"Ifinished my senior thesis, slept till noon and now have nothing better to do than hang around outside."
So said Anden Chow, Princeton senior and campus guide. The context: a tour of the ivy-draped New Jersey campus known for its historical buildings and figures, and crazy college times. And though my accomplishment du jour (finding parking in this town about three hours from D.C.) paled next to Chow's (completing a tome on fly genetics), I still felt justified following his lead -- slacking off, underachieving, napping on the sunny green (but pass on the final paper).
Princeton's layout is easy to master, especially after taking a free one-hour Orange Key tour. Besides distinguished structures drenched in lore, we saw where Einstein sat in class, F. Scott Fitzgerald slept, Russell Crowe filmed "A Beautiful Mind." We heard about Princeton pranks (stolen cannons, giant snowballs) and shrank beneath the Gothic spires of the third-largest college chapel in the world.
On the next day's historical society tour, sprightly guide Dick (Class of '51) pointed out landmarks inside and out of the school's gilded gates, including the spot where Einstein regularly watched schoolchildren play on his way to buy the paper.
The university's multilevel museum was crammed with masterworks from Frank Stella (Class of '58) to Georgia O'Keeffe (an aptly titled "From a New Jersey Weekend II"). For theater, the student-run Triangle Club performed "Rude Olympics VI: Weapons of Mass Distraction," rollicking skits that were part Ionesco, part "Saturday Night Live." And for plain old weirdness, the juggling club practiced on the Cannon Green, tossing balls and throwing pins with aplomb and a plop.
The town seems just an extension of campus, catering to visiting parents who pay the tuition tab. Amid mellow-chic restaurants, such as the Mediterranean eats at Mediterra, and platinum-card shops are scruffy student haunts. The Small World Cafe, smelling of high-octane coffee and sweet-tooth pastries, had three tip cups: College Fund, Starving Artist and Laundry. And students tippled away their stress at the Triumph Brewing Co., where a boy band grooved like a latter-day Phish.
The young bar crowd seemed ready to go all night, final exams pshaw. But I left before the closing set. I didn't want to be exhausted for my last day of hanging out.
-- Andrea Sachs
The Doral Forrestal (100 E. College Rd., 800-222-1131, www.doral.com) cost $103.92 through Orbitz. Meals and desserts came to $30.65. Cost for a museum, tours, theater and a band were $19. Add a $22 Princeton shirt from the U-Store (to fit in with the crowd). Info: Princeton Chamber of Commerce, 609- 924-1776, www.princetonchamber.org; Princeton University, 609-258-3000, www.princeton.edu.
Total: $175.57 for one.