Just why would one visit a college town without a student of one’s own in residence, you might ask. For starters: no overstuffed duffel bags and plastic drawers to schlep up three flights of stairs and plenty of unstructured time to explore the area’s charms. And, while the University is without a doubt the crown jewel here, we discovered that Princeton has much else to recommend it for a lovely fall weekend jaunt, and this luxurious, historic inn built in the late 1700s is the perfect jumping-off point to explore it all. The only Small Luxury Hotel of the World hostelry in the entire state, it features 16 exquisitely appointed guestrooms. Though rich in history—it housed members of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and Albert Einstein was a guest in the 1930s—the style here is decidedly modern and chic, with sleek, contemporary designer furniture in sophisticated earth tones, and the most upscale tech and pampering offerings.
Explore: Do visit the University (www.princeton.edu), truly one of the most beautiful campuses anywhere. Free one-hour tours are provided year-round, or download a map (www.princeton.edu/map) and do your own thing. And check out its site (www.princeton.edu/events) for a calendar of arts, athletic, and academic events open to the public. (Wait, is that your IQ inching up a few points?) Do leave a few hours to explore the Priceton University Art Museum (www.artmuseum.princeton.edu). It houses more than 72,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of world history and admission is free. Off campus, stroll or cycle along the towpath of the Raritan Canal, part of the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park (www.state.nj.us/dep/parks andforests/parks/drcanal) and watch the birds—or the Princeton rowing team. Or get out on the water yourself and rent a kayak or canoe (www.canoenj.com). If antiquing is your thing, take a 20-minute car ride through glorious farm fields dotted with old barns to The Tomato Factory (www.thetomatofactory.com), a do-not-miss multi-dealer co-op.
Dine: Dinner at the Inn’s restaurant, headed by Chef Manuel Perez, who was trained at Manhattan’s Le Bernardin and The Water Club, was a delight. Its exceptional New American cuisine routinely receives rave reviews from OpenTable, Zagat, and local press; it was chosen as one of the Top 25 Restaurants in New Jersey by New Jersey Monthly for 2013. The sophisticated setting, showcasing artwork, murals, and menus from the 1930s, is equally noteworthy. For more casual options, the town, just a short walk away, offers plenty of fun, ethnic, and other options to sample. Locals recommend the Witherspoon Grill for a relaxed lunch and the Blue Point Grill for a delicious seafood dinner. Leave room for a freshly baked piece of heaven from House of Cupcakes, a winner of TV’s Cupcake Wars, or a scoop of artisanal New Jersey pumpkin mascarpone at The Bent Spoon. Think local meets luscious.
Insider’s Tip: Skip the traffic headaches and take the train; from Penn Station in Manhattan to Princeton Junction, it’s about an hour. Both Amtrak and NJ Transit will get you there, but the latter has more frequent departures.
The Peacock Inn
20 Bayard Ln, Princeton, NJ (609) 924-1707; www.peacockinn.com
Distance from White Plains: approx 1.5 hours Details: Fall weekend rates start at $285/night (but vary seasonally) and include a Continental breakfast buffet with a waffle maker, bagels, muffins, fresh fruit, etc.