From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The home of Yale University and a whole host of other exciting things to see, do, and experience, New Haven, Connecticut offers an incredible opportunity for exploration. Here’s where to start!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Although it’s perhaps best known for its urban attractions, New Haven is also close by to a wide range of state and national parks and preserves just perfect for exploring. Here are some of the best public green spaces in and around New Haven, CT.
Small but mighty, Farm River State Park encompasses a swath of 62 acres of Connecticut countryside, located along the western shore of the Farm River estuary. Along with offering access to the water for activities like fishing, canoeing and kayaking, this park also features hiking and biking trails, prime bird-watching real estate, and simply a lovely place to relax in nature.
At just over 300 acres, Quinnipiac River State Park isn’t the biggest one in the country, either… but it’s got plenty of worthy attractions to visit. Separated out into four sections, this green space preserves a combined total of six miles of the river and hundreds of acres of floodplains, and is well-loved as a hiking, canoeing, fishing, and hunting destination.
Craving a beach day? Silver Sands State Park is located just 20 minutes southwest of downtown New Haven, and yet, you’ll feel like you’re much further away from the hustle and bustle when you sit back and relax along sandy seashores under the presence of vocal shore birds. Collect some shells or simply soak up the sun — there’s no way to go wrong when you’re in such a beautiful place.
Named for the hunched, two-mile stretch of mountaintop that does indeed look like Hercules lay down for a nap, Sleeping Giant State Park is a unique natural preserve located near the community of Hamden, Connecticut. Along with beautiful views and hiking trails, this day-use facility offers a lookout tower to help you get an even better vantage, as well as plenty of prime picnicking locations.
Offering views of both New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound, the top of West Rock is a pretty awe-inspiring place to be — and to get there, you have to venture first to West Rock Ridge State Park. Along with hiking (to the summit and otherwise), this 1,600+ acre park is known by locals as a place to go fishing, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, picnicking, and more.
Along with its namesake brook, Wharton Brook State Park preserves a 5-acre pond as well as more than 90 acres of the countryside along the shores of these waters. With wooded lands as well as sandy knolls and idyllic views of the water, this state park offers an opportunity to retreat into nature without having to get very deep into the woods at all.
Good news: you don’t have to fly out to the Colorado Rockies to find some incredible and worthy hiking adventures! From easy ambles more challenging treks, here are some of the best hiking trails available in and around New Haven.
Relatively easy, but by no means boring, Long Wharf Trail is actually a pretty short hiking path: just 1.6 miles altogether, and seeing less than 20 feet in elevation gain altogether. That said, this unique stretch of urban waterside is well known for its beauty and is easily accessible from downtown New Haven in no time. Suitable for running as well as more relaxed nature walks, this is the perfect opportunity to get outside and get some exercise, even on short notice.
One of the most popular hikes tucked inside West Rock Ridge State Park, Judges Cave is short and, yes, in some spots, steep — but seeing less than 400 feet in elevation gain altogether, as it does, it’s achievable for a wide range of adventurers. This trail, as its name suggests, offers an intriguing look at a natural Connecticut cave, and is a great option for those hiking with children or well-behaved, leashed dogs.
A great way to get a general overview of East Rock Park, East Rock Loop Trail is a 2.2-mile loop that sees just over 380 feet in cumulative elevation change along the way. Thanks to the short climb to the ridge at the top, this trail offers stunning views of the surrounding communities, and the trail is also used by mountain bikers as well as hikers, so be sure to make way when they come zipping through!
If you’re looking for a longer and more challenging option inside East Rock Park, East Rock 4 Peaks might just be the perfect trail for you. Just shy of five miles altogether and seeing a little bit less than 700 feet in elevation gain, this is a longer and more strenuous hike that’ll put you through your paces and work up your appetite. (Stay tuned for how to take care of that problem in our next section!)
One of the best loved trails inside West Rock Ridge State Park, Regicides Trail doesn’t actually involve murdering any kings. That said, it isn’t an easy trail, to be sure; at almost seven miles of combined length and 1,000 feet in elevation change, some of which takes place in steep ascents or descents, this is a great trail for those in fairly decent shape and hikers who are after getting stunning views, even if it means working for them. (We promise you’ll be glad you did.)
Getting hungry? Not surprising, given all the cool stuff to see and do in New Haven — but the good news is, there are plenty of wonderful eateries to choose from, no matter what you’re in the mood for.
If you’re in the mood for Italian and you find yourself in New Haven, you have a plethora of delicious options to choose from — but you absolutely can’t go wrong with Brazi’s Italian Restaurant. Known as a community gathering place and one of the best dining spots in town since 1993, this eatery has earned its reputation for excellence, and offers a variety of dining room options, whether you’re in the mood for a bar feel or a more formal setting.
“Not a vegan, but the food is phenomenal.” So reads one of the many rave reviews for Ninth Square Market Too Carribean Style, which offers spicy and exotic plant-based meals. Everything on the menu is vegan, so vegetarians have plenty of options too… and again, the food is good enough that even your carnivore friends will be coming back for more. Fried plantains? Black beans and rice? How can you go wrong?
A laid back Mexican restaurant serving favorites from burritos to Navajo fry breads, Geronimo offers porch seating as well as a cozy but classy indoor dining location. Along with the delightful range of eats to choose from, this spot is also renowned for its tequila list (and general bar options). By the way, you’ll want to plan on ordering dessert — where else can you get a tequila lime tart or churros filled with nutella?
Sometimes, nothing but Indian food will satisfy your cravings… and if you’re looking for all your favorite spicy and warming favorites served up in a hip and modern environment, you’re looking for House of Naan Indian Kitchen and Bar. Wash down elevated and refined versions of dishes like chicken tikka and saag vindaloo with handcrafted cocktails, and be sure to save room for some delicious naan on the side!
If you’re looking for the best Asian restaurant in New Haven — well, you have plenty of options to choose from. But as far as sushi and Japanese fare is concerned, it’s hard to do better than Miso, which has long been known locally for its fresh cuts of delicious fish as well as hot dishes ranging from noodles to teriyaki, tempura, katsu and so much more.
From historical points of interest to natural history museums, nightlife, and more, here are our best picks for those looking for fun things to do in New Haven — this weekend or whenever the urge strikes.
There are so many entertaining and edifying things to check out for young explorers and their parents in New Haven! Here are some of our favorite to-dos that can easily be a family affair.
One of the coolest parts about sharing a town with one of the most prestigious universities in the world is that, well, colleges have lots of cool stuff — especially well-known and well-funded ones. The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is one of the best science museums in the entire northeast, and it’s also got plenty of programming and events set up which are designed specifically to get young ones interested in what’s going on. You can even organize a birthday party here!
If you and your kids are looking for something more physically stimulating than mentally stimulating, check out New Haven’s It Adventure Ropes Course. Entirely indoors so you can enjoy and challenge yourself no matter the time of year, this is actually the largest indoor ropes course of its type in the world, and there are adventurous options available even for young children to try out.
You probably have heaps of things you want to get to during the daytime… but what about after night falls? Fortunately, there are plenty of worthy after-hours options in New Haven to consider. Here are a few.
After a classic nightlife experience? Ordinary is a luxurious cocktail bar that will make you feel as if you’ve been time-transported back to prohibition days and have found the very best speakeasy in town. Along with its ornate decor and romantic ambiance, this place also serves a mean cocktail… which is, after all, the whole point. (Did we mention it’s also the oldest tavern in New Haven?)
If you’re looking for things for couples to do in New Haven — or anywhere, for that matter — movie night is probably close to the top of the list. But you can do better than the big box chain theater that looks the same in every single town. Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas offers an option with some character… not to mention an expanded snack bar that also offers beer and wine. Cheers to that!
It’s easy to spend a lot of money getting to know New Haven… but you don’t have to! Here are some of our favorite affordable options for getting out on the town while keeping your wallet nice and thick. (In fact, in many cases, the to-dos are downright free!)
One of the best-known and most expansive art galleries this side of the Mississippi, the Yale University Art Gallery displays more than 300,000 objects, including both permanent and rotating collections. Better yet, this world-class art experience is open and available to the public — 100% free of charge. (Yes, you read that right!)
Bookworms and those who are less easily excited by all things literary will both find themselves stunned by the one-of-a-kind collection inside the Beinecke Rare Book Library, which includes both permanent and temporary collections and exhibits as well as scheduled programming for education and entertainment. Although it’s not always open to the public, when it is, you can get in free!
Along with the state parks and other greenspaces outlined above, New Haven is lucky to offer a range of other outdoor areas worth checking out, such as the esteemed Lighthouse Point Park, which offers beautiful seaside views as well as a brooding historic lighthouse perfect for a photo opp, or Armistad Park, which is known for its bronze sculpture memorializing the 1839 Armistad Affair, an important early Supreme Court case in the journey to end slavery.
If you’re in need of some R&R, you’re in luck: there are a great many day spas and salons to choose from in New Haven, each of which is ready to set you up with the perfect ‘do or ensure you get the therapeutic massage you need to tackle your day.
Luxurious, yet approachable, and in business since 1984, Rimage Salon offers a wide range of hair, skin, nail, and body treatments for men and women alike, and all services are offered with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Find out what happens when cutting edge style meets the kind of like-family atmosphere you associate with a mom and pop salon. (In short: a great beauty treatment experience.)
Whether you’re after one of many massage modalities available to help you regain your strength, relax your muscles, rest and rejuvenate, or you’re ready to take on other alternative wellness options like acupuncture and reiki, Elm City Wellness is the perfect location to find the services you need offered in a comforting and professional environment. Along with these therapies, this spot also offers its own yoga practice as well as CBD-infused products, skin care, facials, and more.
Getting in shape is its own reward — and not just because of how you’ll look, but because of how you’ll feel. Here are the very best gyms and yoga studios to choose from in New Haven.
District Athletic Club is more than just a gym: it’s a comprehensive fitness community hub that actually houses more than five distinct types of fitness ventures. Whether you’re looking for one-on-one personal training, fun and motivating group classes like spin and barre, or a hybrid of the two, you can find what you’re looking for and meet your goals at this unique fitness facility.
When done best, that’s exactly what yoga offers you: breathing room. And at Breathing Room Yoga, you’ll find many opportunities to get strengthened, centered, and grounded, both on and off your mat, as well as expanding your breath and your consciousness. Along with its regular range of classes, this studio also offers special events and programming as well as teacher training for those who are really ready to take it to the next level.
New Haven is wonderful in its own right… but it’s also close to such a wide array of worthy day trips and weekend getaways! Here are some of our best picks.
Is there really any place on earth quite like New York? We don’t think so, either — and whether you’re traipsing around Manhattan or checking out the (slightly) less beaten pathways in Brooklyn, we know you’ll find an incredible array of things to see, do, eat, experience, and remember for a lifetime.
Mysterious mansions, gorgeous ocean views, and some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever eat: yeah, Newport is pretty great, and certainly well worth the less-than-two-hour drive between these two “new” old cities. Get a slightly different taste of New England history for an afternoon, or make a whole weekend out of it!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in New Haven that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in New Haven? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.