(I would like to reiterate that we visited schools for their historical value along with just exposing our kids to different kinds of schools and surroundings.)
At this point in our trip Grandpa has flown back to his home in Kentucky. So we are now down to our immediate family of five.
From Washington DC we drove on to Princeton.
The town of Princeton is about as charming as it gets. The old town is filled with high end boutiques, cafes, and understated hotels and inns. We stayed at the Nassau Inn – an old historical inn – with a Norman Rockwell painting hanging in the tavern. We were able to obtain a double room with a rollaway that would fit all five of us. (See Sleeps5.com for a full description.) Princeton University was picturesque. Wonderful old gothic buildings, covered walkways, well maintained lawns, lovely old chapel. Princeton has a seminary that is somewhat affiliated with the University. There is a little train station that has an old fashioned train that runs people between a larger station in the more commercial part of town. The only drawback for a potential college student is that the town is quite sleepy and far from a more hopping nightlife. On to New York.
Hogwarts Rating 5
In New York we did not visit any colleges but had a wonderful time going to the musicals Lion King and Nine to Five. We also checked out Times Square, China Town, Meat Packing District, Central Park, China Town, Soho, Henri Bendel’s. Of special note was the elevated park along the waterfront in the Meat Packing District. It had just opened. It is a walkable artistic rendition of a city sidewalk, but elevated a few stories high. The plantings reflect a more manicured version of what Parks Department find in vacant lots. In New york we had given up our family minivan and instead crammed our lanky family into a five seater econo-car. Ahh togetherness. Off we went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusettes. Please note our friends in New York thought we could reach it in just a few hours. It took us two hours just to drive out of NYC and then a slow crawl to Worcester. We reached the school five hours later, long after the admissions office had closed.
Worcester Poly Tech (WPI) – The sun was setting when we arrived at this university on a hill. We were not sure what to expect as most of the technology schools we have seen have been in very modern structures. WPI is instead a beautiful brick colonial campus sitting high on a hill overlooking the town. We were exhausted from the endless traffic crammed in our tiny rental car with very low expectations by the time we arrived. We were so pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the campus, our normally reserved teenagers ran around doing flips and cartwheels on the lawn outside the Student Union building. Surrounding the oldest of buildings was a lovely knot garden, a vine covered walkway, perennial borders, little butterflies and then to our utter amazement a small bunny came hopping out from the lavender and made his way across the small lawn. We had the sense we were being followed by close circuit TV “O.K. they’re feeling it now let out the bunny.” We were all ready to sign up for WPI after that.
Hogwarts Factor: 3
We reluctantly left WPI and headed off to Boston.
It was raining in Boston. We are from Seattle and not alarmed by rain but this was heavy, heavy rain, that would not letup. We stayed at the Omni right on the Freedom Trail (great hotel). We walked the Freedom Trail as best we could, visiting all the highlights including Paul Revere’s home. We walked along the harbor as well. The city is compact with windy streets — we were often lost. The Bostonians were extremely friendly however and willing to set tourists straight.
Harvard. Boston is home to many wonderful academic institutions. Harvard, being the oldest university in the United States, is certainly worth a visit. However keep in mind it is a private college in a large city. Again it was pouring down rain when we drove to Harvard and searched for a parking place. We walked on to this august campus which was pretty, only to realize that we would not be allowed into any buildings so we stood in the downpour trying to appreciate its status in the US psyche, only to feel shut out as certainly most are. The rain really didn’t help.
Hogwarts Factor: 1
This was the end of our trip. We returned to sunshine in Seattle.