Coast2CoastwithKids: Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Connecticut
The Stamford Museum and Nature Center in Stamford, Connecticut is practically in my backyard and yet it’s taken me almost 12 years to visit! We’ve felt most comfortable visiting outdoor locations due to the COVID 19 pandemics, so this seemed like the perfect time to explore the farm and nature center.
There are over 80 acres of gardens, trails, and buildings spread out across the complex. Visitors are welcome to visit with animals, smell the fruits and vegetables in the garden, check out the playground, explore the mansion, and hike and walk some of the trails.
- Enter and exit via the 151 Scofieldtown Road entrance. Other entrance points are for staff and campers.
- Check on museum hours and programming here. The museum is open 362 days a year. (Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day)
- Plan on spending 60-90 minutes to follow the outdoor loop and additional time for indoor exhibits and special programs.
- Wear old sneakers. There is a lot of walking (mostly on paved paths and wooden bridges) but there is a lot of geese dropping on the path.
- Bring the stroller for the toddler crew, in case they get tired (and to store supplies)
- Wear sunscreen and bug spray. However, a majority of the paths are shaded (yay!) and I didn’t see, or feel, any many bugs near me (but they do LOVE the animals!)
- Restrooms are located near the HeckscherWILD exhibit, Bendel Mansion, and the Meadow.
- The center does a great job of offering outdoor hand washing stations throughout the complex.
- Scan the museum’s QR code for the site map.
- The Overbrook gift shop is located inside the Nature Center. Note: Due to state restrictions for summer 2020, the gift shop is currently closed to the public.
- There are plenty of spaces and tables for picnicking throughout the complex. A Farm Market occurs each Sunday in the summer and fall months – more information here. For nearby dining options, check out this list from Visit CT. My personal favorites is Bar Taco.
10 Things to Do at the SM&NC:
1. Visit with some of the 60 species of animals on Heckscher Farm. Follow the paved path throughout the farm and you’ll see donkeys, oxen, cows, guinea hogs, Jacob rams, llamas, alpacas, dwarf goats, sheep, and more. Take note of the placards that explain the history and background of the animals. Be careful not to get too close, as many of the animals will stick their faces through the wire fences.Visitors are allowed to touch pasture farm animals (no faces!). Bonus: Ask about the feeding schedule at the front gate. We loved following the feed truck as it stopped at each animal spot- the animals knew what was coming and flocked right to the feeding spot.
2. Walk through the Organic Garden and smell some of the 50+ varieties of fruits and vegetables. The produce is used for educational purposes in the preschool and camps, as well as to feed the animals.
3. Name the tools used on the farm and stored in the Connecticut Barn. Originally built in 1750 and moved to the Center in 1979, the barn houses grains, tools used on the farm, and many animals at night.
4. Keep an eye out for the otters in the Otter Pond. The otters are most energetic in the evenings.
5. Learn about the history of the area and many of the animals at the Overbrook Nature Center. Visitors can attend workshops in the classroom and explore some of the historical exhibits. Note: Due to state restrictions for summer 2020, the Nature Center is currently closed to the public.
6. Climb and slide all over Nature’s Playground. There is a large play structure with several slides, and a smaller toddler-friendly wooden ship play structure. A hand washing station is located next to the playground.
7. Take a hike through some of the trails that cross over 80 acres of the complex- check out the map here. The Wheels in the Woods program makes “hiking” accessible for all- the path is raised and paved with wooden planks making it accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.
8. Check out the rotating exhibit inside the Bendel Mansion, which was once the private home of fashion designer (and Bendel department store founder) Henri Willis Bendel. For summer 2020, the mansion is displaying Art and the Animal, the works from the Society of Animal Artists. Be sure to check out Bendel’s collection of outdoor sculptures displayed throughout the complex.
9. Take a class at HeckscherWILD!, a hands on classroom that offers workshops where guests can interact with animals such as lizards, snakes, ferrets, and tarantulas. Check here for the schedule. Note: Due to state restrictions for summer 2020, the Observatory is currently closed to the public.
10. Gaze at the stars at night through the telescope housed in the Stamford Observatory. Built in 1960, the Observatory hosts many events and educational activities. Check here for the schedule. The Center is also adding an Astronomy and Physical Science Center in the future- read more about it here. Note: Due to state restrictions for summer 2020, the Observatory is currently closed to the public.