Sometimes we just need a break from the hustle and bustle. Few people in New York City own a car, so that much needed break can be a bit tricky. A quick southern New England weekend getaway is easily within reach. New Haven, Ct., combines New England charm and history with the activity and conveniences of a small city.
Saturday morning, hop on a Metro-North train out of Grand Central Station to New Haven’s Union Station. Trains run almost hourly on the weekends. Choose “New Haven” as your destination when looking up schedules. When you arrive about an hour and 40 minutes later at Union Station, be sure to look up and around in the main hall to view the gorgeous 1920s limestone walls, chandeliers and ornate ceiling work. Hop back on a train to Grand Central Sunday afternoon and in less than two hours you’ll be back in Manhattan in time for dinner.
Outside the station, you’ll see a taxi stand. Hop in the next available cab and drop your bags at your hotel. In general, downtown New Haven is pretty walkable depending upon your fitness level. If necessary, there are cabs and buses available.
After you’ve dropped your bags at the hotel, it’s time to grab some lunch. Head on over to Louis’ Lunch where you’ll enjoy an awesome hamburger and a little bit of history. The vertical grills in this tiny burger joint are from 1898 and lore says Louis’ is where the hamburger was born. Do not ask for ketchup. Trust me. Take a look here to learn some of the ordering lingo and don’t forget to order a Foxon Park White Birch Beer -- bottled just down the road.
New Haven was designed in a grid -- squares. (Stop by the New Haven Green at some point to get a real feel for early American urban planning.) Walk over to the Ninth Square area of town for dinner at family-owned and run Skappo Italian Wine Bar. The food and wine are fantastic, and the family that runs the place is tons of fun. If you’re lucky, one of the sons will come out into the dining room with his guitar and serenade the room in Italian. “Mama” may even join him.
Brunch isn’t as popular as it is in New York, but there are still some great finds. Wake up and head on over to Heirloom for a decadent brunch of Bananas Foster French Toast.
No trip to New Haven is complete without grabbing some pizza -- Apizza as it’s called there. New Haven style is unique -- a very thin crust brick-oven pie and almost burnt in areas. My favorite is Modern Apizza, but to save some travel time, head on over to Wooster Street -- New Haven’s Little Italy. Get in line at either Sally’s or Pepe’s and get ready to have the best pizza of your life. (No slices here, only full pies.) Save some room so you can stroll down the block for a cannoli or lemon Italian ice at Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop. If it’s Cherry Blossom Festival season, don’t miss out on a walk through Wooster Square Park around the corner.
New Haven is the home of Yale University, and the school’s beautiful Collegiate Gothic buildings make up the heart of downtown. Some of the courtyards are open to the public and enhance a leisurely stroll around the city. Meander the south campus as you head to one or two of the university’s stellar museums. The Yale University Art Gallery was recently renovated and expanded. The Modernist building was designed in 1953 by renowned architect, Louis Khan and houses more than 4,000 works including those by Van Gogh, Duchamp, Renoir, Hopper and many others. The museum has extensive permanent collections of African Art, American Decorative Art, Asian Art, Coins and Medals, European Art and more. The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History allows an opportunity to see some dinosaurs without the crowds of the Natural History Museum in Manhattan! Explore the temporary exhibits or view the permanent halls including those focused on: Native American Cultures; Mammalian Evolution; Ancient Egypt; Minerals, Earth and Space.
If live art is more your thing, you have a number of options. See a play at one of two award-winning regional theatres in town: Long Wharf Theatre or Yale Repertory Theatre. Head back to the Ninth Square and hear some live music at Café Nine.
Hanging out in a cemetery may sound creepy, but they can teach you a lot about a town’s history. Head over to the historic Grove Street Cemetery where a docent will lead you on a free tour. Check the schedule for tour times. It was the first chartered burial ground in the country so you’ll hear stories of some pretty important historical figures. (Remember, this is New England!)
There are a ton of nightlife options lining Crown Street. However, I recommend stopping in somewhere with a bit more local character. Grab a drink at Firehouse 12 -- an old firehouse converted into a bar, recording studio and performance space. The Anchor has been in New Haven since the 1940s and feels a bit like the The Regal Beagle from “Three’s Company.” If beer and Belgian Frites are to your liking, pop into Rudy’s in its new location.