This is my sixth post about our adventure traveling through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the other educational US travel our family has done here.
Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the hotels and attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend. If you notice any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love a particular hotel, attraction, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
Trenton, New Jersey
Part of our goal in taking Trevor to all 50 states is to visit the capital city of each whenever possible, so we included two nights in Trenton during our trip. I'd read that Trenton is famous for their Tomato Pie and done some research before traveling to discover which place was considered the best by the locals. That's how we found Jerry's Pizza and Grill. We drove to it and almost decided not to go in. The neighborhood is, um... gritty. Bars on all doors and windows that weren't boarded up, security cameras everywhere, trash piles, that sort of thing. Everything about us screamed, "TOURISTS!" in an area where that might not be the best thing to scream. But I was determined to experience the best Tomato Pie in Trenton, so we went in. I am so glad we did.
I explained that we were visiting the area (which couldn't have been more obvious) and that we'd heard they made the best Tomato Pie. About ten minutes later, we had a piping hot pie on our table - half tomato and half of something else they wanted us to try. It was some of the best pizza I've ever had.
And then cheesecake showed up at our table. We hadn't ordered it or paid for it, but they wanted us to get the full Jerry's experience. It was fantastic. We left a huge tip and will return again and again if we're ever in Trenton.
Our next destination was the Capitol. Our plan was to take the 2:00 pm guided tour. We arrived at 1:45. Security would take a few minutes and we'd be 10 minutes early, right? Nope. Due to construction, we couldn't find the entrance.
We could see the dome, but for the life of us couldn't find a door that was unlocked or that gave any information about where to go. As it turned out, this photo was taken on the roof of the Welcome Center where the tour was starting, but it took us another 10 minutes (and help from multiple passers-by to find our way in).
When we finally found an entrance, we were too late for the tour. So we headed next door to the New Jersey State Museum.
To be honest, this museum confused me. I enjoyed it, but it was not as focused as I'd expected and was not limited in any way to things related to New Jersey. But we did have a good time. And considering that it was free (in contrast to the research I'd done ahead of time indicating it was $5/person) and located so conveniently to the Capitol, I'd definitely recommend going.
We headed back to the Capitol in plenty of time for final tour of the day. Phew! It started in the Welcome Center, which was awesome. There were all sorts of interactive, fun activities about the Capitol building, state government, and more.
Our tour was outstanding. The Capitol building is beautiful and filled with interesting details and artwork.
My favorite thing about the Capitol was a sculpture done by Boehm Porcelain Studio in Trenton. From this website:
"The violet, the goldfinch, the red oak and the honeybee evoke powerful images of community and place. The primeval red oak, nurturing a flock of twenty-one male and female goldfinches, signifying the strength, beauty and dignity of the state, stands rooted in the rich native soil . . . and their number representing the counties of New Jersey. Beneath the protective branches flourish delicate purple violets, indigenous spring blossoms that conjure up images of renewal and home. Everywhere thirteen . . . self-reliant honeybees, representing the original colonies and New Jersey's original counties, gather sustenance and pollinate blooms in the perennial cycle of life. A single ladybug signifies New Jersey's first female governor, Governor Christine Todd Whitman. . . Measuring three feet in height, it weighs over 75 pounds and contains no internal supports. Some 12 skilled artisans, craftsmen and technicians required nearly a year and 129 separate molds to painstakingly create the 326 individual parts."
After our Capitol tour, we checked into our hotel and then headed to nearby Princeton University. We were too late for a campus tour and we had no specific plans or destination, other than wanting to explore the campus and see what it was like. (Answer: Beautiful.)
Another don't-miss in Trenton is Grounds for Sculpture. It is a 42-acre garden with over 600 sculptures, located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. There are six indoor galleries as well. We loved strolling through the gardens and discovering surprises around every bend. It is very difficult to sum up, but perhaps the photos will help.
There were sculptures of every sort, but we were most fascinated by the realism of the human sculptures. If you look carefully, you'll see that three people in this scene are actually sculptures (along with the table and everything on it) while the rest are tourists.
We'd hoped to eat dinner at the highly-rated Rat's Restaurant at Grounds for Sculpture, but they were hosting a wedding reception and closed to the public. We ended up at the outstanding Marsilio's Kitchen. The food was excellent and the service stellar. Go.
From Trenton, it was about an hour to our next destination. Any guesses?