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It’s nice to get an overview of any city before you visit, but if you’re planning a trip to Trenton, you really need to know a thing or two. This is a very multifaceted city, but we’ll try to give you the lowdown before you head to New Jersey’s capital city.
Trenton is located pretty much equidistant from these major metropolises, and you can find the influence of both in the food, the culture, and the accent. It’s not weird to be offered a cup of “cawfee,” but if you’re looking for a sandwich, even this far north it’s still called a hoagie.
Trentonians love their minor league baseball. Arm & Hammer Park, which is usually packed full of fans on game night, is home to the Trenton Thunder. But while everyone south of Trenton is a diehard Phillies fan, the Thunder are a farm team for the New York Yankees, so Trenton’s where the fandom border falls.
We’ve mentioned this already, but there are two good reasons to remember it. First, as the capital it’s home to lots of government offices. That means rush hour traffic near the state house can get a little crazy, so don’t plan to be on the road between 7–9 a.m. and 5–6 p.m. if you can avoid it. Second, the state house itself is a can’t-miss stop on your tour of Trenton. Completed in 1792, the building’s dome is covered in 48,000 pieces of gold leaf, and the walls inside are home to historic murals by William Brantley Van Ingen.
Just a few miles down the road you’ll find Grounds for Sculpture, the brainchild of contemporary artist Seward Johnson. It’s a beautifully-landscaped paradise populated by realistic—and some not-so-realistic—sculptures. Some of them are more than 20 feet tall.
There are lots of ways to get to Trenton, a city located at the intersection of a number of major East Coast highways. Route 1, Interstates 95, 295, 195 and the New Jersey Turnpike are all directly accessible in Trenton. The Trenton Mercer Airport, a major hub for Frontier Airlines, is just minutes from downtown.
Trenton’s also located along the Northeast Corridor, the major rail line that runs from Washington, D.C. to Boston and beyond. You can also hop an NJ Transit train from New York to Trenton or vice versa, or climb aboard regional rail lines that run between Trenton and Philadelphia and Greater Pennsylvania.
Cadwalader Park, the largest and oldest common in Trenton, was designed in 1887 by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same guy who designed New York City’s Central Park (remember what we said about that influence?). The park features a deer paddock, a lake, woodlands, and a bubbling stream. At its center is a preserved mansion that houses the Trenton City Museum.
Trenton’s Sun National Bank Center is a major stop on most performers’ U.S. tours, and that means if there’s a concert happening in the evening, traffic will be a little crazy around the arena for a couple hours before showtime.
Compared to other cities, Trenton has some of the most affordable and available parking, especially on evenings and weekends. The Trenton Downtown Association and the Trenton Parking Authority work together on the Trenton Parking Initiative, which encourages visitors to stop and check out downtown shops by offering an hour of free parking at the Liberty Commons Parking Facility.
Just across from the state house is the New Jersey World War II Memorial, a large monument to the heroes of “The Greatest Generation.”
So much of Trenton’s history is wrapped up in the Revolutionary War, and if you’re a colonial buff, you’ll go nuts. Between the state house and the War Memorial is the Old Barracks Museum. It’s the only barracks from the French and Indian war still standing in the U.S., and it was used as a base during the Battle of Trenton. You’ll see artwork all over the city paying homage to that battle, and every year, just after Christmas, thousands of people flood into the city to celebrate Patriot’s Week.