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Beardsley Zoo, Connecticut

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Beardsley Zoo, Connecticut

I first heard of Beardsley Zoo because a group of my students visited there, and told me about it. So when my family was looking for something to do in the vicinity of Bridgeport, Connecticut, based on their enthusiasm for the place, it seemed like an obvious choice.

Beardsley doesn't have all the animals you might hope to see - none of the large african animals like lion, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, or giraffe. But they do have a wide selection of animals from all over the world. If you visit the Beardsley Zoo website, and click on "Our Animals" you'll find out exactly what animals they have. I went through the site's picture-list with my children the week before going, so they would also know what to expect. For some reason, my son was extra excited about the anteater. My two-year-old daughter, who is fascinated by monkeys, was enthusiastic about the rain forest exhibit. I was looking forward to seeing an ocelot - a small wildcat with beautiful coloring and large soulful eyes.

For a family of four with one child young enough to get in free, the price for the day was $42 (in 2017). You could spend more money there in a few different ways:

  • Buying lunch at the Peacock Cafe (good food for kids, with gluten free options, and if you have other dietary needs, when you get there you can ask for ingredient lists; they have them handy)
  • Feeding the animals
  • Using their viewscopes to get a better of animals far away
  • Riding the carosel. The carosel is inside a large round building, so if you don't want to take your kids on the carosel, you can pretend it doesn't even exist, and your kids may never know otherwise.

The layout of the enclosures was very well planned; most of them were built into a hillside, which meant that visitors, standing at the lower end of the enclosure, could see the entire enclosure, and could almost always see the animals.

Don't miss the rainforest building, where beatiful birds like the scarlet ibis flew free within the "forest" - it's startling to have a large brightly-colored bird fly over your head and perch on a branch over you. Many snakes, birds, monkeys and other animals are in the rainforest building (don't worry - the birds are the only ones that are free to roam in the visitor areas!)

Also, be sure to visit the greenhouses. When you visit a zoo, you might not immediately think "plant life," but this zoo has a stunning display of plants that thrive in a variety of climates. The greenhouse is divided into three areas, and each has its own climate. By the time you get to the third section, you're in a desert, and are surrounded by an extraordinary array of cacti. Note: the greenhouse is in two sections, with a staff building in the middle. The first greenhouse you come to is set up as a picnic area with tables all around. If you've visited this half of the greenhouse, don't be fooled into thinking you've seen the whole thing!

My son got to see his anteater, drinking water from a small fountain. My daughter got to see several monkeys, and I got to see my ocelot. A beautiful animal which - a volunteer told me - they obtained when he was a cub who had lost a leg. Over the time they've had him, they've trained him to do all the things a four-legged ocelot can do, but, of course, he would never survive in the wild. This is the case for many of their animals.

We happened to be there at the right time for a "show" in which they brought out several animals including a raptor, a parrot, a baby alligator, and a rabbit, for everyone to get a closer look at. The show culiminated with a talk about conservation and protection of endangered species, and an opportunity to give toward helping to save endangered animals. 

In total, we spent around 3 hours at the zoo, including the time we spent at the Peacock Cafe. It was a great outing for us and our kids. If you bring a school group, there are options for group rates; please check the Visitor info for details.

Lesson by Mr. Twitchell

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