If you're not clocking enough outdoor time with your kids, you'll definitely want to add Webb Mountain Discovery Zone to your Fairfield County day trip list. The 171-acre plot of forest, purchased by Monroe in 2004, can make a field biologist out of even the most cosmopolitan of parents ... and the transformation won't even cost you a nickel!
It takes about 15 minutes to get to the Discovery Zone if you're coming from Route 25. There are signs to guide the way, but the roads are winding, so no catering to the back seat once you turn off of Route 111. After you park, douse yourselves in bug spray, tuck your pants into your socks (ticks people…this is Connecticut), take a peek at what's floating around in the butterfly garden, then trudge over to the trailhead to pick your route. (Tip: if you've got a jogging stroller to contend with, do NOT venture past the footbridge on Froggy Freeway). Now comes the fun part…grab a scorecard and pencil! Real experts have designed age-appropriate Interactive Scavenger Hunts that will have you scouring the preserve's spring-fed (vernal) pools for salamanders and frogs, or tracking down artifacts from Native American sites and Colonial-era quarries. Seriously, you'll have the kids thinking you discovered America.
Once you've finally given up on locating one of those sneaky salamanders, pull out the picnic lunch you've packed -- there are tables and trash/recycling receptacles next to the parking area, and a handicapped-accessible port-a-potty on site until November. B.Y.O. baby wipes!
If you time it right, your trip to the Zone, can turn into a full day in the area. After your picnic lunch, venture just a short distance to Jones Family Farm to pick strawberries, blueberries or pumpkins (June, July, Oct)…. stop into Beardsley's Cider Mill to savor an apple cider donut while watching them press the apples (Sept-Dec) … or head to Monroe's Town Green for the Farmers Market (June-Oct).
Webb Mountain Discovery Zone also offers Mommy & Me programs, unique birthday parties, and special events. Coming up on April 29th, Hank Gruner, a biologist and herpetologist (and one of the creators of the Interactive Scavenger Hunt), will show 4th-8th graders how to dipnet, sort, identify, and categorize the creatures living in the Zone's waters and mud. If there's anyone who can find those salamanders, it's him! Registration information for all programs is on their website.
71 Webb Mountain Circle, Monroe, CT 06468
Hours: The preserve is open to the public sunrise to sunset.
Photo courtesy of Webb Mountain Discovery Zone.
Originally published 4/26/12.