I’ve lived in New Haven for about 2 and a half years now. I remember talking with my sister about moving there and being nervous: I hadn’t really lived in anything approaching an urban area, unless you count Hard Hittin’ New Britain. Which, honestly, you shouldn’t.
When I first came here, it was to save money by living with roommates. And also to avoid drinking and driving because I’d started to acquire a taste for New Haven bars.
Little did I know, two years of bar hoppin’, bike riding, kickball playin’, food eatin’, and blizzard walkin’… this place would start to feel… strangely like home.
So these are the things I absolutely love about New Haven. (If you’re looking for things to do, please check out the New Haven Bucket List.)
You can bike pretty much everywhere.
I love my bike. Sure, it’s old, and the gears sometimes argue with me about whether or not it’s a proper time to shift (they rarely take my side) and I’m about one clever bike thief away from tragedy, but in the meantime…
Whether it’s the local watering hole or the Elm City Co-Op for groceries or East Rock Park to enjoy a gorgeous sunset or Wooster Square to enjoy a slice of New Haven’s finest pizza, you can almost certainly ride your bike there.
And unlike New York City, you won’t spend the entire time cowering in fear of three lanes of insane taxi drivers whose indifference towards your life is only slightly terrifying.
Plus, we have a shocking amount of bike lanes. Heck, they just added one to Elm Street, which is nice, cause I tend to hurtle down that street at alarming speeds. Live a little, eh?
New Haven Cuisine Ain’t Just Pizza
Sure, we’re known for our ultra-thin crust pizza. (And to a lesser extent, the otherworldly mashed potato and bacon pizza at Bar).
But we’ve also got our share of restaurants which run the gamut from local/organic to exotic.
Several restaurants cater to the farm-to-table movement, whether it’s the always delicious (and cheesy) Caseus (pronounced Case-ee-us, believe me, I asked) or the upscale Zinc or the sustainable-seafood-only Miya’s. It’s nice to have options which cater to your ethical and sustainability concerns.
Looking for something a little different? Bentara has some bangin’ Malaysian food and they make it as hot as you want it. Feelin’ Turkish? Check out Istanbul Cafe, which is rumored to have belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Wanna eat with your hands? Lalibela has Ethiopian fare, and even a little piano music.
Of course, we have more Indian and Thai places than you count. And if it’s 2:30 am, you and I both know we’ll be at Mamoun’s, scarfing down grape leaves and falafels with a surprisingly understanding waitstaff. I don’t know how they tolerate it, but good on them.
We Love Our Booze, Too!
You might wonder how a city the size of New Haven can sustain such a catastrophic amount of Irish pubs, but hey here we are. My personal favorite is Liffey’s, and it’s only partially because the bartenders know me and/or have my drink memorized. But Christy’s, Kelly’s, and O’Toole’s are all there for all of your Guinness-related needs.
Love beer? Good, so do we. Prime 16 and Cask Republic remain the quintessential options, and they’re about 200 feet away from each other, so you can really enjoy making some really, really bad choices really quickly. Freedom. It’s glorious, isn’t it? Plus even places like Ordinary, Rudy’s (a personal favorite of mine), Kitchen Zinc, and Kelly’s have great beer selection.
(And if you’re feeling really adventurous, go to Delaney’s across town. Though sadly one of the few places I would probably not ride my bike. Whalley is… an interesting neighborhood.)
Want cocktails? Stop by 116 Crown or Firehouse, depending on how many mortgages you want to take out. Love wine? Barcelona, Pacifico (btw, try their duck quesadillas, and you’re welcome), and Cave A Vin have you covered.
Not to mention the plethora of neighborhood pubs, where everybody would remember your name but they’re mostly just trying to stay upright. Good on them.
But you don’t have to be drunk to have a good time here!
I mean, sure, it helps, but there’s plenty of other options. Like one of about 1200 coffee shops (seriously, how do we keep them all open? Oh, right. Grad students.)
The Yale University Art Gallery is a pretty spectacular collection of both modern and classic American and European art. They have classics like Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh, along with modern pieces like Kandinsky, Pollock, and Lichtenstein.
“Gosh, Josh, that sounds expensive? How much does it cost?” Does nothing sound pretty cheap to you? (Well, except for whoever’s paying for Yale, but eh, fuck them, right?)
Feeling a little more nature-y? Both East Rock and West Rock Parks are great chances to go for a moderate hike and enjoy the sunset from a gorgeous vista or just grill a few hot dogs with your friends. Across town in East Shore, Lighthouse Park provides a free beach and picnic area for residents.
And no, I’ve never seen any syringes there and yes, the water is safe. Geez.
It’s all about Community.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about New Haven, it’s that it’s a small city, and that’s a good thing. When I’m out and about, I’m constantly running into friends and neighbors. When a new place opens, everybody’s talking about it and giving their two cents.
If you’re looking to meet somebody, why not try the local kickball league? Some of the best friends I’ve made so far have been from the field, whether I was attempting to outrun a bunt or just drinking a few beers and hanging out, enjoying the sun and fun at Blake Field. They’re the 400 best friends I never really knew I needed.
There’s constant events to suit any need you have. Luck and Levity often has events and beer tastings. In the Ninth Square, they constantly hold events featuring the local neighborhood and vendors. New Haven Green and Edgerton Park both have constant events during the spring, fall, and summer.
Plus, the city is aggressively pursing urban development, trying to create a sustainable path forward, whether it’s the 100 College St. development or the plans to redevelop the parking lot where the New Haven Coliseum used to be.
But mostly… it’s the people.
At the end of the city, a city is about its people. And New Haven is a city of people like me: people who have come either from other locations in Connecticut as well as transplants from other cities to create this strange patchwork of humanity.
Whether you’re a Townie or a Gownie (Yalie), you make up this city. You contribute to it. You are a patron to its restaurants and bars and arts and events and kickball leagues and everything else.
You make me love this city.
And with any luck, I help you love it a little, too.
(Or at least convince you not to stab me for another week.)