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Explore Fairfield County :: Bridgeport

“Explore Fairfield County” is an informational series that provides a glimpse into the wonderful towns and cities in Fairfield County. Fairfield County is diverse in that it includes big cities, small suburbs, beaches, farms, and busy highways. It covers a large geographic area and, because of this, it has a lot to offer families! To help you get the most out of Fairfield County, our contributors have shared the top 10 things they love about each local area. To read more in this series click here.

Bridgeport is Fairfield County largest city with a population of 147,340, making it the largest city in the state and the fifth-largest city in New England. It is a shoreline city and bordered by the towns of Trumbull to the north, Fairfield to the west, and Stratford to the east. Located approximately 60 miles from Manhattan, Bridgeport is considered part of the New York metropolitan area. Bridgeport has been officially nickanmed “The Park City,” because it has over 1,300 acres of public park space across 27 parks, including the well-known Pleasure Beach, Beardsley Park and Seaside Park. Bridgeport is divided into many distinct neighborhoods and is divided into five geographic areas: Downtown, the East Side, the North End, the South End, and the West Side.

Bridgeport has a rich history and has over 50 registered historic places. The showman P.T. Barnum was a resident of the city in the 19th century and even served as Bridgeport’s town mayor for a year. Barnum’s circus was housed in Bridgeport during the winter. The first Subway restaurant was opened in Bridgeport and the city is credited to Frisbee’s birthplace.

Bridgeport’s public school system includes 30 elementary schools, 3 high schools, 2 alternative programs, and an interdistrict vocational aquaculture school. Bridgeport has the second largest school system in Connecticut and is also home to many private schools. The city is also home to the University of Bridgeport, Housatonic Community College, and St. Vincent’s College. Bridgeport offers two hospitals, Bridgeport Hospital {a member of the Yale New Haven Health System} and St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

1. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

The Beardsley Zoo is the perfect place for a few hours of entertainment without having to drive too far. It is my go-to place for morning outings. They are open daily from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and are only closed three days out of the year {Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day}. It’s the perfect size for tiny legs to wander around and discover nature. They have a lot of special events during the year, including our favorite, Breakfast with Frosty and Friends. I love that they also have farm animals. You can see the animals, grab a bite to eat at the cafe or bring your own lunch and eat it at the picnic tables, take a carousel ride, ride a camel, climb around the playscape, shop in their gift store, and more! You can also host birthday parties at the zoo, which is always a crowd-pleaser with the indoor carousel!

2. Captain’s Cove Seaport

Captain’s Cove Seaport is a great place for both a family outing and a date night. The bustling seaport may even make you feel like you’re on vacation. The seaport does not charge any admission or parking fees. Kids love watching the boats and playing around in the dramatic play area. There are boardwalk shops, food, drinks, and more. The restaurant and bar has many special events and live music, including weekly karaoke in the summer.

3. Barnum Festival

The annual Barnum Festival is a seasonal celebration of Bridgeport and its surrounding towns. The festival started in 1948 to help support local businesses and honor P.T. Barnum. The festival includes many events that span late spring to early summer that have the intention of building community spirit, fostering philanthropy, and celebrating the many diverse cultures represented by residents. The festival ends with a weekend-long Barnum Palooza that includes parades, concerts, fireworks, and family-friendly activities. 

4. Pleasure Beach

Pleasure Beach was originally an amusement park founded in 1892 where patrons could ride a rollercoaster or carousel, play carnival games, and more. After being closed for nearly two decades, Bridgeport restored the beach and reopened it for the public in 2014. Pleasure Beach is open 7 days a week and beach goers can access it with a free water taxi {you will have about 1/2 mile walk along a boardwalk to the beach area}. There is a pavilion, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, and a concession stand.

5. Downtown Cabaret Children’s Theatre

Downtown Cabaret Children’s Theatre puts on phenomenal shows. As a bonus, you can bring your own food and drinks in! We love going for a lunchtime performance. It’s a small room, so every seat in the house is a good one. The theatre puts their own twist on classic shows and it’s guaranteed to be a fun time. At the end of each show, the cast comes out to meet everyone, take pictures, and sign autographs. 

6. Discovery Museum and Planetarium, including the Adventure Park

At one location, kids can have dynamic, hands-on STEM experiences at the Discovery Museum, see a simulation of the starry sky at the Planetarium, and climb and zip line at the Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum. With the museum, planetarium, and advenuture park, there is year-round entertainment and learning for kids of all ages and they offer many special events throughout the year. One of my favorite areas of the Discovery Museum is “Preschool Power,” which is a soft, contained, safe space for children aged 0-3 years old to play and build their motor skills, balance, coordination, and imagination. 

7. Webster Bank Arena

Webster Bank Arena offers many family-friendly events throughout the year, as well as being home to the Sound Tigers. Some events they usually have every year include Disney on Ice, Harlem Globetrotters, Marvel Universe, comedians, concerts, and many more. It’s great to have such large events within such a short-driving distance!

8. Bass Pro Shops

With two floors, Bass Pro Shops has so much to offer from free holiday events and kids’ activities to great shopping to bowling and even a restaurant {that has pretzels with cheese dip, yum}. Walking around the store is a great indoor activity for those chilly winter days. Plus, there is even a Starbucks Drive-Thru across the street, so you can grab coffee first! This winter, they even had a free carousel that you could ride while waiting to see the amazing Santa.

9. Transportation Options

Bridgeport has many transportation options. The city is located nearby frequently traveled roads, including I-95, Route 1, Route 8, Route 25, and Route 15. Additionally, Bridgeport offers train stops for both Amtrak and Metro-North and bus depots for Greyhound and Peter Pan, which all provide access to major cities including New York, Stamford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Boston. Bridgeport also offers a ferry boat to Port Jefferson on Long Island. 

10. Restaurants 

Bridgeport has a wealth of restaurants for all the foodies out there that range from family-friendly spots to ones that are perfect for date nights. A few that come to mind are TruNorth Tavern & Table, Hub and Spoke {which has cute holiday brunches with the Easter Bunny and Santa}, nom-eez, Joseph’s Steakhouse, Ralph-n-Rich’s, Harborview Market, Walrus + Carpenter, and Brewport Brewing Co., but the list is endless!

Have you visited Bridgeport? Do you live here? What do you love about it?

Be sure to read all the posts in our Explore Fairfield County Series by clicking here.

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