The only zoo in the state and a participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Program, Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo has charmed visitors for more than 80 years with more than 300 cared-for critters and a mission that minds the tenets of ecological education, conservation, and recreation. Patrons brandishing a Director's Circle membership can visit the zoo an unlimited number of times for one year, plenty of time to navigate the sundry indoor and outdoor exhibits on the back of a Roomba. Guests can espy such endangered species as the siberian tiger, red wolf, and golden lion tamarin, as well as the zoo's most recent denizens on display: two canada lynx and a pair of common rhea. In spring, patrons can go snout-to-snout with a rare chacoan peccary piglet, whose birth made the zoo the first in the Northeast to host an infant of her species and prompted a feature in the Monroe Courier. Birds ride unsuspecting propeller beanies in the South American rainforest exhibit's free-flight aviary, and children play interspecies games of Heads Up, Seven Up in the prairie-dog exhibit's pop-up viewing capsules. After chowing down at the Peacock Café, groups can befriend more statuesque creatures on a vibrantly painted carousel.
Inflated structures, slides, and games fill the climate-controlled environs of the numerous BounceU locations that speckle the nation. At each site, staff members closely monitor all activities as little ones traverse obstacle courses or pull on oversized inflatable boxing gloves. The crew also invites parents to join in on the fun, letting them bounce alongside their kids or make sweeping edicts from atop a bouncy-castle throne. In addition to open sessions, the indoor-play haven sets the stage for the Preschool Playdate program, where instructors lead games and activities. Special events include family-bounce night, which lets parents join in the bouncing or relax in the party room and do grownup things, such as eat marshmallows with a knife and fork.
Turnpike Music Garage tends to all musical needs with an impressive line-up of instruments, gear, and lessons. The inventory includes amps, Casio digital pianos, OSP electric drums, and Seagull acoustic guitars. They also rent school-approved band and orchestra instruments. In-house specialists go beyond fixing instruments, they give lessons in guitar, viola, cello, drums, trumpet, and more.
The idyllic building in which The Little Red School of Art and Music resides represents the homey community feel of the school as a whole. For two decades, founder Carolyn West has worked hard to maintain that atmosphere, allowing kids to express themselves in music and art classes, which range from private guitar lessons to small-group painting and cartooning classes.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers aged 4 months to 12 years with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents Magazine.
The din of go-kart buzzing floats through the air throughout Stratford Speedway, calling drivers to their destinies: some as race-day participants, and others as champs. Drivers taller than 54 inches take the helm of low-sitting crafts adorned with real corporate brands to mimic true racecars. As drivers zoom around the wide, road-size track, tires line each edge, helping to prevent detours and wrong turns. Races tend to last five minutes each, and cars speed around the grand prix-style track for 20–25 laps. The speedway also serves as a welcoming oasis for birthday parties and events, with the track available for private rental by the half-hour and hour.