Connecticut is full of many wonderful attractions, but one element we're lacking is a truly great city. The place that arguably comes closest to filling this void is New Haven. It has culture, art, a venerable university, and a diverse population of about 130,000.
All of which are worth a trip, but one of the most important aspects of an outing to a bigger city in search of what you can’t find at home is ... shopping. And in that regard, the Elm City delivers. Here you can stroll through walkable neighborhoods and find numerous independent shops, conveniently grouped together, along with a choice of restaurants and a centrally located park to rest in when you’re done.
New Haven has several shopping districts. On busy Broadway is a concentration of trendy/preppy chain stores and the Yale bookstore. The Arts District around Audubon and Whitney has vintage fashion and housewares in a more relaxed atmosphere. But the area most jam-packed with distinctive boutiques is on and around Chapel Street, entwined with the Yale campus. You can find them all easily just by walking around, but here are some unique spots to look for.
The museum shop of the Yale Center for British Art has shelves full of art books, but also British fiction and poetry. There are posters and postcards featuring the works displayed in the museum, as well as gifts for kids and adults that range from fancy to charming to clever and cute.
Wave Gallery is like an explosion of girliness. There are beautiful glass vases and ring holders, funny cards, hand-made soaps, jewelry, accessories, adorable wooden toys, and even handmade chocolates.
Tracy b has luscious leather bags, Yurway Designs stocks eye-catching, brightly-colored dresses, and Hello Boutique and Idiom sell clothing, jewelry and accessories that are simultaneously artsy and posh.
There are two popular bookstores in the neighborhood. Book Trader has the traditional comfortably shabby feel of a used bookstore, while Atticus is sleeker, selling cards and gifts along with books. Both have well-liked cafés.
New Haven is famous for pizza (or, locally, apizza.) Devotees can spend hours arguing over whether Sally’s or Pepe’s in Little Italy, or Modern in East Rock, is the best. You can diplomatically avoid this conflict and go around the corner to the Bru Room at BAR on Crown Street. It’s a brewery and nightclub, but the best part is the delicious thin-crust pizza topped with cheese, tomato sauce, or both, and whatever else you choose to add.
Another tasty option, especially if you just need a beverage or a light snack, is Woodland Coffee & Tea. Located in Sherman’s Alley, a pleasant little space in-between buildings, Woodland has bright indoor seating and outdoor tables. They serve fresh fruit smoothies and a variety of sandwiches and baked goods.
After all that walking around, head just beyond the shops to the New Haven Green. In size and design it is more like a city park than the small town New England grazing place its name implies. Relax on a bench amidst the bustle and watch people go by. Admire your purchases. Then go home and ponder whether you should go back and get those earrings.
IF YOU GO
1080 Chapel Street
Tues – Sat, 10am – 5pm; Sun, Noon – 5pm
1046 Chapel Street
Mon – Wed, 10am – 7pm; Thurs – Sat 10am – 8pm; Sun, 11am – 5pm
1042 Chapel Street
Mon – Sat, 10am – 6pm; Sun, Noon – 5pm
1130 Chapel Street
Mon – Wed, 10am – 6pm; Thurs, 10am – 8pm; Fri – Sat, 10am – 7pm; Sun, Noon – 5pm
1090 Chapel Street
Mon – Wed, 10:30am – 6pm; Thurs, 10:30am – 7pm; Fri – Sat, 10:30am – 6pm; Sun, Noon – 5pm
1014 Chapel Street
Mon – Sat, 10am – 6pm
1140 Chapel Street
Mon – Fri, 7:30am – 9pm, Sat, 9am – 9pm; Sun, 9am – 7pm
1082 Chapel Street
Sun – Thurs, 7am – 9pm; Fri – Sat 7am – 10pm
254 Crown Street
Lunch Hours: Wed – Fri, 11:30am – 2:30pm; Sat – Sun, 11:30 - Dinner
1044 Chapel Street
Mon – Fri, 7am – 6pm; Sat – Sun, 8am – 6pm
There are parking meters along many streets. For a map of parking lots and garages, see the New Haven Parking Authority website.