Better Than Dinosaurs… Butterflies, Tarantulas and Cockroaches Entice Families


Families on vacation are choosing insects over dinosaurs. The bugs don’t have gnashing, man-eating teeth, but they do have their own appeal, including hairy legs, brightly colored wings, and even nasty-looking fangs.

Butterfly houses, the latest and greatest place to see insects, are springing up all over the United States. There are more than 40 of the indoor tropical paradises where butterflies wing about, sipping on nectar and enjoying the company of hundreds of thousands of guests each year.

Photo Credit: Sharon Cybart

Photo Credit: Sharon Cybart

Westminster Colorado’s Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center is an easy trip from Denver International Airport. More than 700 butterflies, imported from all over the world, fly free around the paved paths of their conservatory. Visitors are treated to not just butterflies, but also to their plant collection that provides food and shelter for the winged insects.

Their additional “Crawl-A-See ‘Em” is dedicated to all things multi-legged. Kids get a thrill and a free sticker when they hold Rosie, a Chilean Rosehair Tarantula. Parents who get goosebumps at the thought of bugs in the house may not love the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, but the kids get to hear the wonderful hissing sound that comes from the holes in the roach’s body. Millipedes, walking sticks, stag beetles and scorpions are also featured critters.

Few things are as beautiful as seeing a butterfly emerge. The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House near St. Louis, Missouri, has viewing windows filled with hundreds of chrysalis waiting to hatch and fly free in the 8,000 square foot conservatory. Besides being host to over 1,000 butterflies, the tropical atmosphere also houses over 150 different tropical plants species.

Their exhibit hall hosts always-changing shows related to the earth and the insects it calls home. Right out the front door, kids climb all over a 30-foot long caterpillar sculpture and parents stand ready with their cameras for some great vacation photos.

The world’s largest temporary butterfly exhibit is housed at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Each spring the garden brings back the most popular Asian and South and Central American butterflies to fly free in their tropical conservatory. Like most butterfly houses and exhibits, they offer special activities for families each week in conjunction with the exhibit.

The conservatory provides close-up views of butterflies drinking nectar from flowers. Children giggle when a butterfly chooses to land on a nose or shoulder, and parents get the photo opportunity of a lifetime.

The temperature inside a butterfly house remains between 70 and 78 degree Fahrenheit, year-round, making it a very popular place to visit during the cold, snowy winter months as well.

There is no other way to get this close to butterflies and other insects. Up close and personal, a butterfly (and even a tarantula), make family vacations unforgettable.