Connecticut has many nature and science centers, arboretums, aquariums
For a fairly urbanized state, Connecticut is rich with places to enjoy and learn from the outdoors, including Audubon centers, science and nature centers, aquariums, observatories, and arboretums. Highlights of places where visitors, children, and families can enjoy forests, plant and bird and sea life, walks
, and family activities
include the Connecticut Audubon Society Birdcraft Museum in Fairfield, Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, Bull's Covered Bridge River Walk in Kent, Science Center of Eastern Connecticut in New London, and the Dinosaur Place in Montville.
55 Coogan Boulevard
Mystic, CT, 06355
Where science and nature meet fun and learning
Get closer to marine life than you ever thought possible at Mystic Aquarium. Travel our indoor and outdoor exhibits to encounter thousands of creatures including beluga whales, African penguins, colorful fish and more. Be thrilled – or chilled – by the funky features of over 30 different species of amphibians. Touch sharks, stingrays and reptiles or gain a deeper appreciation for marine life by participating in an encounter program. Peek into our Animal Rescue Clinic and witness the efforts made to rescue and rehabilitate stranded seals. Learn how you can live sustainably during one of our daily trainer talks to discover how you can help in conservation efforts locally, nationally and even globally. Then, travel back in time to encounter breathing, clawing, roaring dinosaurs in ‘Jurassic Giants.’ Plus, enjoy special events, activities and more throughout the year that make Mystic Aquarium a destination worth revisiting often. SEA more at MysticAquarium.org.
H.O.R.S.E of Connecticut
43 Wilbur Road
Open: Year-round, Friday - Sunday, 8am - 4pm
This equine rescue organization houses horses it has saved, holds information events, treats injured animals and even offers animals for adoption. Visitors can take a tour of the facility and feed horses. Trail rides can be arranged with advance reservations.
191 Farmington Avenue
This park is home to a farm, a collection of exotic animals, a system of trails, science exhibits and programs led by the New Britain Youth Museum. Open year-round, Tuesday-Friday, 1-4:30 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $4; seniors, $3; children ages 2-17, $2
Ansonia Nature and Recreation Center
10 Deerfield Lane
Ansonia, CT, 06401
Once a small family-owned dairy farm, the park is laced with two and one-half miles of nature trails. The land encompasses 104 acres of wooded hills and grassy fields bisected by streams, a two acre pond, wet meadows, and an upland swamp. A butterfly/hummingbird garden and a woodland wildflower and fern garden grace the visitor center. Also, soccer, baseball, and softball fields; several acres reserved for community gardening; and a large playscape for younger children.
Hours: Daily sunup to sundown; interpretive center open 9 a.m. t o 5 p.m. daily except holidays.
The Nature Conservancy maintains this two-mile trail, which is an old farm road, through former farm property. It is now mainly a forest of oaks, The Route passes a beaver pond and returns by way of Old Kings Highway, a grass-covered walk. Also a good site for cross-country skiing and bird watching.
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
New Canaan Nature Center
144 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT, 06840
Take a fascinating look into the science and nature in the area. Set on 40 acres, the nature center features gardens and a solar-heated greenhouse, as well as many trails, exhibits, an arboretum, live animals, and a maple sugar shed.
Hours: Grounds open dawn to dusk daily; buildings and officer open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Donation requested.
Stamford Museum & Nature Center
39 Scofieldtown Road
Stamford, CT, 06903
Experience nature, science and the outdoors at this 118-acre site. Includes New England working farm, hiking trails, picnic area, nature's playground, boardwalk (accessible to wheelchairs), galleries for interactive exhibitions with hands-on area for children, two stores, special events, planetarium. Observatory Friday evenings (weather permitting). Check website for hours and admission fees. Information: www.stamfordmuseum.org.
on the grounds of Julian Curtis School, intersection of Milbank Avenue & East Elm Street
Bowman Observatory of the Astronomical Society of Greenwich is open for public use on second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, weather permitting. General hours are winter, 7-9 p.m.; spring and autumn, 8-10 p.m.; summer, 9-11 p.m. Admission is free.
See Astronomical Society of Greenwich
400 West Street
Rocky Hill, CT
Dinosaur Park features authentic dinosaur tracks that are 200 million years old. These are protected under a dome, which also houses exhibits and special programs that are held throughout the year. Visitors with their own materials are permitted to take plaster casts of the tracks.
Hours: Grounds are open year-round, daily, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Trails close at 4 p.m. Exhibit Center is open year-round, Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is wheelchair accessible.
Admission: Admission is charged for the Exhibit Center only. Adults over age 13, $6; youth age 6-12, $2.
Palmer Neck Road
This wildlife conservation area is popular for enjoying nature, birdwatching, walking, and deer hunting, in season. It includes several interest ecosystems, including forests, salt marsh, and wetlands, Four miles of trails are available for hikers and walkers. Interpretive signs help educate visitors about the coastal region of Connecticut.
Saugatuck Reservoir Trails
Saugatuck Reservoir is part of a big land preserve in southwestern Connecticut. It is surrounded by 65 miles of hiking trails wending through Redding, Easton, and Weston through woodlands and fields, along shorelines, up rocky mountain sides with great views, and along interesting wetlands. These trails are part of the blue-blazed trail system managed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. To hike here, you must contact Aquarion Water Company and ask for a free map of the trail system, which serves as your hiking permit. Contact www.aquarion.com or call 203-452-3511. Information: http://bit.ly/12ENfyP
Connecticut Science Center
250 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT, 06103
A visit to the Center is a high-impact learning experience in a green, clean, bright, and stimulating environment. Adults and children alike will find entertainment and educational value in hands-on, engaging, and exciting exhibits and programs that emphasize current science and science you can use every day. Open year-round.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $21.95; seniors above age 65, $19.95; youth ages 3 to 17, $14.95.
613 Riversville Road
This 285-acre nature sanctuary in the back country of Greenwich has 7 miles of walking trails, nature exhibit displays, a children's learning center, a nature gift shop and nature arts gallery. Nature programs year round for all ages.
Hours: Open daily; year-round.
325 Cornwall Bridge Road / Route 4
Sharon, CT, 06069
Nature trails meander through gardens, woods and around ponds. Watch for a wide variety of plants, birds, bobcats, beavers, river otters, and deer. Many migratory birds use the property as a lay-over point. The Visitor Center houses the Nature Store, Natural History Museum, and Exhibit Room with live animals and displays and a Children's Adventure Center. Gift shop and book store.
Hours: The Visitors Center and Nature Store are open year round, Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. The building is closed on all major holidays.
Admission: Trails and most programs are $3 for adults; $1.50 for seniors; $1.50 for children
Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield
2325 Burr Street
On this site visitors will find exhibits, a library and a gift shop. In addition, there is an injured bird compound where visitors can observe the treatment and recuperation of birds that have been harmed in the wild. The 160 acre Larsen Sanctuary has many trails that wind through the woods and around ponds, including walks for the blind, elderly and disabled.
Hours: Year round, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
H.C. Barnes Nature Center
175 Shrub Road
This nature center features a variety of self-guiding trails, as well as interpretive exhibits and a nature library. The 70 acre sanctuary is home to a variety of species.
Hours: Wednesday-Friday, 2-5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
80 Whitehall Road (off Route 202)
This wildlife sanctuary and museum is on 4,000 acres of diverse habitats and 35 miles of trails. The Little Pond trail is a one-mile wooden boardwalk weaving through wetland areas and around a pond. The Nature Museum features beautiful dioramas and experiential exhibits including a cave filled with glowing minerals, working honey bee colony, life size beaver lodge, digital microscope, and a children’s corner. Enjoy family and adult programs, including guided walks.
Open: Grounds open year-round, daily. Museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Closed major holidays.
Flanders Nature Center
Many special programs are scheduled here. Visitors can enjoy nature walks that feature wildflowers (seasonal), a bog and an arboretum made up of nut trees. The Center's trail house features nature exhibits and a gift shop.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
182 Bayberry Lane
Open: Year-round, Wednesday and Thursday evenings
Sponsored by the Westport Astronomical Society. Call ahead, no admission charge.
Ledyard Glacial Park and Avery Preserve
Entrances at Avery Hill Road, Avery Hill Extension, Whalehead Road
Hiking trails dot the landscape of this nature conservancy. Great for bird watching.
New Haven, CT
Lighthouse tours, water sports, marine biology programs, paddling tours
Along with the usual water sports, this marvelous park jutting into Long Island Sound is centered upon a historic lighthouse. The East Shore Rangers offer tours to the lighthouse and lots of programs for adults and kids in marine biology, sailing, and history of the park. The Rangers have a salt-water touch tank and other aquariums for amateur marine biologists to enjoy.
462 Kent Cornwall Road (Route 7)
Cascading waterfall, covered bridge, hiking trails. Great for picnics, walking
Visitors enjoy the beautiful series of cascading waterfalls that descend into the Housatonic River. HIking nad fishing are done here; no swimming. Great for picnics.
See full description
of Kent Falls State Park
Roaring Brook Nature Center
70 Gracey Road
This nature center features walking trails, live animals and an Indian longhouse. Classes and special programs are also scheduled periodically throughout the year.
Hours for the Center: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m.; closed Mondays except July and August. Trails open dawn to dusk.
Admission: Adults, $6; seniors, $5; children, $4
10 Woodside Lane
Interactive natural history museum, hands-on exhibits for children, live animals, trails, playground and a gift shop are all part of this 62-acre wildlife sanctuary.
Admission: Adults and children older than 12, $7; children and seniors, $5. Grounds and outdoor bird enclosures free.
Hours: Open: Year-round, daily except major holidays
Wethersfield Nature Center
30 Greenfield Street
Open: Saturdays, 10 am - 1 pm
This nature park features educational and hands-on exhibits, including live animals and scheduled programs. A log cabin on the site has a library and gift shop.
Woodcock Nature Center
56 Deer Run Road
Set on 146 acres, the nature center has numerous walking and hiking trails. The area offers great opportunities for birdwatching and observation of geology. Regular walks and programs are scheduled throughout the year. Gift shop on the premises.
Located on 149 acres of state-protected land, the Woodcock Nature Preserve includes a pond, wetlands and three miles of trails through woods. The center keeps many living local and exotic creatures including snakes, frogs and lizards. A few injured birds of prey live at the center. Trail map.
Hours: Monday-Friday and most Saturdays from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; summers, Monday-Friday only. The trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Kellogg Environmental Center
Center offers workshops, exhibits, nature activities, and lectures for the general public. Through hands-on programs, families and kids can enjoy learning about nature and the environment. Throughout the year, the center offers special weekend programs, nature walks, and family workshops.
Albert E. Moss Forest
Junction of Routes 195 and 275
This wildlife sanctuary is used as an outdoor laboratory by the University of Connecticut. Open to the general public.
off of Route 6 at 23 Potter Road
Great for hiking on short or long trails; enjoying nature; a boat ramp is available
The vast trail system on this property -- which includes some managed forest areas -- includes trails with printed brochures that explain the plant life along the trail. Great place for enjoying nature and observing wildlife.
See full description
of James L. Goodwin Forest.
33 Pent Road
Protected area is popular for bird and wildlife observation. See full description
of Devils Den Preserve.
New Haven, CT
This center sits at the foot of West Rock Ridge and includes 40 acres of woods and fields, and hundreds of different plant species located along interpretive trails that have been strategically located. Wintergreen Brook, with a waterfall, gorge, and pool, moves through the property Good place for bird watching. Picnic grove. Open sunrise to sunset.
Boothe Memorial Park, 5800 Main Street
This organization of astronomy enthusiasts and star gazers welcomes the public to its observatory at Boothe Memorial Park for regularly scheduled star watching through is 16-inch Cassegrain and 4-inch Unitron refractor. Members bring their telescopes and the public is welcome to do so. Viewing is under a dome. Open public observations are usually the first and third Fridays of each month, and at posted times for special events. Visitors and new members are always welcome.
Granger Lane off Route 177 (Unionville Avenue)
This park was established in 1989 as a wetland conservation area, when plants, animals, and soil were moved here for protection from nearby construction. Wildlife you can see here includes various species of turtles, reptiles, and amphibians; a wide variety of bird species; and mammals such as raccoons, white-tail deer, and the muskrat. Native flora includes alder, maple, cattails, umbrella sedge, pickerelweed, ferns, blue and sweet flags, yellow pond lily, and arrowhead. Information: http://bit.ly/1b6nVBb
Season & Hours: Dawn to dusk, March 15 - November 15
Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area
Visitors to this natural preserve are treated to a beaver marsh, an observation tower, and a waterfall. Walking and hiking trails feature information signs and demonstrations of wildlife management practices.
Hours: Year-round, dawn to dusk.
Copernican Space Science Center
Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT
Open: Call for show times, also by appointment
This planetarium and observatory is home to one of the biggest telescopes in the country. Programs and events for children and adults are held there throughout the year. Admission: $3.50 adults, $2.50 seniors and children.
This farm was owned by naturalist and author Edwin Way Teale. There are many nature programs held at the site, as well as three miles of trails for walking.
151 Brookdale Road
Visitors will find woodland and swamp environments and a pond on 63 acres. There are several ecology trails, a swamp walk, library and greenhouse. Trail map.
Hours: Open year-round, daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Mianus River Preserve & Park / Cary Road Nature Preserve / Mianus Pond
Greenwich/Stamford border, CT
This preserve begins 1,000 feet north of the Post Road on the eastern side of Mianus Pond. It is a haven for hikers, with undisturbed woods and a steep shoreline and lovely views. Foot access is from the northern ends of Westview Place and Cary Road.
To get there: Take U.S. 1 toward Stamford; after leaving Cos Cob and crossing the Mianus Bridge turn left onto Cary Road. Mianus Park is on Cary Road.
Hours: Year-round, daily, daylight hours.
The Pratt Center
163 Papermill Road
New Milford, CT
Nature preserve with hiking trails and river walks. There are also special programs scheduled throughout the year, and live farm animals on the premises in the spring, summer and fall.
Center at Pomfret (Audubon Bird Conservation area)
218 Day Road
Pomfret Center, CT
Maintained by the Connecticut Audubon Society. Designated trails run throughout the property. The Audobon Society hosts frequent guided birdwalks and workshops on gardening and area wildlife. The Center at Pomfret manages the 168-acre Trail Wood Sanctuary. See Santuary Map on Center's website
Hours: Trail Wood Sanctuary, year-round, daily, dawn to dusk
Science Center of Eastern Connecticut
33 Gallows Lane
New London, CT, 06320
Can light be bent? Can sound waves be seen? Young and old can explore hands-on exhibits that will answer these questions... and more. Even have a birthday party or bring a group. Located in Connecticut Collage Arboretum with hiking trails and picnic tables. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 8 pm and Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm. Members FREE. Non-members: Adults $6, children under 12 and senior citizens $4.
Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
109 Pequotsepos Road
Mystic, CT, 06355
Open: Year-round, Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed January 1, Easter, Christmas
Discover live owls, turtles, frogs, and snakes in new natural history exhibits. Experience “A Night in the Meadow” theatre, hike up to 8 miles of trails on beautiful 300-acre sanctuary, and view birds of prey in outdoor flight enclosures. Excellent birding; picnic areas; wildflowers; gift shop. Open daily. Adults $6, Children 4.
Trolley Trail and Two Rivers Trail
These one mile trails are terrific locales for bird watching. The trails are on the site of the Quinebaug Valley Trout Hatchery.
Connecticut Audubon Center
1361 Main Street
Open: Tues-Fri, 1-5 pm; Sat, 10 am-5 pm; Sun, 1-4 pm; Closed the last week in December.
Maintained by the Audubon Society of CT, this science and nature center features exhibits on area wildlife and plants, and a hands-on area for children. A gift shop and programs are available year-round. The center is located next to Earle Park, a 48-acre outdoor setting with numerous walking trails.
Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust
Woodbury, CT, 06798
This nature center offers many recreational and educational programs for children and adults, including nature trails, seasonal festivities, kids’ programs, and a community garden. Families can roam the trails with a guide, take classes about flora and fauna, and join seasonal events like maple sugaring. Check for seasonal changes in hours and programs.
Eli Whitney Museum
915 Whitney Avenue
Hamden, CT, 06517
Museum focusing on Eli Whitney's life, his inventions and his legacy. In addition to historic exhibits, the museum also holds a water learning lab and outdoor study areas. The barn, built in 1816, is the site of special events throughout the year.
Hours: HOurs change seasonally; call ahead.
Admission: free; charge for programs.
Darien Nature Center
120 Brookside Road
Open: Year-round, Monday - Saturday
This center has a natural walking trail and exhibits featuring live animals. Childrens programs are held year round.
Oak Grove Nature Center
Oak Grove Street
This 52-acre nature preserve and nature center is operated by the nearby Lutz Children's Museum. The property has a pond, a covered bridge, and two easy walking trails totaling about 3 miles of walking distance on dirt paths.
Hours: Trails are open dawn to dusk. Center open for museum activities and by arrangement.
Bull's Covered Bridge River Walk
Bull's Bridge Road
A scenic part of the Appalachian Trail. Hikers can enjoy the Bull's Bridge Scenic Trail loop, featuring views of waterfalls and gorges down below on the Housatonic River. The covered bridge was built in 1842. The trail follows the Housatonic River to Ten Mile River Gorge, and then up to the top of Ten Mile Hill.
Directions: At the intersection of routes 341 and 7 in Kent, follow Route 7 south for three miles; turn right onto Bull's Bridge Road; cross the first bridge; go through the covered bridge; cross a third bridge, and park on the left White blazes mark the entrance to the Appalachian Trail. The entrance to Bull's Bridge Scenic Loop is between the covered bridge and the first parking area and is not blazed. Moderate difficulty.
Connecticut Audubon Society Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary
314 Unquowa Road
Fairfield, CT, 06824
Historic museum highlights natural history of the state with dioramas, wildlife exhibits, and dinosaur footprints. Adjacent 6-acre sanctuary with trails.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The six-acre Birdcraft Sanctuary is open daily, year-round, from dawn to dusk.
Yale University uses this forest for study and field work. Fishing is available in the forest. The blue-marked Nipmuck trail runs through the forest for hiking.
145 Lang Road
This park has 473 acres of land and recreational facilities, including an interpretive nature center, 12 miles of trails, and seasonal maple sugaring. This park is a birdwatcher's paradise: Recent bird sightings include Grasshopper Sparrows in Long Field, a Merlin Falcon near the windmill; an Eastern Phoebe in the woods behind the Organic Garden; a Turkey Vulture above the picnic site; and an American Bald Eagle on Pond Trail. A Red-headed Woodpecker has been spotted by the ravine; this bird is endangered in Connecticut.
Open: Year round.
Several blazed hiking trails are situated on this site.
McLean Game Refuge
Route 10, Salmon Brook Road
Open: Year round.
Enjoy a hiking and cross-country skiing on refuge trails. The area provides ample observation areas for both general nature study and birding in particular.
Enders State Forest
West Granby, CT
Open: Year round.
This wildlife sanctuary features a walking trail that leads to beautiful, scenic waterfalls.
Pudding Hill Wildlife Area
Wildlife area with fishing, hiking and small game hunting.
East Granby, CT
Open: Year round
This trail is blue-blazed and extremely popular with hikers.
Connecticut Audobon Coastal Center
1 Milford Point Road
Open: Tuesday - Saturday, 10 am - 4 pm
Set on the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound, this natural haven is one of Connecticut's best bird-watching spots. Admission: $3 adults, $2 children under 13.