Bronc Meets World: Princeton offers local color and college-town charm

Above, the Princeton Art Museum boasts pieces from around the world for visitors to view.  Right, locals and tourists take advantage of the town’s scenic walkways.By Jess Decina

Photos by Caitlyn Berardi

It’s about a 15-minute drive from the Lawrenceville campus and literally a stone’s throw from Westminster Choir College.

It’s known for its tree-lined streets, upscale shops and a certain Ivy League university that sits in the heart of the town.

Let’s face it: Princeton is the closest we’ve got to a college town. It’s not our college town per se, but Princeton has so much to offer that we all secretly want to pretend that it is.

For starters, the town exudes culture from nearly every street corner. Smack in the middle of Princeton University’s campus is McCormick Hall, home to the Princeton Art Museum. The gallery holds more than 60,000 pieces from all over the world. Best of all, admission is free.

Between Rider’s two campuses, it’s safe to say we’re not culturally starved when it comes to theater. But McCarter Theatre on University Place offers far more than just plays: it hosts ballets, concerts, comedians and variety shows. Just ask junior Jill Frost, who has been working in the theater’s box office for nearly four years.

“Students come and see our performances quite a bit,” she said. “We use Equity actors and were named Best Regional Theater a few years ago. We’re pretty high up here on the list.”

And where an average Rider show costs about $5, student tickets at McCarter aren’t terribly expensive, either; admission is $12 with a student ID. In comparison, regular admission normally runs around $50, Frost said.

“We understand that $50 isn’t cheap,” she said. “We want everyone to have access to the theater. No matter how much money you want to spend, you can come and enjoy the show.”

The town also has a growing reputation for its sophisticated and unique selection of places to eat, from quiet coffee shops to upscale restaurants. According to sophomore Matt Metzger, going out to eat in Princeton is a welcome escape from cafeteria food.

“It’s a good place to go for restaurants,” he said. “It’s nice to go with a bunch of friends to somewhere other than Daly’s.”

But perhaps the best example of Princeton’s local color is in its downtown independent outlets. Most notably, the Princeton Record Exchange – tucked away on South Tulane Street – is a college student’s best friend, said Metzger.

“There’s a ton of music there; if you can’t find it there, you’re not going to find it anywhere else,” he said. “It’s relatively inexpensive, which is nice on a college budget.”

Call it charming, call it expensive, call it a nightmare if you’re driving through it. Call Princeton whatever you’d like, but at the end of the day, it’s a place that’s far too close to both campuses not to warrant a closer look.

This is the first feature in the “Bronc Meets World” series, which will highlight places in the area that students can explore.Locals stroll past Small World Food on Nassau Street, above, one of many Princeton restaurants that offer local, authentic cuisine.  Thomas’ Sweet Ice Cream and Chocolate store, upper right, attracts customers with its fresh, homemade desserts.  At right, sophomore Matt Metzger peruses the vast selection of albums at Princeton Record Exchange, a store that offers used CDs, DVDs and vinyl records at a college-student-friendly price. More local shops and restaurants can be found in nearby Palmer Square such as Nine West, J. Crew and Blue Point Grill.  The square also plays host to festivals and fashion shows.

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