Rediscover Bridgeport through its Tourist Attractions

by MEG BARONE, CT Post

Were P.T. Barnum still alive, the ultimate showman would preside as ringmaster, not only over his own circus but all of Bridgeport, beckoning people from near and far into the Park City to enjoy its numerous attractions.

Bridgeport has its own multi-ring circus with more attractions per square mile than most municipalities. Gregg Dancho, Direc­tor of Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, said few places in the state have the wealth of attractions Bridgeport does, and all within a small radius.

With two museums, Connecticut’s only Zoo, several art galler­ies, a cabaret, a playhouse, a symphony orchestra, a sports and performing arena, and a baseball field, Bridgeport offers a lot of exciting options for Staycationers and vacationers. “It’s amaz­ing what Bridgeport has to offer in just 16 square miles,” said Jane Hollis, marketing director of the Discovery Museum, which features permanent exhibits, traveling exhibits, and the Henry B. duPont III Planetarium.

“The wonderful thing about Bridgeport as a fabulous tourist hub is most certainly that it is right on the I-95 corridor and we are a convenient stop for travelers up and down the coast,” said Kathy Maher, executive director of the Barnum Museum. Maher said the museum has attracted people from all over the world, including Germany, England, and Japan, and is likely to bring in many visitors this year as 2010 marks the 200th anniversary of Barnum’s birth.

The museum will celebrate his birthday year-long with fam­ily events and educational programs that will fully explore the breadth of Barnum’s very complex character, from his politics to his circus. “The Barnum Museum is the last surviving structure that is so linked to his history and that still serves his commit­ment to enrich and educate and entertain the public,” Maher said.

“There’s so much going on. There’s a tremendous amount of activity. Bridgeport is an exciting place and just doesn’t get the credit its due,” said Jeff Bishop, interim executive director of the Discovery Museum. In fact, few people know that Bridgeport is home to the Housatonic Museum of Art at Housatonic Com­munity College. It has one of the most significant collections of any two-year college nationwide and includes works by Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Miro and Chagall.

The Connecticut Beardsley Zoo is dedicated to quality family experiences specializing in conservation, education and fun.

The Klein Memorial Auditorium is thriving under the direction of the Fairfield Theatre Company as the promoter. “They have done a wonderful job with a wide variety of dance, rock, classical and other performing arts. They’ve really brought that institution back,” said Donald Eversley, Bridgeport’s economic development director.

Maher said Bridgeport is becoming a very friendly walk-able city.

“Bridgeport is a great city; it was and it still is. People just have to rediscover it,” Hollis said.

“It’s so family-oriented. You can take your kids to the Zoo, swimming at Seaside Park, to a Bluefish game, or a Sound Tigers game, you can take them to the museums. There is always some­thing to do with young children,” said Mayor Bill Finch.
 
 
THE HOUSATONIC MUSEUM OF ART– The Housatonic Museum of Art, located at 900 Lafayette Blvd., features a collection of almost 4,000 works of art. Although the focus of the collection is of 20th Century Modern and Contemporary work, there are also hundreds of works in the ethnographic collection, including excellent examples of African, Asian and Mayan cul­tures.

There are numerous changing exhibitions every year, featuring local, regional and national artists, as well as shows culled from the permanent col­lection. Changing exhibitions are held in the Bert Chernow Galleries while much of the permanent collection is on display throughout the Housatonic Community College buildings. For more information call 203-332-5000 or go online to www.hctc.commnet.edu/artmuseum <http://www.hctc.commnet.edu/artmuseum> .