We do the Maine to NY drive several times during the year, and it has never occurred to me to break up the trip with a stop in New Haven (even with a giant Ikea located nearby). But after reading about the recent completion of the $14 million renovation at the Yale University Art Gallery, I thought it was worth a stop on our way back home to Maine.
Only an hour by car from Westchester (and easily accessible on MetroNorth), the Yale University Art Gallery has a world class collection of art, both ancient and modern, that makes it well worth the trip. So much so that I texted the C&G Grandparents and told them next time they're headed into the city for a museum, get on a north bound train instead of a south bound train and head to New Haven. I was stunned by the quality of their collection and the boys were hooked when they walked into the first cathedral-like gallery filled with ancient Greek & Roman statues.
And best of all, admission is always free. Thank you wealthy Yale alumni!
There were beautifully tiled Babylonian mosaics on the wall, and a particularly well-preserved one on the floor, that had been excavated by university students in the early 20th century. Big C&G wants to be an archaeologist when he grows up (I don't think he's realized yet it's not all Indiana Jones. . . ) so he was happy to spend at least an hour wandering from room to room. Another gallery featured some reassembled rooms from a 3rd century Dura-Europos site (in what is now Syria), excavated by students in the 1920s & 1930s. There was a very informative (and kid friendly) kiosk that showed the history of the dig and how they found and reconstructed all the pieces.
As you travel up the floors in the museum you advance through the centuries. Each period of European & American art is very well represented. The dour looking Renaissance portraits with their ruffled collars and curly wigs were oddly entertaining to the kiddos. The collection also has some lovely Impressionist pieces, a few Picasso's and Hopper's, Mondrian's and Twombly's, just to name a few.
We skipped over the African, Indo-Pacific, and South American collections, just in the interest of time & energy. I'm sure the boys will want to check them out next time, but I'll have to take a pass. The wooden idols look like something from my nightmares, and I always think they're about to spring to life.
As we got towards the top (modern & contemporary) the boys enthusiasm started to rapidly decline. The comic book styles of Roy Lichtenstein briefly grabbed their interest, but we knew it was time to head out for some lunch. I know I've read about the pizza rivalries and alliances that exist in New Haven, but our choice needed to be within walking distance of the museum. The restaurant Bar was just a 5 minute walk away, and is known not only for their pizza but their in-house brewed beer.
With another 3 1/2 hours of driving ahead of us we had to skip the beer. The pizzas were absolutely delicious, very thin crust and plenty of interesting choices for toppings (mashed potatoes and bacon!). But be warned, they are huge! I wrongly assumed the nearby tables of hungry college students were sharing large sized pies, so we ordered 2 mediums and 1 small. But when our waitress arrived carrying 3 huge trays, I knew I assumed wrong.
Another nearby lunch option would be the charming Atticus Bookstore & Cafe, directly across from the Yale University Art Gallery. They have a small area with wait service, but they also serve up tasty looking breakfast and lunch items to go. Perfect for a picnic on the pretty Yale campus in nice weather. We grabbed coffees for the car ride while the boys browsed the bookstore. The kids selection was pretty impressive and Big C&G found plenty of titles to add to his wish list.
Next door to the Atticus Bookstore is the Yale Center for British Art. Next time we're passing through New Haven again we'll definitely have to check this museum out. With some coloring books bought at their gift shop, we were ready to hit the road back home. Coloring in the knights & castles bought us almost an hour of silence before the "can we have our iPhones" chorus kicked in. . .