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.
Westport Picture Framing's meticulous frame experts specialize in safeguarding art, photos, and prints and can frame almost any item or size to fit personal tastes and special occasions. With an impressive selection of high-quality materials to choose from, customers can match their boutique artwork or prized Calvin Coolidge trading card with the surrounding décor of the frame's impending wall space. Skilled artisans can also mount and display glass sculptures, lithographs, and serigraphs. Acid-free products and museum-quality, UV-free glass help to ensure the longevity and preservation of framed photos, keepsakes, and important receipts.
Home to more than 1,000 marine animals, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk entices visitors of all ages with glimpses of the Long Island Sound’s rich ecosystem. Pintsize adventurers thrill at the touch tank, which puts friendly rays and other inhabitants of the Sound at arm's reach. Sharks swiftly navigate a glass-enclosed exhibit, giving visitors an up-close view of the powerful creatures without having to disguise themselves as bigger sharks. The friendly staff members feed seven harbor seals three times a day, inviting landlubbers to watch and ask questions as the whiskered inhabitants chow down. A six-story screen displays larger-than-life images in the IMAX theater, as educational tales of seafaring critters and jungle dwellers inspire folk ballads about the family cat. The behind-the-scenes tour steers visitors through the jellyfish nursery and fish kitchen before piloting toward the Open Ocean exhibit, where participants can toss in fish to feed the sharks, and then after-dinner mints to curb the indecorous effects.
With three floors of interactive exhibits, Imagine Nation keeps tykes aged 2–10 and their parents engaged for hours of synapse-firing fun. Tunnels filled with natural decor await youngsters in the museum's indoor jungle-themed playscape, where they can shake excess energy out of their bounding legs in preparation for naptime or hibernation season. In the ESPN center, kids can pretend to be sportscasters as they sit behind the desk of a model TV set, replete with real equipment from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
The museum also boasts a health exhibit in which children can don hospital attire and explore a model newborn nursery and an operation table, ideal for parents trying to nudge their child toward a career as a hypochondriac. After whippersnapper's minds have been blown learning about the cosmos at the space exhibit, they can unwind with drinks and snacks at the old-fashioned soda fountain, which winds the clock back to the 1940s with the help of a player piano.
Stamford Museum & Nature Center has come a long way since its founding in 1936. Over the decades, its sprawling grounds have grown to include areas focused on nature, agriculture, astronomy, art, and history. On a hill lies the Henri Bendel Mansion. This once-private residence echoes classic British manor houses with its lead-framed glass windows, half-timbered walls, and stone gargoyles that speak in cockney accents. Visitors can view the ground's sculptures, before going inside to gaze at the art galleries. Rotating exhibits explore topics in art and pop culture– Two Artists Who Look at the Sky begins February 16 and includes Nightwatch: The Art of Greg Mort and The Prints of Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, and Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats will run mid-summer through Labor Day.
Festivals, such as the Maple Sugar Festival Weekend (March 2–3) and Spring on the Farm Festival Weekend (May 18–19), allow visitors to engage with the property in unique ways and with many family activities.
Back outside, more than 80 acres of nature trails wind through the trees. One such trail leads to Nature's Playground, where kids soar down slides and play in a treehouse. Elsewhere, the accessible Wheels in the Woods trail lets people of all abilities explore the forest.
Crossing over Bendel's Pond brings visitors to Heckscher Farm, where—through the Junior Curator program— kids learn basic animal care. The New England–style farm, which stands next to an otter pond, home to otters Bert and Edie, encompasses structures such as the Maple Sugar House and the Cheshire Barn, which was built in 1750 and houses only heritage-breed animals, including chickens, pigs, cows, and llamas. The Stamford Observatory sits west of the farm and offers visitors an opportunity to peer into a 22-inch research telescope, which uses a built-in computer to hone in on nearly any object in the sky.
Since 1907, Flamig Farm has developed into a reputable educational-resource facility complete with an extensive petting zoo. Visitors can frolic with emus, ducks, and sheep, then cuddle with bunnies and piglets. Though not included in this Groupon, the farm offers several other activities, including pony rides, hikes, and hayrides. The farm closes when the weather gets cold, so be sure to visit before animals migrate to Hollywood and resume their winter jobs as fast-food commercial spokesmen.
Founded in 1903, New Britain Museum of American Art was designated the first museum in the country to be dedicated exclusively to American artwork. Upon its founding, wealthy industrialist John Butler Talcott endowed the museum with a hefty sum of gold bonds and bottled phoenix tears with which to purchase modern oil paintings. The collection blossomed to include other artistic media over time, and it now consists of more than 10,000 works spanning more than three centuries of American creative endeavor. The museum's permanent collections showcase works by noted American artists ranging from Norman Rockwell to John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt to Georgia O'Keeffe. Along with rotating exhibitions and borrowed collections, the museum showcases work by emerging artists.