A visit to Stamford Museum and Nature Center feels a lot like spending an afternoon in Vermont but with the convenience of Connecticut. This not-so-little estate has an impressive range of offerings. Set on 118 acres, Stamford Museum & Nature Center has a pond, working farm, sculptures, hiking paths, observatory, and museum with revolving exhibits.
Bendel Mansion Museum
It’s easy to spend a whole day on this expansive property. We began our day at the museum, which is located in the Bendel Mansion (built for famous designer Henri Bendel). It's a gorgeous British manor house that now serves as a charming museum. On the day we visited it's special exhibit was A Billion Bricks 3: Galactic Travels, a Lego exhibit featuring Star Wars.
We made this trip with three kids under the age of 5. They all enjoyed seeing these impressive creations, plus there were miniature trains zipping through the exhibits for extra awe. It took about 15 minutes to walk through the exhibit. Before heading outside we made a stop at the Children's Corner, a small hands-on room where the kids could tinker with Legos and make some creations of their own.
The museum also has permanent collections that showcase American, Native American, and New England history. Art and culture are at the heart of this collection.
Overbrook Nature Center
After some cajoling we finally got all three of the kids outside and headed over to the Overbrook Nature Center, less than a five-minute walk away. This center is where nature classes are held. Even if you don’t take a class there is an interesting display of information and taxidermied critters, which serve as a great segue into what you could possibly see outside. We learned about local wildlife, studied animal tracks, and then headed to the trails to investigate. I was pleasantly surprised at how interested the kids were in investigating tracks, including their own.
Playground & Nature Trails
Just behind the Overbrook center is a fantastic playground. The playground looked amazing, and it's designed for children to experience animals' perspective on nature. Unfortunately on the day we visited it was closed due to ice, so we didn’t get to experience it.
Behind the playground are more than 80 acres of nature trails. Trail #7 is designed to be wheelchair accessible, so bring on the strollers and wheelchairs, as these woods are for everyone.
After exploring the nature center and trails we crossed over Otter Bridge to the 10-acre working farm. Since we made this visit less than a week after a big snow storm, clean white snow covered much of the farm, but the asphalt paths were clear and easy to navigate.
At this charming New England–style farm, you can see gorgeous barns constructed in the 1700s and heritage-breed animals. During our visit we saw turkey, geese, ducks, horses, llamas, rabbits, cows, sheep, and rams. This picturesque property provides the perfect environment for admiring nature's beauty and studying the animals in a working farm setting.
Also located on the farm is Heckscher WILD! This is a small indoor reptile house where you are able to get up close and even interact with wildlife. This was our kids’ favorite part of the day. The employees taught us interesting facts about what we were seeing. They even had names for lots of the reptiles. Wallace the tortoise was a big hit and was out walking around in the space.
Just off the farm path is an observatory. Throughout the year it hosts many evening events, offering visitors an opportunity to peer into a 22-inch research telescope to see the moon and the night sky.
It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon exploring the grounds at Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Its unique events, including sheep shearing day and maple sugaring festival, sound particularly fun. With a farm, sculptures, observatory, pond, hiking trails, and a museum all in one location, it’s rare to have so many different experiences in such a short visit.
Tips for Visiting
- Everything is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
- Bring a camera--this is a gorgeous and photogenic property.
- You can easily spend 2+ hours here.
- This isn’t a children’s petting zoo, it’s a real working farm. You’re not allowed to feed the animals.
- This is a great place to bring a picnic lunch.
- Check out the events page for information on upcoming events.
- Price: $10; $5, children ages 4–17; free for children 3 and younger