New Haven with Kids: 25 Fun Things to do for Families
Known as the birthplace of American pizza, the city of New Haven is a foodie destination fit for kids. Home to Yale University (and its amazing natural science museum), it's also a coastal city rich with history, architecture, arts, and culture that kids can appreciate. Best of all for families, it's wonderfully walkable. Take the kids for a day trip or a weekend getaway and experience New Haven for yourselves, with this list as your guide.
Leafy Yale Old Campus makes for an inspiring stroll. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Boullosa/CC by 2.0
1. Stroll through the Yale Old Campus to admire the architecture and, for good luck, touch the foot of the statue honoring the president of Yale from 1846 to 1871, Theodore Dwight Woolsey. FREE
2. Explore the rooms of the CT Children’s Museum. Stop by Saturdays at 2 p.m. for a special story time program that integrates reading with the museum’s exhibits.
3. Get your adrenaline fix with A Visit to It Adventure Indoor Ropes Course, one of the best indoor play spaces in New Haven County. Swinging beams, cargo nets, suspension bridges, rope ladders, and plank-walking are just some of the attractions.
4. Catch a show at the historic Shubert Theater, where some of the biggest names in theater got their starts, or get lost in the sounds of music at New Haven Symphony, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
5. Challenge your mind and solve a series of puzzles that will help you to Escape New Haven; the escape room, that is.
6. Be amazed. From Kitchen Zinc, head down the walkway of Temple Plaza, away from the Crown Street Parking Garage. Then stop at the gate just before you reach Chapel Street and turn around for street art at its best.
In nearby Litchfield, Arethusa Farms has delicious ice cream—and open-barn Saturdays where kids can visit the cows. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth G. Howard
8. Enjoy free performances on the Family Stage, special programs for kids, and pop-up neighborhood celebrations during the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, a 15-day extravaganza of performing arts, lectures, and conversations throughout the city each June. Check the Mommy Poppins CT Event Calendar before you go for the festival’s most family-friendly programs.
9. Take home a little piece of British pop culture from the Yale Center for British Art’s gift shop. Before you explore the museum’s galleries, ask for a children's activity kit at the information desk.
10. Find your old favorite recordings – on actual records – and new favorite books at Atticus Bookstore/Café. The aroma of coffee, fresh bread, and the café’s legendary black bean soup will beckon you to stay a while as the kids browse the excellent children's book selections.
11. If sports are your thing, catch a Youth Day at one of Yale's Bulldog games.
12. Don your reading glasses and head to Heirloom at The Study for an elegant but kid-friendly dinner. Be sure to peruse the art gallery when you visit the restrooms (though you may want to vet the artwork first before sharing it with the kids).
13. Join the revolution at Claire’s Corner Copia, a haven for vegans and gluten free diners. Dessert is a special process: you choose the cake, then pick special ingredients and frosting. Did anyone say Lithuanian Coffee Cake?
14. Spend an afternoon in Edgewood Park running through the Sundial Sprinkler, playing on the playgrounds (there’s a separate Tot Playground), walking along the pond on the Sensory Trail, crossing the footbridge, skateboarding, watching a game, and visiting the inhabitants of the Duck Pond. Visit the Ranger Station to meet amphibians and reptiles, go on a guided nature walk, or participate in a nature program. FREE
15. Dance on the grass during Music on the Green, a two-week summer concert festival in July. FREE
16. Pick up an architecture guide or felt art kit for the kids at the entrance desk of Yale University Art Gallery and go exploring. Be sure to visit the Ancient Art Gallery and sculpture terrace, then head outside to relax in the sculpture garden. Check the Gallery calendar for family programs before your visit. FREE
17. See stars at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium’s free planetarium shows and telescope observations (Tuesday nights only.) FREE
The white clam slice is worth the wait at Frank Pepe's. Photo courtesy of the pizzeria
18. Get a taste of history and some of the most famous pizza in America at Frank Pepe’s. The signature White Clam Pizza has been ranked No. 1 in America by The Daily Meal.
19. Cool off with a scoop (or three) of Ashley’s Ice Cream, where the whipped cream is made fresh in the store daily. The kids will love the Frisbee décor and the story of Ashley Whippet.
21. Walk among the dinosaurs in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and get up close to the museum’s collection in the Discovery Room.
22. Explore the Yale March Botanical Gardens and see carnivorous, tropical, and desert plants.
Lighthouse Point Park has a beach with wide sandy spaces and lighthouse views. Photo courtesy of Versageek/CC by 2.0
23. Head to Lighthouse Point Park in the summertime to take a spin on the antique Lighthouse Point Carousel (weekend and holiday afternoons), cool off on the splash pad, perambulate along the beach on the boardwalk, and admire the lighthouse (a parking fee applies). Fantasy of Lights turns the park into a winter wonderland from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.
24. Build something awesome at the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop. Run an American Flyer train from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.
25. Sail away into the sunset aboard Schooner’s sea vessel. Public Sunset Cruises sail weeknights, and Harbor Cruises are available weekends.
Originally published 6/12/15, 8/19/18.