As of today, there are around 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. Unfortunately, that might not be the case for much longer. Every year, the butterfly population declines by two percent. That means that in 20 years from now, there’ll be 33 percent fewer butterflies fluttering around than there are now. All the more reason to enjoy them while we can then, and certainly a reason to support the sterling work of the centers, museums, and sanctuaries dedicated to preserving their numbers. If you want to enjoy a day filled with exotic blooms, rainforest landscapes, and rainbow-colored butterflies, here are the 10 best butterfly museums in the United States to visit.
10. Cockerell Butterfly Center, Houston, Texas
Houston Museum of Natural Science is an amazing place in its own right, but it’s made all the more amazing by the Cockerell Butterfly Center, a glass-paned, three-story extravaganza centered around a cascading 50-foot waterfall. Home to hundreds of species of exotic plants and colorful butterflies, it’s a captivating place to visit. Along with the butterflies, there’s a ton of exhibits to check out, including a crawl-through model of a beehive, immersive exhibits designed to make you feel the size of a bug, and video stations that let you see the world through a bug’s eyes.
9. Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, Pine Mountain, Georgia
Named as one of the most spectacular butterfly gardens in the country by Macaroni KID Family Travel, Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is a must-visit for anyone in the vicinity of Pine Mountain, Georgia. Watch chrysalides at the Transformation Station before heading to the center’s octagonal conservatory to check out the 1,000 free-flying butterflies and tropical birds fluttering around the lush tropical flowers and cascading waterfalls. If you can, time your visit for September to see the largest display of iridescent Blue Morpho butterflies in the world
8. Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Pacific Grove, California
As marthastewart.com notes, the Monarch might be the most well-known butterfly in North America at the moment, but like most butterflies and insects, their numbers have fallen sharply over the past few decades. Since the 1990s, their population has fallen by 90%, which makes the work of places like the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary all the more crucial. Every year between October and February, over 25,000 monarchs travel through the sanctuary as part of their mass migration, taking a much-needed rest on their journey south as they cluster on the pines, cypress, and eucalyptus trees that pepper the site.
7. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, Key West, Florida
Florida is home to numerous butterfly sanctuaries and houses. One of the most charming is Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory in Key West. It’s home to over 60 species of wild and free-flying butterflies, along with over 20 exotic bird species. The center, which is designed to resemble a tropical garden, with gazebos, dramatic waterfalls, quaint little brides, and towering trees, is as much of a feast for the eyes as the butterflies.
6. Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, Westminster, Colorado
If you’re in the vicinity of Westminster, Colorado, be sure to stop by the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center. Boasting over 7000 square feet of rainforest landscape, it’s home to over 16000 rainbow-colored butterflies. If that wasn’t enough, there are also hundreds of other critters to discover, including frogs, tadpoles, and exotic birds.
5. Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
The Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania offers the kind of experience everyone, no matter what their age, can enjoy. The hands-on education center lets visitors hand-feed the butterflies and stroke the exotic frogs. There are also several different programs that aim to educate as much as entertain, making it perfect for kids and adults who want to learn more about the natural world.
4. National Butterfly Center, Mission, Texas
Like most things in Texas, the National Butterfly Center in Mission is big. Located on a 100-acre nature preserve, it’s the kind of place you could spend an entire weekend and still want to come back for more. Founded by the North American Butterfly Association, it aims to teach visitors about biodiversity and the role butterflies play in building thriving ecosystems and sustainable food resources. It’s a worthy endeavor, but even if it wasn’t, it’s still a glorious place to visit, with hundreds of flowering blooms and over 200 species of butterflies to admire. If you can, try to time your visit for fall, which offers the twin joys of the peak butterfly season and the annual Texas Butterfly Festival.
3. Purdy Butterfly House, Huntsville, Alabama
Located in the gorgeous Huntsville Botanical Garden in Huntsville, Alabama, Purdy Butterfly House will leave you wowed. Set in a cavernous 9000 sq. ft. natural stone and steel beam structure, its lush rainforest landscape is home to thousands of native butterflies and other critters, including turtles, button quail, frogs, and tadpoles. With waterfalls, ponds, and tropical blooms to wonder at, it promises an amazing experience that all the family can enjoy.
2. Magic Wings Butterfly House, Durham, North Carolina
Located in the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina, Magic Wings Butterfly House is, as Only in Your State says, a magical way to spend an afternoon. Home to over 50 different species of butterflies, more than 250 species of tropical plants, and a vast array of tropical birds, it promises a captivating experience. If you can, try to time your visit for either 11 am or 3 pm, when the center’s Lepidopteris releases dozens more butterflies into the rainforest landscape.
1. Butterfly World, Coconut Creek, Florida
The very first butterfly house to open in the US also happens to be its best. Its founder is Ronald Boender. After retiring from his career as an electrical engineer, Boender decided to indulge his passion for butterflies by raising them in his home. When he started running out of room, he launched a butterfly farm and started selling them to universities and zoos. In 1988, he took things to the next level by opening Butterfly World. With three acres of butterfly aviaries to explore, not to mention a working butterfly farm, botanical gardens, a bug zoo, several bird aviaries, and an interactive lorikeet encounter, it promises hours of fun. Key attractions include a chrysalis viewing area and a Tropical Rain Forest enclosure with a waterfall, a cave, and over 20,000 rainbow-colored butterflies.