New Haven boasts Colonial charm, a rich history, and a sophisticated, eclectic mix of arts and entertainment, cultural attractions and gastronomical delights. For a city of its size, New Haven offers some of the most interesting experiences in Connecticut, if not New England.
Downtown and Yale
The first thing most people associate with New Haven is Yale, one of the world's great universities. It has a great presence in the city, and the city of New Haven grew up around the heart of the campus, which is a commanding display of classic colonial and modern Gothic architecture. Several world-renowned museums and theaters are located on or near campus, such as the Yale Center for British Art , the Yale University Art Gallery , the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments . It is an aesthetic treat to visit the campus and an architectural pleasure.
New Haven was the first planned city in the country, and the New Haven Green was part of the original city plan. The Green's 16 acres are the center of downtown New Haven, as well as bordering the eastern edge of the Yale campus. The Green hosts a variety of local cultural, entertainment and social events during the course of the year. Impressive municipal buildings face the Green, as well as three churches: Trinity Church , First Congregational Church of Christ (also known locally as the Center Church ), and the United Church , all built around 1813, and wonderful examples of Gothic, Federal and Georgian architecture. The area northeast of the Green contains the Audubon Arts District . Here you will find a brick-lined street lined with condominiums, restaurants, stores and the headquarters for the Greater New Haven Arts Council. To the southeast of the Green is the section of downtown now known as Ninth Square, one of the nine squares that made up New Haven's original layout. The area includes sections of Chapel Street, Church Street, George Street and State Street. Although this redeveloping area does not yet have much shopping and dining, some restaurants of note include the Malaysian favorite, Bentara, on Orange Street, and the popular and award winning gay hangout, Gotham Citi, on Church Street.
The Long Wharf area, on New Haven harbor, is disconnected from the rest of downtown, but nonetheless an integral part of New Haven. There is an industrial area, and a commercial harbor. The Long Wharf Theatre , one of the country's best-known and most-honored regional theaters, is located here, as is the enormous Sports Haven , offering telecast horse and dog racing. The main restaurant here is the Rusty Scupper , which offers views of Long Island Sound as well as a menu of seafood delights. At Brazi's Italian restaurant, near the theater, patrons can enjoy a meal before or after a show.
The East Shore neighborhood is probably best known for Lighthouse Point Park , on the Sound. There is a landmark lighthouse, built in 1840, a beautifully restored carousel, and lovely views. The East Shore neighborhood has a colorful history. On July 5, 1779 the British landed on East Shore, overcame a small, colonial garrison at Black Rock Fort, and marched into New Haven for their one-day occupation of the city. East Shore is home to the Pardee-Morris House , built in 1680 and the survivor of the British Invasion and three centuries of waterfront storms.
Fair Haven is another neighborhood on the Sound, and its earliest history is connected to oystering. The first European settlers took up oystering from the native Quinnipiac Indians. Today, because of pollution, oysters harvested here are moved to cleaner waters for several weeks before being served in local restaurants—where they are considered quite safe to eat. Other Fair Haven highlights include the Fair Haven Woodworks , offering a remarkable collection of hand crafted furniture, and the small Riverside Park along the Quinnipiac River, where some gentrification has begun to occur.
City Point/Oyster Point
Howard Avenue, along the water in Oyster Point, also known as City Point, reminds you of a small fishing village. Many grandiose homes built in the 1880s have been restored to their original beauty. Although there was a period of decay after the neighborhood was cut off from the rest of the city by Interstate 95, this quiet sea-side neighborhood has become one of the more pleasing areas to visit in New Haven. The Inn at Oyster Point is located near the water on one of the quaint streets. At one of the docks at the end of Howard Avenue is the Sage American Bar and Grill, formerly the Chart House, where you can enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the sights and sounds of the harbor. The 90-foot schooner Quinnipiac is docked here.
Wooster Square (Little Italy)
Wooster Square was named after the New Haven Revolutionary War hero, David Wooster. It was once a neighborhood of elegant brownstones surrounding the square, but many of the houses were razed for factories and tenements for Irish workers in the mid 19th Century. In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants replaced the Irish, creating the "Little Italy" we know today, commonly referred to simply as Wooster Street . Wooster Street and Wooster Square engender thoughts of New Haven's famous pizzerie, Pepe's and Sally's , which vie each year for the title of best pizza in the world. The first pizza in the country was served here, and it is still home to some of the best Italian cuisine around; in restaurants and bakeries such as Consiglio's , Lucibello's , and Tre Scalini . Wooster Street itself is unassuming but, in the summer, the street is alive with festivals and celebrations when locals and everyone else come out to party. It is one of New Haven's more lively and colorful neighborhoods.
For a scenic drive and quick escape from the city, take Interstate 95 or even Boston Post Road north towards Providence. The small towns that dot the shoreline are full of delightful historic sights, beaches, eateries, shopping and hotels. The 17th-18th century homes in these towns are products of reconstruction after numerous hurricanes and raids by Native Americans and the British that often left the entire towns in ruins. Branford, the largest of these towns, is home to Stony Point (due to its rocky shore) and boats that go out to the nearby Thimble Islands for excellent daytrips. The next town over is Guilford, home to Bishop's Orchards and has one of the prettiest town greens in Connecticut that holds a renowned Guilford Art Center Craft Expo every July. Hammonasset State Park in Madison offers a fantastic stretch of sandy beaches for young and old to enjoy, pick up some books at R.J. Julia , and afterwards feast upon seafood at Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale . In both Clinton and Westbrook, indulge in some serious shopping at Clinton Crossing and the Tanger Outlet Center . Old Saybrook, where Yale University was chartered as Collegiate College back in 1701, and was home to actress Katharine Hepburn until her death in 2003, is the most developed and commercial of the shoreline towns with plenty of restaurants, stores and beaches for locals and tourists.
One of the best-kept secrets about the New Haven area is the abundance and variety of its restaurants. And one of the best things about the restaurants in the compact downtown area is that most are within walking distance of one another, so you can stroll along checking out menus and decide at a leisurely pace what you are pining for. Even better, you can fill your entire evening with samples from various establishments, and make the rounds like a true New Haven native.
Start with drinks at Hot Tomato's , pop over to The Anchor , and then grab an après-dîner beer at Brü Rm. at Bar . If you are still hungry, go across the street to Louis' Lunch , where the hamburger was invented. Louis' is open until 2a Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and is a cultural institution not to be missed. There is ethnic fusion at the chic Zinc , and traditional American at the classic turn-of-the-century Richter's Tap Room, New Haven's oldest bar. There is a piano playing at Scoozi's , too, which serves its fine Italian food outdoors in good weather.
You can get excellent sushi at Akasaka's , while Sono Bana Japanese Restaurant is just a few minutes north of downtown, and serves some of the best lunch specials in the area. In the mood for Thai? The award-winning Bangkok Gardens , near the Yale campus, can sate your appetite while you people-watch in the dining atrium. If it's Mexican you crave, then look no further than hot and sunny Villa del Sol, serving authentic south-of-the-border cuisine.
When in the Long Wharf area and in search of some fine seafood, head to The Rusty Scupper , which is, despite its unusual name, a classy choice for an evening out. When in search of something more casual, head to Brazi's for fresh pizza family fun. Across the bridge, on the east side of the harbor, you can get all the seafood you desire at Regatta Bar & Grill . For a taste of India, head to Darbar India for their weekend buffet.
Wooster Square (Little Italy)
Wooster Square's "Little Italy" is famous for its dueling pizza shops: Frank Pepe's Pizzeria and Sally's Apizza , each vying for the title of best pizza in the world. But Wooster Street is also chock-full of Italian restaurants exploding with traditional and local specialties. Try Consiglio's , Abate's or Tre Scalini , then satisfy your sweet tooth at one of the neighborhood's fine bakeries, like Lucibello's or ice cream shops.
There are some excellent restaurants in the upscale shoreline towns within a short drive of downtown. Heading east, the sizzling Esteva American Cafe on the Guilford Green is a new hot spot with a New York City bistro-style atmosphere. Over in Madison, you can get hearty all-American fare at the Dolly Madison Inn or try the Cafe Allegre that serves fine Italian cuisine and other delicious delectables, and if you can't bear to leave, they have rooms for overnight guests at their Inn at Lafayette. A favorite locale in Old Saybrook is Pat's Kountry Kitchen , serving fantastic country cooking with a strong New England flair.
Of course, one of the best reasons for coming to the Shoreline is the seafood, especially fresh lobster, clam chowder and scrod (a type of young cod found only in New England). Plenty of small, family-run restaurants dot Route 1 from Branford to Old Saybrook. If on the go or looking for a more formal, sit-down meal there are the Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale restaurants in Madison and Westbrook where you can get a hot buttered lobster roll, fish and chips, onion rings, five-pound (or larger!) lobsters and more. Just down the road in Old Saybrook, their seafood icon is the famous drive-in Johnny Ad's where clam strips reign supreme and foot-long Hummel hot dogs are everyone's favorite.
New Haven is a very walkable city, and it is recommended that you try to see the central section on foot, as the Green, Yale, shops, restaurants, theaters and museums are all within a few blocks of each other. It is an easy and enjoyable navigation, so tighten your laces and get ready to go!
A visit to New Haven wouldn't be complete without a visit to Yale, one of the world's most famous universities. Located across from the New Haven Green is the Yale Center for British Art , which boasts the largest collection of British art outside of Britain itself. The nearby Yale University Art Gallery has over 100,000 pieces in its collection. Close by are the Yale Repertory Theatre and the Chamber Music Society at Yale . You'll find a welcoming meal at the campus mainstay Claire's Corner Copia .
Audubon Arts District
Located downtown, the Audubon Arts District is filled with small galleries such as Artspace and larger spaces, like the John Slade Ely House . Along the way, stop into the Union League Cafe for some French cuisine. You'll find the Connecticut Children's Museum nearby, close to the New Haven Colony Historical Society .
Take a drive down the 12-mile (20-kilometer) Scenic Route 146 , which runs along the scenic Shoreline East. Stop into Bishop's Orchards , browse the pastry case and pick up some fresh fruit. Tour Chamard Vineyards and shop at the Clinton Antique Center , then dine on the patio at the Regatta Bar & Grill .
Eli Whitney Museum
Nearby New Haven Green is the Eli Whitney Museum , where visitors can learn about the history of the cotton gin. Not far away is the Sleeping Giant Park , which contains 32 miles of trails and forest. Dine at the popular Sono Bana Japanese Restaurant . The Waterbury Symphony Orchestra concert hall hosts several performances a year.
Along the Shoreline West you'll find the West Haven Beaches . Once you've done some relaxing, stop into the Westfield Connecticut Post . The summer months offer the Meet the Artists & Artisans program, when local artists display their work for the public. The quality and variety at the West Haven Farmers Market draws huge crowds. Head over to nearby Shoreline East and dine at Darbar India .
These tour companies will help you to experience all that New Haven has to offer. Take a luxurious cruise, tour a local winery or see it through the windows of a train.
AJ Tours ( +1 203 562 4557 )
Yale University Tours ( +1 203 432 2300 )
R Thorne Tours ( +1 203 624 0594 )
Cardinal's Express Inc Charter Coach ( +1 203 865 1369 )
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat ( +1 860 767 0103/ http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/ ) Thimble Island Cruise ( +1 203 488 8905/ http://www.thimbleislandcruise.com/ ) Schooner Inc. ( +1 203 865 1737/ http://www.schoonerinc.org/ ) Now Voyager
Train Tours Essex Steam Train & Riverboat ( +1 860 767 0103/ http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/ )
Winery Tours Chamard Vineyards ( +1 860 664 0299/ http://www.chamard.com/ )