By Kim McNeill
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
1875 Noble Ave.
Bridgeport, CT 06610
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Rainforest building – 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Carousel Building – 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: Adults $12; Children (3-11) and seniors $10; children under 3 free.
Pack a lunch and enjoy a day at the Zoo. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is Connecticut’s only zoo. The zoo has new animals and a new play ground this year. Check out the museum pass from your local library to enjoy free zoo admission for up to two adults and four children.
The zoo is the perfect size to enjoy on a nice day. The exhibits concentrate on animals in both North and South America. The free-roaming peacocks and guinea hens may lead to an animal encounter anywhere on the zoo grounds. Animal tracks painted on the zoo paths help little ones find the next display.
Don’t miss the farm yard animals. It’s in a little turn off near the Peacock Pavilion. The farm animals include hogs, goats, sheep, cows, and chickens. Inside the barn is a rat, a cat (yes—a cat!), and rabbits. The pond in the farm yard area has a covered bridge and lots of ducks. Buy duck food with quarters to feed the ducks.
At the entrance to the farm area is the insect house. There are bugs on display like a walking stick and a big, hairy spider. Finding the bugs is half the fun. Little ones will need to be lifted to enjoy the taller windows. Also in the farm yard area is the reptile house. Snakes, frogs, and turtles all make an appearance. There is a water fountain behind the reptile house.
An Andean bear and Amur tigers are fascinating to kids and adults alike. These are the bigger animals on exhibit, along with the bison. Next to the tigers are the snowy owls. Just the thing for Harry Potter fans.
The prairie dogs are also very popular animals. Kids, as well as adults, can go through a tunnel under the prairie dog exhibit. The tunnel has plexi-glass tubes that extend into the prairie dog exhibit and kids can be right next to them.
The Rainforest building is especially entertaining. It shows off interesting Rainforest inhabitants. Beautiful tropical birds are on display along with energetic monkeys. More exotic amphibians are also housed here along with caimans (alligator-like animals).
Another great area starts with a walk-through aviary where you can be in the very same enclosure as ducks, herons, and turtles. It’s a little like being part of the zoo. Next kids can watch the otters—and most kids like them a lot. They are frisky as usual—even in the midday heat when many of the other animals are lying down.
Walking on and you can observe alligators as if you were right in the Florida swamps. I love the porch-look of the alligator enclosure. No one would want to live on that porch, though. Moving along you can see the impressive bald eagles. They are large and majestic. Seeing them so close, you can appreciate their predatory nature.
Try to see the big animals in the early morning, if possible. They like to rest when the temperatures go up. There are two misting areas to keep kids cool. One was next to the llamas and another is small the elephant statue across from the gift shop. While it is a mist, some of the kids were very wet by the time they were done.
For a break, head to the Peacock Pavilion. The bigger and smaller kids will enjoy the maze and the new playground is good for preschoolers and under-ten kids. The Peacock Café is air-conditioned and has reasonable fountain drink prices and kid-friendly food like grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly. There are numerous picnic tables to enjoy a pre-packed meal.
There are restrooms at the entrance to the zoo and in the Peacock Café. Single and double strollers are available for rental.
Kim McNeill is an editor and writer for Kids Out and About for Fairfield County, Connecticut. She also blogs at Hearst CT Media Group, http://blog.ctnews.com/mcneill, and at http://kimsplayplace.blogspot.com