An 18-foot giraffe cranes its neck to look at passing visitors. Across the path, ring-tailed lemurs swing between the trees. Nearby, alligators thrash in a swamp, and ostriches strut through the grass. The animal handlers at Long Island Game Farm—comprising a team of veterinary students and environmental workers—care for these native and exotic species in re-creations of their natural habitats. On any regular day, they guide visitors past enclosures populated by aoudad sheep, cougars, zebras, and red kangaroos, and demonstrate the creatures’ eating habits through scheduled viewable feedings. They also let visitors feed giraffes, goats, and zebras by hand, and discuss each creature’s lifestyle without judging them by their nighttime hobbies.
A series of trails winds through woods and public picnic areas, leading to areas such as Bambiland—an enclosure for Mediterranean and native deer—and Old MacDonald's Farmyard, where visitors can bottle-feed baby animals and hang out with pigs, rabbits, goats, and ponies. Park staffers also help smaller visitors on and off the park’s carnival rides that include spinning teacups, a miniature train, and an antique carousel. In the summer, they further engage children in Camp Zoo, a one-week day camp during which an experienced instructor teaches participants about environmental conservation and divulges facts and gossip about various animals.
Operating since the early 1900s and voted Best Petting Zoo of 2011 by readers of the Long Island Press, White Post Farms stimulates visitors with a smorgasbord of exciting diversions. Guests commune with an exotic menagerie of man’s second-best friends in the petting zoo, home to zebras, kangaroos and a sublimely patient giant tortoise. Friends of the feathered can hang out at Ronnie’s Birdie Landing, a free-flight aviary that boasts a 70-foot waterfall and a flock of parakeets that moonlight as a Flock of Seagulls cover band (feed, $0.92–$4.61, is not included). Guests can also enjoy the company of faux furry companions, gawking at the spectacle of the animatronic Animal Band Jamboree and the Singin’ Chicken Show.
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.
Harbes Family Farm & Vineyard started in 1978, when newlyweds Ed and Monica Harbes bought some land and began growing potatoes and cabbages to support their family. Ed, a 13th-generation farmer, worked with his father to get the business up and running. As the years passed, the couple's children started to work on the farm as well. Eventually, all the family's tomatoes, sweet corn, and growing brood of scarecrows outgrew their original plot of land, and the family expanded into three separate locations—which Ed and Monica's eight children still operate. As the Harbes plow and harvest the fields, visitors at each location can stock up on fresh produce and participate in seasonal activities. An 6-acre Wild West corn maze draws visitors to Jamesport farm, whereas at Riverhead farm, the fall season brings opportunities to pick apples and pumpkins. Another 5-acre Robin Hood-themed corn maze entertains the masses while a spooky moonlight corn maze cast spells of fall splendor. Visitors to the Mattituck location—the largest farm—can shop for fresh produce in the market or relax in the wine-tasting barn. Amid its warming and inviting wood walls, servers pour selections from Harbes Family Farm & Vineyard's award-winning wines, which Winemaker Ed Harbes IV creates using his vineyard's vinifera clones. But as much as the Harbes family loves food and wine, it also devotes a large portion of time to environmental preservation. The farmers use locally sourced compost to reduce to need for commercial fertilizer, and as of 2012, they have placed more than 50 acres into conservation easement, ensuring that the land is never developed or used to grow an army of giant brussels sprouts.
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.