Hidden in Plain Sight

Person sitting on a bench inside of a Japanese Tea Gate, reading a book.
Photos by Robert DeSanto

Yale’s expansive campuses offer many shady or sun-drenched outdoor spaces for restful contemplation, a lunchtime stroll, or distant views. With some hidden and others out in the open, these peaceful spots include a Japanese Tea Gate, an outdoor balcony facing East Rock Park, and a quiet courtyard. Find your favorite as the weather gets warmer.

The Happy and Bob Doran Tea Gate – Yale University Art Gallery

The Tea Gate (pictured above) is snugly situated just outside the Yale University Art Gallery’s Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Lecture Hall and down the steps from the Margaret and Angus Wurtele Sculpture Garden. This structure was designed by master temple-builder and ordained Buddhist priest Paul Discoe to reflect the Zen Buddhist principle in which the gate is a symbolic marker of the moment one leaves the day-to-day world to enter the sacred space of the temple. Visitors walk past a traditional Japanese-style lantern and over a cobblestone path formed by locally reclaimed stones meant to represent water and lily pads, encouraging a contemplative approach to the gate’s entrance. Once inside, find peace and quiet tranquility in the sweet smell of elm wood.

Open Tuesday to Sunday (hours vary)
Getting there: Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel Street

Schamis Terrace at the Yale Science Building.

Schamis Terrace – Yale Science Building

Set in the shadow of Kline Tower, the Yale Science Building contains seven stories of state-of-the-art technology and scientific research space. Among the structure’s defining exterior features is Schamis Terrace. With large planter boxes containing small trees and perennials, long wooden benches, picnic tables, and charging stations, the terrace is just the right place to take in the breathtaking view of East Rock Park, sit, read, snack, or charge your phone. On a sunny day, it’s the place to be.

Open daily via Yale ID access.
Getting there: 260 Whitney Avenue, Enter from parking lot 22.

The Terrace at Yale West Campus.

The Terrace at West Campus – Yale West Campus

Adjacent to the West Campus Conference Center is the popular outdoor terrace, redesigned in 2019. Frequented by West Campus residents and visitors, the terrace provides ample seating and a quiet spot to eat lunch, hold a team meeting, or enjoy the West Campus barbeques, held most Fridays in the summer. The conference center offers state-of-the-art facilities for events and dining amid the bustling yet peaceful 136-acre campus, and the center accommodates classroom-, boardroom-, or theater-style meetings, in addition to sit-down or buffet-style dining.

Open daily.
Getting there: 800 West Campus Drive; Catch the Green or Purple shuttles for the eight-mile ride.

Front lawn of Henry R. Luce Hall.

Henry R. Luce Hall Front Lawn – 34 Hillhouse Avenue

Charles Dickens, or maybe it was Mark Twain, called Hillhouse Avenue “the most beautiful street in America.” Get some air and log in a few steps with a stroll down this tree-lined lane. Take in the beauty of this block and sit a spell on the wide, green, and sun-dappled front lawn of Henry R. Luce Hall, home to the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. Several comfy Adirondack chairs are provided for nature-watching or nap-taking.

Getting there: 34 Hillhouse Avenue

Labyrinth Courtyard at Yale Divinity School.

Labyrinth Courtyard – Divinity School

One way to find the Divinity School’s labyrinth courtyard is to walk around Marquand Chapel to a stairway that ascends to two courtyards: one with a patio and café tables and chairs, outdoor outlets, and a fire pit, and another with the labyrinth. The contrasting spaces are connected by bluestone paths. Created as a contemplative space, the labyrinth courtyard is framed by lush trees, shrubs, grass, and ferns. Take a seat on one of the four wooden and steel benches or walk the stone labyrinth to enjoy quiet reflection. The labyrinth was modeled after the one in Chartres Cathedral in the 13th century, when labyrinths were constructed as an alternative to the traditional Christian pilgrimage, representing one’s spiritual journey through life. Yale college student Keenan Miller described his walk through the labyrinth courtyard, noting, “Regardless of one’s faith background, the sentiment makes the labyrinth a perfect spot to sit and recenter yourself – the type of spot everyone needs sometimes.”

Open daily.
Getting there: Whether you walk or go by car or shuttle, the courtyards are behind Marquand Chapel.

Main Courtyard of Humanities Quadrangle

Main Courtyard – Humanities Quadrangle

The ornate gates of green patina by late master blacksmith Samuel Yellin greet you as you walk into the entryway of the Humanities Quadrangle. Two courtyards – one large and one small – take up much of the center of the quadrangle. The main courtyard has weathered-wooden benches nestled between Dwarf Blue Star flowers and a dogwood tree – an ideal spot for resting, reading, reflecting, or perhaps reviewing family photos on your phone. The red tables and chairs offer a place for a lunch break or a quiet chat with a colleague. Formerly known as the Hall of Graduate Studies, the Humanities Quadrangle (reopened in 2021) is now 14 stories high and home to 15 departments and programs in the humanities.

Open daily, (hours vary)
Getting there: 320 York Street

The Rose Garden at the Sterling Hall of Medicine.

The Rose Garden – Sterling Hall of Medicine

The Rose Garden at the Sterling Hall of Medicine is quiet enough that the bustle of Cedar Street with its food carts, shuttles, and cars seems farther away than it is. A weeping cherry tree lends shade and supports your endeavor to step away from work to a relaxing place to collect your thoughts or give your brain a break. White-painted, ironwork benches invite you to sit under the cherry tree to take in the view and fragrance of white roses cascading down a trellis on both sides of a stairway that leads to a lower-landscaped courtyard with tables and chairs. On the left and right, rose bushes line the garden, which contains more trees and benches on the lawn of green. Weather is no deterrent – the ground-level porch (with seasonal heat lamps) is beneath the painted ironwork columns and balconies – allowing you to extend your stay, no matter what the skies say.

Open daily.
Getting there: Sterling Hall of Medicine; 333 Cedar Street