No better time to visit New Haven
There's more to the historic New England city of New Haven, Connecticut than its famed Neapolitan-style apizza (though darn, that's good) and Yale's Ivy League pedigree.
From the '60s through the '90s, New Haven witnessed an economic decline and a rise in crime. But thanks to municipal programs like Project Storefronts, the hardscrabble town's downtown business district is being revitalized, and a new generation of artists, designers and entrepreneurs are leading the way.
So hop on the Metro-North for an easy hour and a half trip -- and spend a weekend (or even just a day) exploring what's new in New Haven.
What is Project Storefronts?
The goal of this city-run program for artists and independent shop owners is to fill vacant commercial spaces; so far with art installations, pop-up shops, a work share space and a 3-D printing company. The program, which began in 2010, selects applicants on an ongoing basis and participants are awarded a small stipend, a rent-and-utility-free retail space for 90-days which can be extended and are given assistance in formulating a business plan and budget.
"This program helps creative entrepreneurs take their idea and turn into a business. [It] also activates and promotes vacant properties in the city," says Vivian Nabeta, Director of Arts, Culture and Tourism for the City of New Haven. Additionally, the city develops and hosts events that increase area foot traffic.
Visual and fine artist Sara Scranton is the newest entrepreneur to benefit from the program. Her storefront in the up-and-coming Ninth Square neighborhood, Lipgloss Crisis (756 Chapel St.), features the crafts of area artists -- from handmade jewelry, t-shirts and vintage clothing, to bath oils and original artwork.
Scranton attended high school and college in New Haven and has been an integral member of the area's art scene for over a decade. Project Storefronts gave the 34-year-old-who had $100 in her bank account prior to the program incentive to open a collective for likeminded local artists.
"Without this program, I wouldn't be able to get this experience," says Scranton, who compares her store, which also hosts monthly clothing swaps, to an Urban Outfitters but with locally-produced items.
What to do
This month, visual artists from across Connecticut are opening their doors at studios and temporary spaces around the city during Artspace's 16th Annual City-Wide Open Studios. Events are free and open to the public.
1st Fridays On 9, running through December, invites locals to events at shops, eateries, residences and cultural arts centers in the Ninth Square neighborhood.
Where to shop
Go Boho chic at Agabhumi: The Best of Bali (1020 Chapel St.), an inviting boutique full of handcrafted and affordably priced jewelry, clothing and shoes from Bali.
At his store of the same name, Jamaican-born designer Neville Wisdom (63 Orange St.) sells fashion-forward original designs and custom garments for women.
Where to eat
For a casual dining experience, visit Claire's Corner Copia (1000 Chapel St.) right off the New Haven green. Welcoming owner and chef Claire LaPia has been cooking her vegetarian, organic and kosher dishes with care since 1975, and is thus responsible for keeping generations of Yale students and locals healthy.
Former Brooklynite Avi Szapiro totally revamped the stately 100-year old restaurant within the Taft Hotel (now apartments), and opened Roia (261 College St.) earlier this year to rave reviews. The blend of French and Italian cuisine is straightforward-yet-elevated; try the marinated roasted beets and the Arctic char.
Tourist hot spot eateries include Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (157 Wooster St.), Sally's Apizza (237 Wooster St.), Modern Apizza (874 State St.) and Louis Lunch, (261-263 Crown St.), which is said to be the birthplace of the "hamburger sandwich."
Where to stay
Get a room with a view at the recently renovated, Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale (155 Temple St.). Nosh on a hearty brunch with gluten-free choices at John Davenport's, a New American restaurant on the 19th floor that's named after the city's 17th-century founder.