I know, with all the snow that just came down last week, it’s hard to think about outdoor activities. And we especially don’t think about the zoo in November. But, last month we visited Connecticut’s only zoo and I learned they are open year-round. So whether it’s December or June, it’s always a good time to go visit the Beardsley Zoo!
The Beardsley Zoo has a 90 year-long history as being the only zoo in Connecticut. The Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as a participant in its Species Survival Plan programs. The Zoo is home to many endangered and protected animals, which you will meet when you visit Beardsley.
Beardsley Zoo is open all year-long, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On the day before a holiday, they close at 1 p.m. (with the last tickets sold at noon). Since this is New England, inclement weather can change the schedule, so always make sure to check before making the drive to Bridgeport in case the weather is questionable!
Beardsley Zoo is situated right between the Merritt Parkway and I-95 in Bridgeport. For us, it was a good hour plus drive from the top of the state to the bottom. It always amazes me that even with how little Connecticut actually is, some of these awesome destinations really are a good drive!
The zoo is located in Beardsley Park and it’s easy to get navigate your way around to the zoo. You’ll see signs everywhere.
They have a pretty decent sized parking lot right near the main entrance. And if you can’t find space, they also have an overflow lot just around the corner. We actually visited on a holiday weekend (the Monday of Columbus Day weekend) but it was a drizzly kind of day, so while the main parking lot was pretty full, we did find a spot close to the gate.
And, the parking is free!
The main entrance is located under the tents near the top of the parking lot. This is where you’ll find the admission counters.
Admission to Beardsley is pretty affordable. Adults (12 and older) are $15; children (3 to 11) are $12 and seniors (62 and older) are $11. Children under 3 are free. They also offer free admission to active military members and 20% off military families (up to 6 guests). Veterans receive 15% off general admission for up to 6 people. AARP members also receive 15% off for up to 4 people.
You can also become a member of the Connecticut Zoological Society and receive free admission.
The zoo accepted cash and all major credit cards.
We actually visited in October because it was free for members of the Connecticut Science Center. One of the perks of membership to the Science Center is reciprocal passes to a few different Connecticut attractions throughout the year. In September and October of this year, we could visit the Beardsley Zoo for free!
At the admissions counter, you can also rent strollers and wheelchairs.
Once you’ve paid for admission, you’ll enter into the zoo at the front gate. There are restrooms, a welcome center and first aid in this first area.
They also have a huge map of the zoo hanging up by the front gate. You’ll be given a paper map too when you pay for your admission. If you want to plan ahead, you can even download the map here.
The Beardsley Zoo is really easy to navigate. We opted to not bring in any stroller. We’re at that age where some things he can walk, and some places are just a little too much for little feet. This Zoo was pretty perfect in size. He had a few moments of “pick me up” and we did stop for rests throughout the zoo.
The paths are all paved. You can easily push a stroller around. They also mark the walkways with little paw prints so you can find your way around.
He seemed to think he could handle the map – and we let him think that. Honestly, the whole park loops around with just a few little nooks, so you can basically walk in a big circle and find your way from start to end.
Right after you walk in, you’ll spot some fun photo opportunities. You’ll find several of these throughout the zoo!
You’ll also spot animals right away, including the Andean Condor and a huge tortoise! Each animal has a sign with a description and fun facts about them. While a four-year old could care less about the diet of a condor, these are great to read with your older children or even the adults. I’m a look and move on kind of girl, like my child (short attention span), but my husband always likes these factoids.
Behind the tortoise is a greenhouse full of lots of plants and greenery – we stayed in there for all of ten seconds before he was back outside and ready to see the animals.
Just opposite of the greenhouse is the Gift Shop. We actually visited this last during our trip to the zoo – no one wants to carry all of their purchases around the zoo! And it’s a great reward for good behavior.
Once you make it past the gift shop, you’ll start seeing even more animals. The Mexican Wolf and Red Wolf have a large exhibit including an observation learning facility and binoculars so you can see the wolves more closely. During our first pass by, we actually didn’t see the wolves. It was on our way back to the exit that we caught them during feeding time (which is a sight I’ll be happy to forget).
We also saw the giant anteaters, Chacoan Peccary, Maned Wolf and Rheas in the Pampas Plains. Some of the animals hid pretty well but we actually spotted all of them in this big exhibit. I grabbed a few good shots of the wolves and the peccary!
A popular exhibit was the prairie dogs. They had a small tunnel under the exhibit which led to glass tubes that the kids could pop their heads up into and see the prairie dogs up close and personal. My husband learned the hard way that adults really don’t fit in those tunnels!
The bison and whitetail deer were the furthest back exhibit – but this was not even half way through all the animals!
One of the exhibits we had been excited to see was actually closed that day for remodeling. The Red Panda exhibit will open again soon! That just gives us a reason to go back!
One of the highlights of our zoo visit were these amazing animals: the Amur leopard and the Amur tiger!
We actually got to see the tiger while he was enjoying a big gourd for lunch!
Right by the tiger exhibit is another great photo opportunity! It’ll be fun to see how much he grows before his next visit!
Our four-year old was most excited about the next exhibit on our map: Alligator Alley. To get to that though, we took a stroll through the walk-through aviary.
Since it is an aviary, and those animals residing inside have wings, you’ll find the exhibit is enclose partly with a double-door gate to ensure nothing flies off. Just something to be mindful of!
Inside the aviary, you’ll find pintail ducks, wood ducks, night herons, aquatic turtles, red-eared sliders and cattle egrets. This kid took the opportunity to really get in there and observe the ducks.
The river otter display was quiet – we are not quite sure where these little guys were hiding!
But that’s okay, because we finally reached the one thing he had been waiting for: the alligator!! Thankfully, we were safe behind some plexi=glass.
He also had a chance to get up close and personal with an alligator, a fake one thankfully.
The gray fox also had his home in alligator alley. They were peacefully sleeping on this dreary day.
The Bald Eagle was pretty fascinating. It’s not too often you see one this up close. Unfortunately for this fella, he was injured (it looked like his wing), but the Beardsley Zoo has taken him in and provide the care he needs to continue to be as free as he can be. Because of his wing injury, the exhibit is not enclosed (he can’t fly).
The New England Farmyard is located behind the Alligator Alley. You can also get to it after you visit the wolves (back near the entrance). Like any barn in New England, you’ll find some familiar animals like the goat, geese, ducks, owls and much more.
Also in this area is the Reptile House- one of my favorites. That was sarcastic… Frogs and turtles, I can handle. Snakes, not so much.
Thankfully we moved out of that fun house of horrors quickly. We then headed into the last of the animal exhibits: the Rainforest Building. Ironically, this was also home to even more snakes. There are no pictures of the Boa, sorry; I chose to focus on the cute animals like the monkeys and tamarins.
Within just an hour, we probably visited every animal in the zoo. The zoo is small but it is perfect for little feet. It gave us plenty of time to enjoy the animals on two pass-throughs actually. We also had time to grab a small snack, play in the play area and of course, ride the carousel.
Right outside the Rainforest, we stopped at the Fountain.
The Peacock Cafe was just opposite the fountain (and right next to the tiger exhibit). Unfortunately, we did not get to eat lunch there. Because of the holiday, the cafe was pretty short-staffed and they had some trouble handling the lunch crowd. Our biggest issue that day was the cafe. We had hoped to try something from their menu, but the long lines prevented us from getting nothing more than a pretzel and a couple of drinks. Hopefully on our next visit, we can try again.
Or, you can also plan ahead and pack a picnic lunch. They offer a ton of picnic tables and seating outdoors. With the rainy weather, not too many people were utilizing those. Hence, the crowds inside the Cafe.
Right next to the Cafe is a small play area. This actually proved to be a great thing while I waited inside for our pretzel. Even with a little drizzle, this kid burnt off some major energy! It was a pretty popular spot in the zoo at lunch time actually!
We couldn’t end our trip to the Beardsley Zoo without a ride on the Carousel!
The Carousel does cost extra- but the tickets are pretty inexpensive and you only have to pay for your riders (so if mom and dad are standing next to the child, they don’t have to pay). Each ride is $2 or you can buy 10 rides for $15. A discount ride card definitely comes in handy when there is more than one child in your family (and more than one ride)! Plan ahead and bring cash for the carousel ride!
The Carousel has a few rules including requiring one adult with each group, a height restriction for riding alone, one rider per horse, waiting for your turn and of course, no food or drink on the carousel.
The rides last a couple of minutes and that’s just enough to make for one happy child!
We had a great time visiting the Beardsley Zoo and we were sad to go! This is definitely a must visit as a parent in Connecticut. We often overlook the fact that we have a zoo in this state, and opt to travel to the bigger ones in Massachusetts or New York. But this is such a great option, and honestly with little ones under the age of 5, I feel like this is way better for them than the big zoos.
Beardsley Zoo also hosts great events year round including specials at Christmas and Halloween, toddler times during the week, and loads more. Plan a trip around one of these fun events and it will make for even more of a wonderful experience.
We will definitely be back!
This about sums it up…
1875 Noble Avenue- Bridgeport, Connecticut
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The zoo is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. They close at 1 p.m. on the day before these holidays.
Costs: $15 for adults, $17 for seniors (62 and older), $12 for children ages 3-11, and free for those under age 3.
Discounts offered for military, veterans and AARP. Free for members of the zoo. Free admission during select months for CT Science Center members.
- Stroller accessible and easy for little walkers
- Play Area
- Gift Shop
- Plenty of parking available for free
- Bathrooms located near Carousel, Cafe and main entrance
- Food available for purchase at Cafe and at other seasonal food stands
- Open sunny areas throughout park, bring lots of sunblock! There are also many covered, shady areas.
- Plan ahead for special events held throughout the year.