Looking for a walkable place to live near Princeton? Terrified about getting trapped in the notorious Jersey sprawl? You’ve come to the right place. Here are fifteen places, near Princeton, where you can easily walk to stores and restaurants. No car required. Leave your ‘what exit?’ gags behind. This is walkable Central Jersey.
We talked about Princeton’s most walkable neighborhoods before. Using Walkscore analysis, it’s easy to find other nearby towns where residents can get by without a car, or, at least, can leave the car behind from time to time. These places may not have the full range of amenities that you get in Princeton, but are well worth a visit at least. Check out the green areas on the map below:
Having scouted the local area, we can divide Central New Jersey walkable places into the following categories:
- Established Walkable Towns
These communities are well-known for their desirable walkable amenities, low crime, and school districts with great outcomes. We’re talking about artsy Lambertville, Hopewell Borough, and Pennington Borough. Highland Park, known as a haven for Rutgers academics, also makes the mark, with its cluster of downtown stores, galleries and restaurants.
- The Big Cats
Trenton and New Brunswick both feature compact, walkable layouts that make it easy to get to historic sites, theaters, restaurants and bars on foot or by bicycle. New Brunswick in particular has revitalized substantially in recent years, and boasts a wealth of good bars and restaurants (including the ‘Frog and the Peach’, on of the best in NJ), as well as a super-convenient rail connection to the city. Trenton is still something of an underdog, but has a lot to offer in terms of affordability, transit connections, history, and character.
- The Under-rated
Hightstown has one of the most scenic downtowns in Central NJ, set around Peddie Lake, with beautiful historic housing and a nice downtown. Flemington, in Hunterdon County, is another great place, with plenty of character, surrounded by a true rural landscape. Plainsboro is a town that has grown substantially in recent years, but has innovated with a walkable ‘village center’ that has bucked the trend for New Jersey sprawl. The town has several clusters of apartment communities that are more affordable than Princeton, and which are within close range of some malls with great ethnic food stores. The school district is excellent.
- Small, but Walkable
Cranbury, Rocky Hill, Kingston, and Lawrenceville are small communities, with just a few restaurants and cafes, but they all feature something of a traditional, walkable ‘small town’ feel and easy access to Princeton. Jamesburg is a charming town, with an incredible setting around a little-used freight rail line, on the banks of beautiful Lake Manalapan. The stores and local diner feel like proper community places. Allentown, in Monmouth County, has a similar feel. All the components of a traditional community are there: churches, bar, post office, diner, restaurants, stores- in a radius of just a few walkable blocks.
- The Rest
Some other walkable contenders in the broader region (not shown on the map above) are: Bordentown, Freehold Borough, Stockton, Frenchtown, Somerville, Bound Brook, Manville, and, in Bucks County PA, Newtown. All of these communities have aspects of a traditional, walkable downtown, which makes it at least hypothetically possible to leave the car behind for some number of trips. Don’t expect to find all the things you get in Princeton in these towns, but you can expect a degree of walkability that is good by New Jersey standards at least.
Outside of this list, other local townships can be tough for people who aim to get around by transit, walking or bike. West Windsor, Montgomery, Franklin Township and Hopewell Township – to name just four- are all pretty much geared around a standard sprawl-y model that makes car driving more or less essential. Places like Robbinsville are at least making an effort with more walkable forms, but much of the development in the region is based around strip malls. You can probably walk to them if you’re desperate, but it’s not much fun.
Which of these towns have you been to? Which do you think are most walkable? And did we miss anywhere? Have your say in the comments section below!