12 Attractions in West Haven, Connecticut

Last Updated on March 3, 2024 by Emily Johnson

West Haven, Connecticut is a charming coastal city located right along Long Island Sound and close to New Haven. With its beaches, historic sites, parks and recreation options, West Haven has something for everyone. Here is an overview of 12 top attractions and activities to enjoy during your visit to this seaside community.

West Haven has plenty to offer visitors. Its most popular draw is its two miles of public beaches with beautiful views, but inland there are historic museums, parks with hiking trails, a vibrant theater scene and minor league baseball.

Families will especially enjoy the eco-friendly Edith Wheeler Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary and the Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf center. History buffs will appreciate touring the Old West Haven High School Museum and learning about the tragic Hurricane of ‘38 that devastated the area.

Outdoor enthusiasts have Savin Rock Park and Bradley Point Park to explore. And for sports fans, there’s the West Haven Twilight Baseball League to take in an old-fashioned minor league game at a community field on pleasant summer nights. Whatever your interests, West Haven has something for you. Read on to learn more about the top 12 attractions in this seaside city.

1. West Haven Beaches

West Haven boasts two miles of public beaches stretching along the shore of Long Island Sound. The beaches have clean sand and gentle surf, making them ideal for swimming and sunbathing during summer. Beach concessions and restrooms provide convenience for visitors.

Popular beach areas in West Haven include:

  • Bradley Point Beach: Bradley Point has a large beach with a basketball court, playground and picnic area.
  • Savin Rock Beach: Home to the historic Savin Rock amusement park and boardwalk area with restaurants. Crystal clear water and white sand.
  • Sandy Point Beach: Sandy Point features a long sandy beach, fishing pier and views of New Haven harbor. Concessions available.
  • Oak Street Beach: Smaller, quieter beach that’s dog friendly with beautiful homes along the shore.

With lifeguards on duty during peak season, the beaches provide a safe way to cool off and enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean during a West Haven visit.

2. Savin Rock Park and Museum

Savin Rock Park encompasses the original site of the Savin Rock Amusement Park, an iconic 20th century seaside park with rides, arcades, food and entertainment that drew huge crowds. The park closed in the 1960s, butSavin Rock Museum opened in 2010 to commemorate its history, with photos, artifacts and memorabilia.

Today, Savin Rock Park has walking paths lining the beach, a playground, fishing areas and the historic Rock House ice cream shop and restaurant, which dates back to the 1930s. Visitors can glimpse West Haven history while enjoying the refreshing ocean breezes. Don’t miss the memorial statue honoring the 6 firefighters who lost their lives in the infamous 1967 blaze that destroyed much of the amusement park.

3. Bradley Point Park

At the northern tip of West Haven’s shoreline lies Bradley Point Park, a 111-acre public park that contains a wealth of recreational facilities along with gorgeous scenic views across New Haven Harbor.

Popular features of Bradley Point Park include:

  • Long sandy beach perfect for swimming and sunbathing
  • Concession stands and restrooms for public convenience
  • Shaded picnic grounds with tables and grills
  • Basketball courts and playgrounds for kids
  • Walking paths with fitness stations
  • Fishing areas and a pier
  • Fascinating historic cannons and a veterans war memorial

The park surrounds the West Haven Veterans Museum, set in a former beach house adjacent to the Victorian-style Magnetic Observatory building. With beaches, recreation, and history all in one place, Bradley Point Park is a fantastic spot to experience West Haven.

4. West Haven Twilight Baseball League

Baseball fans visiting West Haven in the summer need to check out the West Haven Twilight Baseball League. Part of a long-running tradition dating back over 90 years, the community-based league provides fun minor league-style baseball at its best. Games take place at Quigley Stadium, an old-fashioned field devoid of marketing where fans can relax in the stands while watching the league’s intense local rivalries and talented players.

The amateur league attracts former high school, college and pro players ranging from ages 18 to over 30. Players have even included a few former New York Yankees. Games take place on weekday evenings in July and August. The family-friendly atmosphere harkens back to simpler times when baseball was America’s pastime. Visitors are sure to have an enjoyable evening taking in a game.

5. University of New Haven Campus

The University of New Haven campus, located right in West Haven, is worth a visit to explore the scenic grounds and architecture. The campus lies along 3 miles of coastline and encompasses 600 acres, with portions running through West Haven and bordering Orange and Milford.

Popular spots on campus include:

  • Outdoor sculpture garden with artistic works to admire
  • Seaside boardwalks and quiet wooded trails
  • Quad with a scenic pond and fountains
  • Broadway-style theater hosting concerts and performances
  • Events like art exhibits at the museum-quality Seton Art Gallery

The university also has a respected Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science with a fascinating crime museum. Visitors don’t need to be part of the university to walk the beautiful campus, though staying for one of their public events makes for an especially memorable West Haven visit.

6. Old West Haven High School Museum

History aficionados will appreciate a stop at the Old West Haven High School Museum. Located in a distinctive Neoclassical-style building constructed in 1926, the museum chronicles the heritage of West Haven through historical artifacts, photos and displays.

Popular exhibits profile early community life, the impact of the destructive Hurricane of 1938 that devastated New England and set the stage for West Haven to rebuild itself as a 20th century community. Displays also document major events like the 1967 Savin Rock Fire, the pilgrimage of the Brownstone Quarries, immigration trends and key figures who influenced the city.

Volunteers are available to provide additional context during tours. The museum offers an illuminating glimpse into major events that shaped the community visitors see today.

7. Eco-Friendly Edith Wheeler Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary

Nature lovers traveling with children will want to spend time at West Haven’s Edith Wheeler Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary. Operated by the Audubon Society and open year-round, this peaceful 118-acre property has wooded hiking trails meandering through meadows, marshland and farm pastures. An observation tower, interpretive center and native plantings heighten the experience.

Popular activities include:

  • Spotting over 200 species of birds native to CT
  • Looking for fox, deer and other wildlife along the trails
  • Identifying trees, wildflowers and conservational plantings
  • Enjoying the tranquil vistas and scenic views

The sanctuary provides a relaxing, eco-friendly refuge for visitors to commune with nature through outdoor recreation, wildlife viewing and environmental education. Summer day camps are also offered for kids. With rare coastal habitats and conservation initiatives, the Wheeler Sanctuary showcases the natural side of West Haven.

8. West Haven Museum

Those looking to delve deeper into community heritage can spend an hour at the West Haven Museum of History. Operated by the West Haven Historical Society, this museum built in a historic trolley station contains exhibits, artifacts and displays capturing how West Haven developed from colonial days onwards.

Popular exhibits showcase:

  • Early Native American occupation
  • Formation of first roads and churches
  • Beginning of oystering, shipping and brickmaking industries
  • Operational trolleys serving Savin Rock
  • Impact of major 20th century events

Volunteer docents provide guided introductions and answer questions. Visitors gain illuminating context on local architecture, traditions and lifestyle. Through vintage artifacts and narratives, the museum ultimately relates a 300-year story that shaped the present-day city.

9. Allingtown and North End

West Haven has several vibrant neighborhoods, including Allingtown and the North End. Visitors can browse local restaurants, shops and historic buildings to get a taste of these communities within West Haven.

Allingtown is West Haven’s oldest area, with colonial roots and historic churches, houses and streetscapes. Highlights include the West Haven Green historic common plotted in 1721, the 1784 Revolution era Campbell House and charming Hygienic Art Gallery showcasing local artists. Historic Walk signs guide people to sights like an 18th century burial ground.

The North End has emerged as a blossoming area with growing numbers of Latino, European, Middle Eastern and other immigrants bringing influxes of culture. Stroll historic Campbell Avenue or dine at an Italian, Greek, Mexican or Spanish restaurant to experience the diversity. With settling immigrants came religious buildings like the Islamic Masjid An-Noor and Desh Videsh cultural community center that represent the neighborhood’s multiculturalism. Exploring West Haven’s lively neighborhoods introduces visitors to what defines the heart of the city outside its beaches and historic museums—its resilient, culturally-rich people.

10. West Haven Gallery of Contemporary Art

Those hoping to experience the modern cultural scene in West Haven will enjoy spending an afternoon browsing the West Haven Gallery of Contemporary Art. With free admission, this airy gallery inside the University of New Haven campus hosts an acclaimed Artist-in-Residence program allowing visitors to meet and engage with practicing artists over rotating exhibitions of diverse contemporary art in a variety of mediums.

The gallery holds monthly opening receptions where exhibiting artists mingle with patrons and give talks explaining their creative processes and inspiration. Events sometimes feature poetry readings or performances as well. Representing both regional and national artists, the gallery brings impressive avant-garde works to West Haven for the public to discover and appreciate with accessible, interactive exhibits.

11. Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale Restaurant

No trip to West Haven is complete without indulging in seafood at a restaurant like Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale. Situated right on the Savin Rock shoreline, this popular eatery proves an ideal spot for visitors to grab a scenic lunch or dinner and sample some of West Haven’s famous oysters straight from Long Island Sound.

Lenny & Joe’s has something for everyone, from lobsters and shrimp to burgers and salads. Diners can eat in the nautical-themed interior dining room or outdoors on the deck overlooking the sandy beach and ocean. Established by two friends in 1985, Lenny and Joe’s dishes up the quintessential experience of dining by the seaside visitors expect to enjoy while vacationing in a coastal city like West Haven. Don’t leave without trying the lobster bisque or the Lenny’s Famous Oyster Shooter!

12. The Haven West Haven Green

At the center of West Haven’s historic Allingtown neighborhood lies The Haven developer, a multi-acre mixed-use village community constructed on West Haven’s oldest plot of land – the West Haven Green. Dating back to the 1700s, this park-like green space around the Revolutionary-era Campbell House has now been integrated into a brand new town center complex filled with conveniences. Visitors can park at The Haven to access its public green space or dine and shop at the complex mixing modern amenities with historic small town charm.

Features of The Haven West Haven Green include:

  • Central green park for public use
  • Outdoor patio dining at restaurants
  • Retail shopping like Verizon and sneaker store Jimmy Jazz
  • Ultra-modern Regal Movie Theater with recliners
  • LA Fitness Center and Edge Fitness gym franchises
  • 137 residential units in a village-style complex

By blending a historic common with thoroughly modern shopping and entertainment options surrounding it, The Haven brings together West Haven’s treasured past with its developing present to create an attractive new gateway into the community. Visitors can grab dinner, see a show and glimpse at the city’s future direction all in one place—making The Haven a new West Haven must-see attraction.

Conclusion

From sandy beaches and historic attractions to a flourishing arts scene, West Haven’s 12 top attractions offer no shortage of things to see and do for visitors of all ages and interests.

Families can play miniature golf and explore Long Island Sound’s tide pools together, while couples will enjoy intimate dining with sunset views over the harbor.

History lovers can gain insight into major events that shaped the community at museums and learn about West Haven’s oystering heyday. Sports fans can cheer on baseball games harkening back to simpler times, and art aficionados can meet local artists and view avant-garde works.

When visiting Connecticut, put this charismatic seaside city with its vibrant culture, natural scenery and captivating past on your itinerary. West Haven has an authentic New England experience waiting to embrace you.

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