“New Haven pizza named best in America.” This was the most common headline I found while doing research on what to do in New Haven, Connecticut before moving here for graduate school. While New Haven does have some delicious pizza, which I’ll get to later in the post, it also has much more to offer. Here are the top ten things to do in New Haven:
The Graduate and Professional Student Center Yale, more commonly referred to as GPSCY, is a graduate student bar that essentially offers subsidized alcohol. When it first opened in the 1970s, happy hour began at 4pm with beers as cheap as 45 cents. While the beer has gone up in price since then, there are daily deals such as Trivia + $1 off Drafts Mondays, 2 for 1 Wednesdays, or Free Miller Thursdays. On the weekends, you can usually find a student organization hosting a dance event. So bust out those Yale ID’s, your real ID, and some cash for cover. With shots being as cheap as $2, it doesn’t take a lot of money to drink a lot and if drinking isn’t your thing, the music can be pretty great as well, especially on those throwback 90’s nights. There’s a saying in New Haven where no matter where you start the night, “all roads lead to GPSCY.”
204 York St
New Haven, CT 06520
Note: If you’re not a member of the Yale community, don’t worry, you can still go as a guest of a member!
9. Best Pizza in America at Pepe’s or Sally’s
New Haven pizza is different from New York’s in that it has a thin crust, a healthy serving of tomato sauce, and a light dusting of cheese. This is very different from the deep-dish style of Chicago or the more cheesy version you find in New York. As to where you can get the best pizza in New Haven, the answer will change depending on who you ask. Some staunchly say Pepe’s, while others swear by Sally’s. Pepe’s was the original New Haven institution and was started by Frank Pepe. Sal Consiglio, Frank Pepe’s nephew, worked at Pepe’s when he was young and the two men ended up getting into a dispute. This led Sal to create Sally’s. Pepe’s is known for its famous white clam pie, which is made with clams, grated parmesan, olive oil, garlic, and oregano. The white clam pizza often tops “best pizza” lists. Sally’s is known for its Plain Italian Tomato Pie.
157 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT 06511
237 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT 06511
8. Visit Old Campus
Old Campus is gorgeous. The classic Yale buildings made of stone are everywhere and it’s almost like you’re running through Harry Potter land. This is the part of campus that is classic “Yale” and will be a perfect place to take pictures to show friends and family back home.
During the fall it is especially gorgeous and that “crunch” you hear on the ground as you walk through in your boots is highly satisfying.
Not only is Old Campus nice to walk through during the fall, it’s also beautiful during the winter with its snow capped buildings. We took full advantage of the snow last winter and made snow angels and snowmen in the quad. We also found an igloo and were able to fit three people inside!
7. East Rock Park
East Rock Park has a nice community vibe to it where you see graduate students, families, and people walking their dogs along the trails. Once you get to the park, there are a couple of trail options. The easier but lengthier option is to walk along the trail that wraps around the mountain. There is also a direct way up via some major stairs if you’re looking to get in a solid workout. A couple of friends and I tried doing it and I almost died… It is a lot faster though, it only took us 30 minutes to make our way up instead of over an hour through the windy trail.
41 Cold Spring Street
Hamden, CT 06511
Rudy’s is most known for its burgers and it offer several types from the Bistro to the Voodoo burger. The Bistro is a personal favorite as it has goat cheese and arugula, which convinces me into thinking that it’s somewhat good for me.
Bistro burger paired with fries and pesto mayo sauce
Their fries are also delicious, especially when complemented with their sauces, which range from Samurai, which tastes like a spicy mayo, to something more adventurous like Maple Sriracha, which is sweet yet tangy. They also have your classics like Mayo and Aioli. Rudy’s also offers a great draft beer selection, from the cheekily named Delirium Tremens to La Fin du Monde, which received a 96% rating on beeradvocate. As these beers are typically difficult to find in the New Haven area, it was great to see them offered here!
1227 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT 06511
5. West Rock Ridge State Park
West Rock Ridge State Park offers panoramic views of New Haven and showcases the incredible amount of greenery in the city. Once you get to the park you can either drive to the summit outlook or to the Judges’ Cave, which is a colonial era historic site.
The history behind Judges’ Cave is pretty interesting. According to Wikipedia, in the 17th century, West Rock acted as the hideout for Edward Whalley and his son-in-law, General William Goffe. They were both judges who had fled from England to New Haven and so the rock shelter hideout they used is now called Judges’ Cave. The park also has hiking trails, biking trails, fishing, and rock climbing.
Being outdoors makes Sharon (this is another Sharon!) and I very happy.
New Haven, CT 06515
4. Map Collection at Yale University’s Sterling Library
The map room is located on the seventh floor of Sterling Library. It offers a wide assortment of maps as well as technological tools used by astronomers to navigate the world. They have everything from centuries-old maps made of goatskin that display fine calligraphy and hand-painted illustrations to more modern maps of the United States. We learned a lot of interesting information on our visit to the Map Collection and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about history, geography, and/or astronomy. To visit, make an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (203) 432-2867. You can find more information about them here.
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511
3. Dome (Scavenger Hunt Edition)
If you find yourself on Yale campus, try checking out the roofs of the buildings! There is one building that gives you roof access and it’s up to you to find out! Once you head up the stairs of this particular building, there is a library that lies under a dome. You can exit the library and then venture on the roof, where you can feel like King of the Hill and look upon the roofs of the other nearby buildings. Going at night is pretty cool too because you get to see everything laid out under you. Good luck!
2. Yale New Haven Farm
This farm boasts fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, hens, and honeybees. The idea for a community farm started when a group of Yale interns decided they wanted to transform an unused area into something more productive and impactful for the community. In addition to selling produce to local restaurants or at the CitySeed Wooster Square Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, the Farm also has a “Seed to Salad” Program where Yale Forestry graduate students work with New Haven public school second graders in planting seeds and then later eating the salad produced from the very same seeds.
You can also volunteer on the farm and if you volunteer on a Friday, in return for your hard work of harvesting vegetables or planting flowers, you can enjoy a pizza made with fresh farm ingredients, cooked in the wood fired oven located on the premises.
It was probably one of the best pizzas I’ve had in New Haven. The pizzas come out about every couple of minutes and another volunteer said they made over fifty each time. For more information about volunteering, you can check out their website here.
345 Edwards Street
New Haven, CT 06520
1. Leitner Observatory
The planetarium recently opened up in 2009 and you can read more about Michael Faison, the man who runs it here. They have shows every Tuesday and Sunday in addition to public viewing hours if the night sky is clear. I went to their Sunday showing of “Skyquest” in the planetarium and it was awesome. The astronomer begins by pointing out different stars and galaxies in the planetarium sky. The visuals are so realistic that you forget that it’s the middle of the day and believe that you’re looking up in the night sky. He taught us about the Ring Nebula, at the very center of which you can see the original star. The ring was created by the star itself and is red on the edges, then turns yellow, green, and then white. The different colors are due to the different composition of gases that make up the ring. For example, the green color is due to oxygen. The last half of the show consisted of a movie called “Two Small Pieces of Glass” that provided information on how telescopes work and how they were invented.
The observatory also has relationships with local schools to bring in the children and teach them about astronomy. Another bonus is that there is a swing set right next door!
355 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Note: The observatory is also located right next door to Yale New Haven Farm so you can hit two birds with one stone.
Yale Outdoor Education Center
Yale Outdoor Education Center offers a variety of outdoorsy activities like camping and kayaking for a reduced price if you’re a member of the Yale community. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go this season but I have heard from multiple sources that it is an amazing space where you can just relax and at 40 miles away from New Haven, it is not too far. They are typically open through Labor day weekend but they decided to extend it an extra weekend this year, so even if it’s past the official season, call ahead and check!
298 Upper Pattagansett Road
East Lyme, CT 06333
I hope this has given you a better idea of what to do in New Haven! At first, I thought there wasn’t much in comparison to bigger cities like New York City or San Francisco, but after living here for a year, I’ve come to discover that it has its own small town charm.
Have you been to New Haven? What do you like doing here?