Sorry, University City. Princeton — with its lofty trees, small-town boutiques, and whiffs of esteemed former residents Albert Einstein and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the air — gets our vote for the dreamiest college town on the East Coast. The bucolic Princeton University campus — around which life hereabouts revolves — is straight out of central casting, and the historic town is just as picturesque. November’s an ideal time to visit: Not only does the crisp fall weather highlight the local beauty, but Saturday, November 6th marks the 141st anniversary of the first intercollegiate football game ever played in America. That 1869 game was between Princeton and Rutgers, but this November 6th, the Tigers play our very own Penn Quakers. So pack up your pompoms — whichever team you’re rooting for — and make the 50-mile trip north for the weekend.
[sidebar]GETTING THERE: It’s an easy 45-minute drive up I-95; there’s a 24-hour parking garage in the center of town (princetonparking.org). Or train it — both NJ Transit and Amtrak stop in Princeton Junction; from there, the “Dinky” commuter train route goes straight to campus.
STAY: A five-minute walk from the center of town, the historic 16-room Peacock Inn has undergone an extensive renovation. Think upscale B&B — one where you get Frette slippers, deluxe rain showers with body jets, and a restaurant helmed by a Le Bernardin alum. Rates from $250 to $425 per night. 20 Bayard Lane, 609-924-1707, peacockinn.com.
DO: Meander down Nassau Street — Princeton’s main drag — and through pretty Palmer Square (palmersquare.com) for boutique shopping. Cross the street to walk the impressive school grounds on your own, or take a free tour through student-run Orange Key (princeton.edu/orangekey). The Princeton Tour Company also offers a variety of themed explorations — architecture, Einstein, ghosts (princetontourcompany.com) — throughout town. And admission to the world-class P.U. Art Museum is free — you can see “Gauguin’s Paradise Remembered: The Noa Noa Prints” through January (princetonartmuseum.org).
EAT: Splurge on an elegant meal at Elements, located in a former mechanic shop. Don’t miss the house-cured meats (put up by the on-site butcher) or the dangerously delicious Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail. 163 Bayard Lane, 609-924-0078, elementsprinceton.com.
INSIDER TIP: Most football games don’t sell out — get to Princeton Stadium an hour before game time and buy tickets for $8. Or get them at goprincetontigers.com.