To be honest, I didn't really know much about Connecticut before one of my best friends moved there - apart from it being an oddly challenging state to spell and the name of a place that my dad used to travel to for work. But just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend exploring New Haven and Milford, and I was very pleasantly surprised! Now I'm breaking down my top to-dos in both of these areas.
New Haven // Yale / Louie's Lunch / Barcelona Wine Bar
Yale - Yep, that's right! New Haven is home to the prestigious Yale University. We spent our day exploring the campus, taking in the sights and marveling at the history. If you're ever in town, be sure to spend some time in the Yale art gallery (artgallery.yale.edu). Admission is free and they have works ranging from sculptures to scriptures to Picasso and Dalí.
Louie's Lunch - A famous destination in New Haven, Louie's Lunch is the home of the very first burger (featured here on The Travel Channel)! Louie's was a must - and it did not disappoint. Still made in the original cast-iron grills, the burgers come on bread just as they did when the hamburger sandwich was first created in 1900. You have a choice of adding tomatoes, onions, or a cheese spread, but otherwise you won't find any condiments on site. Louie's maintains the belief that the burgers are meant to be enjoyed as-is, nothing masking the awesome juicy flavor. A tip for visiting Louie's - it's cash only, and it gets extremely busy. Try going outside of the lunchtime and after-bar hours.
Barcelona Wine Bar - The Barcelona Wine Bar is an absolute must! Dark and sophisticated, it's a tapas restaurant and bar in full Spanish style. We were wise to make a reservation (go late - we made one for 8:45 pm), but since they were still running behind, they passed out a delicious white sangria to all those who were waiting. Minutes later our table was ready, and the four of us girls enjoyed an evening of sharing stories and sharing our meals. Each of us ordered two tapas and passed them around. My favorite plate was the gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic) - seriously unreal. We also opted to share dessert. Considering the high quality food and service, the price was very reasonable. There are additional locations across Connecticut and in Georgia, Massachusetts, and the D.C. area.
Milford // Milford Harbor / Eli's
Milford Harbor - The New England area is special because it's full of gorgeous beach towns, each a chic and sweet little escape from the city life. And Milford is no different. Though it was a chilly 40 degrees during our weekend getaway, we walked along the beach and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Milford Harbor. Definitely a must-see no matter when you visit!
Eli's - A gastropub featuring 20 micro brews, Eli's Tavern is an awesome go-to spot in Milford. Eli's began in Hamden and has grown to have a few locations. We first went to Eli's for dinner, and I tried what is a staple in the region: mashed potato pizza. New Haven is known for its pizza, and the mashed potato pizza tradition has extended into Milford. My pizza was actually a flatbread, and it was delicious! Eli's is also a great spot to grab drinks at or go out to on the weekends.
Other notable mentions from our tour of Southern CT:
Two Roads Brewing Co. (Stratford) - Taking the road less traveled - a refreshing approach to life and the hallmark of Two Roads Brewing Co. Two Roads was founded in 2012, which makes the huge, beautiful facility and variety of offerings and programs even more impressive. A visit to Two Roads is the perfect Saturday afternoon activity. They offer tours (with samplings!) throughout the day, and you can get food delivered or bring your own lunch. Sometimes they have food trucks outside and host special events. We got a few flights and spent time in their massive tasting room for a few hours. It was like one big party! There were groups of friends hanging out, birthday celebrations ensuing, and dates happening all around us. Oh, and did I mention that the beer is awesome?
Gouveia Vinyards (Wallingford) - While at Two Roads it was recommended to us that we also check out Gouveia Vinyards. We thought, well, a brewery and then a winery - we're really living! So we made our way to Wallingford to enjoy the beautiful view and delicious wine at Gouveia. We sat down with a bottle of white table wine and ordered a pizza from a local pizzeria. It was lovely. The room was full of people just like it was at Two Roads - families, friends, and loved ones spending time together without distractions.
If you ever find yourself in New Haven or Milford, CT, try to check some of these places off of your list. Or if you don't have a list, start here!
Have other suggestions for to-dos in the Constitution state? Leave them in the comments below!