7 Wild Encounters in Connecticut Last Updated: May 2023
By Traci L. Suppa
We've got places in Connecticut where you can interact with animals of every order.
It’s one of the nation’s leading aquariums, with more than 300 marine life species and Arctic Coast—the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the United States. Watch them through underwater viewing windows or during feeding and training sessions. Rescued harbor seals Bristol and Coral recently joined the belugas. Other exhibits at this Mystic favorite feature African penguins, alligators, frogs, seals and sea lions. Main Gallery habitats feature crowd-pleasing sharks, stingrays and jellyfish.
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
This year, the aquarium symbolizes its 30th anniversary with the pearl—befitting, since Norwalk is the oystering capital of Connecticut. Expect celebratory special offers, events and displays throughout 2018. The new Journey with Jellies exhibit added exotic species to the largest jellyfish collection in New England, but don’t forget the sharks, seals, turtles and otters. In addition to animal-encounter programs, guests can participate in marine-life tours on Long Island Sound.
Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo
Protecting endangered species is a key mission for this Bridgeport institution, which opened in the early 1920s and is the state’s only accredited zoo. Many of the 300 animals, such as the Siberian tigers and Brazilian ocelots, are threatened by extinction. Popular exhibits include the indoor rainforest, Alligator Alley and New England Farmyard. The newest, Pampas Plains, features South American species such as the vicuña and giant anteater. Save time to ride the indoor carousel.
Action Wildlife Foundation
You’ll forget you’re even in Connecticut as you embark on the Drive-thru Safari at this wildlife sanctuary in Goshen. The more than 350 exotic animals that live here—elk, zebra, ibex, red sheep and wild boars—come from North America, Africa, India, Asia and the Arctic, and many are endangered. Visit the petting zoo to feed the smaller animals, spend time in the museum and picnic area and take a hayride in the fall.
Burgis Brook Alpacas
Alpacas are rare outside of South America, but there are more than 50 Peruvian huacayas living on this farm in Canterbury. With whimsical names like El Futuro and Claribelle, many are happy to be petted. If owners Mark and Alisa aren’t out at a farmers market, they’ll tell you how the soft fleece turns into beautiful knitting yarn. Stop into The Crimp Farm Shop for yarns, hand knits, honey and garlic, all produced on-site.
Stamford Museum & Nature Center
Nature, history and art come together in Stamford, where visitors enjoy the interactive nature center, planetarium, observatory and telescope, otter pond, trails and playground. Animal “meet and greets” featuring small exotic animals from around the world are a family favorite. Seasonal exhibits explore science, conservation and endangered species. Or plan a visit during one of their annual events such as Harvest Festival Weekend or the Farm Egg Hunt.
The Connecticut Audubon Society
The 19 sanctuaries stewarded by the state’s Audubon Society provide daily access to nature—to observe wildlife and go birdwatching, hike and learn from interpretative signage. Nature centers offering educational programs are located in Fairfield, Milford, and Pomfret. Some of the largest sanctuaries are Croft preserve in Goshen, Bafflin preserve in Pomfret and the newest—Deer Pond Farm in Sherman, with 835 acres of forest, meadow and wetlands.
Want to check in with some chickens, or gab with a goat? Find a farm open to the public. There are 400 chickens at Flamig Farm in West Simsbury, as well as a petting zoo with alpacas, cows, emus, goats, peacocks, potbellied pigs and sheep. At Fort Hill Farms in Thompson, meet cows and calves on guided tours, and sample fresh milk and ice cream.
Karabin Farms in Southington is a great place for a wagon ride to meet the cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens on-site. Creamery Brook Bison in Brooklyn runs monthly Bison Adventure Saturdays, giving wagon rides to the bison pasture.