Tucked away on the northern shores of Long Island Sound, halfway between New York and Boston, the lively city of New Haven is often overlooked by its seemingly more glamorous (and bigger) neighbours. Granted, it’s best known for world-renown Yale University, along with the gothic architecture and storied history that entails.
But New Haven more than stands out on its own right, and in the last decade, the quintessentially New England town is experiencing an absolute renaissance-in dining, the arts, business development, you name it. It’s at the same time both a booming urban powerhouse and an intimate college town, making it a perfect destination to see the best of what New England has to offer.
And everything is steeped in history-from the 370-year-old town square, the Green, to Connecticut Hall, the birthplace of Yale University, the third oldest college in the country and a member of the Ivy League. But there’s plenty to explore beyond the city center, including delightful ethnic neigborhoods like Little Italy (hands down the home of the best pizza you can get in the states) and memorable sights along the historic Connecticut coast.
Before the arrival of the first Dutch explorers, New Haven was home to a peaceful fishing tribe, the Quinnipiacs. Then, in 1638, a group of Puritans left the Massachusetts Bay Colony for New Haven because, get this, they thought the strict John Winthrop and his band of party-poopers in Boston were too loose. The new town, centered around the Green and the three original churches (which are still around) quickly prospered, and became one of the earliest planned communities in the country.
In the 19th century, with the invention of the cotton gin and revolver by hometown heroes Eli Whitney and Samuel Colt, New Haven took a prominent role in the Industrial Revolution. But an exodus of intellectuals and the collapse of the city’s manufacturing after World War II led to a period of high crime and poverty. In the last decade, however, New Haven has completely turned around with the help of Yale University, becoming once again a star of New England.
With New Haven Harbor on one side, and downtown sandwiched between two rock bluffs, the city feels small and manageable, though the greater metropolitan does give outer neighbourhoods a “suburban” feel. New Haven Green is the heart of the city, with Yale University taking up quite a bit of downtown. Quaint neighbourhoods within walking distance include Dixwell, Edgewood, East Rock, and Long Wharf.
The train and bus stations (located in the same terminal) are a twenty-minute walk from downtown. Trees line every street, which are laid in a very sensible grid pattern, giving the town the nickname of “The Elm City”.
Guide to New Haven: