So now that we have this awesome “find quirky roadside attractions” app in our back pocket, literally and figuratively, it stands to reason that if we are out and about, we will routinely check it to see if there is anything of interest in the area. A few weeks ago, we headed down to Princeton for a Firefly Festival at a beautiful farm (more on that coming soon), and found out that the tallest and largest Buddha statue (one of the main objects of worship for Buddhists) in the entire United States was actually in Princeton too … well, how could we not stop?
I mean, really.
Although the address was pretty straightforward, it almost looked like we weren’t going to find it. In fact, the GPS thought we had already reached our destination and passed it, in that annoying way she does, when, well, the Buddha wasn’t there. And, you know, being the largest and tallest Buddha statue, it’d be pretty hard to miss. So if you go searching for it, and are just about to give up hope, drive a little further down Route 27 and there it is.
The Buddha statue was originally in someone’s private backyard, and even though the property (all 10 acres of it) is actually now an official Buddhist meditation center, it definitely felt like we were in someone’s backyard. But anything for a meditative moment and a photo opp.
But don’t worry, it is public property.
We pulled into the gravel driveway and parked our cars. Once you get out and approach the statue, which is carved of stone, there is a small sign directing you to take off your shoes to walk on the tile, which we did. There is also a small area where you can leave a donation (for the upkeep and the meditative center presumably), and an area where visitors have left flowers.
It certainly feels very meditative. I’m not at all sure what is appropriate when you’re standing in front of such a large Buddha statue, but we were quiet, and reflective, and that felt right. There was a rabbit near the statue, and it was the funniest little thing, rolling over like a dog, looking for a belly rub.
Madeline, although slow to get out of the car and join us, was quite enthralled with the statue, and the sheer immensity of it. You can appreciate the size better when you see the statue compared to her standing next to it.
At night, the statue is lit up, and you can visit the grounds up until 9:30 pm.
To the right of the statue, we noticed that there was a walking trail (their meditative trail) and giant signs along the way, quotes on placards that were sponsored by the Boy Scouts, and we followed it all the way to the end. It goes through a forest area (wetlands that will be protected as the Center proposes to put a building back there in the future), so the kids were walking along tree limbs, searching for forest animals, and that’s where Madeline found this snail, which was later transported back to our home (except for a brief moment in the car when it was momentarily MIA and everyone freaked out).
The trail goes back maybe half a mile, and when we were towards the end, I got a little apprehensive because it was so quiet and dense and wooded, that what if someone jumped out from the trees while we were back there?
And that’s what happens when you watch one too many episodes of Criminal Minds.
But I would rather be
paranoid keenly aware than foolish.
In the front of the yard, as you’re leaving the property, you will notice a very decorated tree (wrapped lights around the trunk and such). That is a Dawn Redwood tree, and it is one of the first 60 Dawn Redwood trees planted in the 1940s by Chinese Buddhist monks. It’s known as a water fir in China, and it’s native to central China. They are a fast growing, low maintenance tree that typically reach 40-50 feet within twenty years. We knew it was on the property and searched seemingly everywhere for it … until we noticed it as we were exiting the driveway.
If you’re in the area, it’s definitely a quirky little stop that is worth a visit. We also visited a gold Buddha statue when we were in Baltimore a few weeks ago – details coming soon!
New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center
4299 Route 27, Princeton, NJ
Tomorrow? Summer Bucket List!
Wednesday? A new recipe!
Thursday? Bedtime Math book review!