If you live in Arizona or will be visiting, there is a fun new attraction in Scottsdale…Butterfly Wonderland. It’s located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, just off the 101 at Via de Ventura and boasts one of the largest butterfly atriums in the country! I had the pleasure of attending a special media night last week.
3D Theater — You have the option of starting your experience in the 3D theater with a special-edited version of the IMAX film, Flight of the Butterflies. The film is just shy of 15 minutes long and provides very detailed information about the life of Monarch butterflies. I’m normally not a big fan of 3D movies, but this was breathtaking. And, it’s very educational. Even having taught college zoology and high school biology, I learned quite a bit during the film.
Butterfly Emergence Gallery —
As you wait to enter the atrium, you can check out the butterfly emergence gallery. There are three large “windows” where you can view the chrysalids of the current different species they have on hand. You’ll be able to see all the different stages and if you’re lucky, you might even get to see one actually emerging. My favorite the other night was the huge Atlas Moths! The one pictured above was drying its wings before being able to head out into the rainforest atrium.
The Butterfly Conservatory — The actual butterfly conservatory is inside a very large glass atrium. These butterflies are all from tropical environments like Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Malaysia, the Philippines, etc., so the atrium itself is quite humid. We were there at about 5:30 in the evening and it was noticeably warm and humid, but not stifling. Every few minutes there were actually misters that went off, which seemed to cool it off a bit. Just in the short time we were in there (only about 20 minutes), we saw quite a diversity of butterflies (and moths). Look at how pretty! There were others too, but some were just too quick to photograph! This was the best I could do of one in action! Since we were there close to sundown (after the conservatory closes), the butterflies weren’t nearly as active as during the day when there may be as many as 4,000 butterflies flittering about! One thing that is so neat about a butterfly atrium like this is just how close you can sometimes get to the butterflies. In fact, they even sometimes land right on you! I didn’t get lucky this past trip, but one did land right next to me. It makes for really fun photograph opportunities! One really nice feature about the atrium for parents is that strollers are allowed in. For me, that’s the difference in being able to take all the boys by myself or not. So, this is GREAT for parents of little ones. The walkways are quite wide, which helps make that possible. As for the rainforest feel, the vegetation has some serious growing to do! Right now, it’s mostly only the climate that feels tropical. But, since the attraction has only been open a week, this will change over time as the plants grow.
Cafe’ — After enjoying the butterflies, you exit the atrium into the cafe’. It looks like a fair variety is offered–sandwiches, wraps, fruits, salads, snacks, drinks, treats. So, that’s a nice little addition for those that might be making a longer trip out of it. Or, moms like me who don’t want to have to make multiple stops with little ones.
Ants & Honeybees — For added fun, there are live ant colonies and a large beehive! For the ants, there were actually a few different types of ant farms represented. On the other side of the room (which is actually rather small), there is a large beehive (in a see-through hive) where you can watch the bees in action. One of the coolest features about this beehive is that it is actually connected to the desert outside. There are two small openings in the wall which the honeybees actually go out through into the open desert. Rivers of the Amazon Aquarium — The last stop (before the gift shop) is the Rivers of the Amazon Aquarium. There were about 8 large tanks with different species of Amazon fish and a Morro Stingray touch tank in the middle. The stingrays weren’t out when we were there, but I know that will be a big hit with the boys!
I love that new attractions like this are coming to the Valley. It’s great to have options for different experiences. I like this because it’s indoors so, unlike the zoos which are just too hot for us during the summer, this gives us another place to experience animals inside all year long. Also, given that this an attraction with real animals, it has the potential to be a little different experience each time you go. There are even plans for some fun themes…like having the atrium full of all-white butterflies for the holidays. Another cool thing about this space is that Butterfly Wonderland is just the first of many attractions slated to open as part of the larger Odysea in the Desert. Over the next few years, there are plans to open an IMAX theater, the southwest’s largest aquarium, a number of restaurants/shops, and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. So, over the next few years, there are BIG plans for this area.
I do think they could make a few improvements to Butterfly Wonderland though (which might be coming…keep in mind the attraction did just open). First up, they need more infographics and signs throughout the entire space. This former high school teacher thinks that to be truly educational, they need to have a lot of informative signs throughout the entire complex. Right now, that’s missing (but again, might be coming). Also, I’d like to see some more interactive things for younger kids–maybe some interactive stations, a little butterfly play structure, an interactive scavenger hunt…something. I think little ones certainly will still enjoy what’s offered as is. But, families would be more apt to keep coming back or spend more time if there were more interactive exhibits.
Special Lifetime Membership
As with most museums and attractions like this, I think the cost of admission for a one time family visit is kind of pricey. If you think you’d like to visit more than once, getting a membership is usually a MUCH better deal. The annual membership here for a family of four is about $125 (very comparable to most of the other local family attractions). However, they are running a special $250 lifetime membership deal just through June 15, 2013! If you love butterflies, or you have little ones that are interested in animals, this is an amazing deal! For us, that would pay for itself in 4 visits–and it’s good for life! How fun to be able to go for a couple of hours whenever you want!
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Do you think YOU will visit Butterfly Wonderland? Have you already been? What did you think?
Disclosure: I attended an invite-only media event to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions and experiences are entirely my own.