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WHERE TO: NATURE CENTERS

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by Rebecca Forbes

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WESTCHESTER/CONNECTICUT

Beardsley Zoo
1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport, CT
(202) 394-6565; www.beardsleyzoo.org
Hours: Open daily, 9am-4pm. Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Prices: Adults $9, children 3-11 and seniors $7, children under 3 FREE.
   Connecticut’s only zoo represents primarily North and South American species, many of which are endangered or threatened. The zoo features a restored carousel housed in a Victorian-style building. Also visit the New England Farm Yard where kids can get hands-on and feed goats and pet bunnies.

Beczak Environmental Education Center
35 Alexander Street, Yonkers
(914) 377-1900; www.beczak.org
Hours (Interpretive Center): Open daily, 9am-5pm; Saturday, 9am-3pm.
Prices: FREE; donations accepted and appreciated.
   Beczak Environmental Education Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about the ecology, culture, and history of the Hudson River. There are various educational programs for children, adults and groups. Learn about local beaches, marshes, fish, birds and weather.

Rye Nature Center
873 Boston Post Rd., Rye
914-967-5150; www.ryenaturecenter.org
Hours: Grounds and trails are open daily from dawn to dusk; Butterfly House open dawn to dusk May-October
Prices: Admission is FREE
   The Center is located on 47 acres of wildlife preserve, with over two miles of hiking trails, a 14-station self-guided trail, a butterfly house, Maple Sugar Shack, museums and classrooms. Grab a bird or wildflower checklist to keep track of sightings. The Center also offers a full range of environmental education programs and activities for every age.

Sheldrake Environmental Center 
685 Weaver St., Larchmont
914-834-1443; www.sheldrakecenter.org
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30am-5pm
Prices: Vary according to program
   Located at the 60-acre Larchmont Reservoir - James G. Johnson, Jr. Conservancy, Sheldrake offers a variety of environmental programs for families and schools to foster a better understanding of ecology and nature.

The Wolf Conservation Center
South Salem, NY
(914) 763-2373; www.nywolf.org
Call or register online to arrange a visit; prices and hours vary per program.
  The Wolf Conservation Center is a non-profit organization solely dedicated to teaching the public about wolves and their relationship to the environment. Though it is open to the public, you must call ahead to sign up for one of their educational programs about the biology of wolves such as Rocky Mountain wolves, red wolves and the highly endangered Mexican grey wolves.

Stamford Museum and Nature Center
39 Scofieldtown Rd., Stamford, CT
203-322-1646; www.stamfordmuseum.org
Hours: Bendel Mansion & Galleries open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm. Heckscher Farm open daily 9am-5pm, 9am-4pm November-March. Nature's Playground open daily 9am-5pm. Animal Embassy Tuesday-Sunday 10am-2pm.
Prices: Adults $8, children (4-17) $4, students (over 17) and seniors, members, children 3 and under and those holding bus passes or bus transfer tickets are FREE, Stamford residents are FREE on Wednesdays. Planetarium: adults $3, children (age 5 and up) $2, members FREE. Observatory:  adults $3, children (age 5 and up) $2.
   Enjoy a picnic on the meadow, walk over 80 acres of nature trails, drop in to the Heckscher Farm and say hello to the animals, or see the sights at the planetarium. Check out latest exhibition in the Bendel Mansion Museum Galleries — The Lure of the LEGO Brick, open till August 17. See a variety of animals from around the world at the Animal Embassy.


The Maritime Aquarium
10 North Water Street, Norwalk, CT
(202) 852-0700; www.maritimeaquarium.org
Hours: Open daily, 10am-5pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. July-August, open until 6pm.
Prices: Aquarium only: adults $11, children 2-12 $9, seniors 65+ $10, children under 2 FREE.
  The Maritime Aquarium features daily seal feedings, three IMAX movie adventures about aquatic animals and their habitats, and an Adventure Under the Sea exhibit. There, you meet some of the real undersea animals (like sponges, crabs, and sea stars) that inspired the SpongeBob cartoon characters; inside is the SpongeBob Squarepants 4-D adventure ride. Frogs!, the newest exhibit, brings you nose-to-nose with a range of amazing amphibians.

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration
55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, CT
(860) 572-5955; www.mysticaquarium.org
Hours: Open daily March-November, 9am-6pm; December-February, Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 9am-6pm.
Prices: Adults $22, children (3-17) $17, seniors 65+ $20, children 2 and under FREE.
   Kids get to come face to face with beluga whales at Mystic Aquarium, New England’s only home to these exclusive creatures. Discover marine life from different regions — California’s sea lion show, “Lions of the Sea”; Louisiana’s Bayou experience, “Swamp Things”, featuring baby alligators; and the newest program, “Frogs”, with frogs from around the world in all shapes and sizes.


ROCKLAND

Trailside Museums & Wildlife Center
Bear Mountain State Park, Palisades Parkway & Route 9W
(845) 786-2701 x265; www.bearmountainzoo.org
Hours: Open daily, 10am to 4:30pm
Prices: Adults $1, children (6-12) $0.50, children under 5 are free.
   Overlooking the scenic Hudson River, there is two-mile paved interpretive nature trail, and four museum buildings that house exhibits that interpret the geology and natural history of the area. Visit native, non-releasable wildlife, such as coyotes, North American black bears and Red-tailed hawks.


QUEENS

Alley Pond Environmental Center
228-06 Northern Boulevard, Douglaston
(718) 229-4000; www.alleypond.com
Hours: September-June, Monday-Saturday, 9am-4:30pm; Sunday 9am-3:30pm. Closed Sundays in July and August and some major holidays.
Prices: FREE.
  This center is perfect for little ones; it features a small-animal menagerie with rabbits, hamsters, fowl, doves, turtles, and fish. There’s also a pre-school nature room and the city's only working windmill. There are educational programs/internships for high school students as well.

Queens Zoo
53-51 111th Street, Flushing
(718) 271-1500; www.queenszoo.com
Hours: Open daily, 10am-4:30pm.
Prices: Adults $6, children (3-12) $2, seniors 65+ $2.25, children under 3 are FREE.
  Although it is one of the city’s smaller wildlife centers, the Queens Zoo is the only zoo in New York to feature the spectacled bear, the endangered species native to the Andes Mountains. Check out the local celebrity, Otis, the coyote who was rescued from Central Park in 1999. And welcome Josephine, a pudu (the world’s smallest deer!) and Napoleon’s new mate.

 


BROOKLYN

Prospect Park Audubon Center at the Boathouse
95 Prospect Park West
(718) 287-3400; www.prospectparkaudubon.org
Hours: April-December, Thursday-Sunday and holidays, noon-5pm.
Prices: FREE.
  From May to November, the whole family can rent a pedal boat and, as you pass the three islands, Duck, Three and West, look out for fish, frogs, and snapping turtles. (Boats seat four and cost $15 with a $10 refundable deposit). Or, if you prefer to relax, take a ride on the electric boat tour ($5 for ages 13 and up; $3 for ages 3-12; ages 2 and under ride FREE), which includes a talk about the park’s ecosystem. Bring your own birding backpack to bird watch, or borrow one from the center.

Prospect Park Zoo
450 Flatbush Avenue
(718) 399-7339; www.prospectparkzoo.com
Hours: Open daily, 10am-4:30pm.
Prices: Adults $6, children (3-12) $2, seniors 65+ $2.25, children under 3 FREE.
  Brooklyn’s “newest” zoo is the perfect playground for toddlers, with three major exhibits designed to engage children: The World of Animals, where little ones can meet prairie dogs and wallabies face to face; Animal Lifestyles, which features hamadryads baboons; and the Animals in Our Lives program, which encourages children to observe and draw the wildlife. Help welcome Mao Mi, a red panda, as the newest addition to the zoo.

The New York Aquarium
602 Surf Avenue
(718) 265-3474; www.nyaquarium.com
Hours: Open daily, 10am-4:30pm till April 6. April 7-May 25, Monday–Friday, 10am–5pm; weekends and holidays, 10am-5:30pm. May 26-September 1, Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm; weekends and holidays, 10am-7pm. September 2-October 26, Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; weekends and holidays, 10am-5:30pm.   
Prices: Adult $12, children (2-12) and seniors 65+ $8, children 2 and under FREE.
  At the New York Aquarium, there are over 8,000 animals across 14 acres of both indoor and outdoor naturalistic exhibits. There is much to see, so plan your trip ahead on the website; there are special events coming up all the time. Exhibits feature wave machines, daily feedings, and two rescued sea animals: Ayveq the Walrus, and Willie the Sea Otter. See Akituusaq, the sixth walrus baby in history to be born at an aquarium and survive!


MANHATTAN

Central Park Zoo
830 Fifth Avenue and 64th Street
(212) 439-6500; www.centralparkzoo.com
Hours: Open daily, 10am-4:30pm.
Prices: Adults $8, children (3-12) $3, seniors 65+ $4, children under 3 FREE.
  This zoo is best known for its sea lion exhibition; definitely stick around to watch the daily feedings. There is a separate Children’s Zoo included in the admission price where kids can feed and pet llamas and bunnies. Also visit the exotic indoor rainforest, home to endangered species such as Tamarin monkeys, Wyoming toads, thick-billed parrots, and red pandas.


BRONX

Bronx Zoo
Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road
(718) 220-5100; www.bronxzoo.com
Hours: Open daily. Through March 22, 10am-4:30pm. March 23 through summer, weekdays, 10am-5pm; weekends and holidays, 10am-5;30pm.
Prices: Thursday-Tuesday adults $14, children (3-12) $10, seniors 65+ $12, children 2 years and under FREE. Wednesday admission by donation.
  Visit Himalayan Highland, a one-acre exhibit that allows visitors to see endangered snow leopards, red pandas, white-naped cranes and Temminck's tragopan (a kind of pheasant); and Jungle World, a 37,000-square foot recreation of an Asian rainforest that features 780 animals representing 99 species. Has an integrated Children’s Zoo, with a separate admission fee, an aerial tram ride and a Bug Carousel.


STATEN ISLAND

Staten Island Zoo
614 Broadway
(718) 442-3100; www.statenislandzoo.org
Hours: Open daily, 10am-4:45pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Christmas Day and Thanksgiving.
Adults 15 and over $7, seniors 60 and over $5, children 3-14 $4, children 3 and under and members FREE.  Free admission for all on Wednesdays, 2-4:45pm.
  Specializes in small mammals, birds and reptiles, and home to a weather predicting groundhog.


LONG ISLAND

The Animal Farm Petting Zoo
296 Wading River Road, Manorville
(631) 878-1785; www.afpz.org
Hours: Weekdays 10am-5pm, weekends 10am-6pm.
Prices: Adults $13.50, children 2-16 and seniors $11.50.
  Hold and bottle-feed baby cows, goats, pigs, and lambs. Take a ride on the Safari Tour Train, an interactive experience for the whole family.

Long Island Game Farm
638 Chapman Boulevard, Manorville
(631) 878-6644; www.longislandgamefarm.com
Hours: Weekdays 10am-5pm, weekends 10am-6pm.
Prices: Off-season (April 23-May 26, September 6-October 9): Adults $13.95, children (3-11) $11.95, handicapped $9.95, seniors $11.95.
Memorial Day-Labor Day (May 27-September 4): Adults $17.45, children $15.45, handicapped $9.95, seniors $15.95.
  “Please Touch” is the motto at Long Island’s largest zoo and encounter park. “Pettable” animals here include ducks, rabbits, ponies and turtles. Other activities include carnival-style rides such as Spinning Teacups, the Antique Carousel, and pony rides. Also check out the “Big Cat Encounter”, the twice-daily show featuring exotic lions and tigers.

 


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