1. New Haven Is The Ivy League–Of Good Times
One of the top schools in the nation, Yale University attracts some brilliant people to New Haven, making the city an academic hub. But don’t let the neo-gothic architecture, the ivy on the buildings, and the smarty pants people fool you into thinking the city is too cerebral to have fun. New Haven an extremely exciting place to be-the art and music scene, along with some pretty excellent theater and sports, are just some of the things New Haven citizens get to enjoy as a result of being a home for Yale students and professors.
2. S#&% Gets Real At “The Game”
The Yale Bowl is Yale University’s football stadium, and also the largest University-owned football stadium in the nation by capacity. This is a good thing because, the football games played there attract thousands of visitors each year-particularly for the famous Harvard-Yale game. As every New Havenite knows, this rivalry goes way, way back-in fact, it’s the oldest rivalry in College Football (known as “The Game”). So, as you can imagine, it’s one of the highlights of the year in the city.
3. Grab A Slice Of New England’s Best “Apizza”
It’s impossible to talk about New Haven without talking about pizza (or “apizza”, as it’s called in New Haven). Modern Apizza, Pepe’s, and Sally’s are just some of the best places to go-but you really just can’t go wrong when it comes to New Haven “apizza.” It’s the kind of pizza you order for takeout, but have to start eating in the car before you get home.
4. New Haven Is Gooey, Buttery, Perfectly Grilled Cheese Sandwich Nirvana
If you’re a New Havenite, you value a good grilled cheese. And probably more than most because you’ve been spoiled with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from the famous Cheese Truck, owned by Caseus Fromagerie. The Cheese Truck, which moves from place to place around the city, is by far one of the best parts about living in New Haven. If you’re lucky to catch it, you can order a grilled cheese that features Comté, Gruyére, Parmesan, gouda or sharp cheddar, all exceptionally melted on buttered sourdough. It’s pure heaven. (Also, don’t miss Caseus Fromagerie Bistro, where you can get all of what’s on the Cheese Truck and then some).
5. Let Your Art Geek Flag Fly At The Yale University Art Gallery
Simply put, this is a phenomenal art gallery. The oldest college art museum in America, the gallery holds 200,000 pieces of art ranging from ancient times to the present day and representing art from all over the world. Plus, it’s free to the public, making this art-going experience all the more enjoyable.
6. Bravo! Encore! Check Out The Broadway-Quality Theater Productions…
I’ve been lucky enough to see a few plays at the Yale Repertory Theater (or, as most call it, the Yale Rep)-and all of them have been outstanding. If you’re a Yale student, these NYC-quality productions are only $10 a ticket and it’s also really affordable for the general public.
7. And Shake Your Booty To Live Concerts At The Shubert…
A landmark of New Haven, the Shubert Theater attracts musicians, dancers, and performing artists of all different kinds-everyone from The Pixies to the Nutcracker Ballet to the Blue Man Group have performed here. It’s eclectic in what it has to offer, and also just a really beautiful performance space.
8. And Let Your Heart Swell To The Symphony Orchestra At Woolsey Hall…
You wouldn’t want to miss a performance here if you’re in New Haven-it’s truly a breath-taking space that serves as the main performance venue for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Bands, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Philharmonia, the Yale Glee Club, and many smaller student-run ensembles such a cappella singing groups.
9. Or Forgo Your Fancy Pants At The Best Dive Venue In Connecticut: Toad’s Place
I’ve seen many a concert at Toad’s Place and I’ve never been disappointed-the space is big enough to attract some amazing artists and musicians, however small enough that you may find yourself talking to the band outside after the show (This has really happened to me, so I’m not just saying this-the Broken Social Scene drummer bummed a cigarette off of a friend). Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive. Definitely a favorite for New Haven concert-goers.
10. After Toad’s, You Can Grab A Falafel At 2:30 a.m.
Mamoun’s is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights. Open late, it’s the only place in New Haven to get your falafel fix at 2:30 in the morning. Plus, you can also order from their extensive hookah menu and take advantage of their street seating if it’s nice weather. What’s better than a warm summer night, falafel, and delicious hookah? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
11. Even After A Night Out On The Town, The Cinnamon Bun Pancakes At The Pantry Are Worth Waking Up Early For
Everyone knows that The Pantry is the best place to get breakfast or brunch in New Haven-and possibly all of Connecticut. They’re inexpensive, serve huge portions, and have a classic diner feel. Yes, they’re cash only. But the cinnamon bun pancakes are truly worth the ATM fees.
12. The View From East Rock Park Will Blow Your Mind
There isn’t a person in New Haven who hasn’t climbed on the East Rock trails. The views from the clifftops are exceptional and span everything from the metropolitan New Haven, to Long Island Sound and Long Island. The 427-acre park is open year-round for hikers, rock climbers and even snow-shoers. It’s one of the most serene and beautiful parts of New Haven.
13. Get Your Seaside Fix At 5 Mile Point
Five Mile Point Light, also known as Five Mile Point Lighthouse or Old New Haven Harbor Lighthouse, is a picturesque lighthouse in New Haven on the harbor entrance to Long Island Sound, five miles from Downtown New Haven (hence the name, “5 mile Point”). The lighthouse is part of Lighthouse Point Park, so people frequent the area for picnics and BBQs in the summer. Basically, if you want to enjoy coastline without venturing too far from the city, this is the perfect place to be. You can swim or simply the enjoy the wide expanse of beach, taking in the views of the New Haven skyline across the water. Plus, there’s a carousel and dogs are allowed! Definitely a must-visit if you’re in New Haven!
14. New Haven Has A Hogwarts-Worthy Library
Walking around the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven is a pretty magical experience (think “Harry Potter” meets “Beauty and the Beast”). Located at the center of Yale University, the six story building does not have any glass windows. Instead, it has walls made of a translucent Danby marble, which transmit subdued lighting and provide protection for the books from direct light (See, I told you it was magic). Not only is the building beautiful, but the books and manuscript collections are pretty epic.
15. New Haven Goes Bonkers For International Art (What Can I Say, It’s A High-Falutin’ City)
The International Art Festival of Arts and Ideas is a two-week festival, held every June, and is estimated to attract 1 million visitors who come to attend hundreds of exhibits, lectures and concerts reflecting artists’ cultures from all over the world. The festival basically takes over the city of New Haven, and for these two weeks you feel like you’re living in a international artists’ hub, once again proving New Haven isn’t all about Yale’s math and science geeks. There’s just as much love for the artistic souls, as well.
16. But It’s Local Artists Get To Represent, Too
This October marked the 10th anniversary of the City Wide Open Studios, when local New Haven artists welcome visitors from all over the country-10,000 visitors to be exact. It is the largest Open Studios festival on the East Coast, and promotes local pride in New Haven artists. It also provides a way for the public to discover the hidden gems-artist studios, workspaces, and works of art-in their community. About 300+ local artists open their studio doors across New Haven for this awesome event.
17. Play “Indiana Jones” Meets “Jurassic Park” For A Day
The Yale Peabody Natural History Museum proves you don’t have to go into NYC to see a good natural history museum. The museum has permanent exhibits on everything from the dinosaurs to ancient Egypt, and has new exhibits coming in and out every few months. This place was awesome as a kid (almost everyone visits here on a school trip at least once), and when I returned as a young adult it still hadn’t lost its magic.
18. Show Off Your Jazz Hand Skills At The New Haven Jazz Festival
The New Haven Jazz Festival attracts local, state, and national jazz musicians of all skill levels who are interested in showcasing their passion for jazz. About 25 jazz performances happen throughout various venues in New Haven during this week-long festival. There are also usually a few free performances, such as the performances that take place on the New Haven Green for the public to enjoy.
19. Or Get Your Jazz Fix Year-Round at Firehouse 12
Firehouse 12 is one of the few really exceptional jazz clubs in the area. A converted firehouse, this bar is able to pull off swanky without being pretentious. If you’re looking for a really laid back evening with friends, this is the place to be. There’s a full bar and live jazz and blues music every night.
20. L’Orcio’s Insanely Delicious Homemade Pasta Is Reason Enough To Move Here
In the Spring and Summer, L’Orcio has the nicest outdoor dining experience in the city. Plus, you can get homemade pasta-their ravioli is always incredible (try the butternut squash ravioli or ravioli with chick peas).
21. Grab A Classy Bite To Eat At (The Nerdily Named But Delicious) The Study
The Study-which gets its name from its book collection and leather chairs in its main lobby-is mostly known for being the hotel where all the Yale students’ parents stay when they come to visit (and rightly so-it’s definitely one of the best hotels in New Haven). However, it shouldn’t be overlooked that The Study is also home to Heirloom, which has some stellar menu items, especially their dessert menu (Nutella molten lava cake, anyone?)
22. Localvores Pay Attention–New Haven Has A Whole Market Dedicated To Locally Sourced Food
CitySeed Farmers Market is a non-profit organization and a farmer’s market all in one. Not only does CitySeed have a great mission, they also have exceptional locally grown produce. Their goal as a non-profit is to engage the community in growing an equitable, local food system that promotes economic development, community development and sustainable agriculture. They always have the freshest, seasonal fruits and vegetables available-and they’re year-round! Check out their indoor winter space every Saturday from January to April.
23. Cupcakes So Good You’ll Wanna Slap Your Mama
As a cupcake addict, I can’t leave Sugar Bakery out of this list. Winner of the famous Food Network Show, Cupcake Wars, this bakery knows how to make a cupcake. I’m consistently blown away by the kinds of unique flavors they come up with (there are 36 flavors available each day!) Try the S’mores or Chocolate Chip Cheesecake-two of my personal favorites. And if you aren’t already convinced: they have a traveling cupcake truck. Portable and exceptional cupcakes = amazing.
24. Join The Intelligentsia In Lofty Convos Over Fine Bourbon And Rare Cigars…
I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes: you can smoke cigars inside the Official Owl Shop Cigar Lounge. And, no, it’s not the ’90s. It’s just awesome. Whether you’re a Yale professor wanting to get all heady over a cigar and bourbon or you simply just want to light up and watch the game after a long day, you’ll fit right in at this laid back cigar lounge. The bourbon and craft beer selection at The Owl Shop is exceptional (if you’re a bourbon snob, it’s one of the only places in New Haven you can find Papi Van Winkle). With its wood paneled walls and leather couches and chairs, it’s hard not to fall in love with this place (unless you’re watching your daily smoke inhalation–if you haven’t already guessed, it’s quite smoky in The Owl Shop)
25. Play Sommelier For A Day At Wine Thief…
Places like New Haven’s Wine Thief are why the city gets such a good reputation from the wine snobs out there. Wine shops like The Wine Thief have knowledgeable staff, great wine tastings and other wine-related events, and-of course-an enormous selection of wines.
26. Or Ditch The Pretentious Snobs And Grab A Killer Burger And A Brewski…
Cask Republic and Prime 16 are both great spots if you’re looking for a good beer and a burger. Both are known for their extensive craft beer selections and fun (affordable!) brewing events and both places have great vibes.
27. Or Better Yet, Get The Best Of Bold Worlds With Duck Nachos at Zinc
Where else can you try duck nachos or deep-fried Brussels sprouts besides Zinc in New Haven? This restaurant is known for its unique menu items (and also its full bar with seating!) Though it’s a bit more on the pricey side, it’s definitely a treat for a special occasion.
28. In New Haven You’re At The Heart Of All The Action
Union Street Station is your portal to wherever you need to be. With New Haven being so close to New York City, Boston, Providence, and other major cities in the area, it’s only fitting the city would have an extensive train and Amtrak station.
29. The Tech Boom Is…Umm…Booming Here
New Haven has a great tech startup community, attracting venture capitalists from all over the country. Some of the more famous businesses that got their start in New Haven are SeeClickFix and Priceline.
30. Which Is Why Everyone Wants To Live Here
From a real estate investor’s standpoint, New Haven is a dream: New Haven has some of the highest occupancy rates in the state. And high occupancy rates are predictors of a city’s cash flow, therefore attracting businesses and creating more jobs in the area. The city has done a great job of keeping up with the demand-there are major plans for new apartment complexes that will be popping up left and right over the next several years.
Is that really a surprise when New Haven has something for everyone to be excited about? Whether its art, culture, nature, great food, stellar education or cupcakes–seriously, don’t forget those cupcakes–that get’s you going, New Haven has it in spades.
By Erica Zene, Writer & Peace Enthusiast