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An Ideal Saturday in Princeton, NJ

April 1, 2011

Here’s another post where I try to replicate a day of the week I used to have in NYC to prove that Princeton has a lot to offer. It never ceases to amaze me how abundant this town is in activities considering its size.

A typical Saturday for me in the city started with a good workout at the gym or playing tennis in the morning. Later I caught a movie, walked through Central Park, and hit the stores for some shopping. After a busy morning and afternoon, I’d go home to get ready for the evening, which meant going out for dinner, then hitting the club scene. So, how does Princeton stack up to a day like this?

There are plenty of gyms in the area ranging from personal training fitness centers like Phrog Personal Training Fitness Studio and P.T.S. Health & Fitness to mega gyms like Princeton Wellness & Fitness CenterNew York Sports Club and Retro Fitness,  Can Do Fitness, and then there’s the Princeton YMCA. So you can easily get a good workout done early on a Saturday morning.

I mostly played tennis indoors at the Midtown Tennis Club. The 10 indoor courts at Nassau Tennis Club make this facility a perfect match, and great for inclement weather, and they also have outdoor courts. In addition, outdoor and platform tennis can be played at Community Park South.

You can catch a blockbuster movie at the UA Market Fair 10. To run against the The Paris Theater near the Plaza Hotel or the Angelika Film Center in the Village for art house films, you can go to the Montgomery Cinema or The Princeton Garden Theatre (which plays more popular art house films, and some blockbusters).

What I love about Princeton is its vibrant downtown. There are shops located throughout the central business district and beyond, in lieu of the typical suburban mall. It’s complimented by Princeton Shopping Center further north, which has the benefit of ample free parking. Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Kate Spade, and Talbots are some of the chain stores and anchors in town, but it’s the locally owned shops that make Princeton shine.

When I was just out of college, I would occasionally shop in the Village for vintage clothing. In Princeton there are some amazing finds in consignment stores. I’ve seen Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Manolos at Jane Consignment on Spring Street, so there are quality things being offered! The Greene Street Consignment Store on Nassau Street also re-purposes gently use items. There’s even a consignment store for children’s items on North Tulane Street called Milk Money.

I loved going to Rizzoli’s for beautiful art books. Labyrinth Books is of a different caliber, but they do sell art books, so this category gets half a point.

I have long arms for a woman, and had a hard time finding shirts and blouses for work that fit properly, so I went to The Custom Shop to have shirts made for me. Here in Princeton, you can go to Nick Hilton for custom clothing, but only for men.

Looking to equal Harry Winston, Tiffany’s, or H. Sterns?  Hamilton Jewelers and Forest Jewelers can hold their own. They’re where you can buy a Rolex watch, Mikimoto pearls or estate jewelry.

NYC has specialty food stores like Zabars, Dean & Deluca, and Balducci’s, which as a foodie I loved. Princeton can counter them with Bon Apetit, D’Angelo Italian Market and soon to the open Olssen’s Fine Foods.

Finding a Central Park equivalent is a challenge. Community Park North is great to walk through and has a pond, but it’s very quiet. Meandering along the D&R Canal you’ll see cyclists, joggers and pedestrian traffic, but no frolicking. Walking through the Princeton University campus might come closest since it’s central and has student activity. It’s close, but no cigar!

Dining is plentiful in Princeton at all price points, ranging casual dining like Sakura Express to fine dining like elements. I love seafood, so sometimes the Blue Point Grill hits the spot. Just keep in mind that they don’t take reservations. I like that you can eat Indian, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Greek, Italian, and more all in one town.

Dancing at a nightclub in Princeton does not exist. This is where the town can’t compete with the Big Apple. However, there are bars with lounges and/or live entertainment, so it’s not a complete wash, but this category still fails.

Princeton is a suburban town with a dash of metropolitan flair. Unlike the Mall at Short Hills, it doesn’t offer designer boutiques like Chanel, Dolce & Gabanna, and Jimmy Choo, but this is what keeps the town more unique. Great examples of Princeton’s fine shops are Rouge, which offers chic clothing and personal shopping, and ZOË that has a unique mix of clothing from designers like Alexander Wang, Lavin, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney. It’s nice that some Princeton boutiques offer a mix of designer goods, this way the money stays local. This is a win-win situation.

Overall, I give Princeton two thumbs up for offering some big city amenities while maintaining its small town charm.

To complete your weekend of activities check out An Ideal Sunday in Princeton, NJ.

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