Founded in 1638 , this coastal community is recognized worldwide as the home of Yale University. Yet the "Elm City" holds other claims to fame. When its founding fathers arrived from England, they laid out nine squares and a central common, creating the country's first planned municipality. That green remains the hub of the city. Louis' Lunch takes credit for creating America's first hamburger. Silly Putty , lollipops, pizza, the telephone switchboard, automatic revolver, and Erector sets also trace their origins to here. In the last decade, New Haven revived neighborhoods, demolished the Coliseum, and initiated a $230 million Gateway Downtown Development Project as mixed-use renewal. With more than 100 restaurants, various shopping districts, museums, concerts, theater, visual arts, lectures, films, night spots, and landmark architecture, the small city generates a big-city vibe.
The dining scene is a smorgasbord of international flavors. Pacífico (220 College St., 203-772-4002, pacificony.com, $18.95-$26.95) practices Latin American fusion while Pot-au-Pho (77 Whitney Ave., 203-776-2248, $8-$11 ) specializes in Vietnamese dishes. Ibiza (39 High St., 203-865-1933, ibizanewhaven.com, $22-$27) goes with a Spanish menu. Malaysia's spicy flavors star at Bentara Restaurant (76 Orange St., 203-562-2511, bentara.com, $11.95-$18.95).
A handsome 1860 building houses the Union League Cafe, a French brasserie (1032 Chapel St., 203-562-4299, unionleaguecafe.com, $17.50-$32). Claire's Corner Copia, a vegetarian cafe (1000 Chapel St., 203-562-3888, clairescornercopia.com, $6-$10), opened Basta Trattoria next door (1006 Chapel St., 203-772-1715, bastatrattoria.com, $14-$24) , emphasizing organic and sustainable ingredients for its southern Italian fare.
The Copper Kitchen (1008 Chapel St., 203-777-8010 ) serves homestyle cooking at bargain prices. You can't beat two eggs, homefries, and toast for $3 or a $6-$7 daily special.
Chapel St. Historic District stores are a welcome change from cookie-cutter malls. The Yale Center for British Art Museum Shop (see Do) carries contemporary English jewelry, glass, and pottery as well as art books and imaginative cards. Idiom (1014 Chapel St., 203-782-2280, idiomboutique.com ) offers sparkling jewelry, clothing, and accessories, among them Zulu-made shoes. Hello Boutique (1090 Chapel St., 203-562-0204, helloboutique.com) carries stylish clothes and accessories. Wave Gallery (1046 Chapel St., 203-782-6212) crowds handcrafted home accessories and gifts into adjacent galleries.
Villarina's Pasta, Gifts & More (1092 Chapel St., 203-772-0872 ) doubles as an Italian food resource and gift emporium. Atticus Bookstore Cafe (1082 Chapel St., 203-776-4040 ) has the perfect motto: "A world of reading. Since 109 B.C."
Elsewhere the Yale School of Art sponsors an annual spring sale of work by up-and-coming student s. Other original art can be bought at Artspace (see Do), Creative Arts Workshop (80 Audubon St., 203-562-4927, creativeartsworkshop.org), and various neighborhood galleries.
The Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale (155 Temple St., 203-772-6664, omnihotels.com, rates vary) boasts bird's-eye views of the city from John Davenport's at the Top of the Park , a rooftop restaurant on the 19th floor.
The Touch of Ireland Guest House (670 Whitney Ave., 203-787-7997, touchofirelandguesthouse.com, $125, weekends $140; two-room suite $175, weekends $199) delivers the comforts of home in the East Rock neighborhood near the Peabody Museum and Yale's Science Hill. Owners Michael and Jeannine McCann, who live in the Colonial-style home, opened the bed-and-breakfast in 1999. Private baths, gourmet breakfasts, and complimentary Wi-Fi are among the amenities.
Eight miles north of downtown , the year-old Clarion Hotel & Suites (2260 Whitney Ave., Hamden, 203-288-3831, choicehotels.com, from $129 ) provides spacious rooms and an indoor pool among its amenities.
You can't leave New Haven without a visit to the Great Hall of Dinosaurs at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (170 Whitney Ave., 203-432-5050, peabody.yale.edu). The apatosaurus dwarfs everything. "The Age of Reptiles" wall mural painted over four years won a Pulitzer Prize for artist Rudolph Zallinger in 1947.
The Children's Museum (22 Wall St., 203-562-5437, thechildrensbuilding.org) gears programs and interactive exhibits to ages 2-9. It is open to the public Friday s and Saturday s ; one of its most popular activities is the "Saturdays at 2" reading program.
The Eli Whitney Museum (915 Whitney Ave., Hamden, on the New Haven line, 203-777-1833, eliwhitney.org), a destination for all ages, emphasizes learning about the inventor through hands-on workshops.
Last month the Yale University Art Gallery (1111 Chapel St., 203-432-0600, yale.edu/artgallery ) reopened architect Louis I. Kahn's 1953 masterpiece after a two-year restoration. The modern lines contrast with the museum's 1928 Gothic-style Swartwout wing. Kahn also designed the Yale Center for British Art (1080 Chapel, 203-432-2800, yale.edu/ycba ), the largest such collection outside Britain.
Over six decades, the Shubert Theater (247 College St., 800-228-6622, 203-624-1825, shubert.com ) earned a reputation as the place for pre-Broadway tryouts. Saved from the wrecking ball in 1976, the restored 93-year-old theater hosts opera, ballet, concerts, and touring shows.
Two professional repertory companies are nationally recognized for their productions. The Yale Repertory Theatre (1120 Chapel, 203-432-1234, yalerep.org ) performs in a former church, while Long Wharf Theatre (222 Sargent Drive, 203-787-4282, longwharf.org ) has two stages in its waterfront building.
Artspace: A Center for Contemporary Art (50 Orange St., 203-772-2709, artspacenh.org ) anchors the city's visual arts scene. Based in a former furniture factory showroom in the Ninth Square district, the center presents exhibits, maintains an artists' Web file, and organizes open studios with 500 artists over three weekends (Oct. 8-28).
The city turns festive in warm weather with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in June, free Concerts on the Green in summer, the New Haven Jazz Festival (2007 dates to be announced), and the New Haven Folk Alliance's folk festival Sept. 7-9 .
Live music beats year round. Firehouse 12 (45 Crown St., 203-785-0468, firehouse12.com) finds the groove with weekly jazz concerts in a former fire station. For diverse folk programming, St. John's Coffeehouse schedules monthly concerts (September-April, St. John's Episcopal Church, 400 Humphrey St., 203-787-9642, ctfolk.com/stjohns ) .
Owner-director-musician Steve Rogers books variety at The Space (295 Treadwell St., Building H, Hamden , on New Haven line, 203-288-6400, thespace.tk ). Each night features up to five performers or bands. The largest rock club, Toad's Place (300 York St., 203-624-8623, toadsplace.com), lines up regional and national bands.
Called "The Musician's Living Room," Cafe Nine (250 State St., 203-789-8281, cafenine.com) draws on all styles for its nightly entertainment. Anna Liffey's Pub and Restaurant, the city's oldest Irish pub (17 Whitney Ave., 203-773-1776, annaliffeys.com ) slots rock bands on Saturdays, Irish music Sunday afternoons, DJs on Fridays, and Pub Trivia on Tuesday s .
Night owls flock to The Owl Shop (268 College St., 203-624-3250, owlshopcigars.com ) for smokes and a nightcap in the tobacconists' Smoke Lounge & Bar Thursday s till 1 a.m., Friday s and Saturday s till 2.