Frank Pepe's pizza, New Haven. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in New Haven, Conn.

BY Michele Herrmann | June 6, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” New Haven? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in New Haven, Connecticut?”

If you’ve heard anything about Connecticut, the story probably entailed some mix of small towns, the lack of things to do and/or one-percenters. To that we say: New Haven. It’s home to Yale University, but calling it a college town doesn’t work. A weaker city would wilt in the shadow of New York, just 80 miles south. But the city’s differences from its larger neighbors like New York and Boston set it apart in a good way. New Haven’s museums, eateries and parks lack the frenzy of bigger cities, but you’ll still find crowds — like when you’re elbowing your way into Frank Pepe’s or a show at Toad’s Place — fitting of the culinary and cultural hub of Connecticut. See what we mean in this visitor’s guide to New Haven.

You're Here For New Haven-Style Pizza 

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
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New Haven, Connecticut - April 16,2016: The Famous Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana Near Yale University. The shop serving a menu of coal-fired pies since 1925. Photo via Shutterstock.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

157 Wooster St, New Haven, CT, USA

Neapolitan immigrants who settled in New Haven made pizza part of the city’s identity. The local style revolves around a thin and chewy crust charred in coal-fired ovens. It is referred to as apizza, and pronounced “ah-beetz,” in acknowledgment of the dialect of those who brought this delicacy to this region. 

Since 1925, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, also known as Pepe’s, has been the forerunner of this culinary legacy. This institution along Wooster Street, the center of New Haven’s Little Italy, always has a line waiting outside for its pizzas, including their Original Tomato Pie and White Clam Pie.

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Sally’s Apizza in New Haven. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Sally’s Apizza in New Haven. Photo via Shutterstock.

Sally’s Apizza

237 Wooster St, New Haven, CT, USA

New Haven residents often pit Pepe’s against Sally’s Apizza, also on Wooster Street, in the eternal competition for the city’s best pizza. Sally’s was started by Pepe’s nephew, Salvatore Consiglio, who opened the pizzeria in 1938 after having worked for his uncle.

Other top-ranking New Haven pizzerias include Modern Apizza, Frisco’s Pizza, Ernie’s Pizzeria and Abate Apizza & Seafood Restaurant

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Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven
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Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven

Claire’s Corner Copia

1000 Chapel St, New Haven, CT, USA

While their Lithuanian coffee cake is a great dessert, start off at this beloved vegetarian eatery with one of their burritos or their eggplant parmesan over pasta marinara. Opened in 1975, chef and owner Claire Criscuolo still brings her love of health-minded cooking to the restaurant’s day-to-day operations. 

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Tavern on State in New Haven.
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Tavern on State in New Haven.

Tavern on State

969 State St, New Haven, CT, USA

If you see grilled octopus with chile butter, crispy fingerlings and pickled peppers on the menu, order it.  A New American restaurant within the East Rock neighborhood, Tavern on State is also noted for its craft cocktails and upscale burgers made from beef ground at their butcher shop next door. 

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Olea in New Haven
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Olea in New Haven

Olea

39 High St, New Haven, CT, USA

The slow-cooked conchillo (a flavorful roasted boneless suckling pig) and oxtail beef and wild mushroom croquettes have gotten rave reviews at this modern Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant. Olea also schedules a five-course tasting menu Tuesday through Thursday.  

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What to Do

New Haven - OCTOBER 30: Yale University Art Gallery on October 30, 2015. Yale University Art Gallery is the oldest university art museum in the western hemisphere
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New Haven - OCTOBER 30: Yale University Art Gallery on October 30, 2015. Yale University Art Gallery is the oldest university art museum in the western hemisphere

Yale University Art Gallery

1111 Chapel St, New Haven, CT, USA

This gallery is the oldest university art gallery in the United States, with a collection spanning nearly 300,000 objects. There’s European, Asian, Indo-Pacific and African art as well as prints, drawings, photography and currencies. The gallery also holds tours and educational programming. If British art is your thing, this art center at 1080 Chapel St. is the largest museum outside of the United Kingdom devoted to British art. Both the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery have free admission.

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Lighthouse Point Park
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The New Haven Lighthouse, at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo via Shutterstock.

Lighthouse Point Park

2 Lighthouse Road, New Haven, CT, USA

An eye-catching sight at this beachside park along the eastern point of New Haven Harbor is a deactivated lighthouse that makes for a nice photo backdrop. The park is also known for the Lighthouse Park Carousel, an antique ride that is only open at certain times of the year.

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Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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NEW HAVEN, CT, USA - NOVEMBER 4, 2018: View of Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library from Hewitt. Quadrangle at Yale University on November 4, 2018. Photo via Shutterstock.

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

121 Wall St, New Haven, CT, USA

If you’re not into books, just go on to the next item on the list. If you’re still with us, here’s something fun for us nerds. Yale has a number of buildings open to the public, and, past its windowless facade, this archival library is a must-see. Non-students can visit the Exhibition Hall to view special and permanent showings involving topics related to the written word, creativity or art. Copies of the Gutenberg Bible and John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” are on view.

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East Rock Park
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Aerial view over New Haven Connecticut from East Rock Park. Houses and churches are nestled between the dense green trees. Photo via Shutterstock.

East Rock Park

East Rock Park, Cold Spring St, New Haven, CT, USA

This city park gets its name from its 365-foot-high mountainous ridge. You can access its summit by foot or in a vehicle. The trip up offers great lookout views of downtown New Haven, New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound. East Rock Park also has over 10 miles of trails and picnic areas and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

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Shubert Theatre
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Schubert Thearter in New Haven

Shubert Theatre

247 College St, New Haven, CT, USA

Opened in 1914, this world-class performing arts center puts on musical, theatrical and dance performances. Shubert Theatre’s history includes many pre-Broadway premieres such as what would go on to become “Oklahoma!” Its stage has been graced by many Hollywood and theater icons, some of whom got their breaks here. 

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Where to Go Out

Toad’s Place
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Toad’s Place in New Haven.

Toad’s Place

300 York St, New Haven, CT, USA

First opened in 1975, Toad’s is a legendary music venue just next to the Yale campus that hosts live music of all genres. Legendary artists like the Stones, U2 and Bob Dylan have played in the 750-person main room. 

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Elm City Social
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Elm City Social in New Haven.

Elm City Social

266 College St, New Haven, CT, USA

This gastropub is known for its New American menu, but its cocktail, beer and wine lists are reason enough to spend an evening here. Among their inventive house cocktails is the Rubber Ducky. It makes for a fun order not only because of its citra-hop-infused gin and grapefruit, but because of  the miniature version of the bathtime toy that comes with it.

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College Street Music Hall
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College Street Music Hall in New Haven.

College Street Music Hall

238 College St, New Haven, CT, USA

Another one of New Haven’s famed music venues is College Street Music Hall, a circa-1926 palace theater that now hosts touring artists, headliners and up-and-comers across all genres.

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Cafe Nine
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Cafe Nine in New Haven.

Cafe Nine

250 State St, New Haven, CT, USA

Cafe Nine is one of those true hidden gems if you’re into live music and comedy. The vibe is less like a small entertainment venue and more like someone’s basement. Still, it’s known for a crowd that’s just as rocking as the acts on stage. 

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Where to Stay

The Graduate New Haven
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The Graduate New Haven

The Graduate New Haven

1151 Chapel St, New Haven, CT, USA

Across the street from the Yale School of Art, this collegiate-themed hotel on Chapel Street has touches of the Ivy League’s school colors. Its Old Heidelberg bar and restaurant is a nod to the famous watering hole of the same name that closed in 1991 after being open for 234 years.

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The Study at Yale
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The Study at Yale

The Study at Yale

1157 Chapel St, New Haven, CT, USA

This downtown hotel has a studious environment, with a floor-to-ceiling bookcase in its Living Room lobby area and a gallery space with rotating art by Yale students. Their Heirloom restaurant gets high marks for its farm and coastal cuisine. 

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The Blake Hotel
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The Blake Hotel in New Haven.

The Blake Hotel

9 High St, New Haven, CT, USA

Named after Alice Blake, Yale Law School’s first female graduate, this boutique hotel on High Street named its New England bistro, Hamilton Park, after one of New Haven’s public green spaces. There’s also a seasonally open rooftop bar.  

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