I think most would agree that the coastal city of New Haven is most known as the home of Yale University and for its distinctive pizza. However, thanks to its convenient location 2 hours from New York City and 2 1/2 hours from Boston, New Haven, Connecticut is a great spot for a weekend getaway. It’s also a great place to stop for a day trip during a Boston to New York City road trip.
It’s located directly on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route and is easily drivable on Route 95. In fact, most of the things to do in New Haven are within walking distance of each other, so it’s easy to park your car for the weekend (although you may want your car for a few stops).
During my first stay in New Haven, I took Amtrak from the 128 Station outside of Boston. However, it’s much for affordable to drive if that is an option, and parking is generally not too expensive. On our second trip, we drove and parked at our hotel.
Disclosure: I originally visited New Haven as part of a complimentary press trip. I then returned with my family at my own cost.
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I first visited New Haven over a weekend, and it’s such a fun place to visit for a weekend or a stopover on a road trip. I’d recommend fall as one of the best times to visit because the changing foliage can be beautiful, especially over the Yale University campus. It looks like the perfect quintessential New England Ivy League college town.
Things To Do in New Haven Connecticut
We started our weekend with a complimentary Yale University campus tour. Tours are offered on a regular basis (check the schedule on the link above) and are led by students who provide a unique, personal perspective to the tour.
Guest tours are not offered during regular school vacations, as there won’t be any students there to lead them. These particular tours are geared most towards tourists and not students looking at colleges. Prospective students should schedule a separate tour through the admissions office because that tour will be more appropriate and showcase more things they’ll need to see before making college decisions.
Families visiting Yale can participate in the Kids’ Architectural Treasure Hunt. If you are traveling with kids aged 6 to 11, you can ask for a special brochure that children can use to find specific architectural details on the campus. This can be a fun way to keep kids engaged.
While it’s definitely a walking tour, I didn’t find it to be too strenuous. It’s a nice stroll around the campus. Even if you aren’t interested in learning about the school specifically, it’s still a great way to see the beautiful architecture and hear some fun facts along the way.
New Haven is known for its fantastic food and has been called the birthplace of American Pizza and of the hamburger. So, I definitely recommend taking a walking tour of historic Wooster Square with the Taste of New Haven, so that you can experience some of the local delicious restaurants in a short period of time.
Our walking tour took us to several restaurants, and we got to try some pizza, pasta, salad, dessert, fresh-baked bread, and more. Pizza tours are also offered, and are a great choice if you want to experience several of the popular pizza restaurants.
Be sure to bring comfortable shoes with you on the walking tour – you’ll be doing a lot of walking and will want to be comfortable. You’ll also learn quite a bit about the history and architecture of the area.
More New Haven Dining
There are also lots of other fantastic restaurants throughout the area, and you definitely won’t go hungry. One of the best things to do in New Haven is to eat, so bring your appetite.
If you try nothing else, you absolutely have to try some of the famous New Haven style pizza – called apizza. There are several popular restaurants serving apizza in New Haven. Try one, or if you are up for the challenge, consider trying them all and choosing your favorite.
Here are some of our favorite restaurants that we checked out during our trip:
The Best New Haven Restaurants
On our first evening, we walked a short distance from our hotel (The Study at Yale) to Tarry Lodge, a delicious Italian restaurant. It was the tail end of restaurant week, so I ordered off the special menu and got an appetizer (arancini), entree (cavatelli with hot sausage and rapini), and dessert (olive oil flavor soft serve).
The food was all fantastic, especially the entree, which is also offered on the regular menu. I returned to Tarry Lodge several months later with my family, and the kids loved the pizza. It’s definitely a family-friendly restaurant, and we all loved our meals.
The next morning, we walked over to the Omni New Haven Hotel. Guests of hotel, as well as the general public, can enjoy breakfast at John Davenport’s, which is located on the 19th floor of the hotel.
In addition to gorgeous views of the city, John Davenport’s offers a full breakfast buffet as well as a regular menu. I had the buffet, and especially enjoyed all of the spreads, jams, and fresh breads that are offered.
It’s a huge buffet, so I wouldn’t have it daily. However, it’s nice for one day of your trip. You’ll probably be so full that you won’t need to eat much for lunch.
The market has several locations that are open on different days, and the Wooster Square location is open on Saturday mornings on a seasonal basis. There are numerous vendors located there, with such diverse offerings as cheese, crepes, vegetables, and knife sharpening.
Even if you don’t have access to a kitchen in your hotel room during your vacation, I’d definitely recommend visiting the farmer’s market. It’s a great place to grab snacks during your vacation.
Our next stop was the famed Frank Pepe Pizzeria. Founded in 1925 by Frank Pepe, it’s one of the most popular pizzerias in America.
Lines can get long throughout the day, so arrive early to minimize your wait. Because of its popularity, Frank Pepe Pizzeria has expanded in recent years to include locations beyond New Haven. But I’d still recommend visiting the original location in New Haven.
If you aren’t familiar with New Haven pizza, it’s something you’ll want to experience. It’s a Neapolitan style, thin-crust pizza, and is also called apizza.
While all of the pizza at Frank Pepe is delicious, the white clam pizza is one of their specialties and my personal favorite. It’s so unique and so delicious. If you only visit one restaurant in New Haven, definitely go to Frank Pepe.
A few doors down from Frank Pepe is Abate Restaurant, which offers pizza, pasta, salads, desserts, and more. We had an absolutely delicious salad, as well as the pasta pictured above.
This casual restaurant feels like a grandma’s home – it’s warm and inviting inside. I would probably stick with pasta here. Although I didn’t try the pizza, I’d probably go to one of the more popular pizza places to try apizza.
Between Pepe’s and Abate’s is Libby’s Pastry Shop, a traditional Italian pastry store. Their cases are filled with scrumptious Italian pastry specialties, but since we weren’t too hungry, we opted for a squeeze cup of Italian Ice. It was the perfect way to cleanse our palates during the food tour.
If you are visiting the area for dinner, I’d recommend getting dinner at Pepe’s or Abate’s, and then heading to Libby’s for a little dessert. You can always get something to go if you aren’t hungry after dinner.
Our final stop on the tour was G Cafe Bakery New Haven, which offers sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods, fresh breads, and coffee drinks. Full from all of the food I’d already consumed on the walking tour, I did try a few bites of bread and cookies.
The bread is fresh and delicious, while the baked goods are rich but not overly sweet. It would be a great stop for a quick breakfast, lunch, or treat. This is another place where you can get some snacks/treats for your vacation.
Dinner on my last evening in New Haven was at Heirloom, the restaurant located in the Study at Yale. Heirloom, which probably isn’t entirely kid-friendly, describes their cuisine as farm and coastal cooking. We did, however take our kids there during our family trip and they were able to find some great options.
Their menu is loaded with a variety of entrees that I wanted to try, but I opted for the New Haven White Clam Risotto, pictured above. The risotto was perfectly cooked, and the clams added a salty, rich flavor.
Before heading home on Amtrak, we stopped at Claire’s Corner Copia. Claire’s, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, offers gourmet, vegetarian food made with fresh, natural ingredients. Claire’s is located right by the New Haven Green.
My breakfast, the Seasonal Goodness Sandwich, was one of the most delicious breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had. The restaurant has a wonderful, warm feeling of community, which perfectly complements the healthy food. I would definitely recommend visiting there during your stay.
On our second visit to New Haven, we decided to eat at Modern Apizza. It also offers New Haven style pizza and is extremely popular.
We loved the pizza here too. While it was similar to Frank Pepe, it was also a bit different. It’s also a very busy restaurant, so it’s a good idea to arrive in an off-peak time.
During our family trip to New Haven, we dined at Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro. We loved it, and even the kids found food they enjoyed, despite the more complex items on the menu.
Unfortunately, that restaurant has since closed. Thankfully, the same owners have reimagined it into a new restaurant – Olmo.
I haven’t been there, but I’d definitely want to check it out when I’m back in the area. Caseus was so delicious that I’m sure Olmo is equally as good.
There are other delicious New Haven restaurants that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to check out. These include Kitchen Zinc from chef Denise Appel. This restaurant offers salads and a variety of pizzas.
There’s also Louis’ Lunch, an icon that is known for being the birthplace of the hamburger. Louis’ Lunch is a cash-only establishment, and they have a small menu, so keep that in mind before you visit. As you’d expect, it can get busy.
Note that the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is currently closed for renovation. When the museum reopens (date still TBD), it will include much more exhibit space.
The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is located on the Yale campus. Admission fees are charged, but they are reasonable with a children’s rate for those under 18 and/or with college ID. The museum offers a variety of exhibits that are fantastic for children, and there are lots of interactive areas as well. Guided tours are offered on the weekends. It’s definitely a must-visit for families visiting the New Haven area.
Little ones will especially enjoy the Great Hall of Dinosaurs, pictured above. This exhibit features a number of dinosaur fossils and is the centerpiece of the museum. My kids are a little older than the usual dinosaur fan age, and they still really enjoyed the museum, however.
The Yale University Art Gallery, located just steps away from the Study at Yale boutique hotel, offers free admission and is open to the public. The museum boasts a large collection of various art collections – from modern art to coins and medals.
It’s absolutely worth a visit – even for families with children. Since it’s free, you can visit several times over your weekend, and can always leave if you find that your kids are bored.
I was surprised at how much time my own kids wanted to spend in the Yale University Art Museum. There really is so much beautiful artwork there – especially for a free museum!
Other popular things to do in New Haven include the Yale Center for British Art, East Rock Park, Lighthouse Point Park, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (where you’ll find a copy of the Gutenberg Bible), and Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop (located in nearby Hamden, CT). Depending on the ages of your kids and what they are interested in, some of these things may not be appropriate to visit.
Where to Stay in New Haven
During my two visits to New Haven, we stayed at the Study at Yale boutique hotel, located on historic Chapel Street. This quaint city hotel offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and a central location. I found the hotel to be so cozy and comfortable, and I really enjoyed staying on Chapel Street.
If you are visiting New Haven during a busy time for Yale University, like parents’ weekend or graduation, you’ll want to make your reservation well in advance. I’ve heard that they book up early for these busy times.
Another popular hotel in the area is the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale. I stayed there once for a wedding and really enjoyed my stay. It’s located a few blocks from the New Haven Green.
I also had the opportunity to enjoy brunch there during my press trip to New Haven. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, you may consider dining there. The Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale is also located near the many things to do in New Haven, so you’ll be able to walk to most attractions.
Have you ever been to New Haven? Where have you visited while you were there?