NEW HAVEN - University towns are New England’s best defense against late-winter cabin fever. Most colleges have attractions and activities open to folks without student IDs, and the campuses themselves are usually ringed with interesting shops, restaurants, and nightlife options. Moreover, they exude such a youthful, hopeful vibe that it’s impossible not to believe that spring is around the corner. New Haven certainly fills the bill.
Yale University relocated to the city in 1716, and the Old Campus sits cheek-by-jowl to New Haven Green, the historic core laid out by Puritan settlers. Over the years Yale has developed a virtual architectural park, built impressive museums, and nurtured performing artists. In a couple of days you can sample it all.
Amid university buildings, the Study at Yale (1157 Chapel St., 203-503-3900, www.studyhotels.com, rates from $199) has deep chairs, shelves of books, and a coffee bar in the lobby. Make it your grown-up dorm - very grown up. The Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale (155 Temple St., 203-772-6664, www.omninewhaven.com, rates from $159) sits across from New Haven Green. Popular with business travelers, it’s also a good base for exploring.
Heirloom (203-503-3919, brunch $6-$16, dinner entrees $15-26) in the Study at Yale serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Try the pastrami hash or Bananas Foster French toast. The chef is a proponent of local ingredients and dinner might feature ricotta gnocchi with rabbit sausage or sea scallops with caramelized spaghetti squash. For more casual fare, Prime 16 Tap House + Burgers (172 Temple St., 203-782-1616, www.prime16.com, burgers $9.95-$13.95) has a pubby feel, 20 beers on tap, and 16 burger options. Like most college towns, New Haven overflows with ethnic eateries, including Malaysian-inspired Bentara Restaurant (76 Orange St., 203-562-2511, www.bentara.com, entrees $9.95-$29.95), known for its nourishing stir-fried noodle dishes.
DURING THE DAY
Pick up a map at the Yale Visitor Center (149 Elm St., 203-432-2300) and pay your respects to Handsome Dan II, the taxidermied bulldog who served as school mascot from 1933-37. The map will lead you past campus architectural gems, including the Yale Center for British Art (1080 Chapel St., 203-432-2800, www.britishart.yale.edu, free). The final building by architect Louis I. Kahn houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. Through June 3, the exhibition “While These Visions Did Appear’’ features depictions of Shakespeare’s plays. Kahn also designed the Yale University Art Gallery (1111 Chapel St., 203-432-0600, www.artgallery.yale.edu, free) across the street. You can check out Edwin Austin Abbey’s remarkable 1897 painting of “The Play Scene in Hamlet (Act III, Scene 2),’’ then linger in the light-filled galleries of modern and contemporary art. Thoughtful temporary exhibitions draw on American works to reflect on our collective history and identity. There is, of course, more to New Haven than Yale.
The New Haven Museum (114 Whitney Ave., 203-562-4183, www.newhavenmuseum.org, adults $4, seniors $3, students $2, under 12 free) does a good job of tracing local history. One exhibit focuses on the struggle for freedom by the Africans aboard the slave ship Amistad. Closer to campus, Artspace (50 Orange St., 203-772-2709, www.artspacenh.org, free) champions local artists. The exhibition “Our Daily Rite,’’ (through March 24) features artists who explore art-making and ritual. Shops cater to every taste. Lisa Jones (1022 Chapel St., 203-498-9000) features high impact yet affordable fashion accessories while Cutler’s Records, Tapes & Compact Discs (25-27 Broadway, 203-777-6271, www.cutlers.com) has 100 CD listening stations and a quirky selection of T-shirts. Browse the shelves at Atticus Bookstore/Café (1082 Chapel St., 203-776-4040, www.atticusbookstorecafe.com) and then take a break with a cookie and cappuccino.
The lounge-like bar at Firehouse 12 (45 Crown St., 203-785-0468, www.firehouse12.com) specializes in classic cocktails, and the recording studio often doubles as a live performance space. A spring jazz series begins in mid-March. Yale Repertory Theatre (box office and main stage, 1120 Chapel St., 203-432-1234, www.yalerep.org, $20-$73) presents Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale’’ from March 16 to April 7. The world premiere of “The Realistic Joneses’’ by up-and-coming playwright Will Eno begins April 20. Criterion Cinemas (86 Temple St., 203-498-2500, www.bowtiecinemas.com, seats $5, mimosas $2) screens cult favorites on Friday and Saturday nights at 11:30. Too late? Movies & Mimosas on Saturday and Sunday mornings (11:30) features classic films and bubbly drinks.Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at email@example.com.