Spring Break Day Trip: Princeton

Princeton is a university town, but it has a lot to offer families. My favorite thing to do in Princeton is to simply go for a stroll down Nassau Street and in Palmer Square, take in brunch at the rowdy and colorful PJ’s Pancake House, pick up a book at Labyrinth (which has a nice children’s section in the back), and wander through the beautiful campus. But your kids are probably looking for something more.

Lucky for them, there are many other things to do. For younger children, Tumbles Princeton and Princeton Playspace are indoor gyms that provide plenty of space for tumbling, climbing, building and pretend play for kids up to the age of 10 (call ahead to make sure your visit doesn’t coincide with a birthday party). Older kids will likely prefer Bonkerz (open Thursday, Friday and Saturday), an amusement center with laser tag, mini golf, and an arcade. None of the three, however, are within downtown Princeton, so getting there from town will require a drive.

Within town, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the country’s finest art museums. Situated right on campus, it houses roughly 100,000 works of art, including sixteen watercolors by Cezanne that are among the finest and best-preserved compilations of the artist’s work in that medium. There are also works by van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani, as well as collections of African Art, Asian Art, Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography. Currently on exhibit is “Photography and Belonging,” an installation that highlights the work of Lewis Hine, Roman Vishniac and Fazal Sheikh, photographers who captured the experience of inclusion and exclusion among marginalized groups.

The museum has self-guided family activities such as Artful Adventures (ages 7-12) that focus on several works of art in one gallery, and Smartkids Gallery Activities (ages 3-8) that focus on a single work or artist.

Not far from the museum is the Morven Museum & Garden, a National Historic Landmark that sits on five lush acres of gardens. The former New Jersey Governor’s Mansion was home to five New Jersey Governors – as well as one signer of the Declaration of Independence – and has regular exhibitions and tours that are given on the hour from 11:00 – 2:00 Wednesdays through Sundays.

If the kids need relief after a long museum tour, swing by JaZams, an independent toy and book store, or The Bent Spoon, an ice cream and bake shop. Both are located in Palmer Square.

Finally, if you have time on your way out of town, Terhune Orchards is a family-owned farm in operation since 1975. Though it’s not time for pick-your-own season yet, kids will still enjoy the barnyard animals and the pedal and stationary tractors to play on. There is also a farm trail that is a half-mile loop through the woods, and a farm stand that sells fresh produce, baked goods and apple cider.

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