See our front page debut in The Princeton Packet from 1937.
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
Summer may be over soon, but there are many more adventures and experiences you can look forward to! Wiebke Martens, a photographer, and Jennifer Jang, a museum education consultant, are both Princeton residents and the authors of a new book: Discovering Princeton: A Photographic Guide with Five Walking Tours.
In this post, they will share the Top 5 Places to Discover in Princeton – Nassau Hall, Palmer Square, Hind’s Plaza, Scudder Plaza, and Carl Icahn’s Laboratory! Hope you enjoy their guide below!
Welcome to Princeton! Whether you have two hours or two days to explore, there are several special spots not to be missed in this charming college town.
- Nassau Hall
Take a short walk from the Nassau Inn and you will find yourself in front of this imposing stone building in the heart of Princeton University’s old campus. This is where it all began when The College of New Jersey (the University’s original name) was moved to Princeton from Newark, New Jersey in 1756. For several decades students spent nearly every waking hour here: studying, sleeping, eating, and praying. Built to a thickness of more than two feet, the walls of this building have withstood the American Revolution, riots and fires. Make sure to take a picture with the tigers and pause to appreciate the carefully-cultivated ivy–a gift from Princeton’s graduating classes!
- Palmer Square
Palmer Square is Princeton’s village within a village: an array of charming stores tucked into Tudor-style buildings around a grassy green and the historic Nassau Inn. Visit one-of-a-kind boutiques or stop for an ice cream, play a game of chess or lounge on the green. Many special events enliven the square throughout the year, from activities around Pi Day in March to weekend concerts in summer and the JazzFeast in September. In December the towering Christmas Tree dazzles both young and old.
- Farmer’s Market on Hinds Plaza
On Thursdays from May through November Hinds Plaza bursts into color with a weekly farmer’s market. Nearly a dozen vendors bring the freshest of goods–mushrooms, flowers, cheese, veggies, jams, pickles, and breads–right into Princeton’s heart. Live music adds to the mix, making this the perfect spot to grab lunch!
- Scudder Plaza
Princeton University’s campus boasts many fine sculptures, but James FitzGerald’s Fountain of Freedom surely counts as one of the most memorable pieces. Set in a wide, shallow pool on Scudder Plaza in front of Robertson Hall the fountain becomes especially busy on hot summer days when students and local families gather to relax and cool off in the spray.
- Carl Icahn Laboratory
The Gothic style is synonymous with Princeton University, but make sure to visit Icahn Laboratory to glimpse an impressive example of the newest architecture on campus. Designed by Rafael Viñoly and located at the edge of the oval Poe Field, Icahn is fronted by a huge atrium, its southwestern wall of glass shaded by a set of aluminum louvers that rotate with the movement of the sun. Have fun looking for endless reflections as you walk along the curved pathway!
Hope you enjoyed our guest stars of the post, Wiebke Martens and Jennifer Jang. If you enjoyed this brief guide of Princeton, you’ll definitely want to check out their new book, Discovering Princeton: A Photographic Guide with Five Walking Tours! These photographic guides will be useful if you are ever wondering where to explore next in Princeton. Have a great academic year!
Lori Rabon is the Vice President of Palmer Square. She has been at the Inn for over thirty years and has been Nassau Inn’s General Manager for the last twenty years. She is married, the mother of 5 children and will celebrate Christmas this year with her new grandson! Here’s a glimpse at Lori Rabon’s holiday traditions, as told by her daughter, Loren Shelton.
“Growing up, Christmas with the family was always our favorite day! As the oldest child of 5 and one of 10 cousins, Christmas was as chaotic as it was a blast!” said Loren. “On Christmas Eve, we always put on our Sunday’s best and went to church for the 5 o’ clock mass. This was the mass that included the children’s Christmas Play. Being in our family, which had so many children, there was always a family member acting! And you bet, our family was always the most obnoxious singers when it came to ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain!’
After church, the entire family would head back to Nanny and Poppy’s house for dinner. Nanny always made her famous beef bourguignon. When we were done eating, each child got to open ONE present under the tree. We would all try to figure out which was the one gift we wanted the most and asked for. When finished opening gifts, we’d all race to the car because we had to get home and get to bed before Santa Claus came!
Once we got home, there was no going to bed just yet. Mom had other plans for us. We would all get into our Christmas pajamas and find our spot on the couch next to mom. She read us “Twas the night before Christmas.” When we were younger, this wasn’t always our favorite, in fact, we thought it was kind of silly. Who reads to their 15 year old kid?! However, after all this time, this is still a tradition, and a favorite at that! My sister and I have moved away and live with our significant others, my brothers are now in their twenties, but every year, no matter what our plans are, we go to moms for the reading of ‘Twas the night before Christmas.’
Christmas morning, we wake up at or now drive to moms (in our matching pajamas still, of course!) where we open our stockings, and then one present at a time in order of youngest to oldest, followed by breakfast with Nanny and Poppy. After breakfast we all go to Nanny and Poppy’s house and open our other stockings there and then our gifts. Before Christmas day dinner, the family gathers around and sings Christmas carols. Nanny spends hours in the kitchen making a delicious dinner for the entire family and we spend hours at the dinner table thanking God for our loved ones and spending quality time together.
While some of our traditions may seem a little childish to some, I can’t put into words how thankful I am for these special memories.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight…”
About the Author: Loren Shelton is a server at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room, and Lori Rabon’s daughter. Every year, Loren relives her favorite childhood memory with her mother’s reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.
Traveling to Princeton soon?
These are our best tips when coming to visit us!
- Need advice on what to pack? Refer to our seasonal guide for weather tips based on your time of travel. There is always something going on in town, do a quick Google search before you plan your itinerary. You never know what festivals, side walk sales, or events we’re having.
- If you are a first timer, check out the Princeton Tour Company. They will give you the all-around Princeton experience. They offer guided walking tours that include sites on Princeton University campus, the neighborhoods of Albert Einstein, TS Eliot, F Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Oppenheimer, James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, JFK, countless tycoons, Hollywood celebrities, Signers of the Declaration of Independence and much more.
- You can travel by train from NYC or Newark Airport. The “historical” Dinky Train will pick you up and drop you off at Princeton Junction just minutes away from the center of down.
- We have the best shopping right here in Palmer Square, so if you forgot something, do not worry – there is most likely a store where you will find it!
About the Author: Brandon DeChirico spent the summer interning at the Nassau Inn. He is a student at Widener University studying hospitality.
Edited by Lily Lee
Princeton welcomes you any time of the year. When coming to visit us here in Princeton, know what to expect depending on the season!
If you’re coming during the autumn, expect green, auburn, and yellow crisp leaves scattered across the grass and sidewalks. Pack layers of clothing so you can enjoy the scenery outside without being bothered by the cool gushes of wind. During this season, try the Pumpkin Spiced Café at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room for freshly brewed coffee with pumpkin spice, cinnamon and whipped cream.
When winter is here, make sure to keep warm under a big coat. Occasionally, the snow may drizzle. It’s the perfect weather to wear knit hats, mittens and hold hands while staring into the effervescent lights spread jubilantly around Princeton. Join in on the holiday cheer at Palmer Square, where you are sure to bump into carolers or even the big man himself!
Spring is cherry blossom season. Many trees are in bloom here. You don’t want to miss out on the flower filled tree lined streets. Take a walk around the University, Cherry Valley Road, and Washington Ave. This is a good time to bring out the capris, cardigans, blazers, and light jackets for the evenings.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The moment summer arrives is when Princeton feels particularly like an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. In his novel, This Side of Paradise, his writing exemplifies the beauty of Princeton and the special place he had for it in his heart, not failing to mention the Nassau Inn! Summer is time to begin again—so strip away from all the layers, and pack light clothing.
About the Author: Lily Lee is the Marketing Assistant at the historical Nassau Inn. She graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Communications, minor in Digital Information & Media, and a passion for English and creative writing.
Whether you aim to inspire the creative players, encourage the leaders, relax the overworked or share some laughs, there is no shortage of unique team building options in Princeton, all guaranteed to encourage camaraderie and solidarity amongst your staff.
Top activities for a corporate group in Princeton —
Walk the Walk: Looking for something a little light hearted, try Princeton Tour Company’s ghost hunt and dinner package. If you have natural born leaders that just need a little shaping, the battlefield leadership experience provides a challenging day of training and decision making! No matter your goal the Princeton Tour company has an option for you. Each private tour is customized for your industry while covering the chronological history of the University and surrounding town – including the homes of Albert Einstein, Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, F Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Oppenheimer and more. Plan your customized walking tour, bus tour, and battlefield leadership experience or scavenger hunt today. www.princetontourcompany.com
Showtime! With over 200 performances of theatre, music, dance and special events a year the theatre is a viable group entertainment option. Many of the running performances feature well-known actors and often the visiting shows are national acts. Q&A sessions are available after select shows. Discounted rates and dinner theatre options are available for groups. www.mccarter.org
Prefer to be part of a show instead of sitting in the audience. No problem. Theater – To – Go will bring the show to you. The interactive shows are all customizable and include themes such as Judge & Jury, Murder Mystery, Game Show and more! Plan your dinner and give them a call, they are an awesome compliment to any dinner party. Keep in mind this option is more cost efficient for groups of 20 or more since they bring a whole cast of actors to your dinner! www.theatertogo.com
Paint the Night:
Paint and Sip parties are all the rage. Did you know Cranberry Station Gallery, located right in the heart of Palmer Square will not only host your party in their gallery, but they will also come to you if you have a dinner planned? The per-person cost is very reasonable and you provide your own wine and snacks, plus your guests get to take their creations home with them! http://cranburystationgallery.com/paint-party-events/
Art Walk: It’s always free to take a stroll through the Princeton University Art Museum. If you plan on bringing a large group there are private options including a scenic art walk through campus ending at the museum. Be sure to call ahead, the staff is very happy to cater to your needs. Insider tip: Thursday night’s there is a complimentary wine reception in the lobby! http://artmuseum.princeton.edu
Tea anyone? Tea for All offers etiquette and tasting classes for groups of any size. They come right to your venue and break-up a long afternoon meeting perfectly. Unlike wine, these tastings allow you to go back to work focused and more productive.
De-Stress: What if you could help improve the health of your employees and reduce their stress levels at the same time? Yoga is a proven cost effective way to do just that, and work place yoga shows your team you care! Group classes for up to 40 people are offered at the Yoga Stream studio on Witherspoon Street, or ask them about coming to your venue. The professionals at Yoga Stream can turn any meeting room into a studio. All of this is available at a very reasonable rate. www.yogastream.net.
Feeling Generous? While there are many charitable organizations out there that your company can opt to support. One Simple Wish is a local organization that grants simple wishes for children in the foster care system. This organization has fun activities that will help brighten the lives of a child all the while fulfilling your philanthropic mission in a feel good kind of way. Build bikes, sponsor suitcases or grant wishes with your team and instantly transform everyone into one lucky child’s super hero! www.onesimplewish.org
Escape the Everyday: The Amazing Escape Room, Princeton is new to the Princeton scene but brings with it 6 challenging game rooms that will decipher the leaders from the followers. Each room can handle up to 12 people and teams are given an hour to read the clues, solve the mystery and escape the room. Need help deciding who would work best on project teams, sit back and enjoy managers can watch their teams in action. www.amazingescaperoom.com/princeton-nj/
In short, if you are planning a meeting and need any team building or entertainment, there is no better place than Princeton where arts and entertainment are right at your doorstep.
Another Insider Tip: The Nassau Inn has 188 guest rooms, 13 meeting rooms and is in walking distance of everything Princeton! www.nassauinn.com
On the day where we go out of our way to show our moms exactly how much they mean to us, Princeton provides plenty of options. Whether Mom wants a show, a stroll or a shopping trip, there’s something for everyone in our roundup below.
Kick off the day with a fragrant bouquet of freshly cut, elegantly arranged flowers. Our friends at Viburnum Designs can help you find the perfect combination.
Drop by Palmer Square where mom can take her pick from familiar brand names such as Ann Taylor and Ralph Lauren, or the many unique locally-owned boutiques, spas, and galleries.
Take a leisurely stroll around downtown Princeton and through the stunning Princeton University campus. While there, visit the Princeton University Art Museum and Prospect Gardens for even more fun.
1. White weddings never go out of style
2. Overcast weather is actually the best light for photos!
3. Rustic is not synonymous with barn wedding. You can have the rustic look with the elegance and convenience of a ball room.
4. No matter what your fashion sense, all gowns blend seamlessly with the versatile settings of the Inn.
5. Having a wedding downtown means having all the shopping and services you could possibly need at your finger-tips. On your wedding day the salon will come to you, no need to go anywhere!
6. Stains in your gown can set rather quickly. Plan ahead and designate a person to take your gown to be preserved while you are on your honeymoon. Our seamstress also preserves gowns!
7. Re-purposed wine barrels, crates, suitcases and more make for great wedding props and décor.
8. You can rent anything you need to bring your vision to life. From sequin table cloths to vintage furniture, it’s all just a call away.
9. Every man should own at least one good suit. What better keepsake of your special day than a custom tailored suit instead of a tuxedo!
10. Your Happily Ever After Begins Here …
Spring and summer weddings get a lot of love, but there’s nothing more heart-warming and wonderfully romantic than the beauty and magic of a winter wedding here at the Nassau Inn. Our inviting atmosphere, vibrant festive feel, and year-round charm are just a few great reasons why the colder months have become more popular than ever with our brides.
If you’re considering a winter wedding in the heart of downtown Princeton, allow us to further illustrate why the Nassau Inn is the perfect frame for your winter wedding dream.
Our spectacular deals on our winter wedding packages will save you lots of money. Plus, winter tends to be a less busy time of year for vendors, therefore you might be able to score significant discounts on everything from the photographer to the DJ.
Popular dates during the traditional wedding months sometimes book up years in advance. You’ll find it much easier to get your dream Saturday date in in the winter. It’s even easier to book if you decide to get married mid-week.
Our stunning colonial features, surrounding attractions, and all the luxuries you’d expect from a modern hotel makes us one seriously stylish venue for your winter wedding. Boasting 13 beautiful banquet areas and 188 guest rooms, we can accommodate parties large and small, from 10 wedding guests to 200.
Our property is always picturesque, but during the winter months it is utterly stunning. You and your guests will depart your wedding experience with numerous and inspiring snapshots of a perfect and unforgettable day.
Our dedicated wedding coordinators are on hand to help create a day that is as individual, exciting and memorable as you have always hoped – helping you plan every detail to perfection, from the dining to the first dance.
Winter wedding menus are all about warming, comfort foods. Celebrate your day with a celebration of sensational seasonal flavors. Whatever you can imagine, our expert culinary team are happy to create a menu that reflects your wishes, making your special day as tasty as it is beautiful.
To schedule a tour, or for more information, please contact us at email@example.com or (609) 921-7500.
For decades, the colossal conifer rising above Palmer Square has brightened downtown and the spirits of the community every holiday season. Its heights, lights, and decorations draw as many as 80,000 annual visitors. However, there’s a lot more to this spectacular centerpiece than just its dazzling brilliance. From World War II to the world’s greatest tree lighting ceremony, let’s get to the “root” of the most iconic tree in Princeton.
A Token of Appreciation
In 1945, as a token of appreciation for donating his 195-foot steel schooner for commission in World War II to patrol and protect the shores of Iceland, Sveinn Björnsson, the nation’s first president, personally presented Edgar Palmer with quite literally the most beautiful Norway Spruce in all of Scandinavia. A gold collar around the lower trunk bore the inscription: “Megi þetta tré vernda lendir leið skipi sem er varið þín og okkar”; translated: “May this tree protect your lands the way your ship protected ours.” During that time period, the Nordic custom of gifting evergreens to close friends and allies was equivalent to being knighted – an honor of which Edgar Palmer was very proud. He immediately made arrangements to have the tree planted on the green at Palmer Square. Furthermore, while it stood only at a mere 10-feet tall at the time, it had the magnificence and beauty of a tree more than 10 times its size.
In the late 1940’s, Albert Einstein invited his last great love, Marilyn Monroe, to visit his home in Princeton. When he took her to Palmer Square, Marilyn stopped at the tree and expressed how incredibly beautiful she thought it was. Einstein concurred and said, “It’s possibly the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen.” He paused for a moment and then revealed, “It’s so beautiful, in fact, that I even named it.”
“Named it what?” she kindly asked.
“Marilyn,” he replied.
Some believe it was at that moment in which one of the most unlikely love stories began. Whatever the case, to this day, long time locals still refer to the tree as Marilyn.
Topping the Charts
While it’s widely believed that the timeless hit Christmas song ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ was inspired by the annual tree lighting extravaganza at Rockefeller Center, songwriter Johnny Marks revealed to legendary DJ, Cousin Brucie, that he actually got the idea in Princeton. “I remember seeing this truly, truly amazing tree in the center of town,” Marks recounted. “Crowds of people were gathered around it, singing and dancing as if Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry was about to come out from inside the branches. I thought to myself, “Wow! These people are really rockin’ around the Christmas tree.” Seeing all that holiday spirit around that tree gave me such a sentimental feeling that the song (Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’) just began pouring out of me.”
When it was all said and done, it took Johnny Marks all but an hour to write both the lyrics and music to ‘Rockin Around the Christmas Tree’. The following year in 1958, Brenda Lee (AKA Little Miss Dynamite) recorded the song and took it to the top of the charts. Almost 60 years later, the timeless hit is still an essential track for any respectable holiday playlist.
Fit for a Princess
In 1956, the Prince of Monaco planned to surprise his new wife, actress Grace Kelly, with a Christmas celebration fit for a princess. She was to have the best of everything – including the most spectacular Christmas tree that money could buy. Having once pursued Marilyn Monroe as a possible wife, the prince was aware of a particular tree in Princeton, NJ that was deemed so amazing that the late genius, Albert Einstein, named it in Marilyn’s honor. The Prince was so bent on obtaining this tree, he practically wrote a blank check in exchange for it. Unfortunately for the Prince, no amount of money was acceptable, as Edgar Palmer left very clear instructions that the tree was never to leave its home for any reason.
Evel Comes to Princeton
By the mid-1960’s, Marilyn – the tree, that is – had grown to be over 40 feet tall. At the same time, a young daredevil under the moniker of Evil Knievel made a name for himself by jumping over rows of cars on his motorcycle. Nevertheless, the novelty of jumping cars had run thin, and he needed to think of something more dangerous to excite the media. Then, on a fateful visit to downtown Princeton in 1966, he saw Marilyn. She was tall, beautiful, and perfectly placed to be jumped by motorcycle. So, on the Friday after Thanksgiving of that year, Evel rang in the holiday shopping season with a tree lighting ceremony and high flying spectacle that Princeton would not soon forget. Not only was his jump over Marilyn a success, but the crowds and excitement that it drew cemented the Friday after Thanksgiving as the standing date for all future tree lighting ceremonies. As for Evel, he went on to jump everything from Caesars Palace to the Grand Canyon – breaking every record and bone in his body throughout his motorcycle stunt career.
Who Climbed the Tree?
In the 1970’s, Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, was out with his alumni friends during Princeton reunions week. After a long night of partying, the bars had already closed, but Moon was still hankering for a drink with his friends. He insisted that they return to his favorite watering hole in Princeton, the Yankee Doodle Tap Room, where a barstool was always on reserve for him. Despite the doors being locked, Moon spent an hour arguing with his friends about getting inside the bar, while maintaining that the door was merely jammed. When his friends tried to physically remove him from breaking into the building, he escaped their grips and made a mad dash for the tree, aka Marilyn. He quickly scaled to the top of the tree and refused to come down until the Yankee Doodle Tap Room reopened. As the story goes, his friends tried to get him down, but eventually, they gave up. The police and fire department even arrived on the scene to respond to complaints of someone yelling and singing from the tree outside. Despite heroic efforts by Municipal authorities, it was concluded that there was no safe way to remove Mr. Moon, so they were forced to wait the night out with him. A few hours later, the manager of the Yankee Doodle Tap Room notified authorities that the bar had reopened. Although excited, Moon was concerned that he would get arrested if he came down from the tree. So he yelled out to the authorities and said, “If I come down now, are you going to let me get a drink, or are you going to arrest me? If it’s the latter, I’ll just stay here forever!” The police knew that Edgar Palmer would not want Keith Moon as a permanent ornament in his prized tree, so they let him get a drink before taking him into custody. However, he was only charged with disturbing the peace and was quickly released. Immediately after, he returned to his stool at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room, but did not settle in until after he poured a drink on the soil beneath Marilyn, thanking her for her hospitality and nice place to stay the previous night.
Note: For entertainment purposes, the author of this blog may have taken certain creative liberties.