12 Things To Do With Family In New Haven, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

New Haven, Connecticut offers a wonderful variety of activities and attractions for families to enjoy together. From world-class museums and cultural attractions to fun parks, tours and entertainment, there is something for family members of all ages. The coastal city, home to the prestigious Yale University, has an eclectic mix of history, art, science and nature.

Spend time discovering dinosaurs or gazing at the stars at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, take in breathtaking Italian masterpieces at the Yale University Art Gallery or enjoy a show at the historic Shubert Theatre. With delicious pizza, interesting architecture and beautiful green spaces, New Haven invites you to create special memories with your loved ones.

Here are 12 fantastic things to do with family in New Haven, Connecticut:

Explore Dinosaur Fossils at the Peabody Museum of Natural History

The Peabody Museum of Natural History on the campus of Yale University is an excellent place for families to explore. At this world-renowned museum, you can come face-to-face with dinosaurs, crystals and creatures from the ancient seas.

The Great Hall features towering skeletons and fossilized footprints from creatures like Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus. Learn about how dinosaur bones turn to stone through fossilization. Gaze up in awe at the giant mammals in the Age of Mammals hall, like the rhino relative Brontotherium. Discover marine reptiles and realistic dinosaurs reproductions in the galleries.

Don’t miss out on seeing the museum’s famous mural depicting the Age of Reptiles. This 110-foot-long fresco paints a vivid picture of prehistoric Connecticut when dinosaurs roamed. Through the mural and fossil specimens, families can discover what environments these extinct creatures lived in millions of years ago.

With so many fascinating finds from the natural world on display, you’ll have a roaring good time at the Peabody Museum of Natural History!

Marvel at Italian Masterpieces at the Yale University Art Gallery

In addition to dinosaurs, New Haven also has an impressive collection of art masterpieces from around the world. The extensive collections of the Yale University Art Gallery span several buildings and encompass nearly 200,000 objects. From ancient to contemporary works, this is one of the oldest university art museums in America.

At the landmark Louis Kahn building, families can find a treasure trove of art from ancient times through to Impressionist works. Don’t miss Italian masterpieces like Fra Angelico’s delicate gold-leaf altarpiece painting or Caravaggio’s dramatic “The Denial of Saint Peter”. Gaze up at the tall ceilings and abundant natural light that makes viewing the artworks a magical experience.

The family-friendly museum also holds sketching sessions, hands-on art workshops and guided tours to enrich your visit. The sculptures garden outside is also a lovely spot for families to unwind. Want to fuel up during your time here? The Art Gallery Restaurant offers stunning views of Yale’s campus along with delightful meals and snacks.

With such an extensive art collection spanning the ages, the Yale University Art Gallery makes for an inspiring and edifying family day out in New Haven!

Ride the Carousel at Lighthouse Point Park

What child doesn’t love riding a beautifully-decorated carousel? At Lighthouse Point Park, families can enjoy this timeless amusement ride with a gorgeous coastal backdrop. The seaside park also has picnic facilities, playgrounds, an outdoor pool and walking trails to delight visitors.

As one of New Haven’s beloved parks, Lighthouse Point has an old-world feel with its early 20th century carousel and classical pavilion. Pick your favorite carousel creature to ride, like a playful dolphin or mighty dragon. See the hand-carved horses, chariots and fairytale characters as you spin round and round to the carousel’s cheerful tunes.

The vintage ride has brought smiles to both children and adults for generations. After your carousel ride, let the kids burn off energy at the playgrounds while you relax at the picnic tables. Take a tranquil stroll along the walking trails to admire panoramic views across New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound.

With amusement rides, green spaces and scenic shoreline vistas, Lighthouse Point Park promises a first-rate family day out.

Get Hands-On at the Eli Whitney Museum

Learn how early manufacturing machines worked and even try your own hand operating them at the Eli Whitney Museum. At this family-friendly museum, you gain fascinating insights into how American industry developed in the early 19th century.

The museum is located on the former site of Eli Whitney’s gun factory which became operational in 1798. Here Whitney pioneered the idea of interchangeable parts through his invention, the cotton gin. Through exhibits and demonstrations at the museum, you’ll discover how manufacturing transitioned from skilled artisans producing items by hand to the age mass production.

Let the kids try their hand water-powering a saw, operating a clock-making machine or assembling their own corkscrews. Seeing early manufacturing machines up-close illuminates how nuts, bolts and everyday items were first mass produced.

The Elliott Addressing Machine was another groundbreaking creation that brought standardized addressing to the world. Through hands-on displays and craft activities, families will gain new appreciation for these manufacturing innovations that still impact our world today.

Tour Yale’s Historic Campus and Visit a Museum

Families visiting New Haven will undoubtedly want to spend time exploring Yale University’s iconic campus. The Ivy League school’s grounds centered around New Haven Green hold over a century’s worth of history and stunning architecture.

Start your Yale tour by grabbing a map of the campus’ 12 residential college quadrangles at the visitor center. Each college building has its own unique design style, from Gothic Revival to Georgian. Stroll through courtyards and arched walkways to admire the centuries-old buildings clad in ivy.

Make sure to glimpse the towering 42-bell carillon at Harkness Tower. Let the kids run through the grassy meadow beside Connecticut Hall, an 18th century landmark. And no campus tour is complete without seeing the Yale Library’s grand entrance guarded by Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ bronze statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey.

While on campus, take the opportunity to visit one of Yale’s world-class museums showcasing art, British memorabilia or rare books. From museum-hopping to soaking up centuries of history, Yale’s grounds make for an excellent family day out.

See a Show at the Historic Shubert Theatre

For an entertaining family performing arts experience in New Haven, look no further than the Shubert Theatre. This beautiful early 20th century venue has hosted legendary artists like Al Jolson, Harry Houdini and the Moscow Ballet Company during its over 100-year history.

Families can take a guided tour of the Shubert Theatre to admire its interior Beaux Arts architectural style. Look up at twinkling stars embedded in the ceiling and ornate figurines adorning private theatre boxes. Let your rascals enjoy some silly photos with life-size cutouts of Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball and classic theatre characters in the lobby.

During your Shubert visit, try and catch a children’s theatre show or family-oriented musical production. Around the holidays, performances like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or A Christmas Carol take the stage to delight all ages. Whatever production or event brings you to this historic landmark, the Shubert’s grand ambiance promises a special experience for your family.

Sample Apizza at a Classic New Haven Pizzeria

Families visiting New Haven can’t leave without trying its world-famous pizza, known locally as “apizza”. This thin crust, coal-fired specialty has put Connecticut’s pizza game on the map for decades. From old-school Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana to family-owned Modern Apizza, New Haven has signature pies to suit all tastes.

At Pepe’s on Wooster Street, queue up with the locals and prepare your taste buds for blistered crispy crusts topped with fresh tomato sauce and bubbling cheese. This pizzeria has achieved iconic status for its delectable white clam pizza, flecked with garlic, olive oil and freshly-shucked clams. Parents can sip local craft brews while the kids demolish plates of cheesy pizza at Modern Apizza on State Street. Going here on Wednesday nights allow families to sample pies at a bargain.

From Chicago deep dish to New York and Sicilian slices, families across America have strong allegiances to regional pizza styles. In New Haven though, everyone agrees you can’t miss out on trying an oven-charred apizza during your visit!

Relax at Edgerton Park

For serene green spaces in New Haven perfect for family picnics and playtimes, head over to Edgerton Park. These tranquil grounds centered around a charming lily pond allow parents to relax while children enjoy running around. Extensive walking trails weave through fragrant gardens, pine groves and meadows for you to explore at a leisurely pace.

Have the kids burn off pent-up energy at Edgerton Park’s excellent playground facilities.They can climb towering jungle gyms, whiz down slides and test their balance walking along elevated beams. Cool off on hot summer days splashing around the interactive water playscape nearby. Its cascading buckets and sprinklers promise giggles and squeals of delight.

When lunchtime rolls around, settle in for a delicious picnic spread on the grass or at the tables dotting the park. Lay out blankets under shady trees and watch the ducks paddle across the lily pond as the family unwinds. With play areas, nature and tranquility, Edgerton Park makes for a superb family excursion.

Go Back in Time at the Connecticut Trolley Museum

All aboard! At Connecticut’s Trolley Museum families can ride vintage electric trolleys from the late 19th and early 20th century eras. As you embark on a 20-minute trip through East Haven’s countryside, knowledgeable guides will share intriguing transit history. Feel like you’ve stepped back in time onboard stately oak interiors lit by brass chandeliers.

At the indoor exhibits, get glimpses of the mass transit system that operated across Connecticut decades ago. Historic maps, photographs and trolley artifacts illustrate how integral streetcars once were for travel and transporting goods. Ride aboard an open-air summer trolley to imagine how New Englanders stayed cool on sweltering days in bygone times!

Kids will get a kick out seeing the Trolley Museum’s restoration barns where antique transport gets lovingly refurbished. From riding in antique style to learning about vintage transit, Connecticut’s Trolley Museum offers family-friendly edutainment through and through.

See Exotic Species at Beardsley Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport lets families get up-close with exotic wildlife from across the globe. As Connecticut’s only zoo, Beardsley provides memorable encounters with over 300 animals across 29 acres.

Enter a tropical world when you visit the zoo’s rainforest-themed South American pavilion. Get eye-level with playful tamarin monkeys and giant anteaters in lush enclosures modeled after the Amazon. Say hello to the adorable red pandas at their new habitat before they snooze off in the treetop canopies.

Don’t miss visiting the predator dens to see Amur tigers pacing their enclosures or feeding time for the Mexican gray wolves. Grab onto your little explorers tightly when you duck into the Reptile Encounter building filled with snakes and lizards.

With creature close-ups, fun shows and engaging exhibits, Beardsley Zoo makes for an entertaining family day out rain or shine. Exciting wild adventures await when you visit Connecticut’s incredible zoo!

Sail on Long Island Sound

For family adventures on the waters surrounding New Haven, book an excursion with Schooner Inc. This local company operates two beautiful wooden ships providing public and private sailing tours year-round. Feel the wind in your hair as you sail along Long Island Sound and soak up panoramic views of coastal Connecticut. If you’re lucky, you may even spot humpback whales offshore!

Choose from a range of sailings from two to six hours in duration aboard the schooners Quinnipiack or Argia. Your licensed captain and crew will ensure a smooth ride as you sit back and admire classic nautical beauty surrounding you. The ships can accommodate families seeking a cozy private charter or others looking to meet fellow sailors on a public trip.

Kids will love learning to hoist the sails or taking turns steering the ships under the captain’s watch. Along your sailing, guides will share fascinating tidbits about New Haven’s history and the Quinnipiack native american tribe. With gorgeous scenery and salty breezes, a family sailing adventure promises magical memories.

Pick Fruit at Lyman Orchards

For wholesome outdoor family fun just minutes from downtown New Haven, head over to Lyman Orchard in Middlefield. These sprawling farm grounds bursting with juicy crops have delighted visitors for over 275 years! Late summer is an ideal time for picking your own apples, peaches, raspberries and more at Lyman’s Pick-Your-Own fields.

Kids will enjoy row upon row of lush fruit-bearing trees and bushes ripe for easy harvest. After you gather baskets brimming with fresh-off-the-branch produce, head to Lyman’s farm market brimming with baked goods, jams, cheese, maple syrup and seasonal treats.

Let the kids expend energy at Lyman’s playgrounds and mazes during your visit too. Cool off with some ice-cream at their Creamery before stocking up on freshly baked fruit pies to enjoy back home. For wholesome agricultural adventures combined with fruit freshness, Lyman Orchards is a delightful day trip from New Haven.

Conclusion


Families visiting New Haven or its nearby towns have an exciting variety of museums, parks, attractions and tours to fill their itineraries. From riding a vintage 1920s carousel to sailing on Long Island Sound, there are activities to engage family members across ages.

Kids can frolic on playgrounds and at water parks between visiting dinosaur troves and fruit orchards ripe for picking. Parents will find downtime admiring Yale’s gothic buildings or the Shubert Theatre’s art deco glamor when they’re not chasing the little ones!

With world-class art galleries and pizzerias continuing to give this coastal Connecticut destination global fame, New Haven also promises quirky local finds. Bask in sea breezes as you bite into famoso “apizza” or catch a show at an historic theater during your family travels here. With such enriching experiences and special memories in the making, New Haven is truly a top-notch American family getaway waiting to be discovered!

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