What I’ve Learned About New Haven So Far

We’ve officially been here just shy of a month (wow…already?!), and we’re starting to get a feel for what life is really like up here. We’ve met a few people, explored around town, and found a few hangout spots. We haven’t really gotten a bunch of insider tips from knowing locals so far (it’s hard to when I work from home and Hubs doesn’t work with any locals), but I think we’ve gotten off to a good start nonetheless.

I figured I would give you the full report on what we’ve discovered, and what our first impressions are!

1.   New Haven is definitely not a city at all. I mean, you can’t even find ice-cream within walking distance after 7pm (which is clearly the defining factor, obvs). I would call it more of a developed college town, in that yes – it was built up mainly because of Yale University, but it also has several neighborhoods outside of the Yale area that also have somewhat of an urban feel with city-like amenities to some degree. They just all happen to close way earlier than they reasonably should if you want to be considered a city.

2.   It’s all about the Italian food, or just the Italians in general. Pizza restaurants, sub shops, corner store markets, and all the mom ‘n’ pop shops all have a big ole Italian name slapped on the front of the store in traditional lettering. Sometimes you’re passing by what you think is a quaint little Italian restaurant named Borelli’s, only to then realize on further inspection that it’s actually a tiny mechanic garage.


The best Italian market in our neighborhood, Nica’s Market, got it’s name from the name Veronica. The owner, Giuseppe, thought that people would be more drawn by a woman’s name than his own. He seems to have been right, because this is definitely a local hot spot!


Terrible picture of a delicious pizza from one of the best spots in town, Modern Apizza.


3.   There is a surprising shortage of dedicated seafood restaurants in the downtown area (as compared to what my expectations were). In fact, the only one we’ve eaten at so far actually just recently moved in from Soho, NYC a few years ago. I was thinking that seafood would be in abundance, but really this is a pizza town (an apizza town? IDEK). Period.

4.   Everything you need (except, alas, for my beloved Wegmans) is within an 8 minute drive of your house. More specifically, everything you need is on or just off of State St. Literally everything we’ve needed so far – UHaul, Ikea, the DMV, you name it, it’s there.

5.   There are a few decent microbreweries nearby. Hubs and I became slight beer snobs in Baltimore (I blame the high number of really great breweries in that area, and the fact that my boss in Charm City is a total beer fanatic/snob. Not that I’m complaining – I think beer is great in moderation (like most other great things). I’m glad that we’ve been able to find a few local spots up here that are up to par (and I even hear rumors that there’s a Belgian-style brewery lurking around the area too!!).


Growler and pint glasses from Thimble Islands Brewing Company in Branford CT, a cool spot to chill. I recommend their American ale.


6.   There are a bunch of beaches nearby, but it remains to be seen whether we will get access to them (or if we have to be residents of the town they are in to get a beach pass). You know I love the beach and will use any excuse to get to one. So far we’ve had two beach days, even though the first time I had to wear long pants and a fleece. Hey – if it’s sunny, I’m there!


At the end of April, the water is still freezing. But on a rare hot Spring day, it feels wonderful on your toes!


Cool oyster shell I found at a beach in West Haven. Update: we would have needed proof of West Haven residency to park for free, but there were sufficient pay-to-park spots in the vicinity of the beach and park area.


7.   It’s grey almost every day. When it’s sunny, you better go outside and soak up those rays, because they definitely will not last the whole day (and won’t return for several more days if its springtime). Also, it’s significantly colder here than in Baltimore, even though a lot of northern CT is roughly the same or only a few degrees cooler than the Mid-Atlantic. Apparently living on the coast is not amenable to warm weather during the spring. Who knew – I’m used to a warm, tropical sea breeze.


Monument at East Rock Park on a typical spring day.


8.   People (i.e the general public) aren’t as mean as I was expecting (I know, it’s not very nice of me to pass judgement before I ever met anyone here…I blame my New England boarding school experience, and the media). They aren’t GREAT or anything, they’re just – normal. Whatever that means. Disclaimer – I’ve been holed up in my house working from home this whole time, so I could still be right (probably not though). People definitely don’t make eye contact with you when you pass them on the street, for sure. Except for service workers/mail carriers, who have all been super friendly.

9.   Tuesdays are now the worst day of the week. I mean, New Haven – I get that you have to pick up the trash and recycling for sanitation and public health reasons (and because I really want you to take my trash away), but do you have to do it between 5:30 – 6:00am, and do you need to send a whopping five (FIVE?!??!) trucks down my street? What is that even about?! Note to my friends – don’t call me on a Tuesday morning until well after my first cup of coffee. It’s safer for everyone that way.

10.   Pedestrians rarely have the right of way, but when they do it’s a free-for-all. Apparently, the north & south vehicular traffic will go, and then the east & west vehicular traffic will go, and then finally, all pedestrian traffic may go in all directions. So it’s pretty common to see people crossing an intersection on the diagonal. They aren’t jaywalking, I promise (although we’re from Baltimore, so we wouldn’t bat an eye if they were).

11.   Elm City runs on Dunkin. They are everywhere! And there’s only one Starbucks. Although now that I’m working from home, I am saving lots of moulah by just making my own iced coffees.

12.   My neighborhood is REALLY into gardening – there are beautiful flowers everywhere, and it smells so good in the springtime! (Or maybe that’s because we are within a stone’s throw of a really good pizza joint.) The lush, colorful garden-scaping really feeds into the whole quaint New England vibe they’re going for. The houses are mostly beautiful too, and there are soo many different shapes, colors and features to the architecture – no cookie cutters here! Yet the whole neighborhood is very unapologetically New England – they do not borrow from any other architectural styles.


This gorgeous garden is close to our house and smells amazing!


A particularly creative example of what the houses look like around here.


13.   There are Jamaicans hidden around every corner! I literally have not yet gone into a public building (i.e. supermarket, SS office, DMV) without seeing or hearing at least one Jamaican. Which means that there is also Jamaican food available in my normal, run-of-the-mill grocery store *insert happy dance here*! When I found the Jamaican food section the first time I went shopping, I definitely went a little overboard and spent all our money on yellow yam, ackee & saltfish, and the like. #noregrets


Lots of Jamaican goodies and ingredients! I am now also realizing this is basically a Grace commercial…oh well.


14.   There is at least one “young people” church here, and we found it! I was pretty sure we’d be out of luck in this department, but it turns out we’re not! The church we found is actually huge (congregation-wise) and very vibrant and lively. We hung out with the pastor and his wife last night and they’re great. This should also hopefully help us in the “making friends and getting tips from local guides” department.

15.   Liquor stores are now called “packaged goods stores”, or “packies” for short. In addition, they may not sell liquor after 10pm, or…get this…after 6pm on Sundays. WHAT ON EARTH. Do you people expect me to actually plan ahead or something? I feel like I am now doomed to always run out of cooking wine or realize I have nothing for the guests I just invited over at 5:59pm on every Sunday from here on out.

16.   There is a road that runs parallel to I-95N for a few miles just south of New Haven called Long Wharf Drive. Apparently, this is a major hotspot for Hispanic food trucks. You buy some tostadas and a piña colada, then you cross the street and sit in the grass along the waterfront with your friends for a cheap lunch or dinner. So much fun on a sunny day! Unless the wind is so strong that it blows one of your tacos away…oh well. Hubs shared with me :).


Long Wharf Drive just south of New Haven, CT.


I’m sure we have a ton left to discover in this town and the surrounding areas, but every day I feel like I’m one (small) step closer to calling this place my home, even if it’s just for now. If you’re familiar to the area, let me know what’s good!

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