Downtown & Yale University
Downtown residents are always near the state’s best restaurants, theater, nightlife, art museums and concert halls, all mingling with traces of a fascinating urban history.
Most of the region’s financial, legal and government offices are located around the busy community Green that city founders laid out in the center of the original nine-square grid.
A walk around the nine squares today takes you past numerous historic buildings converted to condominiums. For example, the old Southern New England Telephone company headquarters is a preserved Art Deco gem, and the former United Illuminating building features a seven-screen cinema on the ground floor with housing above.
Fans of the performing arts find something to enjoy most nights at Woolsey Hall, The Schubert Theater, the Yale Cabaret and the Yale Rep, which regularly premieres new plays that go onto greater fame. The legendary Long Wharf Theatre is moving downtown soon as part of numerous new developments on the way. In the summer, the performing arts happen outdoors during The International Festival of Arts and Ideas and a concert series on the Green.
Downtown’s greatest attraction might be its thriving restaurant scene. A dedicated foodie would never run out of places to try, from the humble birthplace of the hamburger (Louis’ Lunch) to a world-famous destination for vegetarians (Claire’s Corner Copia) to countless fine restaurants getting rave reviews in The New York Times.
Gateway Community College is also downtown, and the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School is moving to a new Cesar Pelli designed building. Other nearby schools include The Educational Center for the Arts and High School In the Community.
The East Rock neighborhood northeast of downtown is named for New Haven’s most recognizable landmark. The summit of East Rock offers a panoramic view of the city and harbor and the best picnicking spot in town.The 425-acre park surrounding East Rock drives much of the neighborhood’s pedestrian and fitness culture. On any given day you’ll find half the population headed to the park for a hike and the other half headed to gourmet grocery stores like Nica’s or Romeo’s.
Along the way, you would see neighbors taking advantage of the bicycling lanes, especially for the easy commute to downtown and Yale University. Lulu’s Coffee House is the starting point for Sunday morning rides for the area’s avid cyclists.
And you would see people taking advantage of roomy front porches on the Victorian and Queen Anne style houses and duplexes in the area. Many of these are occupied by faculty and graduate students from Yale University, which borders the area on the south and west. Along with the public tennis courts at Wilbur Cross High School, tennis and swimming are available at the private New Haven Lawn Club.
The eastern border of East Rock is State Street, which is thriving with professional offices, boutiques and restaurants like Portofinos, Christopher Martin’s, J.P Dempsey’s and Modern Apizza, the neighborhood’s own dark horse favorite in the perennial “best pizza” contest.
Other schools in the neighborhood and nearby include Leila Day Nursery, St Thomas’s Day School, Calvin Hill, Foote School, Worthington Hooker, Wilbur Cross High School and Albertus Magnus College.
Immediately east of downtown, New Haven’s “Little Italy” is anchored by a vibrant park bordered by the mansions owned by ship captains during the city’s shipping era. The Italian residents who made the neighborhood home in the 20th century rallied to save that and other beautiful architecture, including numerous elegant brownstones, from the wrecking ball.
The community activism and neighborliness they brought to the area survives today. Residents organize an annual festival to celebrate the blossoming of the park’s cherry trees. Artists in the neighborhood use coffee shops like Fuel as a gathering spot. A lively farmer’s market sets up on Saturdays during the growing season. And this may be the most dog-friendly neighborhood in the city, right down to the doggie drinking fountain in the park.
But Wooster Square is best known for its food, specifically for Sally’s and Pepe’s which battle every evening in a decades-long competition for the title of the country’s best pizza. (Legend has it that Frank Pepe introduced the “tomato pie” to America at his original brick oven still operating on Wooster Street.) The city’s best-known Italian restaurants are also here, and no one ever heads home without a stop for pastries at either Libby’s or Lucibello’s.
Nearby schools include Conte Magnet School, High School in the Community and Elm City College Prep-Elementary.
Westville is an area west of Downtown New Haven, bordering the upscale suburban town of Woodbridge. It is one of New Haven’s “suburbs in the city”.
Originally settled as a farming village, it eventually grew to include wide, elm-shaded streets lined with gracious homes that appeal to today’s active families.
The neighborhood is still anchored by a village center of boutiques, antique stores, restaurants and take-outs. On week-ends, lines form for brunch at Lena’s and Bella’s Cafe. Also many artists have studios and galleries in existing homes and storefronts in the neighborhood. The Kehler-Liddell Gallery doubles as a meeting space for neighborhood groups, including organizers of the annual village Art Walk.
Lower Westville is also the destination for the sports enthusiast. It is the home to Yale University’s sports facilities and athletic fields. The recently restored historic
Yale Bowl and adjacent lots for tailgating are a perfect venue for enjoying a crisp autumn afternoon of football. It is probably one of the grandest places in the country to see a college football game and to witness the storied rivalry of the Yale-Harvard game known only as “The Game”. The Yale Baseball stadium generates excitement in the summer months as it doubles as the Cutters, a minor league baseball team’s home stadium. In late August, just before the US Open Tennis Tournament in New York, New Haven host the Pilot Pen, a men’s and women’s tennis tournament at the Yale Tennis Center. It is a festive event drawing tennis enthusiasts from all over with its international draw of top-ranked players in a wonderful intimate setting. The food court and boutiques are a draw as well! The tournament is part of the US Open Tennis Series. Other times of the season, the outdoor tennis courts, plus the recently enlarged indoor facilities at Culman Tennis Center, are open to the public. If hiking is your “thing”, then trek to the top of West Rock Park (about 40 minutes from Lena’s to the summit) and be rewarded with spectacular views of the city and harbor.
Nearby schools include St. Aedan, Edgewood Magnet, Davis, Beecher, Hopkins and Southern Connecticut State University. Hopkins is a widely respected and well known private day school that is one of the oldest private secondary schools in the country. It offers a broad and rigorous academic curriculum for grades 7 through 12.