10 Spectacular Butterfly Gardens Around the Country

By Ashley Morse April 12, 2016
There is something so enchanting about butterflies, from their colorful, iridescent wings to their metamorphic entrance into the world. Butterfly exhibitions give children the opportunity to step into the magical world of the butterfly, and, not only view butterflies up close, but witness their different stages of life and learn about their habitats. Here are some of the best and most unique butterfly parks, gardens, exhibits and pavilions we could find. Our tip -- if you plan to visit, make sure to wear bright colors, a butterfly may land on you! 

1. Butterfly World Coconut Creek, Florida 

Butterfly World was the first butterfly house to open in the United States and is the result of one man’s hobby "gone wild." In the 1980s, Ronald Boender, a retired electrical engineer, decided to actively pursue his interest in butterflies; he first raised butterflies in his home, and then went on to establish a commercial butterfly farm and sold butterflies to universities and zoos. In 1988, he opened Butterfly World, three acres of butterfly aviaries, botanical gardens, a working butterfly farm and research center. Since then, several new exhibits have been added including two aviaries for a rainbow of birds and hummingbirds, butterfly museum, bug zoo and an interactive lorikeet encounter.
Your visit to Butterfly World begins in a room where you can view live chrysalises (during a recent visit with my daughter's school, we saw 2 butterflies emerge from their chrysalises and the kiddos were in awe). Adjacent to the chrysalis viewing area are three giant "free-flight" aviaries. The largest of these enclosures, The Tropical Rain Forest, is 60 feet high and features a waterfall, cave, and periodic "tropical rain showers" and 20,000 butterflies fluttering about. While you are not supposed to touch the butterflies on your own, the guide "helped" a couple of the butterflies to land on the children's hands -- the smiles did not leave the kids' faces the entire day. (Photo credit Ashley Morse)

2. Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, Callaway Gardens Pine Mountain, Georgia

60 minutes southwest of Atlanta is Callaway Gardens, home to the Day Butterfly Center. Before entering the tropical conservatory, guests can watch experts in the Transformation Station work with the butterfly chrysalides as they arrive from around the world. Visitors see chrysalides up close in emergence boxes built into the room’s glass walls. Here the chrysalides hang during metamorphosis as they transform into butterflies. The new butterflies are released into the Center’s octagonal conservatory which houses more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies and tropical birds, including colorful macaws. Within the conservatory, defined by 854 glass panes, guests walk among the butterflies and lush tropical floral displays surrounding a 12-foot waterfall. The Day Butterfly Center is open year round, but it sounds like the best time to visit is September, during Blue Morpho month, to see the planet's largest display of Blue Morpho butterflies when according to the center, "hundreds of these tropical butterflies fill the Day Butterfly Center with their iridescent-blue splendor." (Photo credit Day Butterfly Center)

3. Butterfly Conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History New York, New York 
One of the most popular annual exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is the seasonal Butterfly Conservatory running from September through May each year. What is unique about this exhibit is that it is housed in a vivarium, a custom-fabricated, temporary shell structure that sits within one of the Museum's existing galleries. It is a 1,300 square foot, freestanding transparent structure with a winding pathway surrounded by tropical plants and vibrant blossoms. It has been designed to be a "kit of parts" that can be broken down, stored, then reinstalled in future years. It is a completely sealed, self-contained environment.

4. Cockerell Butterfly Center, Houston Musuem of Natural Science Houston, Texas 
Cockerell Butterfly Center is a stunning, three-story glass structure built around a 50-foot waterfall. Open year round, the Butterfly Center is a simulated tropical rainforest filled with exotic plants and hundreds of live butterflies from around the world. The Butterfly Center is home to several other exhibits as well, including a crawl-through model of a beehive, giant models of insects like caterpillars and beetles, immersive exhibits that make visitors feel like they are the size of a bug, and a video station where giant models of insect heads are outfitted with specialized cameras. Here, visitors can see themselves how different species of insects would see them – in 360 degrees, through a different visual color spectrum, and more. What fun!

5. Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory Deerfield, Massachusetts 
Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory is an extremely popular and beloved destination; it comes highly recommended by several Massachusetts area Macaroni Kid publishers and it sounds like it is one of the larger facilities in the country. The facility includes an 8,000-square foot indoor glass conservatory that is home to nearly 4,000 exotic and domestic butterflies in a tropical environment. The conservatory is kept at a balmy 80 degrees and is open year round. Kelly Pramberger, Publisher, Macaroni Kid Springfield, MA, says "My son and I like to make a day trip here when he gets a day off from school. We make sure to wear bright colors because we've been told that the butterflies are more likely to land on you! We can spend a couple of hours here exploring." 

6. Frederik Meijer Sculpture Park and Gardens, Grand Rapids, Michigan 

From March through April, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is home to the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the nation. 7,000 butterflies surround you in the five-story Tropical Conservatory "with tranquil waterfalls and streams winding around lush vegetation. In March and April ... Thousands of butterflies, imported as chrysalises from Africa, Asia and South and Central America, fly freely within the conservatory." In addition to the enchanting butterfly exhibit, they knows how to keep the kiddos entertained by offering butterfly themed children's programing during the exhibit including a butterfly ballet and several activities in the Children's Garden! Dress up as a caterpillar, chrysalis or butterfly in the costume area, perform a butterfly-themed puppet show or read about moths and butterflies in the Log Cabin, search for butterfly and moth life cycle stages in a special Treehouse Village hunt, ring the bell after successfully navigating through the Butterfly Maze and become a butterfly in the Monarch’s Migration game! (Photo credit Ashley Morse) 

7. Butterfly Pavilion Denver, Colorado
Kyrie Collins, Publisher, Macaroni Kid Highlands Ranch, Colorado, tells us that "Wings of the Tropics is a 3,000 square foot enclosed rain forest that is home to more than 1,200 live butterflies and moths of all colors and sizes. The chrysalis viewing area is located near the exit of this room. The Butterfly Pavilion receives 600 - 1,200 chrysalises each week from nine sustainable butterfly farms around the world, so they are all in different stages of life here. Watch patiently for a few moments and you will see several of them moving; you may even be as lucky as we were and see a butterfly emerge from one of them. Butterfly Encounters, with a live butterfly release, takes place daily at 12:30 PM and 3:30 PM. Although you are not allowed to touch the butterflies, you could have one land on you, especially if you are wearing red."

8. Butterfly Pavilion at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum Los Angeles, California
While most of the butterfly exhibits on our list house tropical butterflies, the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles is home to more than 30 native North American butterfly species. This summer-long exhibition is a unique, changing ecosystem, where you can witness free-flying creatures interacting with plant life, and emerge with a better understanding of the environment needed for the survival of these spectacular animals. The Pavilion is also home to a Monarch Waystation, "where visitors can see every milestone and metamorphosis in a Monarch’s life — from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalises to the adult butterfly." Since "Much of the Monarchs' natural habitat no longer exists due to urban development and widespread use of herbicides" they show you how to create your own!  

9. Butterfly Wonderland Scottsdale, Arizona 

A visit to Butterfly Wonderland is an "experience" that begins in a 3D Theater where butterflies jump off the screen in a short film about the life of a butterfly and what makes them so fascinating. Then it is off to the Butterfly Emergence Gallery to watch live chrysalises as they emerge into butterflies and fly freely into the largest indoor rainforest atrium in the United States. The 10,000 square foot atrium is home to more than 3,000 butterflies and filled with flowers and plants favored by the species of butterflies within. Butterfly wonderland is also home to several other exhibits including insects of the desert, a honey bee extravaganza and rivers of the amazon. Veronica Leon, assistant to the Publisher for the North Scottsdale, Arizona, edition of Macaroni Kid, thinks Butterfly Wonderland is a really special place and says "We have been going to Butterfly Wonderland since it first opened in 2013 and became Lifetime members from our first visit. My daughter and I both love butterflies and love going at least once a week!" (Photo credit Veronica Leon). 

10. Butterfly House Lancaster, England 

I recently had the opportunity to visit the butterfly house in Lancaster, England. What is so unique about the Butterfly House is that the building is a gorgeous glass enclosed historic structure, built in 1905, which sits in the middle of a park in the highest part of the city; there are gorgeous views for miles around. Historic, beautiful architecture and butterflies -- spectacular.