As the days begin to wane and the trees' green leaves start to turn, Clark Farms celebrates the arrival of autumn by hosting its annual fall festival. The friendly farmhands welcome in guests of all ages for themed activities, which allow them to savor the season while experiencing a small taste of New England countryside life. Visitors can navigate the corn maze's labyrinth of towering stalks and direction-savvy scarecrows, or satisfy a need for speed with a zip down a 30-foot slide or lap around a professionally designed go-kart track. Clark Farms also encourages adults and kids to learn about farm life by taking a hayride around the grounds, touring the pumpkin patch, or visiting the petting zoo's resident quadrupeds and bipeds. When the sun sets and the weather turns crisp, the staff keeps crowds cozy by selling warm treats—including fresh donuts and apple cider—and by building roaring bonfires.
Since 1989, the Biomes Marine Biology Center has immersed visitors of all ages in the lives of sea creatures through a range of hands-on programs. Though it recently moved to a new location, it has kept aquatic habitats focused on the denizens of Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Amid tanks of native and tropical species such as octopuses, horseshoe crabs, lionfish, tortoises, and sharks, the staff treats visitors to a range of events—including educational demonstrations and hermit-crab-socialization seminars.
In a separate area for kids aged 3–6 , staff members lead animal-themed story times, and walk children through corresponding craft projects afterward. They also organize birthday parties, during which kids can pet tide-pool animals such as eels, horseshoe crabs, and small sharks.
Norman Bird Sanctuary spans more than 300 acres and seven miles of hiking trails where binoculared bird lovers can spy on local and migratory birds. Hikers can explore the woods or climb Hanging Rock to feast on views of the ocean. In addition, the Sanctuary organizes public programs such as hands-on educational events for children and evening lectures for adults.
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.
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.
Visiting The Zoo in Forest Park and Education Center is a lot like stepping into a nature documentary. Guests can take a self-guided journey to meet more than 200 creatures from across the world. They may stop by the habitats of the black and white ruffed lemur, the western bobcat, and the spotted leopard. Along the way, guests might learn a lot: for instance, that the Bennett's wallaby carries its young in a pouch, and that the critically-endangered cotton-top tamarin has lost more than 75% of its native habitat.
But in at least one way, the zoo accomplishes something that David Attenborough never could. Visitors can actually reach out and touch a creature during discovery programs. They can even adopt certain animals, perhaps helping provide tasty grasses and career guidance to a red kangaroo.
These programs exemplify the nonprofit zoo's dedication to wildlife education and awareness, something they hope to instill in their visitors from an early age. In the summer, educators spin "Animal Tales" for rapt young audiences and hold a Zoo Camp, where kids start to learn about diet and animal care. As kids' love of animals grows, the zoo invites them to volunteer as Crew in Training members. Once they hit college, students can become interns working on projects such as field studies of the patas monkey.