Princeton University

See Princeton by foot with this new guide

PRINCETON – Most Central Jerseyans who love a scenic day trip have headed to picturesque Princeton, where there are tons of eclectic shops, acclaimed restaurants and historic sites.

However, with the new book “Discovering Princeton: A Photographic Guide with Five Walking Tours,” published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. and written and photographed by Princeton residents Wiebke Martens and Jennifer Jang, those who want to spend some time wandering the cozy municipality can do so with some guidance.

“There are lots of books on Princeton that focus on just the university or architecture or just the natural walks around the town, but none that were walking tour guides,” said Jang. “This is one of Princeton’s greatest assets — people come just to walk the downtown, so we thought ‘Let’s help them.’”

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5 best small towns in Central Jersey

Now that the holidays are over, many of us are finding ourselves scratching our heads — what are we supposed to do on chilly, winter weekends now that Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are behind us?

Luckily for Central Jerseyans, there are plenty of quaint small towns throughout the region filled with shops, restaurants and unique attractions that make for great day trips.

Since most of the attractions within these bustling small towns are housed indoors, you’ll have a respite from the cold throughout most of your trip — plus, as long as you don’t spend too much time inside one of the eateries or bars, you’ll be able to walk off some of those holiday cookies.

Somerville. Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Somerville. Photo by Jenna Intersimone

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6 ways to enjoy the holiday season in Princeton

New Jersey may be chock-full of bustling downtowns, but many lack the charm and polish that Princeton, a Mercer County municipality that dates to before the American Revolution, possesses.

Surrounding the Princeton University campus, Princeton is filled with locally owned shops, restaurants serving cuisine from all ends of the world, and attractions that beat going to the mall to escape the cold any day.

Even if you just spend a few hours wandering the area without an exact itinerary of where to go, what to do or where to eat, you’re bound to come home with a satisfied stomach, bag full of new trinkets and tired feet from exploring the bustling municipality.

With the holidays arriving, the perfect way to get in the spirit of December is to head to Princeton for a day trip to enjoy the area’s coziest and entertaining things to do.

1. Hop on a holiday trolley tour with the Princeton Tour Company

Princeton is full of scenic and historic spots, but this doesn’t mean much to visitors unless they have someone to explain it to them. From Saturday, Nov. 28, to Saturday, Dec. 26, the Princeton Tour Company offers hourlong holiday trolley tours that meet at 116 Nassau St. for $15 a person.

These tours take visitors to the homes and hangouts of Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Madison, Aaron Burr Jr., John F. Kennedy and Nancy Drew, as well as the Palmer Square downtown district. For more information, visit princetontourcompany.com or call 855-743-1415.

2. Sample local wines at Terhune Orchards

When it gets chilly outside, the best way to keep warm to stay cozy indoors — with a glass of local wine. Terhune Orchards, located about four miles from downtown Princeton, produces 12 varieties of wine — dry whites, fruit wines, dry red wines, off-dry and semi-sweet wines — on nine acres.

The tasting room, inside a 150-year-old barn, is where visitors can try five tastes of any of the Orchards’ wines for $5 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at 330 Cold Soil Road. For further information, head to terhuneorchards.com or call 609-924-2310.

Terhune Orchards, located about four miles from downtown Princeton, produces 12 varieties of wine on nine acres. ~File photo

Terhune Orchards, located about four miles from downtown Princeton, produces 12 varieties of wine on nine acres. ~File photo

3. Check out an indie film at the Princeton Garden Theatre

Escape the cold for two hours and check out a cool indie flick by heading to the Princeton Garden Theatre, a nonprofit that plays classic Hollywood movies, foreign language films, filmmaker appearances and lectures, Saturday kids matinees and theatrically broadcast events such as from the National Theatre in London.

Admission rates range from $4 to $18 at the 160 Nassau St. theater, which is currently playing Spotlight, Trumbo, Coriolanus, the Book of Life, Hamlet and Where Are The Dreams of Youth. To get more information, go to princetongardentheatre.org or call 609-279-1999.

4. Pick up classic tunes at the Princeton Record Exchange

Looking for some music to listen to while you’re huddled up in your living room this winter? Head to the Princeton Record Exchange, one of the leading independent record stores since 1980, where visitors can buy and sell new and used CDs, used DVDs and used records.

On the shelves are 140,000 new and used music CDs, DVDs and vinyl records priced under $7 at 20 S. Tulane St. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit prex.com or call 609-921-0881.

Visitors can buy and sell new and used CDs, used DVDs and used records at the Princeton Record Exchange. ~Courtesy of misdaventureswithmichael.wordpress.com

Visitors can buy and sell new and used CDs, used DVDs and used records at the Princeton Record Exchange. ~Courtesy of misdaventureswithmichael.wordpress.com

5. Get a taste of local culture at the Princeton University Art Museum

The Princeton University Art Museum may not look like the Museum of Modern Art, but it is one of the world’s leading university art museums with collections of more than 92,000 works. Plus, the museum — which is currently featuring exhibits on European art from the Pearlman Collection, Buddhist cave-grottoes located in the western province of Gansu near the city of Dunhuang, the Book of Kings and Ursula von Rydingsvard — is always free.

Visit the museum at McCormick Hall on the university campus on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Get more information by heading toartmuseum.princeton.edu or calling 609-258-3788.

6. Shop for books, apparel and food products in downtown Princeton

To pick up anything from used books to Princeton University garb to fudge in a quiet, clean and friendly atmosphere, take a stroll through Princeton’s downtown area, which centers on Palmer Square and is full of fine restaurants, apparel stores and specialty shops.

Make sure that you don’t miss the gourmet olive oil samples at Carter and Cavero, Food Network-recognized cupcakes from the House of Cupcakes, and the variety of books at Labyrinth Books. Plus, the area is full of every type of restaurant from farm-to-table to sushi. To find out more, visit palmersquare.com or call 609-921-2333.

The area is full of every type of restaurant from farm-to-table to sushi. ~File photo

The area is full of every type of restaurant from farm-to-table to sushi. ~File photo

Where to go for a hearty meal

And to finish it off

  • Ice cream: The Bent Spoon at 35 Palmer Square W.; thebentspoon.net, 609-924-2368
  • Cupcakes: House of Cupcakes at 32 Witherspoon St.; houseofcupcakes.com, 609-924-0085
  • Baked goods: The Little Chef Pastry Shop at 8 S. Tulane St.;littlechefpastries.com, 609-924-5335
  • Chocolates: Thomas Sweet at 183 Nassau St., thomassweet.com, 609-683-8720
  • Cakes: Chez Alice Gourmet Cafe & Bakery at 5 Palmer Square W., 609-921-6760.

Give real ghost hunting a try in Princeton

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com

Many people don’t think of the charming municipality of Princeton as synonymous with the paranormal. At first, Mimi Omiecinski, owner of Princeton Tour Company for the last nine years, didn’t think so, either.

“A man came on our tour about five years ago who could see ghosts and he said, ‘This is a really haunted town. You ought to get Weird NJ out here and learn about this stuff yourself,’” she said.

However, Omiecinski didn’t want to conduct the types of Halloween tours where teenagers in makeup jump out and scare customers.

“The last thing I wanted to do was commercialize it,” she said. “I didn’t want to go down that route.”

And she didn’t. Instead, Princeton Tour Company’s fall ghost tours bring 25 to 50 visitors on a historically haunted trip through the Princeton University campus and downtown, taking them to about 25 stops on an hour-and-a-half journey over one mile that also brings them to a burial ground where they can use ghost-hunting equipment.

Shelly Hawk, fourth-season tour guide, said, “This is not a jump-out-and-scare-you tour.  This is a different way of bringing the people of Princeton to life and to tell their story. These stories are gruesome because they’re true and they’re much better than putting your hand in wet spaghetti.”

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Hawk knows that the stories she tells on the tour are true because they’ve been authenticated by the use of ghost-hunting equipment as well as Weird NJ. However, Princeton Tour Company lets guests let guests figure that out for themselves when they hand over the ghost-hunting equipment at an unmarked burial ground that was once host to a skirmish during the Revolutionary War.

At the burial ground, visitors have about 25 minutes to use dowsing rods, therma-meters, EMF meters, electronic voice recorders and cameras to investigate the space, which is the same equipment used for casual paranormal investigations.

“It’s a lot like the TV show ‘Ghost Hunters,’ except that on the show, they are spending a lot of time looking in nooks and crannies. We are spending a lot of time asking questions,” said Omiecinski.

Visitors will say things such as “Can you cross these dowsing rods? I know it takes a lot of energy, but I really want to get to know you,” and other things in a respectful manner that will help ‘wake the dead.’ However, Omiecinski said that once people get the hang of it, they realize they don’t need equipment to feel the presence of spirits.

You also don’t need to completely believe in the paranormal to have a ghostly experience. “Even the nonbelievers love it once you put the rods in their hands,” said Hawk. “They walk away and they look a little more intrigued.”

What they do need, however, is to understand the history of Princeton so they know what to ask the spirits, which is why a good chunk of the ghost tour is spent learning about the history of the legendary municipality.

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Following the parts of the tour where visitors head to authentically haunted spots and check out the unmarked burial ground with ghost-hunting equipment, they walk to one of America’s oldest cemeteries, owned by the Nassau Presbyterian Church, that contains the graves of people such as John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Aaron Burr, vice president of the United States and killer of Alexander Hamilton, and President Grover Cleveland, among others.

At the cemetery, guests try out the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lamp, which was created by Princeton researchers who studied paranormal activity for two decades, designed to help people develop paranormal capabilities.

The ghost tour visitors attempt to change the lamp’s color by using the power of their minds and energy, similar to a mood ring, which Omiecinski said works over 90 percent of the time.

Although there is no ghost hunting in the cemetery, as it is meant for visitors to learn about the history and be a quiet stroll celebrating Princeton greats, guests do experience peculiar happenings there.

“The cemetery is very serene and powerful and we have a lot of people who walk through unexplained cold spots or get orb shots on their cameras,” said Omiecinski.

Princeton Tour Company urges its guests to bring digital cameras and take a lot of photos in the hopes that they will capture ‘orb shots,’ or the presence of sprits. Often, they do.

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Although there are no guarantees, Omiecinski said that people who are open to the paranormal often feel paranormal presences on the tour.

“The level of activity is always surprising to me. People will say to me, ‘I found a woman who was 43 years old and had all these children,’ and I ask them, ‘You put all this together?’” said Hawk.

Omiecinski and Hawk aren’t without their own paranormal experiences. Hawk said that while walking from the end of the tour back to her car near the cemetery, she often feels the presence of a girl in turn-of-the-century dress, running along the fence and giggling. When Hawk turns her head to look at her, the girl disappears, so she pretends she doesn’t feel her there.

Despite the hope that the Princeton Tour Company has in discovering paranormal acitivity, Omiecinski said that the best thing to be is a skeptic.

“The whole time it could be because of this or that. We encourage people to assume there isn’t activity but to give the energy of wanting to feel it,” she said.

However, the tour is about a lot more than just the presence of ghosts — it’s also about the history and the storytelling of Princeton.

“People are happy to learn something new,” said Hawk. “This is history being brought to life.”

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Courtesy of Princeton Tour Company

Experience three cities’ histories in photos

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 3/10/15

Most Americans are familiar with their own local city, such as New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles, as well as smaller cities. These cities are staples of our daily lives and we hold definitive images and opinions about each one of them.

The Princeton University Art Museum wants you to forget them.

In the museum’s exhibit “The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” which opened Feb. 21 and runs until June 7, visitors are encouraged to take a hard look at their held images of cities they have traveled to and read about and question where those images came from and if they represent reality.

The catalyst for this questioning of reality comes from the exhibit’s collection of photographic and cinematic works that depict massive social unrest, political protests, labor protests and race riots throughout the ’60s and ’70s and the urban change that followed suit in three of the country’s largest cities.

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“I really hope that many of the visitors walk out and don’t think about their surroundings in the same way,” said Katherine Bussard, Peter C. Bunnell curator of photography. “Although this focuses on the largest cities, there are enough themes present that will even resonate with towns like Princeton.”

Bussard said there are generally two types of visitors who have headed to the exhibit —students who are experiencing the historical era through the collection as well as the generation who lived through the period and is bringing their experiences to what they see displayed, which can augment their impressions or even challenge them.

By delving deeper into the period of change of the ’60s and ’70s , students also are making connections to social and urban change that they see around them today. Bussard said one such connection can be found in “The Destruction of Lower Manhattan,” a collection of photographs by Danny Lyon, published in 1967, which can be found at the exhibit.

Although many students find it hard to imagine, at that time, industry was moving out of New York City and the city almost declared itself bankrupt. In the collection, Lyon photographed buildings that were slated for demolition during the redevelopment of lower Manhattan. By viewing photographs such as these, students are making connections to similar events that are occurring now in Detroit.

“By publishing this and dealing with questions of urban renewal, Lyon is also preserving these buildings,” said Bussard.

Besides preserving the history of historic events, some artists featured in the exhibit also work to bring about change in their work and in some cases, they succeed, and the effects can be seen in a city’s changing landscape.

New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were chosen as the focus, since as three of the nation’s largest cities, urban change was felt very acutely and was concentrated within them.

The artists whose works are featured in the exhibit, which was hosted in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, include Garry Winogrand, Ed Ruscha, Allan Kaprow and Shadrach Woods, to name a few.

The Princeton Art Museum projects that by closing on June 7, 75,000 people will have visited the exhibit, which holds a theme of “urban change,” said Bussard. “There are both moments of crisis as well as optimism exhibited in this collection,” she said. “This isn’t just the city lost, but also the city found.”

 

THE CITY LOST AND FOUND: CAPTURING NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES AND CHICAGO, 1960-1980

Where: The Princeton University Art Museum on the Princeton University campus, a short walk from Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Once on campus, follow the lamppost Museum banners to McCormick Hall

When: From Feb. 21 to June 7

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: Free