For more than a century, the Berkshire Museum has blended history, science, and art into a cohesive whole, drawing inspiration from both the Smithsonian and the American Museum for Natural Science. The museum is packed with wonders ranging from Wally—the fiberglass stegosaurus who guards the museum’s entry—to the John James Audubon display, an impassioned tribute to the very ornithology that prompted Audubon to pen The Birds of America. Other, more playful displays unveil additional wonders, including Alexander Calder's collection of wooden push and pull toys. And inside the vast, salty aquarium, a teeming collection of clownfish, blind cave tetra, and puffer fish swim merrily side-by-side, thankful that they've yet to be cast as members of some trite, underwater calypso band.
Founded in 1975, Real Art Ways is one of the United States' leading innovative contemporary-arts organizations. The cinema at Real Art Ways screens first-run and classic independent films seven nights a week for the viewing pleasure of card-carrying art haus-ers and visually starved celluloid fanatics alike ($9 for non-members, $5 for members). Leave the distracting 4G smart-toaster at home to put all the focus on Life 2.0, a thought-provoking film about human interaction in the digital age. Vintage hits like the horrifying Japanese 1977 flick House and the slightly less-horrifying 1955 Guys and Dolls share silver-screen space with surprising ease. Visit the calendar for a full list of show times.
For almost 40 years, Center Framing and Art has readied treasured keepsakes for indefinite stays on house walls. Owners Glenn Lazinsk and Lori Chozick preserve pieces with each customer's unique aesthetic in mind, maintaining an attention to detail that earned Center Framing & Art the title of Best Picture Framing Shop in 2008, 2009, and 2010, from Hartford magazine. Staffers complete all services onsite, surrounding prints, portraits, and diplomas with acid-free materials that guard against the damage of time. They also accept challenging assignments such as shadowboxes or 2-D aquariums for lazy goldfish.
Glenn and Lori advocate for the dissemination of fine art, displaying upward of 90 original paintings from both local and international artists inside the store. Their Saturday artist events permit up-and-coming painters, glassblowers, and sculptors to speak about and demonstrate their craft.
Center Framing & Art also emanates caring, neighborly vibes by amassing countless donations of sundries from guests, which Lori distributes to charitable organizations and those in need. Her dedication to the community merited the title of Greatest Person of the Day from the Huffington Post and a feature in the West Hartford Patch.
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.
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.
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.