Picture it: Phoenix. 2020. Before our lives turned upside down.
I flew in to speak at a conference but I knew I wanted to get in at least one adventure while I was there. On Thursday–the first day of the conference–my friend Becky was available to hang out. (She spent the weekend in Phoenix with her horses.) I stopped by the conference to check-in and Becky picked me up there.
On our agenda for the day: Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale.
A few years ago my parents went to the monarch reserves outside Mexico City where the monarch butterflies from at least the northern parts of the U.S. go during winter and one of the people I follow on Instagram (@krystalfesterly) raised butterflies last year, so I’ve had a fascination with butterflies lately. I passed up a butterfly exhibit in Seattle last fall—although if I had had just a little extra time I would have gone—so I was ready for the butterflies.
THE ARIZONA BOARDWALK
While we ate lunch I found a Groupon for a discounted entry into Butterfly Wonderland, as well as some money off at the gift shop (where I got a mug—shh, don’t tell my dad, he thinks I have too many).
However, there are multiple exhibits on the Arizona Boardwalk like Odysea (sea creatures), Pangaea (dinosaurs) and Titanic (artifacts from the Titanic), so if you are interested in multiple exhibits on the Boardwalk, one of the group rates might be the way to go.
Butterfly Wonderland advertises themselves as one of the largest butterfly conservatories in the country. There’s an exhibit that fills you in on the life of a butterfly. Usually, this is how you’d start your Butterfly Wonderland rainforest experience, but we arrived close to the time when they release all the newly hatched butterflies into the conservatory, so they shuffled us along to the conservatory—which is what I was most interested in anyway.
When you get to the conservatory you walk into a room where you’re prepped to enter the conservatory. They make sure you don’t have any open bags and give you the rules for being in the room.
And then you enter the conservatory. This is a rainforest experience so there are a lot of beautiful flowers. They also have a koi pond and a few chickens. And then, of course, there are butterflies flying around. If you’re lucky they might even land on you! Becky was a butterfly magnet. A few landed on her while we were by the chickens!
The release of newly hatched butterflies takes place in the back of the conservatory. Someone comes out with the butterflies they’re releasing, gives a little talk, and releases them. I thought it would be a cool experience and it really was! I can imagine it was truly magical for the children who were standing right there as the butterflies flew around them into their new home.
Make sure you’re at Butterfly Wonderland for the butterfly release. It truly was the highlight of our stop. (I don’t actually have a photo of the butterfly release because I took a video of it. You can see it toward the end of this video.)
When you leave the conservatory, you walk into another room, where you give a little twirl to ensure that you don’t have a stowaway on your clothes—or in your backpack or purse. I loved this security measure on our way in and out to make sure that all the butterflies stay in their proper environment.
THE REST OF BUTTERFLY WONDERLAND
There’s a cafe if you’d like lunch, although I thought the ambiance left a little something to be desired. I’d say find a restaurant someplace else.
This truly is a tropical experience so there are some other exhibits to go through. We also saw lizards and sea animals.
The butterflies were a little burst of magic in the middle of the day and I thought it was worth it for that alone.
BUTTERFLY WONDERLAND TIPS
- Check out the other exhibits on the Arizona Boardwalk and see if one of the bundles will make this stop more affordable OR look for a Groupon. I thought the magical moment was worth the entry fee, but it is a pricier exhibit. (And who knew we’d need to hold onto whatever magical moments we can get in 2020?!)
- Make sure you’re there for the butterfly release. It’s the highlight of the experience.
- Get there with plenty of time to go through the butterfly exhibit before the release. I think it would have built up excitement for the release. (Although I don’t feel like we missed out on the experience.)