Affordable Yale: Free Things To Do in New Haven

3 girls pose overlooking New Haven

As a first-generation low-income student at Yale, I initially found myself overwhelmed by the campus and the sudden seemingly endless student resources that I now had access to. Though my financial aid package had made Yale very accessible financially and the university is full of opportunities to increase accessibility for students, I still struggled to connect with New Haven in an affordable way. I’m a senior now, and given my now fourth year of residence in New Haven, I’ve found free and fun things to get me off campus and enjoying the rich fabric of the New Haven community. I’ve listed a few of my top free activities below. 

1. Hike (or bike) East Rock. 

I come from a very flat and rural part of East Texas, so I was rightfully amazed when I saw East Rock literally nestled among New Haven’s urban environment. East Rock is a comfortable 1.5 mile walk from campus and is easily walkable (totally worth it once you get there). Bike to the top for an extra exercise challenge!

2 girls stand on East Rocks stone stairs
My two friends pose on East Rock’s stairway passage leading up to the summit. 

2. Walk through Downtown New Haven to See Literal Art.

Given that it was founded in 1638, New Haven has a rich history literally built into its streets and buildings. The architecture of the downtown is beautiful–I love walking past all the locally owned shops and seeing the artwork hidden in the least expected places. 

3. Run (or bike) to the beach (I know, I was surprised when I realized this was possible, too)!!

New Haven is perfectly situated for hikes up East Rock, walks down urban streets, or a run to an actual beach. Lighthouse point is the closest beach to campus and has a picture-perfect lighthouse to guide you to its Atlantic waters.

two girls smiling
My friend, Hang, and I smile as we soak in New Haven’s fleeting sunlight. 

4. Take part in the Shops at Yale’s college night!

Each semester, the Shops at Yale on Broadway host a college night. For anyone with a college ID, you can register to receive freebies from local businesses. In the past, I’ve gotten ice cream from Ashley’s, a donut from Donut Crazy, churros from Tomatillo, and fun games and coupons at other shops. 

5. Museums!

Yale has some incredible collections accessible to the Yale community for free. My personal favorite is the often-overlooked Cushing Brain Room in the Medical Library. The Peabody museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and British Art Gallery also never disappoint (I love the YUAG’s permanent Greek and Roman sculpture collection). 

a drawer of human spines
A drawer of human spines I found while exploring the Cushing Brain room. There are so many odd things to see in this small hidden museum!

One thing I’ve found given my time at Yale is that, no matter how busy I am or how much work I feel I have, it’s always worth my time to take a break and engage in a meaningful (and affordable) way with my surroundings. Now that I’m in my last year at Yale, I regret all the weekends where I didn’t explore New Haven, so take it from me and get out there!