New Haven Travel Information

United States > US City Index > New Haven > History

New Haven and its environs boast Colonial charm, a rich history, and a sophisticated, eclectic mix of arts and entertainment, cultural attractions and gastronomical delights. For a city of its size, New Haven offers some of the most interesting experiences in Connecticut, if not New England.

The first thing most people associate with New Haven is Yale, one of the worlds great universities and alma mater of the last three presidents of the United States (Bush, Clinton and Bush). It has a great presence in the city, and the city of New Haven grew up around the heart of the campus, which is a commanding display of classic colonial and modern gothic architecture. Several world-renowned museums and theatres are located on or near campus, making Yale the cultural bastion for New Haven and all of Connecticut. Although there is much of New Haven that is unrelated to this Ivy League fortress, it is difficult to separate the school from the city. If your time in the New Haven area is limited, a visit to Yale and at least a stroll on campus is a must, and try to squeeze in a visit to the well known a Center for British Art or the Yale University Art Gallery, or a quick peek into any of the libraries: the Sterling Memorial Library, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments. It is an aesthetic treat to visit the campus and an architectural pleasure. Don't miss it.

The Green and Downtown
New Haven was the first planned city in the country, and the New Haven Green was part of the original city plan. The Greens 16 acres are the center of downtown New Haven, as well as bordering the eastern edge of the Yale campus. The Green hosts a variety of local cultural, entertainment and social events during the course of the year. Impressive municipal buildings face the green, as well as three churches: Trinity Episcopal Church, First Congregational Church of Christ (also known locally as the Center Church), and United Congregational Church, all built around 1813, and wonderful examples of Gothic, Federal and Georgian architecture. The New Haven Crypt, a must for history buffs, is located under the Center Church.

The area to the northeast of the green is packed tightly with office building including City Hall, the Hall of Records and the Federal Office Building. City Hall, with its 135-year-old facade, faces the green on Church Street. Next door is the sculptural memorial to the heroes and victims of the Amistad, the countrys only successful slave-led shipboard rebellion, Other buildings of note are the Art Deco SNET (Southern New England Telephone) building on Church and Wall Streets, and the Timothy Bishop House, which is the citys only surviving Federal-style mansion. Around the corner from the Bishop House is where Channel 8 TV has its studio and headquarters, on the corner of State and Elm Streets. The most recent development in the area is the Audubon Arts Center, on Audubon between Whitney and Orange Streets. Here you will find a brick-lined street lined with condominiums, restaurants, stores and the headquarters for the Greater New Haven Arts Council.

To the southeast of the Green is the section of downtown now known as Ninth Square, one of the nine squares that made up New Havens original layout. The area includes sections of Chapel Street, Church Street, George Street and State Street. Although this redeveloping area does not yet have much shopping and dining, some restaurants of note include the Malaysian favorite, Bentara, on Orange Street, and the popular and award winning gay hangout, Gotham Citi Cafe, on Church Street. The New Haven Coliseum, site of numerous sporting events, is close by.

Chapel and College streets bound the south and west sides of the Green, and these two streets are the center of the most vital and lively section of the downtown area. Most of the boutiques and restaurants of note are located in this area, as well as art museums and theatres, all within walking distance of each other. In warm weather, there are street festivals and sidewalk sales; in inclement weather, the numerous bookshops and cafes are cozy places to settle in and read or relax.

Church street runs along the east side of the Green. In its heyday not too long ago, the Church Street South area was the center of shopping in New Haven, with giant Macys and Malleys department stores. Now both buildings stand vacant, and many of the other stores are closed. The Knights of Columbus headquarters, a rather depressing-looking, rust colored, cylindrical building, makes a prominent statement in the Church Street area skyline, jutting into the sky. The most impressive building in this neighborhood is Union Station, opened in 1918. After years of deterioration, it has been restored to its former magnificence. Metro North and Amtrak railroads have depots here, as well as several bus lines.

Long Wharf
The Long Wharf area, on New Haven harbor, is disconnected from the rest of downtown, but nonetheless an integral part of New Haven. There is an industrial area, and a commercial harbor. The Long Wharf Theatre, one of the countrys best-known and most-honored regional theatres, is located here, as is the enormous Sports Haven, offering telecast horse and dog racing. The two main restaurants here are the Rusty Scupper, offering views of Long Island Sound as well as a menu of seafood delights. At Brazis Italian restaurant, near the theatre, patrons can enjoy a meal before or after a show.

Residential neighborhoods
Unfortunately, New Haven was hard hit by the flight to the suburbs that began after World War II, and large parts of the city, especially its residential areas, have been slow to recover and are considered unsafe for outsiders. Even though even New Havens worst neighborhoods are filled with honest, hardworking and friendly people, visitors should use common sense when traveling outside the downtown area. Here is a sampling of New Haven neighborhoods most often frequented by visitors:

East Rock
East Rock looks very similar to the way it did some odd 70 years ago, filled with a variety of homes in different styles and appealing to a variety of income levels. Many Yale graduates, faculty and staff live here, which makes it one of the more safe and stable neighborhoods in New Haven. Residences range from mansions on Whitney Street to multi-family homes on Foster and Nicholl Streets. Nearby East Rock Park offers a fantastic view from its summit.

East Shore
The East Shore neighborhood is probably best known for Lighthouse Park, on the Sound. There is a landmark lighthouse, built in 1840, a beautifully restored carousel, and lovely views. The East Shore neighborhood has a colorful history. On July 5, 1779 the British landed on East Shore, overcame a small, colonial garrison at Black Rock Fort, and marched into New Haven for their one-day occupation of the city. East Shore is home to the Pardee-Morris House, built in 1680 and the survivor of the British Invasion and three centuries of waterfront storms. Another sites worth noting include the Raynham House, built in 1804, and Fort Nathan Hale. Efforts are underway to restore this early-19th-century harbor fortification .

Fair Haven
Fair Haven is another neighborhood on the Sound, and its earliest history is connected to oystering. The first European settlers took up oystering from the native Quinnipiac Indians. Today, because of pollution, oysters harvested here are moved to cleaner waters for several weeks before being served in local restaurants, where they are considered quite safe to eat. Other Fair Haven highlights include the highly regarded New Haven Brewing Company, Fair Haven Woodworks, offering a remarkable collection of hand crafted furniture, and the small Riverside Park along the Quinnipiac River, where some gentrification has begun to occur.

Upper State Street
Upper State Street, running to the northeast of the Green, is one neighborhood that grows more prosperous each year. Over the past two decades, new retail shops, outstanding restaurants, Gennaros Ristorante D'Amalfi, Christopher Martins and J.P Dempseys among them, and professional offices, along with a growing population, have moved into the neighborhood. Coffee shops, pizzerias and cute boutiques are springing up everywhere.

West Hills
The northwest neighborhood of West Hills is mainly comprised of the 625-acre West Rock Ridge State Park, offering beautiful vistas of the city. You can see all of New Haven and, if the air is really clear, all the way to Long Island, 30 miles away across the Sound. West Rock is famous for its Judges Cave, the hideout of three of the men accused of abetting the beheading of King Charles I. There is also a nature center at the park and numerous cemeteries in and around the area.

CityPoint/Oyster Point
Howard Avenue, along the water in Oyster Point, also known as City Point, reminds you of a small fishing village. Many grandiose homes built in the 1880s have been restored to their original beauty. Although there was a period of decay after the neighborhood was cut off from the rest of the city by Interstate 95, this quiet sea-side neighborhood has become one of the more pleasing areas to visit in New Haven. The Inn at Oyster Point is located near the water on one of the quaint streets. At one of the docks at the end of Howard Avenue is the Sage American Bar and Grill, formerly the Chart House, where you can enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the sights and sounds of the harbor. The 90-foot schooner Quinnipiac is docked here.

Prospect Hill
Prospect Hill is the most exclusive and elegant neighborhood in New Haven, close to downtown and home to the Yale Divinity School and the Peabody Museum. The neighborhood, in the northern part of the city, encompassing Science Hill, is also home to several small industries and the Grove Street Cemetery, where tire magnate Charles Goodyear, lexicographer Noah Webster, and inventor Eli Whitney are buried. Mark Twain was to have said that Hillhouse Avenue was the most beautiful street in America, and much of that stately beauty has been preserved, though many of the areas graceful and palatial homes have been acquired by Yale and Albertus Magnus College.

Settlers built homes in Westville, once a separate town to the northwest of downtown, as early as 1640, but it remained fairly underdeveloped until the mid-1800s when it underwent rapid expansion. Westville residents fought long and hard to keep their independence but the town was annexed in 1897 and incorporated into the city in 1923. The Yale Bowl and Connecticut Tennis Center are here, as well as Edgewood Park, a popular spot to shoot hoops, feed the ducks or just hang out and explore the tree lined paths. You might also run into one of the neighborhoods celebrity residents, such as Senator and former vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, or long-time New Haven mayor Richard Lee. Westville boasts wide streets and elegant houses off Yale Avenue, as well as middle class, multi-family homes. There is a bustling retail sector on Whalley Avenue (named for one of the accused regicides who hid out in Judges Cave in East Park), with dozens of antique stores and upscale boutiques, salons and restaurants, making Westville one of the more popular residential neighborhoods in New Haven.

Wooster Square
Wooster Square was named after the New Haven Revolutionary War hero, David Wooster. It was once a neighborhood of elegant brownstones surrounding the square, but many of the houses were razed for factories and tenements for Irish workers in the mid 19th century. In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants replaced the Irish, creating the "Little Italy" we know today, commonly referred to simply as Wooster Street. Wooster Street and Wooster Square engender thoughts of New Havens famous pizzerias, Frank Pepes and Sallys, which vie each year for the title of best-in-the-world pizza. The first pizza in the country was served here, and it is still home to some of the best Italian food around; as such restaurants as Consiglios, Lucibellos, and Tre Scalini. Wooster Street itself is unassuming but, in the summer, the street is alive with festivals and celebrations when locals and everyone else come out to party. It is one of New Havens more lively and colorful neighborhoods.


  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 36° 38° 48° 58° 70° 78° 84° 82° 75° 64° 54° 40°
Avg. Low 18° 20° 28° 37° 46° 56° 61° 60° 54° 42° 34° 24°
Mean 28° 30° 38° 48° 58° 68° 74° 71° 64° 54° 44° 32°
Avg. Precip. 3.8 in 3.4 in 4.2 in 4.6 in 4.6 in 4.2 in 4.2 in 3.9 in 4.0 in 3.9 in 4.4 in 4.2 in