Like most cities, New Haven provides plenty(ish) of cultural and entertainment options. But with those things comes a price. Typically, in gold doubloons or whatever people are using for money these days. (I think maybe Apple controls money now?)

Sure, I love Yale Repertory Theater, but it’s $92.00 for a seat. NINETY TWO DOLLARS. Even if Paul Giamatti isn’t in that play. That’s just like… for regular actors.

Paul Giamatti
He’s not even guaranteed to be in every play!

Now that’s probably fine for all you folks who live on St. Ronan over there in the Monocle District, but what about the regular folks?! Should we accept that life is interesting enough? As Shakespeare once said, “The world is a stage, and that goes double for whatever is happening down at the bus stop today.”

But maybe, just maybe, there are actually cultural and entertainment options available for the masses! Let’s have fun on the cheap!

Y’all Got Any Of that Free Yale Culture?

When you think of Yale, what do you think? Of course — we’re all thinking the same thing. A circle of ageless necromancers huddled around a bubbling cauldron, plotting New Haven’s demise.

Yale Board of Directors Meeting, 2019

But, in reality, it’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, did you know Yale sometimes lets just like, regular people into their events?

You don’t have to have a Yale ID to take full advantage of Yale University’s offerings. They often have a full bevy of events, speakers, movies, etc. for the general public. A friend of mine saw Ta-Naheesi Coates speak there (for free!).

Ta-Nahisi Coates
You should seriously read this dude’s books.

Every Tuesday, Leitner Observatory provides free shows to the public, followed by (weather-permitting) observations of the night sky and people going “whoa”.

The Yale Film Study Center regularly shows free screenings in glorious 35mm. Free to the public! They call them Treasures. No doubloons necessary!

Beinecke Library has a ton of free events, and also might be a space ship, so you shouldn’t risk being left behind on Earth if it is.

Beinecke Library At Night
Please take us from this ill-fated planet!

Yale does free tours every day. “Up next, another building where future leaders will someday decide which corporate entities get rights to which of your DNA strands, and on the right, you’ll see a beautiful stained glass window depicting your future as a robot battery.”

I, uh, haven’t actually been on the tour, but that’s probably close.

The Yale Calendar has a list of all its public events, so keep an eye out there for anything that suits your fancy.

And of course, the Yale Art Gallery, the Beineke Rare Manuscript Library (with its fancy-ass Gutenberg Bible), and the Yale British Art Gallery are all unbelievable visits which are totally free.

The City Also Has Freebies

Did you know that the New Haven Free Public Library actually gives away free passes to Long Wharf Theater simply by showing them your Library Card? Whaaaaaat.

Yeah, I know. But your date doesn’t have to.


Supposedly they have tickets to museums and the such, too.

The Library also has free films on Friday afternoons. For instance I saw recently they were playing Room, in case you wanted strangers to see you cry.

They also have a pretty extensive DVD collection. That’s right, your library is a Blockbuster now! No business model is too outdated for the ol’ library.

Closed Blockbuster
New Haven Free Public Library, 2021

(Your library card also allows you to borrow books from the internets right onto your Kindle. The future is so cool!)

InfoNewHaven usually has a semi-up-to-date schedule of events going on around New Haven. Town Green District also runs a ton of events, from the Temple Street Plaza to the Night Market, complete with a petting zoo. Cause really, when is a bad time for a petting zoo.

There are, of course, the plentiful, beautiful parks across this city. The ever-popular East Rock, the less-popular-but-a-better-hike West Rock. Lighthouse Park is free if you actually register your car in New Haven (and I know many of you don’t!).

East Rock

There’s also the lesser known parks like Criscoulo Park in Fair Haven (thanks, Caroline!). Get out and explore that city!

Or go for a ride on the Farmington Canal Trail!

You can also tour the Grove Street Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery, or as my buddy Dennis says it, “Check out famous deads.”

Also, don’t forget to check out the Knights of Columbus Museum and the New Haven Museum. Both free! So free. Like your spirit, friend. (Thanks to reddit commentor flytweed for these recs).

Check Out Your Local Community

One of the best parts of New Haven is all the cool people doing rad stuff. You don’t have to be a Yalie or a faceless City Bureaucrat to get shit done.

For instance, did you know about New Haven Bike Party? What’s that, you ask? Well you know how sometimes you want to ride around real slow with your friends and blast music out of a giant bluetooth speaker and yell “BIKE PARTY” at people?

Well now you can.

Bike Party!
If you aren’t yelling Bike Party at people, are you even partying?

The Bradley Street Bike Co-Op is regularly doing community events, whether it’s Chainbreakers or uh other things.

Bradley St Bike Co Op
Look at these happy faces!

As is Agora, a co-working space owned by friend-of-the-blog Matt Fantastic.

If you’re a nerd like me, is a community if fellow nerds who you can complain about JavaScript frameworks to. Or mostly talk about Ruby. We don’t take kindly to you PHP folks ’round these parts.

From the Art World, there’s ArtEcon Initiative, providing free or low cost art programs, as well as the Kehler Liddell Gallery, and ArtSpace and whatever is going on at Erector Square. Honestly just wander around and you’ll probably just end up in an art gallery whether you like it or not.


DistriCT (get it?) also apparently has TED-like talks and events which are generally open to the public.

One particularly nerdy friend suggested Geocaching? You really gotta give it to hiking nerds for stepping up their game.

Check Out Some Cheap Shows

While I don’t typically advocate the bar as a “cheap” place to hang out, there are a surprising number of affordable options out there if you’re looking for something cool to do.

Almost all shows at Three Sheets are free, and Manic Mondays at Cafe Nine are free as well if you sign up ahead of time. They also have a free happy hour on Fridays. Most of their shows are actually pretty cheap, including personal favorite of mine, Words and Music. I believe Koffee? also has free entertainment on many Friday nights.

Elm City Games, at $10 for a full-day pass, is not necessarily “cheap,” but since it’s BYOB, I consider it a great value, and honestly have had such a wonderful time every time I’ve been that I can’t help but include it (will also be featured in an upcoming article). It’s only $20 for a monthly pass, which is pretty reasonable if you can manage to go more than once per month.

Elm City Games
These folks know how to fuckin party

Many of the local yoga studios, including Breathing Room Yoga and Fresh Yoga, provide sliding scale or donation-based classes.

Miya’s Sushi is the exact opposite of cheap unless you go during their late-night Happy Hour, at which point it’s only $6 for a sushi platter of Whatever They Made Too Much Of, is my guess. It’s Thur-Sat from 10p-1am and Sun/Tue/Wed from 9p-10p or whenever they run out. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anything of that quality for that price.

Unless you count the taco trucks by Long Wharf. “But Josh, there’s like 15 trucks, they aren’t all taco trucks all they?”

Well, no. There is technically a flag truck where you can buy anti-Hillary Clinton flags. Which obviously is a huge industry in New Haven.

Long Wharf Food Trucks

On Fridays, they do free wine tastings from 5-8pm at the Wine Thief downtown. Which is a great place to head after Prime 16′s half-priced craft beer Happy Hour (still the most glorious happy hour in the land).

Bow Tie Cinemas also has $7 Tuesdays (as well as $5 popcorn if you are looking to eat a Full Tub Of Something).

Or Just Get Weird

One of my favorite things to do is just wander around Ikea stoned. “Oh shit, I didn’t even know you could put a shelf like that!”

Seriously, try it.

My buddy Dan also shared this gem: “There is one black squirrel that lives on the upper green that’s fun to watch.”


I am sure I missed a few things, but at some point you go from “blog about cheap stuff” to “weird novella” and I don’t want to cross that line. This isn’t the New Yorker.

Either way, I think I’ve given you all enough to go on and get out into that world and enjoy things without spending a lot of money.

See you out there, Thriftos!




  1. Just would like to point out that there are always a limited number of $10 Yale Rep tickets available, as a way to keep theater affordable to the community. (I just discovered and utilized this recently!) Also, you can borrow free passes from the New Haven Public Library.

  2. Also with your library membership is Kanopy, which has all the weirdest films you never find on Netflix or on their shelves…I honestly have yet to watch a bad movie on this streaming service. You get like 5 titles a month or something with your library card.

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