The main attraction is the butterfly aviary on the second level of the museum.
Binoculars, magnifying glasses, and identification guides are provided free of charge, as well as pith helmets and butterfly feeders.
Although visitors are not allowed to touch or catch the butterflies, the butterflies are allowed to alight on visitors and suck nectar out of hand-held feeders, which they readily did without any coaxing.
There was an incredible variety of exotic species flying free in the aviary, none of which are native to North America.
The Butterfly Palace is a photographer’s paradise. Unfortunately, we left the “good camera” at home and had to make due with iPhones.
Even so, we wound up with some pretty good shots and videos. The apiary was filled with tropical plants as well as butterflies and was beautiful in every respect.
The aviary boasted several benches and even a couple of rocking chairs so guests can sit quietly and observe while classical music plays in the background, making the place even more serene and restful.
New butterflies are released daily at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (If you miss it the release times on your first visit, as we did, don’t worry. Your admission wristbands are good for three consecutive days, so you’ll be able to come back if you like.)
Be sure to stop and watch the resident entomologist at work. He was using a hot glue gun to attach individual chrysalises to the lid of a butterfly nursery when we were there.
There is also a small theater upstairs where you can watch short films on the butterfly life cycle and on the farm in Costa Rica from which The Butterfly Palace purchases their pupae.
Downstairs, you’ll find a rainforest exhibit…
…where you can admire lizards, fish, turtles, and other critters native to the tropics.
You’ll find a couple of fun mazes downstairs, too, including a very challenging “Emerald Forest Mirror Maze.” I might still be stuck inside, trying to gingerly feel my way through, had my seven-year-old Abigail not come to my rescue. Seeing how lost I was getting, she called, “This way Mommy!” then darted right through the maze without even pausing to think. Later, she explained the trick: you’ve got to keep your eyes on the ground. If there’s a line across the path, it’s a mirror; if not, you can run right through!
Also on the lower level is the “Base Camp” gift shop filled with everything a butterfly lover could dream of.
Joining the upper level of the museum to the lower level is a broad, sweeping staircase lined with some gorgeous butterfly art.
Our favorite pieces were a series of prints called “The Butterfly Alphabet” by a photographer who spent 25 years and visited 30 countries to complete the project: