Butterflies in the desert might seem like a strange idea — although they do exist here naturally during certain seasons — but few people realize that the Valley of the Sun boasts the largest indoor butterfly pavilion in America. Appropriately named Butterfly Wonderland, this massive facility helps you get up close and personal with nature’s colorful creatures.
Your journey starts with a short 3-D film called “Flight of the Butterflies” that follows a full butterfly migration. It will make you appreciate just how hardy the fragile-looking butterflies actually are. Then you pass through the Butterfly Emergence Gallery where you might see butterflies hatch from cocoons.
Next you come to the centerpiece, a glass atrium that replicates a tropical rain forest, down to the foliage and regular mist-like “rain.” Thousands of butterflies scamper about and often land on visitors, so you’ll definitely want to move cautiously, and bring a camera.
Once you leave the butterflies, Butterfly Wonderland also contains other exhibits: “Spineless Giants” about scorpions and spiders, “Honey Beet Extravaganza” with actual bees and “Tropical Waters of the World” that showcase freshwater animals from the Amazon and includes a petting tank. Finally, you can wrap up your visit with a bite from the Café and a trip through the gift shop.
In addition to the exhibits, Butterfly Wonderland hosts other events like Story Time for Tots, or Fun in the Courtyard with face painting. It even offers yoga and occasional classes on nature photography for the budding shutter bug.
Location: 9500 East Vía de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ 85256
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $19.95 adults, $17.95 student (13-17 or college ID), $12.95 children 3 to 12, Free for children 2 and under.
Want to do more exploring? Check out the new OdySea Aquarium right next door. Combo passes are available for both attractions.
– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org