Yasmine Halmane, Contributing Photographer

“I’m just realizing I lost my chance to ever get to go to Woads,” Taylor Chapman ’22 told the News. “Curse COVID.”

With the cancelation of large events and gatherings — including Woads, frat and suite parties and formals — that filled many students’ weekend nights and leisure time, Yalies have had to find new ways to socialize in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these activities involve exploring the New Haven area, eating out at local restaurants, trying new hobbies and getting active in nature.

“I love walking around New Haven with friends on the weekends — it’s a great way to become familiar with the city while also socializing outdoors, where there’s less risk of viral transmission,” Mira Raju ’24 wrote in an email to the News. “Speaking of being outdoors, one of my favorite weekend activities is having picnic-style brunches in the Silliman courtyard, where the open air, sunlight and company of friends is a refreshing counterpoint to my Zoom classes.”

Fourteen students interviewed by the News weighed in on how their social scene has changed due to the pandemic.

Exploring outside

Many students have begun spending time outdoors as a way to mingle with friends or just relax alone in nature. Of the many options in the New Haven area — including Lake Whitney, Edgewood Park, Edgerton Park, Long Wharf and Lighthouse Point Park — East Rock Park is a student favorite.

Three students — Jen Huang ’22, Kelly Farley ’22 and Ellie Gabriel ’22 — noted that hikes, runs, picnics and visits to East Rock were among their new preferred pastimes.

“Yesterday, the weather was beautiful, so my friends and I watched the sunset from the top of East Rock,” Huang told the News. “It felt very surreal and like something out of a movie.”

The 11.97 miles of trails in the park allow for new discoveries with each trip. According to Farley, running and hiking in East Rock has provided her with “lots of cool, little niches” to explore.

Students don’t just run to East Rock, though — Amelia Lower ’24 wrote in an email to the News that she has been exploring the city by “going on lots of runs around New Haven.”

“Running and looking at all the scenery is definitely a stress-reliever for me, and it’s nice to feel like I know my way around a little bit more,” Lower said.

Dining out 

Outdoor activity is not the only way Yalies have been acquainting themselves with New Haven. Eating out at local restaurants and cafes around the city — from the Elm City’s downtown area to State Street — has been a popular way for students to meet up with friends.

“I really do think that I’ve gotten to know New Haven better,” Kayla Morgan ’24 told the News. “Going out to dinner has become something that I’ve done consistently with a couple of my friends. I’ve tried so many new restaurants that I never knew even existed, and I was excited to continue going out to them during the last couple of weeks. However, it doesn’t look like that will be possible, so we’re planning on just ordering take out.”

Last Friday, Yale announced that it had upped its COVID-19 alert level to orange and discouraged students from dining in at restaurants as a result of a recent uptick of virus cases.

Others have frequented different coffee shops in the area. According to Gabriel, exploring the local coffee scene has been an opportunity to “get out of the house.” She added that the outdoor seating provided by some shops, such as Koffee?, has made it easier to socialize and visit with friends.

Erin Guild, a manager at Claire’s Corner Copia, noted that some students still come in to order coffee and cake and study at the restaurant — something she was not expecting to see.

According to Guild, while no “notably large groups” have come to dine, the restaurant is “still seeing students eating outside.” Although Claire’s has not experienced an increase in college student customers, the restaurant has seen an uptick in takeout orders. Due to the increase in takeout orders, the restaurant has started a “family to-go” option. While geared towards families ordering for four to six people, students can also use the option when ordering food for their suite, according to Guild.

Missing DJ action

Just as suite parties and formals have been put on hold, Woads — Wednesday night parties at Toad’s Place for Yale students — is another social casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The weekly party includes several themed nights throughout the year, including Hallowoads during the week of Halloween, Mistletoads before the holidays in December and Valentoads during the week of Valentine’s Day. Yalies have had to find Woads-free ways to fill their Wednesday nights.

Some first-year students interviewed by the News said that they have heard of Woads from upperclassmen who have given mixed reviews regarding the Wednesday event.

Still, Daniela Flores ’24 noted that the lack of upperclassmen on campus has made it difficult for first years to learn more about Woads, as well as other Yale traditions. First year counselors, colloquially known as FroCos, and peer liaisons, Flores said, are the main sources of casual conversation between younger and older Yalies.

“Partying on a Wednesday sounds kind of weird, especially since there aren’t a lot of upperclassmen around to explain the appeal of it,” Flores told the News.

Flores, who hails from New Haven, added that her initial exposure to Woads is from hearing about it from classmates in high school who had snuck in.

While not all upperclassmen participated in Woads before the pandemic, Anmei Little ’22 said that “our suite does do a Wednesday night ode to Woads by taking out the trash.”

“We used to look forward to Wednesday night Woads, now Wednesday night is trash night,” Little told the News.

In addition to filling their Wednesday nights, students have also been watching movies, painting and playing virtual games, such as Among Us, to socialize on weekends.

Toad’s Place opened in 1976 on York Street.

Maya Geradi | maya.geradi@yale.edu