Have you ever thought to yourself, I want to do something in Central New Jersey, (considering you realize there is indeed a central part of New Jersey. Cause there is. And if you don’ believe me you might as well stop reading right now.) but I’ve seen the shops in Princeton and walked the university. I’ve been to the historic part of Bordentown and I’ve heard interesting things about Trenton, but I’m not going without a guide. What’s left?
Your solution may just be Hamilton.
Classified formally as Hamilton Township, our little slice of the Garden State makes up 40 square miles of Mercer County, sandwiched between Robbinsville, West Windsor and Bordentown, among others. Probably the best known landmark and first thing many residents think of in terms of Hamilton attractions would be Grounds for Sculpture.
Located on Fairgrounds Road, Grounds for Sculpture is home to over 270 sculptures that span across 42 acres of lush meadows and elaborately manicured topiary. Grounds for Sculpture is also residence to Rats Restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner Rats sports a wide selection of superb dishes that are a favorite of many who visit the grounds. During the warmer months you can sit in their open-air patio overlooking a tranquil manmade lake and watch as a parade of peacocks roam the grounds freely, adding a splash of living color to the festive environment.
And of course, the herald to Grounds for Sculpture is without question the 15 foot molar that sits gleaming in the sun on the side of Sloan Avenue with a statue of a man and a woman, gawking in confusion and bewilderment.
On the other side of Hamilton lies Sayen Gardens, a botanical garden of budding bushes and towering trees with dazzling ponds, bridges, gazebos, and walking trails spread throughout the 30 acres of its Eden-like estate. The seasons themselves seem to take their cue to change by way of Sayen’s lead. Spring hasn't really arrived until mid-May and thousands of azaleas have overtaken the gardens with an unfurling of petals in a flourish of reds, pinks, whites, yellows and orange. Sayen House, which sits in the middle of the gardens, opens its doors every Mother’s Day and offers a glimpse into the modest but beautiful home Frank Sayen lived in with his family in the early 20th Century. And the scent of firewood crackling in the air is somehow enhanced when the light of the setting sun hits the treetops of the Sayen forest and acres without end transform into a scorching blaze of foliage.
Hamilton’s third most notable landmark is most assuredly Veterans Park. Dedicated to the men and women of the fighting forces, Veterans Park is a local favorite for children and adults alike. Kids can spend hours climbing and sliding on the vast assortment of jungle gyms and adults can find leisure along the many nature trails that snake through the woods and fields of the 333 acre park. Stationed at different entrances are retired monuments of the battlefield. At the Whitehorse Hamilton Square Road entrance a military tank stands guard while over at the Klockner Road entrance, a fighter jet floats perpetually over the earth as a tribute to those who served not only Hamilton, but our country.
Hamilton also has a fair selection of places to eat. Brother’s Pizza on Route 33 has been my favorite pizzeria since before I can remember discovering the glory that is Italian cooking. Not to be confused with other Brother’s Pizza—in New Jersey there is about the equivalent of one Italian restaurant per resident, and most have some sort of family affiliation in the title—the Brother’s on 33 stands above the rest. Open to midnight seven days a week, Brother’s is never in short supply of business, and after just one slice, you’ll understand why.
For those with a taste for the cuisine of India, Palace of Asia on Quakerbridge Road can neither be compered, nor beat. In my humbled opinion (or perhaps not) there’s Indian food, then there’s Palace of Asia. I recommend the lunch buffet, which is served every day from 11 to 4, where a wide array of traditional Indian dishes are available for the reasonable price of about $12.
Banzai on Quakerbridge road is Hamilton’s premier hibachi restaurant, presenting a show in the perpetration of each meal and Tans on George Dye Road, who came in second place on Cupcake Wars this also December, is a great spot for satisfying sweet cravings. There are also a number of farmers markets that pop up throughout the Spring and Summer months with the frequency and allure of dandelions. Hamilton also holds a wide array of shopping, from retail to family owned and operated stores all throughout the township.
Like any small town, Hamilton has more than what can be found in one day. So hop on 95, or Route 1, or 130, or 295 and prove the naysayers wrong by discovering for yourself one of the most charming spots in all of Central Jersey. Where else will you find three outdoor landmarks with such diversity, an eclectic mix of food and shopping and a gigantic tooth standing idly along the highway? Come to Hamilton and you'll certainly leave with a story to tell.