S taring at stuff can be restorative. For most of us, a few walls and a short walk or drive are all that separate us from a feast for the eyes: hills and lakes, rivers and forests, the ocean. There are prime people-watching spots in nearly every neighborhood and some elevated views downtown affording dramatic panoramas of the city and its interesting architecture, especially as our oaks and elms trade their lush summertime greens for a fiery array of reds and oranges and yellows.
West Rock and East Rock offer well-known Elm City vantage points. But tall rocks aren’t the sole keepers of bird’s-eye views. Two downtown hotels, The Study at Yale and The Omni New Haven, offer high-up situations. The Study’s 1,200-square-foot penthouse/event space has floor-to-ceiling windows and a view that overlooks much of Yale’s campus. It’s a fantastic little slice of New England, though you may need an invitation to a charity cocktail fundraiser or other special event to see it. Not so at the Omni, where you can dine on noticeably upscale American fare at its 19th-floor restaurant, John Davenport’s. The dining room sports wide windows so that you can gaze longingly at the changing leaves over JD’s signature burger.
With football season underway, New Haveners now have access to the Yale Bowl on select Saturdays (including this upcoming one), with a great view from seats in the under-appreciated upper row. The stadium has to reach pretty high in its own right to efficiently seat its capacity of 61,000, and there’s plenty to see from its highest points: charming homes dotting Westville, Yale’s clean-cut soccer field and the Connecticut Tennis Center.
History offers an even longer view to take in. Built in 1914, the stadium at the time was the largest since Rome’s world-famous Coliseum. Many stadiums have since surpassed the Yale Bowl in capacity, but its architecture still reverberates across the country in Pasadena, California, at what is arguably college football’s most famous landmark: the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl’s architect, Myron Hunt, took critical inspiration from the Yale Bowl’s shape.
Every other year, that shape is home to a phenomenon that shaped the sport: “The Game,” wherein the Yale Bulldogs and Harvard Crimson play out college football’s oldest rivalry, which began in 1875. More of a footnote in football’s annals is that the New York Giants crossed NYC’s East River and called the Yale Bowl home during most of the 1973 and ’74 seasons.
New Haven has its own east river, the Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac River Park (pictured above), in the Fair Haven section of town, is a thin strip of green space running along the waterway between what are essentially two drawbridges: the Ferry Street Bridge and the Grand Avenue Bridge. The bridge on Ferry, which was built in 1940 as part of the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration, caused headaches between 2002 and 2008 while repair work was being done. Now things run more smoothly, and the bridge offers an accordingly long, peaceful view downriver.
The park’s far end, near the Grand Avenue Bridge, has benches close to water’s edge for people- and boat-watching, or maybe gazing into a lover’s eyes. The bridge has existed in some form or another since 1791. Back then, it was made of stone and wood and was known as the Dragon Bridge, since nearby Fair Haven was first known to settlers as “Dragon.” The origin of the name isn’t perfectly understood but may have had something to do with the presence of seals, which early settlers mistook for sea monsters. The views from the bridge are phenomenal, especially at sunset when temperatures drop, and fishermen reel in their rods and wrap their catches in newspaper.
So, go on. Leave your walled confines. Tower over the city. Cheer on the Bulldogs from up high. Stare down the Quinnipiac.
Get some perspectives on New Haven.