, made-from-scratch crepe filled with the best local ingredients at their peak of freshness. Either eat in the charming café or take it on the road for the drive home.
Stay tuned for more weekend getaways including: Girlfriends Getaway, Foodies Weekend, Culture Club and Outdoor Pursuits!