In Greater New Haven, the town of East Haven is just minutes from its sister town, but a place of its own.
In summer, the town’s beach is a great place to relax in Long Island Sound, with a great little seafood restaurant in the back.
The Shoreline Tramway Museum, the oldest of its kind in the country, is a major tourist attraction this time of year, with vintage streetcars from all over the country available to ride.
East Haven has deep Italian-American ancestry, a lineage with numerous gourmet establishments, and a unique local style of pizza called “apizza” that is close to its Neapolitan ancestors.
Let’s explore the best things to do in East Haven:
1. Shoreline Tram Museum
A wonderful transportation heritage, the Branford Electric Railroad is the oldest trolleybus line in the United States, dating back to 1900. The last service was in 1947, after the line was discontinued with the Connecticut Company’s streetcar network, becoming a museum where you can ride charming vintage carts in a picturesque setting.
Open in the spring and summer, the Shoreline Trolley Museum features a fleet of nearly 100 historic transportation vehicles from networks across the United States, as well as approximately 1,000 streetcar artifacts such as tickets, tokens, and hat badges.
Some standout exhibits include Horsecar 76, the world’s oldest preserved horse-drawn streetcar, the Manhattan Railroad “G”, America’s oldest rapid transit car dating back to 1878, and PATH 745, which emerged after the collapse of world trade at 9/ 11 is the center.
2. East Haven Town Beach
The town’s public beaches are compact but well-equipped and remain pristine throughout the summer.
There are lifeguards during the summer, and younger kids can have fun on the splashboard in the back, or head to the beach to hunt for shells.
On a tall grassy area, you’ll find picnic tables, followed by the acclaimed Sandpiper restaurant, serving lobster rolls and fresh fryers on the patio with views of the Long Island Sound.
As with all public beaches in Connecticut, the lot has high parking fees for non-residents, but this can be bypassed on nearby streets.
3. Town Green
Sheltered by deciduous trees, this historic meadow has been the center of town life for more than two centuries.
This was originally the East Haven cemetery, and although the tombstone was moved to the East Lawn cemetery to the south, the remains remain beneath the town green.
During summer, the bandstand hosts live music every Sunday, and in December, it’s home to the East Haven Christmas Tree.
In the War Memorial, you can visit the Soldiers Memorial (1911), a Civil War-era Rodman gun mounted on a granite base.
The gun was the last of three “Old Guards” installed at Fort Nathan Hale in the harbor early in the Civil War, then moved to Beacon Point when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898.
4. East Haven First Congregational Church
Green Street west of the town is one of only a few churches in the state that date back to before the Revolutionary War.
Known as the Old Stone Church, this Georgian monument was completed in 1774 and is worth a detour.
The nave and tower are constructed of red sandstone quarried near Fairhaven, the latter being topped by a wooden bell tower with Corinthian columns and pilasters under an octagonal spire.
The interior was renovated in 1850, during which time the pulpit was moved to the east end, rather than the south wall, as is common in colonial meeting rooms.
5. New Haven Pizza
East Haven is known for its Italian-American heritage, and one of the largest local employers is the Calabro Cheese Company, which makes mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta and Romano cheeses.
These Italian roots will be unmistakable when you look at the delis, pizzerias, Italian restaurants, grinders and Italian bakeries in the area.
New Haven has so much influence on Italy that it even has its own style of pizza, apizza, which has a thin crust closer to a Neapolitan pizza and is baked at high heat in a coal-fired oven and eaten whole, not sliced.
Some local options in East Haven are Aniello (346 Hemingway Ave), Tolli’s Apizza (410 Main St), John & Maria Pizzeria (280 Foxon Rd), and Capotorto’s Apizza Center (688 Foxon Rd).
6. Foxon Park Beverages
Go to any independent pizzeria in East Haven or New Haven and you’ll see bottles of this soft drink brand that look like they’re from a different time.
Founded in 1922, Foxon Park Beverages is stocked in stores across New England, but is most prominent in its hometown.
The brand differs from other soft drink brands in a few ways, most notably it still uses glass bottles with lids.
Unlike high fructose corn syrup, favored by corporate soft drink brands, Foxon Park uses cane sugar in its line of 17 sodas.
There are grapes, cream, cherries, limes, cola, oranges, root beers and strawberries.
What sets New England apart and out of the ordinary is the birch tree, which is crystal clear and has a sweet, minty flavor.
You’ll see bottles all over East Haven, but can be found at the Factory Store at 103 Foxon Blvd.
7. Beacon Point Park
What you must do in East Haven is head to this headland that guards the entrance to New Haven Harbor on the east side.
Lighthouse Point Park takes its name from Five Mile Point, an octagonal sandstone tower built in 1847 (replacing one in 1805), only to be decommissioned 30 years later.
Five Mile Point takes its name from its location, exactly five miles from the center of New Haven.
Another beautiful attraction in the surrounding park is the Lighthouse Point Carousel, built in 1911 and one of only three places in the world from this period to have camels among its 69 handmade horses.
Elsewhere there is a beach area, a splash pad that showcases the site’s natural history, gazebos, tree-covered picnic areas and walking trails.
Small-batch craft breweries have taken over Connecticut over the past decade, but East Haven has something the state has never seen before.
Beeracks is a cooperative brewing cooperative with eight small beer brands sharing facilities at one brewery.
The most well-known brand here is Overshores Brewing, which specializes in Belgian-style saisons, wits and tripels.
Beeracks’ newly renovated bar at 250 Bradley Street is open Thursday through Sunday, serving pints and flights from other brands like Overshores and Armada, which makes hoppy and fruity IPAs.
There are regular live music and the occasional food truck, so you can bring your own food or order it whenever you want.
9. East Haven Historical Society Museum
This superb local museum showcases vintage Foxon Park soda bottles and is managed by a dedicated team of volunteers.
The museum is located in the old East Haven High School building at 200 Taylor Street and some of the many artifacts on display are locally made antique furniture, tools, World War I and World War II artifacts, old yearbooks and catalogues as well as historical paintings and photo cityscapes.
Foxon Park Soda’s collection is accompanied by a wealth of information about the company’s past.
10. East Haven Fall Festival
East Haven kicks off summer with this highly anticipated event on the first Saturday in September.
Now in its third decade, the East Haven Fall Festival takes place in the town of Greene, with a lot to do in six hours.
There’s live music from the bandstand (The Grass Roots performed in 2019), as well as food stalls from local restaurants, a car show and a variety of children’s entertainment, including rides.
If you’re in the neighborhood on a Friday night, there are more concerts, usually with major headlines supported by local and community groups.
11. Nathan Hale Fort
Back on the east shore of New Haven Harbor, you can explore the historic sites flanking the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve.
Black Rock Castle was built on a rocky outcrop in 1776 to protect the port from attack by the British.
It fulfilled this role during the Tryon Raid in 1779, when a contingent of only 19 men forced a British army of 3,000 men to divert their landing points from New Haven to West Haven and Beacon Point.
Between 1807 and 1812, the fortifications were rebuilt as Fort Nathan Hale, and after its decline in the 20th century, the site was restored and then returned to service in 1976. You’ll see earthwork walls, drawbridges, moats, powder magazines, and a deep bulletproof bunker.
Standing on the ground is a cast of a statue of the famous American spy Nathan Hale (1755-1776), by Bela Pratt, depicting waiting with hands tied behind her back Executed hero.
12. Alling Memorial Golf Club
The Alling Memorial Golf Club is a well-regarded public course, an unpretentious but well-maintained golf course.
The 18-hole course is not to be taken lightly, as the tee positions can be deceiving, the fairways are narrow and bordered by obstacles, and the manicured greens are fast.
Occasionally, you’ll find a breathtaking view, especially from the elevated tee on the par-3 10th.
The club dates back to 1930 and has hosted the USGA, Connecticut PGA and Connecticut Golf Association championships.
13. Farm River State Park
There are more than 60 acres of natural beauty on the west bank of the Farm River, just before it completes its 16.5-mile route to Long Island Sound.
Inaugurated in 1998, the park is surrounded by luxury apartments designed to enjoy unforgettable views of the estuary.
The northern half of the park is rugged, with spectacular bedrock outcrops, and cliff-top views of the Isles of Thunder and Kelsey.
Heading south, there is a tidal marsh home to egrets, ducks, gulls and blue herons.
14. Salton Storr Hill/Salton Storr Lake
The slender Saltonstall is 98 meters high and is one of the southernmost peaks of the larger Metacomet Ridge.
The basalt fault begins in nearby Long Island Sound and extends 100 miles north to the Massachusetts-Vermont border.
You can cross Saltonstall Mountain on a trail run by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.
Right in the middle of the ridge, supported by a steep wooded slope, is the long, narrow Lake Salton.
If you have a Connecticut fishing license, the lake is stocked with a variety of fish, including trout, carp, walleye, yellow bass, and small and largemouth bass.
15. Keys to the Antiques of the Past
In an unassuming building next to the Governor John Davis Lodge Turnpike is a multi-dealer antiques center with over 740 square meters of reserved space.
Enthusiasts can easily spend an hour or two searching for something special in this cave of Aladdin’s furniture, artwork, armaments, coins, decorative arts, lighting, mirrors, records and collectibles.
Past Keys is run by wife and husband team Judith and Emil Serrano and was featured in CTNow’s “Best of New Haven” readers’ poll in 2018.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in East Haven, Connecticut (CT)
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