In Search of Einstein? Head to Princeton

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Pi Day is a big deal in Princeton, NJ. The town hosts an annual weekend-long extravaganza featuring pi recitation competitions, Albert Einstein look-alike contests, a slew of running, biking, and walking events, and even a pi-rade.

Unfortunately, this year’s event was held March 12-13 and my daughter is a purist. So, we made our pilgrimage on that frigid, rainy Monday instead.

Road trip essentials. Image: Jen Citrolo
Road trip essentials. Image: Jen Citrolo

The good news for the physicist’s fangirls (and fanboys) is that Princeton is a fantastic year-round destination for all things Einstein. Public parking is cheap and many attractions are located within walking distance.

The Princeton Tour Company‘s Einstein walking tour is family-friendly and a best bet for the most comprehensive, inside scoop. The three-mile jaunt is chock-full of history, little-known facts, and a few laughs. This year, my daughter and I showed up for the (free) self-guided Nerd Herd Smart Phone Grub Crawl. Owner Mimi Omiecinski got us started with an annotated map of Princeton’s foodie establishments and two pairs of awesome novelty eyeglasses.

Afterwards, we set out for the Einstein sights on our own:

  • Landau (102 Nassau Street) is home to the only Einstein museum in the US. A curated collection of memorabilia fills two corners at the rear of this woolens shop. Shopkeepers welcome visitors and offer complimentary local apples and Tootsie Pops at checkout.
Browsing letters and photos in the Einstein Museum at Landau. Image: Jen Citrolo
Browsing letters and photos in the Einstein Museum at Landau. Image: Jen Citrolo
  • Sculptor Robert Berks’ bronze bust of Albert Einstein sits on a granite pedestal in front of Borough Hall at the intersection of Stockton and Bayard Streets. The inscription includes quotes and a brief bio. Good spot for a family photo op.
  • Einstein purchased his home at 112 Mercer Street in 1936 and resided here until his death in 1955. The Albert Einstein House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, but remains a private residence. According to Mimi, it’s the only residence in the world that has been home to three Nobel Prize winners.
  • Continue a mile further on Mercer Road to Battlefield Park, the entrance to Institute Woods. Although the Institute for Advanced Study does not allow visitors, the serene Woods are open to the public year-round.
  • Further still is the Historical Society of Princeton’s Updike Farmstead (354 Quaker Road), where The Einstein Salon and Innovators Gallery is on permanent exhibit. Hours are limited.
Grabbing a few slices at Princeton Pi. Image: Jen Citrolo
Grabbing a few slices at Princeton Pi. Image: Jen Citrolo

When it’s time for a snack break, head back to town for the chicken parm pizza and bubble tea at Princeton Pi (84 Nassau Street). Around the corner is House of Cupcakes (32 Witherspoon Street), a Food Network Cupcake Wars winner. Be prepared to confront the impossible task of choosing from a wall of options, ranging from the nostalgic chocolate cream filled to peanut butter cookie dough.

The wall of indecision at House of Cupcakes. Image: Jen Citrolo
The wall of indecision at House of Cupcakes. Image: Jen Citrolo

The sale stacks alone make Labyrinth Books (122 Nassau Street) the perfect final stop. Aside from dozens of Einstein-related titles, Labyrinth has an excellent young readers section.

To make the most of an Einstein-themed visit, plan for a weekend in pleasant walking weather. If your family won’t sweat an early observance, details for next year’s Pi Day Princeton (March 11-12, 2017) are already posted.