For Free or Very Little, Get Outside and Enjoy All That’s Offered

In cold, winter months, most people hibernate indoors. As the temperatures rise and the sun has a more daily presence, it entices people to come outside, creating wonderful opportunities to connect with the community and all that it offers. Whether it’s through meetups, music or visits in nature, there are many ways Mercer County entices you to join in the summer fun!


For active folks, the chance to get moving outdoors offers multiple physical and mental health benefits. They include increased Vitamin D, decreased anxiety, improved sleep and focus, better immunity and healthier weight. And walking doesn’t cost a penny while it is amongst the easiest of activities to take part in. One can choose to walk briskly or more slowly, depending on your needs.

If you prefer not to walk alone or find having a meet-up appointment provides you with more incentive to show up, you can take part in the Saturday Morning Walking Club. An easy way to get you moving along the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, members of the public meet the 2nd Saturday of every month. The next one, on July 13th, takes you out for about an hour along a section of the nearly 22-mile trail. Starting points vary each month, so make sure you check the site for the latest starting point.

If you prefer something weekly, Everybody WALK! gathers every Wednesday at 9am, organized by Center for Modern Aging. The walk is described as “not just a walk” as it is led by Dr. Laura Wong Koenig, a Doctor of Physical Therapy in Princeton. Throughout it, she provides opportunities to ask health questions while you stroll. The group aims to move at a good pace but does welcome those with walking sticks and canes to join in! There is no cost to go but you must register to attend, upon which the walk’s meet-up location will be emailed to you.


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For some, simply walking around isn’t stimulating enough. If that’s you, why not take part in a walk that is enlightening as well! Princeton University offers two variations on Saturdays and Sundays, to not only get moving but also to see and learn. Campus Art Tours will be meeting at 2pm in June, 5pm throughout July and August. The Residential Colleges Neighborhood Tour held on Saturdays meets at Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads near Roots Ocean Prime. The Main Campus Neighborhood Tour on Sundays begins at Nassau Hall.


You could also get your body moving with a little soul-filling sound, as live outdoor concerts are a-plenty around the area. Live music events are a whole-body experience, said to create a sense of community, increase endorphins and help with stress. Whatever your preference of musical genre, you can find it somewhere this summer!

In the heart of downtown Princeton, Palmer Square hosts its final McCarter Concert on June 27th with two performing groups. At 1pm, Esteem All Stars will cross all genres, playing music from the 50s through today. Jeiris Cook Trio performs at 4pm bringing their R&B styles to you. The square’s Summer Music Series also kicks off, with concerts June 22, June 29 and July 6 from 12pm-2pm with performances featuring jazz and blues, power rock and swing. For those that like a more collaborative performance, you can interact with the Flying Ivories for Dueling Piano Nights on the Green, July 11, 18, 25, August 1, 8.

Nassau Park Pavilion, outside of Panera, is also the site of some moving and grooving. The West Windsor Arts Center is bringing free live music (as well as art activities) to the pavilion July 13thJuly 27th and August 10th from 5pm-7:30pm. All will open with cellist Dan Kassel who utilizes technology for a multiple genre performance. July 13th, the headliner El Noordzo will share Afro-Cuban interpretations while on the 27th, Rini will perform her blend of Indian and American music described as Indian Jazztronica. If blues is more your thing, Dukes of Destiny entertains with their original music on August 10th.

You can bring along your blanket and set up a spread at the Mercer County Park Summer Concert Series, where live music will fill the air every Friday evening from July 12th through August 16th. Parking is free but there is a small $5.00 entry fee to attend. Tribute bands celebrating Earth, Wind & Fire, Yacht rock, the Eagles, Queen, Elton John and Billy Joel can be heard throughout the weeks as well as some funk salsa and American soul. The music begins at 6:30pm.


If you are into a bit more adventure, there are options for you as well! Being adventurous has its health benefits, of course, including building your confidence, expanding your mind, reducing stress and increasing your Vitamin D intake. If you’re looking for something different, here you go.

When it comes to driving, some people purchase a Jeep, simply as their car to drive. Others buy a Jeep because it’s a Jeep, filled with opportunity. “Jeepers” are often enthusiasts, who love to take advantage of the great outdoors. If you call yourself one and would like to meet other like-minded people, mark your calendar for June 21st to attend Friday Night Jeep Meet, organized by Open Trails NJ and NJ Jeep Association. Open to all Jeeps, this opportunity to gather and meet others who like to off-road, tends to bring together 40-80 Jeep owners. Make new friends and support access to state forest trails with a 6:30pm get together at Mission BBQ in Hamilton Marketplace.

Whether you have a Jeep or not, you may like to spend the entire night outdoors. And you do not have to travel far to do so. Mercer County Park offers campground rentals for just $20 a night! Perhaps you want to try camping with young children, or maybe you want to get away but need it to be a bit more of a “staycation,” you simply need to sign up on CommunityPass and book your spot. Ten sites are available in the East picnic area of the Mercer County campgrounds – six of them include lean-to structures with 3 sides and a roof while the other four offer space to pitch a tent. All sites offer a place for grilling and a campfire, a picnic table and access to water and restrooms. During the day, you can also take advantage of boating, fishing, hiking and biking trails offered in the park.

Beyond Mercer County Park, there are numerous other hiking options. We’ve written about them before, but this article would not be complete without mention of hiking in and around the county. We researched them to help get you outside during the pandemic, but our list still holds up with great experiences in nature. Read Tracks and Trails – The Hidden Gems All Around Us for specific details including locations, what to expect and where to find your next hike. Whether you prefer a low incline walk with your pup or a more rigorous endeavor that gets your heart pumping, there are options for all.


Now you know where to go and what you can do, the only other thing is to hope for continued beautiful weather to allow access to all of the above! Whether you’re choosing to enjoy some music, go for a walk or tap into your more adventurous side, ask a friend to join you, be safe and most importantly, have fun!

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