Monday, June 12, 2006

New Haven, CT


New Haven may conjure up Ivy League images, and rightly so. Yet while Yale plays a prominent role in this Connecticut city, New Haven's no mere college town. In fact, there's so much to do in "The Elm City" that a day's visit may not be enough.

Founded in 1638 by English Puritans, this city off of Long Island Sound was never able to rival nearby Boston and New York economically. However, it became home to strong industry thanks to resident innovators like Eli Whitney. Due to successful revitalizing efforts in the second half of the last century, New Haven is now bustling with activity.

It's also a breeze to get to. Ride Metro-North's New Haven line from Grand Central Station [free tour] to the last stop. After two hours of scenic window views, you'll be geared up to get out and explore.


Once you get off the train, expect a 10-15 minute walk into downtown. Follow Union Street underneath I-95 where it becomes State Street, then continue ahead about three blocks to Chapel Street. Turn left and head into the heart of the city. In minutes, you'll be at the New Haven Green. (There's also Metro Taxi and CTTransit stops at the station, if you'd rather avoid the walk.)

This is a good place to orient yourself. You'll be in a prime position to plan your itinerary. Chapel Street borders The Green to the south, and that's where you'll find the Chamber of Commerce. Pick up a map on the first floor or head up to the ninth for brochures. The Yale Visitor Center is on Elm Street at the northern border of The Green. Historical walking tours are available so stop in and ask.

Chapel Street is a chock-filled strip. You can hit the Chapel Square Mall next to the Chamber of Commerce, if you're so inclined. But for a more unique experience, you'd be well advised to head up the street.

This is where you'll find shops like Bottega Giuliana, an upscale shoe store, Atticus Books (complete with a cafÈ) and Ten Thousand Villages selling Third World crafts.

Galleries abound in the city. Asante Gallery offers contemporary African art, Wave Gallery showcases crafts and Endleman Gallery sells hand-made jewelry and glass.

There's even tattooing and piercing, if the mood strikes. Take your pick between The Edge Tattoo Company on Chapel or Studio Zee on State Street.

After a few blocks, Chapel Street hits York Street. Turn right, and you'll be solidly in Yale territory. There's a wealth of activities in this area alone. Visit the Yale University Art Gallery with selections ranging from ancient Egyptian to the present, or try the Yale Center for British Art. The Center houses the largest collection of British art outside the U.K. Recent exhibits have included " Ruskin: Past, Present, Future" and "Edward Lear and the Art of Travel."

To witness history in its many forms, try the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library--they have an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible, as well as many other interesting collections. Fossils, flora and fauna can be found at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. Follow Whitney Avenue up towards Science Hill.

York Street ends at the Grove Street Cemetery, and this is a perfect stopping point. Take some time to explore this 1796 burying ground. You'll find the graves of Charles Goodyear and Eli Whitney, if you look hard enough.

Whether you want to participate or cheer from the sidelines, there's an activity for you. Keep in mind, that as with most cities, the wide open spaces tend to be further out. Thankfully, public transit is widely available in New Haven. Most buses stop at the New Haven Green, and there's a CTTransit customer service outlet there too. Grab a schedule and you'll be good to go.

During baseball season, go to Yale Field in West Haven to catch the New Haven Ravens in action. This St. Louis Cardinals affiliate team brings big league excitement to New England. Yale Field is about a mile and a half north on Chapel Street from downtown, but the F bus can get you there.

Golfers can tee off at the Alling Memorial Golf Course. The municipally owned, 18 hole course is located in eastern New Haven. The D bus will bring you within putting distance.

To reach the water, you can follow the Vision Legacy Trail from The Green to the New Haven Harbor. This commemorative brick walkway, connects downtown New Haven with the harbor and West Haven's Savin Rock. Look for signs scattered throughout town.

If the gambling bug bites, head to Sports Haven along the wharf for wagering on sports like jai-alai, thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. This complex displays the action on four movie screens, and provides dining, dancing, games and a 2,800 gallon aquarium filled with sharks and tropical fish, for your enjoyment. Catch the Sargent Drive Commuter Connection bus.

During the warmer months, outdoor options increase exponentially. From June-September, tour the harbor and Long Island Sound on a Liberty Belle Cruise. Boats leave from the Long Wharf Pier and they even have weekend evening cruises with music. For something more educational, Schooner, Inc. will get you up to speed on the history and ecology of the Long Island Sound while aboard the "Quinnipiack." The schooner also sails from Long Wharf Pier.

There's a plethora of parks on the east side of New Haven Harbor, and the G2 bus can transport you. East Shore Park encompasses 82 acres and provides softball, baseball and soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts and trails for walking, jogging and inline skating. Lighthouse Point Park, Carousel & Beach is at the southern tip of the harbor where Townsend Avenue ends. There's a public beach for swimming and picnicking, an antique carousel, playing fields and bird sanctuary.


New Haven is full of lodging options. You'll need to take a cab from the Metro-North Station or a CT Transit Bus or walk 3/4 of a mile -- about a 10 minute walk into town.

If you prefer larger hotels, try the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale (rates start at $111/night).

You may enjoy bed and breakfasts like the luxurious Three Chimneys Inn ($180/night) or the Historic Mansion Inn (rates start at $129/night). Both are conveniently located on Chapel Street.

Near the harbor, you'll find the Residence Inn by Marriott (rates begin at $89/night) and Swan Cove Bed & Breakfast Inn (rates begin at $99/night).

See more info on lodging


When a city claims to be the birthplace of hamburgers, pizza and lollipops, you know you're in for a treat. Between the old standards and more exotic fare, there's definitely diverse cuisine to be found in New Haven.

In just a two block radius I was faced with more than a handful of Southeast Asian restaurants. Bangkok Gardens, Thai Taste and Indochine were just a few. Many offer extremely reasonable all-you-can-eat lunch buffets.

Tandoor serves Indian food in a shiny refurbished dining car, Roomba fills the local Nuevo Latin niche and if you're hankering for Eritrean cooking, look no further than Caffe Adulis.

For a quick bite or snack, grab a panini at CafÈ Java or sidle up to the soda fountain at Chapel Sweet Shoppe. If you're in the mood for something more elegant try Scoozzi Trattoria & Wine Bar or Zinc.

Walk down Wooster Street (a bit east of the city, over the railroad tracks) to check out the dining options in New Haven's (truly little) Little Italy. Order a pie from Pepe's Pizzeria--they invented the delight. Consiglio's and Tony and Lucille's are also neighborhood institutions. Top off your meal with a visit to Libby's Italian Pastry Shop. The sweet smell of goodies wafting from the store onto the snowy street warmed my heart. They'd be a treat any time of year.

See more info on dining


There's no shortage of evening entertainment. Bands play at many bars, and it's hard to ignore the flyers posted for shows around town--so keep your eyes and options open!

Clubs like Tune Inn and Toad's Place provide live music and DJ's. Toad's was promoting '80s rockers, RATT, when I was in town--there's just no telling who'll show up in New Haven. Alchemy and Lounge 215 also have dancing, with themes varying from night to night.

Lovers of all things cultural needn't despair. The Chamber Music Society at Yale has 8pm concerts at the Morse Recital Hall, while the New Haven Symphony Orchestra plays Woolsey Hall evenings. In the summer, they also perform free concerts on the New Haven Green.

If you'd like to catch a show, there are options galore. The three blocks bordered by Chapel, York, Crown and Temple streets is the theater district. The Yale Repertory Theatre, Palace Theater and "The Birthplace of the Nation's Greatest Hits," the Shubert Performing Arts Center, are all in this part of town. The Long Wharf Theatre, near the harbor, also offers a wide range of productions.

And if you can't resist a night at the movies, there's no better place than the York Square Cinema. This old-fashioned movie theater on Broadway is sure to do the trick.

See more info on nightlife



Take Metro-North from Grand Central Station to New Haven's Union Station. It's the last stop on the New Haven line.

Schedule: Trains run approximately once an hour.

Travel Time: About 2 hours.

For the most current information, call 800-METRO-INFO. In Manhattan use 212-532-4900.

AMTRAK trains also stop at New Haven's Union Station.

Call 1-800-USA-RAIL for details.


CT TRANSIT operates frequent Commuter Connection buses from Union Station. The Downtown bus will take you into the city, and the Sargent Drive bus will transport you to the wharf area. Various other lines are also useful. Call 203-624-0151 for information.


I-95 north to New Haven, take exit 47 (Route 34 & downtown). Take exit 1, and then a right at the first traffic light onto Church St. The Green is 3 blocks ahead at Chapel St.


Avis has phones inside the Amtrak booth in Union Station. Rates vary from weekend to weekend so call 800-831-2847 for an exact quote.


Metro Taxi usually has a line of cabs waiting in front of the train station. 203-777-7777.

See more info on transportation


Many places seem to be closed on Tuesdays, so be sure to plan accordingly.


For more information:

City of New Haven

Greater New Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau

New Haven Chamber of Commerce

New Haven Parks, Recreation & Trees