Post written by Jessica, Roammeo’s co-founder and CEO
Four years ago, I arrived in New Haven as a Yale student wanting to learn as much about my new city as possible. I spent time exploring neighborhoods, subscribing to local mailing lists, and working with community organizations.
I still have a lot to learn, but in the spirit of sharing knowledge (and in response to a few underclassmen friends’ requests for tips), I wrote up a list of some of my favorite events, places, and facts about New Haven and ran it by some other heavily-involved students for additional ideas. I may have gone a bit overboard compared to the initial requests…but it’s very hard to put all of the ties that make me feel a part of a community into words.
“The Utterly Unofficial Guide to New Haven for Students, Visitors, and General Urbanites” will be published on Roammeo’s blog in segments and can be found in its entirety in this Google Doc.
Please add comments to this post or edit the original document with your own thoughts – we’d love to see it grow over time. Also, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who helped to introduce me to their favorite corners of New Haven over the years. We started Roammeo to help people connect with the events and organizations around them, and you allowed me to do just that. And, as a reminder, if you’re looking for a central place to find all of these events as they happen, download the Roammeo app on iPhone or Android or visit our site here.
Enjoy one of my favorite cities!
Part One: Events
These are the things that come along once or twice a year and are so good you can’t possibly dream of missing them.
- PechaKucha: PechaKucha was founded by designers in Tokyo as a way to share ideas succinctly and creatively, using 20 images on slides shown for 20 seconds each. PechaKucha now happens in hundreds of cities around the world, including New Haven, and the schedule can be found at
(sign up for their newsletter to receive reminders!) You can go to watch and eat/drink at the Malaysian restaurant where it is usually hosted, or you can sign up to be one of the presenters yourself.
- The International Festival of Arts & Ideas: IFAI is a 15-day festival each June that consists of dozens and dozens of free concerts, very smart lecturers, and public art displays. The vast majority of these concerts, shows, and speakers are completely free (and the best kind of free, meaning “pull your lawn chair and BYOB for a musical picnic on the Green”), and you can go to www.artidea.org to find the day’s schedule or sign up for their newsletter to learn more.
- Restaurant Week: Twice a year, for a week each time, 30+ of New Haven’s best restaurants move to prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner. As a student, this was always my cue to try some of the places that I otherwise couldn’t easily afford, and I was never disappointed. Just be sure to compare menus, especially lunch ones, with prix fixe and regular to see where you’ll be getting the biggest bang for your buck when you visit. Here’s the site for New Haven’s Restaurant Week (it’s updated each season):
, and for other Connecticut-based Restaurant Weeks go here:
- Cluefest: It is difficult to describe the amount of insanity and fun wrapped up in Cluefest. It is New Haven’s annual city-wide scavenger hunt, organized entirely by local volunteers through TGWNN, and it is now in its tenth year. Getting involved is free, you get prizes for spirit, speed in solving clues, and wacky costumes, and the whole day ends in a massive celebration that you can only find if you decipher the riddle. Last year more than 300 people participated, including many Yale students, and this year’s details can be found here (Cluefest traditionally happens in July):
- City Wide Open Studios: Artspace, a (you-guessed-it) art-related nonprofit in downtown New Haven, hosts this month-long event twice a year. During CWOS, dozens of artists put up their art in temporary exhibition spaces in more than 60 locations around the city, and viewers can hop from studio to studio across the city (or take one of the more-organized tours) each weekend. See
- CT Folk Festival: Like folk music? Good. Because New Haven just so happens to host the largest folk festival concert in the state every September in a park just a quick walk/shuttle ride away from campus! CT Folk also hosts Folk Music Fridays all around the city all year, so if this sparks your interest, you should get your twang-embracing self over to
- Flights of Fancy: Every few months, you can sign up for a night called “Flights of Fancy.” For $10, you get an unlimited number of wine tastings in storefronts all around downtown, along with a chance to win other raffle prizes and get discounts (this author won a $50 restaurant gift certificate to go along with her free “Flights of Fancy” wine glass, for example.) Be prepared to get incredibly tipsy and to have a blast (the two normally go together.) 21+.
- Holiday Tree Lighting: Each winter, the Holiday Tree Lighting (with a corresponding giant menorah) takes place on the New Haven Green. There are sleigh rides, free hot cocoa, caroling, and a giant mailbox where you can create, decorate, and mail your letters to Santa.
- Summer concerts: Throughout the summer, you can attend free concerts out on the Green. Headliners tend to play at nights, while smaller blues and jazz artists participate in the Blues, Berries, and Jam lunchtime series.
- Shakespeare in the Park: Each August, a local theater company called Elm Shakespeare puts on one of the Bard’s plays outside in the park. It’s free and usually draws hundreds of picnic blankets for the dusk-time performances. Site here:
- New Haven Open at Yale: The New Haven Open is an international tennis tournament that features many of the top players in the world playing in New Haven for about a week each August. It conveniently matches the timing of the New Haven Food and Wine Festival, so it’s definitely worth a visit to town as a spectator. Site here:
- Audubon Arts on the Edge: This is a family-friendly, one-day street fair that happens each June and features food, music/dance/art performances, and interactive crafts. Stop by if you’re in the area, or serve as a volunteer. Details can be found at:
- Cherry Blossom Festival: D.C. isn’t the only one with cherry blossoms! Head to New Haven’s historic Wooster Square in April to see the streets coated in pink petals and to watch live bands, eat (generally Italian!) food, and meet and greet the rest of the neighborhood. This coming spring will be the 40th Annual Cherry Blossom Fest:
- First Thursdays: Get special deals at Chapel Street shops on the first Thursday of every month:
- Outdoor Movies in East Rock Park: Friends of East Rock Park (
hosts outdoor movie nights regularly during the warm summer and spring months. Occasionally you can find outdoor movies in other areas of the city, such as Chatham Square and the Green – keep your eyes peeled.
- Rock to Rock: You + bike + hundreds of other people + biking from West Rock to East Rock (two of New Haven’s major parks) + music + food = New Haven’s major Earth Day event. Last year, more than 500 people cycled their way across the city and helped to raise more than $50,000 for environmental orgs.
- New Haven Road Race: Also known as the Stratton Faxon Road Race, this 5k and 20k competition has gone on for more than 20 years. It takes place in September and many students, locals, and visitors participate, including notables like the mayor of the city and the president of Yale:
. To find other racing events in CT, check out:
- Floating Dance Parties: I can tell you about them, but ultimately, this is one of those “you just have to be there and be dancing” kind of things. Run by Yale undergrads and publicized through an underground email mere hours before the event, FDPs occur when throngs of people show up at a predetermined location, turn on identical tracks on their music players, and have an outwardly-silent, inwardly-rocking dance party through the streets.
- Spring Salvage: Each spring, thousands of Yalies move out of their dorms and leave many items of furniture and clothing behind. The university takes these items and offers them to the public all at once, with nonprofits getting first dibs and anyone else who is willing to show up early close behind, at the start of each summer. Details here:
- Elections: If you’re moving to New Haven, you should seriously consider bringing your vote along. It regularly splits red/blue as a state and has very close aldermanic races as a city.
- BMAD: BMAD (Bethany Music and Dance) is contra dancing, fiddle playing, barn-raising, foot-stomping, and sometimes maypole-dancing hosted every few weeks at a local folk music homestead. It’ll require a car ride from the center of campus, but ZipCar or a nice friend should have you covered and it’s well worth the trip. Upcoming dates listed here:
- Santacon: You may know Santacon from its counterparts in other major cities, but in case you don’t, it’s when a ton of local residents dress up in Santa suits and go on a bar crawl that starts at – yes – 10am. Rules include: “Sing Christmas carols on command…Bagpipe Santa is sure to bring the plaid and the pipes.” More FAQs here:
- College Night on Broadway: Shops in the Broadway district stay open late and offer lots of discounts during this semesterly event that brings college students from across the metropolitan area to enjoy deals, live music, free henna tattoos, and thousand dollar prizes to lucky winners. Also spotted here: the cupcake truck. Here’s a press release from the most recent event:
All pictures taken by Jess while in attendance at the aforementioned events. Note that I am an explorer…not so much an artist.
Sections that are still to come: parks and outdoor spaces//destinations and venues//how to get around//basic urbanite facts//get involved//email lists and more. Sign up here for email blasts from Roammeo that will include the new posts as they arrive! You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get all of the updates.