While there’s still a choice of great pre-Christmas events from which to chose, it’s not too early to plan for those days that follow December 25 and lead into the New Year’s Day.
For something different, try history. And to do so, head to Trenton. While most of the region takes a break after the holiday build up, the state’s capital city fires up one of its signature projects, Patriot’s Week. An annual week-long festival that fills historical buildings with public events and the streets with the re-enactment of the famous Trenton battles, it is difficult to think of a comparable event. With a good many activities free or inexpensive, it is also a great value.
The “week” starts off at 10 a.m., Wednesday, December 26, at the grand Masonic Temple on Front and Barracks streets, across from the famed Old Barracks and a block from the state’s capitol building. Events there include free tours of the elaborate 1930s era building and free programs that highlight fascinating realities of the Trenton battles, including the wounding of future American president James Monroe (who fought with Washington) and the role of African-American as patriots and soldiers.
The afternoon takes a fanciful jump to recent Trenton history with “Stephanie Plum’s Trenton Tour,” at 1 p.m. It is, of course, a bus excursion through neighborhoods and locations featured in the popular detective yarns of Janet Evanovich. Meet at the Trenton Visitors Center, corner of Barrack and Lafayette. There’s a $20 fee and reservations are required. Contact TrenTours at 609-396-6612 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s followed by a 3 p.m. Beer Tasting, held incongruously at the First Presbyterian Church, 120 East State Street. This event highlights the reality that beer was as favored in the colonial era as it is in our own. A donation of $35 is requested for this program for individuals over 21 (valid I.D. required). Then at 7 p.m. is Trenton Historical and Trenton Film societies’ Mill Hill Playhouse screening of the 1924 silent film classic, “Janice Meredith.” While the screen star Marion Davies plays the lead role, Washington’s crossing of Delaware River steals the show. Mill Hill Playhouse, Front and Montgomery Street. Admission $5.
Along with water and tea, beer was one of the most favored beverages in colonial America. Join revelers at the Sign of the Dove “tavern” at First Presbyterian Church of Trenton to sample some potables made in by modern day microbrewers in the style of that by-gone era. Artisan cheeses and pickles will also be served. Reservations are required. A donation of $35 is requested for this event — and you must be 21 years old with valid ID.
Other free events that day (and most week days) include tours of the New Jersey State House; the historic First Presbyterian Church and its cemetery where the bodies of Hessian commander Colonel Rahl and other Hessians soldiers are buried; and the exhibitions at the New Jersey State Museum (205 West State Street) where visitors can view the exhibition “New Jersey’s Original People”
Then there are the small fee visits to the Old Barracks Museum, the fort built during the French and Indian War and where the Hessians were stationed. Tours are held annually and films on the Revolution are on view. The Old Barracks Museum is located at 101 Barrack St. Guided tours begin hourly. Admission fee is $8 for adults, $6 for senior and children.
The William Trent House, built in 1719, will be open in the afternoon for tours and include period music by harpsichordist Carl Nittinger. The house is located at Market Street and William Trenton Place. Suggested donation is $3.
While no lasers were used in the Revolutionary War, they add a change of pace at the New Jersey Sate Museum where its Laser Nutcracker Spectacular 3D Holiday Presentations plays on Wednesday through Friday, December 26 to 28, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday, December 29 and 30, 1 and 3 p.m. The museum is located at 205 West State Street Admission is $5 child (12 and under) and $7 adults.
And that’s just day one. Here are some family highlights for the rest of the week:
Thursday, December 27
Bus tour of Washington Crossing State Park. History lovers are transported to the site where Washington’s crucial 10-day campaign against the British began. Historian Ralph Siegel of Trenton Battlefield Tours guides the tour. $20 and reservations required by calling 609-777-1770. 9 a.m.
Petty Run tour. Noted archaeologist Richard Hunter will lead a tours of one of the nation’s only remaining sites of colonial era industry, Petty Run. Meet at the Trenton Masonic Temple, 100 Barrack Street. Free. Noon. Also Friday, December 28, at 1 p.m.
William Trent House’s Scottish New Year’s event, Hogmanay. The program includes a concert of winter and Scottish music performed both bagpipe pipers and the Trenton Capital Singers under the direction of area conductor Richard Loatman. No reservations required, donations accepted. 12:30 p.m.
Old Barracks Fife and Drum Corps Concert at the Masonic Temple. The concert will include music fife music by Mozart and marches dedicated to General Washington. Old Barracks Museum director Richard Patterson narrates the event. Tickets are $5 for children, $10 adults. Reserve seating by calling 609-396-1776. 1 p.m.
Friday, December 28
Battle of Trenton Battlefield Walking Tour. The 10-block interpretative talk provides an overview of the battles that took place back when Broad and Warren Streets were called Queen and King Streets. The free tour meets at Cafe Ole, 126 Warren Street, and will be led by Ralph Siegel of Trenton Battlefield Tours. 10 a.m.
Saturday, December 29
Battle of Trenton Re-Enactments. The free to view re-enactments go into full swing with the first Battle of Trenton, 11 a.m. Starting with cannon fire at the Battle Monument on North Warren Street, the Revolutionary forces will follow the trail of victory to Mill Hill Park. At 3 p.m. the second battle will begin at the First Presbyterian Church on East State Street and shift to Mill Hill Park.
Battle of Trenton Puppet Show. Between the battle re-enactments, Tucker’s Tales Puppet Theater will provide traditional marionette puppet renditions and conduct their own “Battle of Trenton Puppet Show” on the corner of E. State and Warren Streets. Free. 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.
Events on Sunday, December 30, include an 18th-century Colonial church service at the First Presbyterian Church at 10 a.m., and an opportunity to visit Cadwalader Park and the Trenton City Museum’s exhibition on colonial pottery.
Events wind down on Monday, December 31, when a 9 a.m. bus tour travels to the Princeton Battlefield for a walking tour. The three-hour trip meets at the Trenton Visitors Center, 102 Barrack St. and includes a visit to the battle site at Mill Hill Park before departing. Reservations are required and can be made on online at www.eventbrite.com (Keyword: Battlefield) or by calling 609-777-1170.
For a complete schedule of Patriot Week events or more information, go to their website at www.patriotsweek.com or call them at 609-777-1770.