A Zoo Review: Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
With Connecticut being such a small state it’s no wonder that we only have two aquariums and one zoo. Our state’s zoo is Beardsley Zoo in southwestern CT. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive for us and the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI is actually a closer drive but we’ve been to both and each have their pros and cons.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about visiting zoos and aquariums. On one hand I feel that they are great educational opportunities for children, especially for those who will never have the means to see these rare and wonderful animals in their natural habitat. On the other hand I feel sorrow for these poor creatures who are confined to such a small living space. When Brandon and I lived in Washington I volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation center so I’m very aware that some animals cannot be released back into the wild. These animals are best suited for places like zoos or other educational programs. Still, I feel that if animals must live the rest of their lives in a zoo they should at least be comfortable.
So that is where my mindset is while I write this post.
While Beardsley Zoo isn’t one of the largest zoos I’ve been to it does have some unique animals and exhibits. Our favorite one is the indoor rainforest exhibit, perhaps because it brings back so many fond memories but also because it really is a well-done exhibit. There are bats, anacondas, caiman and also various species of monkeys and birds.
Throughout the rest of the zoo there are tigers, a prairie dog exhibit, bison, otters, pronghorn and wolves. They are currently working on a new exhibit for Andean bears in the area that used to house llamas. Stink seems to enjoy the zoo more than the aquarium, probably because the animals are more interesting to look at than fish.
At the center of the zoo is a cafe, indoor carousel, and pavilion with a small playground. Live music is sometimes played at the pavilion during zoo events. Toward the entrance of the zoo is a small gift shop, a greenhouse and animal research station. Sometimes the station is open to the public and you can have the chance to handle animals like reptiles and tarantulas or feel the soft fur of a bobcat or mink.
The Verdict: Beardsley is a little old and dated with unique but small exhibits. There is a small farmyard area within the zoo but I was disappointed to learn that you can’t feed the animals like you can at the Central Park Zoo in NYC or the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. Some exhibits like the peccaries could use some new toys and replacement of the viewing glass. Still, we usually visit this zoo if we’re in the area and I’m sure we will go back in the future.
Where to Eat: I think Brandon would disown me if I didn’t mention that his all-time favorite restaurant chain, Puerto Vallarta, is only 15 minutes away in Orange, CT. We’re very fond of Mexican food and their service is quick and excellent. Order sopapillas for dessert; they’re not on the menu but they do serve them.
Other Tips and Tricks: Beardsley Zoo offers a military discount for active duty and retired members: one free admission plus a 20% discount for the rest of your party. Other activities within the zoo like camel rides (summer), hay rides (fall) and the carousel are at an extra cost.
Child Friendly? Beardsley Zoo has something for all ages to enjoy but I recommend it for preschoolers and older. There aren’t that many hand-on exhibits for babies and toddlers unless there is a special event going on.
Pet Friendly? No