- 1 The Best Secret Places in New Haven, Connecticut
- 1.1 Explore the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
- 1.2 Learn about dinosaurs at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
- 1.3 Check out the art on Chapel Street
- 1.4 Try delicious apizza
- 1.5 Taste the first hamburger at Louis’ Lunch
- 1.6 Sleep inside a Brutalist building designed by Marcel Breuer
- 1.7 Rock out at Toad’s Place
- 1.8 Hike at East Rock Park
- 1.9 Ride on the Lighthouse Point Carousel
- 1.10 Enjoy a performance at one of the city’s world-class theaters
- 1.11 Visit the PEZ Visitor’s Center
- 1.12 Attend an authentic Compline Mass
- 1.13 Walk around Grove Street Cemetery
- 1.14 Learn at the Eli Whitney Museum
- 1.15 Visit the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments
- 1.16 Enjoy the New Haven Symphony Orchestra
- 1.17 Climb the world’s largest indoor ropes course at It Adventure Ropes Course
This post may contain affiliate links! I will receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase something recommended here.
Here in the Elm City, you can find a thriving arts scene with many parks, galleries, and theaters. And, New Haven is home to Yale University, one of the most prestigious universities in the world with an impressive collection of museums.
There are many great places to visit in New Haven, but there are some really cool secret places in New Haven that not many know about.
From fabulous restaurants, and unique music venues, to world-class art, these are some of my favorite hidden gems in New Haven that will help you find tons of new places to explore.
The Best Secret Places in New Haven, Connecticut
Explore the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library houses one of the world’s most significant collections of rare books and manuscripts, with over one million total volumes.
The library has acquired some of the very first editions of the United States Declaration of Independence, John James Audubon’s Birds of America, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland since its creation in 1963.
Instead of windows, opaque blocks of Vermont marble act as windows in the construction. Sunlight penetrates through them to reach the literary archives, preventing harm to the priceless materials.
While access to the prints is restricted to researchers and Yale members, the University library’s initial volumes dating back to 1742 and the Gutenberg Bible are free to the public.
Learn about dinosaurs at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Interested in the evolution of dinosaurs? The Peabody Natural History Museum at Yale University is a fantastic place to visit for any budding paleontologist.
Founded in 1869, the museum has grown to include several world-class collections. One of the most famous is in The Great Hall Of Dinosaurs. It includes many skeletons, including a fully-mounted Brontosaurus skeleton and an age-of-reptiles mural by artist Rudolph “Rudy” Zallinger.
The museum offers guided tours of various exhibits included within your admission ticket on weekends and holidays.
Check out the art on Chapel Street
The Yale Center for British Art is one of the largest collections of British art outside of the United Kingdom. It contains thousands of works by artists from the 14th century to today, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Among the permanent exhibits are works by Americans who resided in the U.K. throughout this era.
While alumnus Paul Mellon donated the permanent collection to Yale in 1966, Louis I. Kahn designed and built the sustainable edifice that houses the University art museum in 1977, as well as the Yale University Art Gallery across the street.
On the other side of Chapel Street, the Yale University Art Gallery preserves more than 300,000 pieces in its collection to protect and showcase all different forms of artwork from any time period. Since its founding in 1832, it’s known as the oldest university art museum in the United States. You can visit its collection for free and participate in any of its programs.
Both museums also provide an app that can be used at the museum or at home as a guide to their artworks.
Try delicious apizza
Who would have thought you could find some of the best pizza in the United States right here in New Haven?
Some of the open secret places in New Haven are the apizza restaurants. The city’s pizza scene is thriving, with dozens of shops dedicated to the apizza style.
The apizza style is a New Haven variation of Neapolitan pizza, characterized by a thin, crispy crust and a chewy interior. It’s often compared to New York-style pizza because of its similarity. Still, the origin of the apizza style can be traced back to Italian immigrants who settled in New Haven, Connecticut, during the early 1900s.
Today, several pizzerias in New Haven serve up apizza style, including Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally’s Apizza (both on Wooster Street in the heart of the city’s Little Italy), and Modern Apizza.
Insider Tip: Make sure to buy a bottle of local Foxon Park soda to enjoy with your apizza. The East Haven soda company is famous for its birch beer flavor–you won’t want to miss it!
Taste the first hamburger at Louis’ Lunch
Are you ready for a true New Haven hidden gem? According to the Library of Congress, Louis’ Lunch, which opened in 1895, is credited with inventing the modern-day hamburger.
Burgers are still grilled on the original cast-iron grill from 1898. And you don’t find any interesting toppings here—classic cheese, onions, and tomatoes are the only acceptable options.
Make sure to check them out on Crown Street, right across the street from BAR, one of the best places to visit at night in New Haven.
- 20+ Incredible Things to do in Mystic, Connecticut
- Your Guide to One Day in Mystic, Connecticut
- The 13+ Best Beaches in New London, Connecticut
Sleep inside a Brutalist building designed by Marcel Breuer
Hotel Marcel New Haven, Tapestry Collection by Hilton (Booking | Hotels) is the newest of the secret places in New Haven.
Affectionately known to locals as the “Pirelli Building,” world-renown modernist architect Marcel Breuer designed the building in the Brutalist architectural style in the 1970s.
However, after sitting empty for more than 20 years across from Ikea (which has announced a plan to become “climate positive,”) Hilton has transformed the local landmark into the latest edition of its Tapestry Collection.
The Hotel Marcel offers 165 guest rooms, is fully sustainable, pet-friendly, and offers amenities like a fitness center, a boutique, and parking on-site.
And, it’s within site of two of the other hidden gems in New Haven–the Long Wharf Theatre and the It Adventure Ropes Course at Jordan’s Furniture.
Rock out at Toad’s Place
Toad’s Place has been a popular music venue and nightclub for decades. Opened in 1976, the concert space has hosted performances from famous bands like Billy Joel and U2 to numerous local and regional musicians.
Check out their website to see what kind of event you would like most, and then purchase tickets in person, over the phone, or online through their box office.
Hike at East Rock Park
East Rock Park, with its gorgeous location and varied terrain of forests, cliffs, and rocky boulders, is one of the prettiest hidden gems in New Haven. It’s a short drive from most nearby Connecticut communities and just north of downtown New Haven.
There are more than 10 miles of trails and a range of intriguing outdoor activities available to guests, including rock climbing, hiking, sledding, and ice skating in the winter.
During the spring and summer months, the Pardee Rose Garden within the renovated Pardee Greenhouse is home to more than 50 types of roses in full bloom.
However, many visitors visit this area for hiking. Hike to the Summit at the top of East Rock Park for one of the most fantastic views in the state for a unique vantage point of the surrounding communities.
You can view for miles with a 360-degree vista of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, which are especially beautiful in the fall.
Ride on the Lighthouse Point Carousel
Hidden in Lighthouse Point Park on the Long Island Sound, you’ll find a turn-of-the-20th-century Carousel.
The Lighthouse Point Carousel was created in the folk art style in 1916. After shutting down due to weather damage in the 1970s, the City of New Haven restored the antique Carousel a decade later. It was then added to the National Register of Historic Places.
With murals of the city and 72 repaired carousel horses raised on a 60-foot platform for anyone to ride, it’s a beautiful addition to your New Haven itinerary.
You’ll also find the Five Mile Point Lighthouse within the park, which was completed in 1805 and deactivated in 1877, and the park is home to one of the nicest beaches in New Haven county.
Enjoy a performance at one of the city’s world-class theaters
Did you know that one of the best New Haven hidden gems is its theatre scene? Catching a performance at one of the city’s famous theaters is an excellent indoor activity in New Haven.
New Haven boasts three world-class professional theaters with regular performances, only two hours north of New York City and its famed Broadway Theatre District.
Since its opening in 1914, the historic Shubert Theater has been an important regional theater in the New York City metro area. It hosts traveling productions as well as international ballets and performances.
Yale Rep is the resident professional company of Yale University’s School of Drama. It also won a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. You may find their upcoming production calendar online.
The Long Wharf Theatre presents six plays in its two performance spaces every season. The honorary Tony Award-winning theatre’s schedule is available on its website.
Visit the PEZ Visitor’s Center
PEZ was invented in Vienna, Austria, in the 1920s as an alternative to smoking. It has become one of the most famous candies, with its hundreds of dispensers becoming highly sought-after collector’s pieces.
Fun Fact: PEZ is named after pfefferminz, the German word for peppermint. The first letter P, the middle letter E, and the last letter Z.
The PEZ Visitor Center is located in Orange, Connecticut. Spend the day learning more about the company’s history, seeing renowned PEZ dispensers from the past, and watching the production facilities prepare and package the tablets and tubes.
- The 12+ Best Places to go Apple Picking in Connecticut
- Your Guide to the Best Breweries in Connecticut
- The Best New England Towns in Fall You Need to Visit
- The Best New England Winter Getaways
Attend an authentic Compline Mass
On Sunday nights, you can attend an actual Compline mass at Christ Church near the Shops at Yale throughout the academic year.
Beginning at 9 p.m., the Christ Church choir sings traditional songs from a hidden location within the church while the entire interior is lit by candlelight.
Compline – also known as Complin, Night Prayer, or the Prayers at the End of the Day, is the final church service (or office) of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours, which are prayed at fixed prayer times…In Western Christianity, Compline tends to be a contemplative office that emphasizes spiritual peace. In most monasteries, it is the custom to begin the “Great Silence” after compline, during which the whole community, including guests, observes silence throughout the night until after the Terce the next day.“Compline.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Mar. 2022.
Walk around Grove Street Cemetery
Grove Street Cemetery, located next to the Yale campus, is the final resting place of some of New Haven’s most notable former inhabitants, including Connecticut inventor Eli Whitney, who created the cotton gin.
After the old New Haven Town Green cemetery grew congested, it was constructed in the 1790s as the country’s first registered burial grounds. Walk through the entry gate of the cemetery, which is regarded as one of the outstanding examples of Egyptian Revival architecture, into the peaceful, historic setting with some absolutely amazing structures.
Learn at the Eli Whitney Museum
The Eli Whitney Museum, located just over the border on the Hamden side of New Haven, is one of the coolest hidden gems in New Haven.
Eli Whitney, born in 1765, was an American inventor who created the cotton gin during the Industrial Revolution. This device, which separated cotton seeds from cotton fibers, significantly accelerated the process and is regarded as one of the most significant designs of the time.
You may explore numerous historic locations and exhibits on the campus of the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop, as well as try out their children’s and adult education courses. Their walk-in programs are only accessible on weekends.
More information about the various museum exhibitions and activities is available on their website.
Visit the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments
The Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, founded in 1900, is an interesting museum inside the Yale University system. The museum, part of the Yale School of Music, houses musical instruments dating back over three centuries.
A 1742 organ by John Snetzler, a 1784 clavichord by Hoffman, and pianos by Könnicke going back to 1795 are among the famous instruments on display.
The museum annually conducts a historically authentic concert featuring instruments from its collection. During admission hours, you can wander around inside and explore their permanent and temporary exhibitions; however, the museum is now closed for repairs.
Enjoy the New Haven Symphony Orchestra
The New Haven Symphony Orchestra has been filling New Haven’s performance halls with magnificent music for nearly 120 years. Morris Steinert, a German immigrant, was urged to organize an orchestra with other amateur musicians around the start of the twentieth century. Since then, the NHSO has been flooding the city with music.
Fun Fact: The New Haven Symphony Orchestra is the fourth-oldest orchestra in the United States.
Depending on your musical tastes, the Symphony offers a classics series, a pops series, and family and special events throughout the season.
Most of their concerts occur within the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts in New Haven. However, their calendar includes appearances in locations around New Haven County.
Climb the world’s largest indoor ropes course at It Adventure Ropes Course
Jordan’s Furniture is a New England-based furniture franchise that operates out of the former New Haven Register newspaper building. Aside from the typical departments of a furniture store, each Jordan’s location offers a unique draw.
The New Haven store houses the world’s largest indoor high ropes course–It Adventure Indoor Ropes Course!
Inside, you’ll discover two ropes courses and a host of different exciting indoor sports, such as rock climbing walls and zip lines.
What are your favorite hidden gems in New Haven, Connecticut?