Over the next few months, you’ll be told the real New Haven is much safer, cleaner and more fun than the perception of the city indicates. And with some effort, you’ll find this to be the case, but it’ll require leaving the ivy walls. Home to a vibrant cultural scene and great ethnic food, New Haven isn’t just a town an hour and a half away from New York. So, from an insider’s perspective, here’s ten reasons why New Haven has more to offer than can be seen at first glance:

These sneakers were made for walkin’: Some streets in New Haven feel more like suburban lanes than busy city roads. In the fall or spring, Hillhouse Avenue and St. Ronan’s Street, near the Divinity School, provide a respite from urban life. Throw on your sneakers (or flip-flops, if you prefer) and start walking.

Meditate: On Sundays, the cavernous Christ Church, across the street from Cosi (formerly XandO’s coffeehouse), is the perfect setting for meditation. Gregorian chant echoes through an incense-filled room from an invisible choir. Spooky but unforgettable.

Catch a flick: The York Square Cinemas, central New Haven’s only movie theater, offers a great variety of independent films that attract theatergoers from around New Haven County. Go see a movie you’ve never heard of and be pleasantly surprised.

Be artistic: New Haven, home to both world-class Yale galleries and cozy community art spaces, has a thriving arts scene. Be a part of it at the Creative Arts Workshop on Audubon Street, which offers workshops and semester-long courses in everything from pottery to weaving to jewelry making.

Catch some rays: Yes, there is a beach in New Haven, and yes, it does have natural sand and salt water. Right on Long Island Sound, Lighthouse Point offers picnic areas, fields, a swings and a working antique carousel. Feel like a kid again.

Be a punk rocker: The Tune-Inn has been introducing new punk, ska and rock bands to the local music scene for almost 10 years. Better than Toad’s for real music and billiards and for a more authentic New Haven night.

Take a hike: One of the city’s most beautiful spots is the top of East Rock Park, where there is a small park and an outstanding view. Walk down Orange Street through the East Rock neighborhood and up the park’s trails to the verdant peak. And while you’re at it, bring sandwiches and chips and picnic while you enjoy the scenery.

Go on a Tour de Pizza: New Haven is renown for its thin-crust brick oven pizza, so spend a day, or spread it out over a semester, traveling the pizza places in town. Judge for yourself whether Sally’s or Pepe’s is tastier, and whether BAR or Brick Oven cooks up the best near-campus treat.

Get to the top of the world: The Art and Architecture Building may be one of biggest eyesores on campus, but it provides the best bird’s eye view of New Haven’s center. Night or day, bring a camera to capture the panoramic scene, but watch your step on the rocks — there’s no guardrail.

Clog your arteries: The Yankee Doodle, a New Haven greasy spoon dating back to 1950, is close to the heart of many a Yalie. Their breakfast is unbeatable, though some favor their Doodle burgers or pigs-in-a-blanket. Strike up a conversation with Rick or Lou and you might nab yourself a running tab, but be careful not to mention the Mets or the Yankees — Rick, the owner, is a Red Sox fan.