If Mondays are manic (well, at least according to The Bangles), then Sundays are more … lazy. It’s the day when you roll out of bed just in time for church. It’s the day to brunch, to sit around and watch football or maybe even head to Nonna’s for Sunday dinner (that you don’t have to cook). Or you can spend a day having family fun in New Haven, Connecticut.
Over the last 14 years or so, New Haven has seen a cultural revitalization that’s breathed newness into the downtown areas attracting top retailers and restaurants. Home to four colleges, including an Ivy League school (Yale), New Haven has a diverse and growing cultural base including museums and entertainment appropriate for both singles and families.
On Sunday, the city gets going a little later in the morning so sleep-in a little (if the kids let you!) and then head to the Elm City (that’s New Haven’s nickname).
11 am – A Lively Bite in New Haven
Everyone knows that fun on an empty stomach is a no-go – especially with kids. So make your first stop a late breakfast or early lunch.
Chapel Street offers many delicious options, and among them Claire’s Corner Copia — a favorite among locals and visitors. This New Haven staple, which serves only vegetarian fare, offers gargantuan portions of everything from R&B Burritos (that stands for rice and beans) to flatbread pizzas and breakfast favorites like Huevos Rancheros (vegan? They’ll make them with tofu, if you prefer). The kids can totally share – if you can convince them to agree on one dish.
Once you order at the counter, grab a seat at one of the many tables in the homey restaurant and your food will come to you (don’t get too comfy though – you have to bus your own table when you’re done). The interior, with its brick rear wall and sunny yellow walls, invites conversation, so dig in and enjoy the company before you head off on the days’ adventures.
If You Go: Claire’s Corner Copia serves breakfast until noon. (1000 Chapel St.; prices range from about $5.50-11.50 for the generously sized portions)
Noon – Yale Peabody Museum
The French Gothic building that houses the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is a breathtaking structure. It may not look like a museum that houses a fantastic collection of dinosaur bones and other natural artifacts (even though the giant triceratops statue that you pass on the block-long walk from the free parking area to the entrance does gives a little clue), but this museum is a local favorite for families.
Right now is a particularly good time to visit because the museum has a special temporary exhibit featuring dinosaur eggs and fossilized babies. Tiny Titans includes hands-on exhibits where kids can get up-close-and-personal with dinosaur eggs, replicas and more. There are even several faux dig sites around the hall, where kids can use brushes to reveal objects hidden in sand.
And don’t forget to drop by the Dinosaur Hall while you are there. Volunteers are often on hand to answer questions and show visitors special objects – like fossilized dinosaur poop and a tooth from a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
If You Go: Plan to take your time. This is a museum that deserves a little lingering so plan to spend at least an hour and a half here – two hours is better. (170 Whitney Avenue; Adults $9; Children 3-18 $5; Seniors $8)
2:30 pm – Into the Great Beyond
Located a little more than a half-mile from the Peabody, the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium is situated on Yale University’s campus and is part of the university Department of Astronomy. Twice a week (Tuesdays and Sundays) it opens to the public. On Sundays, the free planetarium show begins at 3 pm and the topic varies (presently, it’s Supervolcanoes). Doors open at 2:30, and admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
If You Go: It’s a good idea to arrive when doors open at 2:30 pm to be sure you get in. (355 Prospect St.; Free admission)
4 pm – Splurge a Bit
Finish up your New Haven adventure with a trip over to Broadway for a little shopping. The stretch of stores located near the Broadway parking area (fee) has really come a long way in recent years. American Apparel, Denali, Urban Outfitters and Origins all have storefronts here now.
Thirsty? Pop around the corner to Blue State Coffee on York Street for a refreshment – the fair trade coffee is a favorite among locals. Also, just down York Street is the infamous Toad’s Place which has hosted many of the best acts in music since its inception in 1976. We’re talking the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Billy Joel. Rob Zombie even met his future wife there. Many shows are 16 and older, but every so often there’s an all-ages show worth taking the kids to.
As you head back to Broadway, after taking a minute to imagine the legends that have walked where you are, be sure to stop into the Yale Bookstore (77 Broadway) for all the Yale paraphernalia you and your little future Yalies could dream of. You’ve been hanging out all around the Ivy today, so it’s only natural.
5:30 pm – A Concrete Send-Off
Before you head off, spin back over to Chapel Street for the New Haven outpost of Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, which opened in September 2012. If you’ve ever been to any of the other locations of Shake Shack, then you’ll recognize the usual array of gourmet burgers and dogs (the Smoke Shack is a favorite – though it’s likely too spicy for the little ones).
Be sure to linger over the Concretes menu which features three locally-themed selections. The Boola Boola Blue is vanilla custard swirled with a slice of lemon blueberry pie from nearby Milford’s Scratch Baking.
The Elm City Coffee Break, named for New Haven’s nickname, is vanilla custard with coffee cake marshmallow sauce and pecan shortbread also from Scratch Baking. And the Skull and Cones – a fun play on Yale’s famed Skull and Bones secret society – is chocolate and vanilla custard with shattered cones, peanut butter sauce and chocolate truffle cookie dough.
If You Go: Shake Shack is open until 10 pm on Sundays. (986 Chapel Street; burgers start at $3.85; hot dogs at $3 and Concretes at $3.25)