When most people hear Princeton, the first thing that pops into their head is Princeton University. While the renowned is a dominant feature of the city, there’s much more to see and do in the area. Ranked as one of the best places to live in New Jersey, it offers a nice suburban feel and provides easy access to both New York City and Philadelphia.
Things to Know About Princeton, NJ
It Has a Long History
Prior to European settlement in the 17th century, the Lenape Native Americans were the earliest identifiable inhabitants of the region. Princeton was named in 1724 upon the construction of the first house by James Leonard, who first referred to the community as Princeton. There are two theories as to why the town came to be named Princeton. The first suggests it was named after King William III, Prince William of Orange of the House of Nassau. The second theory is that the name came from a landowner named Henry Prince.
Job Prospects Are Great
Besides working at Princeton or the other nearby colleges, Princeton is also home to several multinational companies as well as hundreds of small businesses ranging from retail to health & wellness.
Easy Access to NYC and Philadelphia
Despite its relatively small size, there’s actually quite a lot to do in Princeton as it boasts several restaurants, locally owned retail stores, a world class art museum, and much more. Of course, if you do get bored, you’re equidistant to both NYC and Philadelphia whether you feel like taking the Amtrak or NJ Transit.
It’s a College Town
As you might expect, Princeton, NJ is a college-town. Princeton University is the most well known and prestigious. A total of six presidents attended Princeton University, which is only two behind Harvard, which has the highest number of presidential alumni, with a total of eight.
Besides this, Princeton also has connections to more than 40 Nobel laureates, 17 winners of the National Medal of Science, and 5 recipients of the National Humanities Award. It’s no wonder that people from around the world apply to this illustrious college. As such, despite its relatively small population it is very diverse with people from different countries and backgrounds coming together.
Besides Princeton University, the town is also home to Mercer Community College, Westminster Choir College, and Princeton Theological Seminary. As such, the population ebbs and flows with the school year.
Don’t be fooled by its small population, Princeton has several different neighborhoods that offer a variety of settings and house-styles.
- Western Section – extending west and north from the Princeton Battle Monument, this area includes many older and, in some cases, historic homes complete with beautiful lawns. It is also close to the center of town making it one of the most desirable neighborhoods.
- The Institute & Hun Area – West and south of Elm Road, this area offers newer and more luxurious homes. There are several parks and open spaces that belong to Princeton University as well as the Springdale golf course.
- Rosedale – Bordering Rosedale Road, this section offers many stately homes that tend to have somewhat larger properties than those closer to town. You can enjoy rolling hills and beautiful hiking trails within the many preserved lands.
- Ettl Farm – located west of Rosedale and is one of the largest developments in Princeton with more than 80 homes. You can enjoy a true ‘neighborhood’ feel and get to know your neighbors.
- Pretty Brook – This gated area has some of the newest and most notable mansions in town. You can enjoy a varied landscape here complete with hills, streams, ponds, and wooded spots. The area is quiet and offers much more privacy than other locations.
- Princeton Center – In the heart of Princeton and located a short walk or bike to the center of town, Princeton University, or Westminster Choir College. It’s also convenient to many primary schools and the Princeton Shopping Center.
- Riverside & Littlebrook – bounded on the south and east by Carnegie Lake, this mostly residential neighborhood is a relatively new development. While not as dense as Ettl Farm, there are more houses popping up especially along the lake.
- Town & Country – Located about 20 minutes way from Princeton Center, this area offers easy access to public parks, playing fields, various nature preserves, and more
- Battlefield – On both sides of Mercer Road stretches the Battlefield site, a now picturesque area that is often the site of wedding parties. It’s a perfect place for hiking and, occasionally, cross-country skiing.
Schools in Princeton, NJ
Princeton, NJ has a total of 6 public schools that serve students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The public schools have an enviable student-teach ratio of 11:1. Princeton High School consistently ranks in the top 10 of best schools in New Jersey and top 50 best public high schools in America. The other public schools consistently receive high grades from the state as well as parents due to the excellent teachers and varied/challenging curriculum.
Besides public schools, Princeton is also home to several private schools including the St. Paul’s Catholic School, which is the oldest and only coeducational Catholic School. Other notable private schools include Hun Schools of Princeton, and Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science. The city also has a Japanese Language School that teaches weekend Japanese classes for Japanese citizen children abroad to the standard of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT).
When it comes to higher education, Princeton is, of course, well known for being the home of Princeton University. Founded in 1746, it is the 4th oldest institution of higher education in the United States and often ranked among the best and most prestigious universities in the world.
One of the largest employers of Princeton is, of course, Princeton University. Besides working as a professor, there are many administrative level jobs throughout the university. If you don’t want to work for a university, there are plenty of other options. While the city might not have as many large corporations as places like Jersey City, you can find jobs at places like Johnson & Johnson, Black Rock, and Bristol Myers Squibb.
There are plenty of other opportunities if you prefer a smaller environment. There’s truly something for everyone. There are plenty of small shops you can work at if you are looking for something part-time. You can also find plenty of full-time work with the local companies that provide business services such as health and wellness, construction, education, and more.
If you want to start your own business, then Princeton, NJ is a great location to move to. There is a chapter of Startup Grind, which is the world’s largest community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. The community provides networking events, workshops, and promotes NJ and regional startups. And once you do start your business, there are plenty of talented college graduates to choose from!
Cost of Living in Princeton
Princeton, NJ is considered one of the best places to live in New Jersey, and with that comes a hefty price tag. The average cost of a home is around $910,000 although the various mansions in the area drive up the price. In general, home prices cost around $400 per square foot. This is still significantly higher than the $184 per square foot median price for houses in the US. This doesn’t even include the average property tax bill of $19,388/year.
However, you get a lot for your money including safe neighborhoods, an excellent school system, and proximity to two major cities. Despite the high prices, the majority of Princeton residents own their home. If you can’t afford to buy, there are some apartments available, but they tend to be on the more expensive side. You can expect to pay an average of $2,000 for a 1 bedroom apartment.
In general, living in Princeton, NJ isn’t cheap. You’ll be paying more for groceries, utilities, transportation, and property taxes. The only area where you might save money is with healthcare. It’s no surprise the median household income is over $130,000.
Safety and Crime
Princeton is a relatively safe town with a crime rate of around 10 per 10,000 residents. This makes the rate around average for other cities and towns in the US. If you live here, you don’t have to worry too much about violent crime. Instead, the most common type of crime is property crime. You can curb this by installing security cameras and having up signs saying that your property is under camera surveillance 24/7.
The southeast part of Princeton is widely considered the safest part of the city while the southwest areas tend to have more crime. This can be attributed to many retail establishments in the western part of the city. In general, more crimes are committed on retail blocks where few people live. This isn’t an indictment of the western portion of Princeton. In fact, overall the city is fairly safe.
Princeton has a population of around 30,000 people. There are slightly more men than women and around 55 percent of the population has a graduate degree. This isn’t a huge surprise considering the influence of Princeton University on the town.
While not as diverse as places like Jersey City or New York City, Princeton does have a sizable minority population with around 17 percent identifying as Asiant and around 6 percent identifying as Black or African American. The majority, 72 percent, identify as white.
Princeton’s climate is considered a humid subtropical climate, similar to that of New York City. That means you get hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters. For the most part, Princeton doesn’t experience too many extreme weather events besides blizzards thanks to its location. Unlike places like Jersey City or Atlantic City, Princeton did not suffer tremendous power outages or deaths from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Fun Things to Do in Princeton
It might not be a big town, but Princeton still has a lot to offer if you’re looking for some fun activities for the family. It’s also a very walkable town, so if you’re visiting then find a place to park and explore the town on foot. Yes, the entire town is around 18 square miles, but there are plenty of places where you can park and enjoy the scenery from the downtown area to the parks.
- Experience the arts – Princeton is home to the Princeton University Art Museum that houses over 92,000 works of art ranging from antiquity to the contemporary period. Even just walking around campus can be an excellent study in architecture and landscaping as the grounds have beautiful buildings and gardens. If you’re more of a music or theater fan, Princeton is home to several performance arts centers so you can enjoy amazing music, plays, or improv!
- Take in the history – There are many historical locations in Princeton including Albert Einstein’s house, Princeton Battlefield State Park, Jugtown Historic District, and Westland Mansion to name a few.
- Enjoy nature – if you love being outside, then Princeton is the place for you. There are many protected reserves and parks to enjoy including: D&R Canal State Park, Mountain Lakes Preserve, Marquand Park, Lake Carnegie
- Visit the local eateries – you wouldn’t think a small town of 30,000 would have a lot of food options, but there are plenty of restaurants and small eateries to choose from. Enjoy a farm-to-table experience at Agricola or enjoy a cup of coffee at Small World Cafe.
- Cheer on the local sports teams – if you’re a sports fan then you’ll be happy to know that Princeton has one of the largest and most successful athletic programs in the NCAA division. They have the best-known men’s and women’s basketball teams within the Ivy League. On top of that their football team has claimed 15 football championships!
Moving to Princeton
Prnceton’s population has remained relatively steady though demand seems to be increasing as evidenced by the rise in development. If you’re looking for a place to start a family, then Princeton is an excellent choice. It might not be cheap, but it offers top-notch education and family activities.
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Is Princeton good for singles?
Almost 60 percent of the population is married so it’s not a great place for singles. With that said, that means around 40 percent of the population is single though it might be better to keep your options open to neighboring towns and cities.
Should I bring my car to Princeton
Princeton is a very walkable town and you can complete most errands on foot. It’s also great for cyclists so you can easily get around town without a car. If you want to travel to NYC or Philadelphia, you can hop onto Amtrak or NJ Transit. Still, the majority of residents in Princeton do own cars.
What’s the political landscape?
Princeton voted overwhelmingly Democrat during the last election. Princeton’s governing body is composed of a mayor and the borough council where the council acts as the legislative body and the mayor able to veto ordinances and only voting in the event of a tie. As of 2022, the mayor and council members are all Democrats.