I spy with my little eye something that can flutter by!
I spy with my little eye something that can flutter by!

The Butterfly Pavilion Ushers in Spring at the Natural History Museum

Everyone's all a-flutter at the Natural History Museum because the butterflies are back in town! The Natural History Museum is re-opening the Butterfly Pavilion on the museum’s South Lawn, offering delightful flutterby time on the same site where the creepier Spider Pavilion usually sets up in autumn. From chrysalis to butterfly, the Butterfly Pavilion is full of magical moments, which is why it rates as one of our 100 things to do with LA kids before they grow up.

Tickets are available beginning on March 18, with a limited number of guests allowed each day. But don't worry, these lovely Painted Ladies and delicate Lacewings will be on display all summer long, so everyone will have a chance to see them!

Stay one great blue heron apart, and follow the one-way signs through the gardens.

Where To Start Your Visit with the Butterflies

As part of the Butterfly Pavilion reopening, NHM is also opening portions of the Nature Gardens. Enter through the North Entrance and enjoy a stroll through the gardens on the way to the Butterfly Pavilion. Be sure to follow the signs that lead visitors through the one-way directional flow to the Pavilion. Along the way, you'll walk through the Pollinator Garden, which is a habitat for hummingbirds, butterflies, and honeybees. Throughout the Nature Gardens, you can find over 600 kinds of plants—including California natives and others from around the world— and be sure to keep a lookout for other animals like lizards, squirrels, and more.


Butterflies come in every shade of the rainbow.

At the Butterfly Pavilion

The Pavilion houses more than 50 varieties of butterfly and moth, fluttering freely in a miniature ecosystem that offers them all of their favorite plants with none of their usual predators. Caterpillars fill their bellies, create cocoons, emerge as butterflies, feed on their favorite treats, mate, lay eggs, and eventually die peacefully of old age, all before our eyes. Kids can watch from inches away as butterflies uncurl their tubular mouths to draw nectar from a flower or check out the different kinds of treats each species prefers.

The museum staff are terrific and can help interested visitors discover which kinds of butterflies hang around which kinds of plants, look for and identify the different kinds of eggs, and recognize the different types of cocoon and chrysalis. Docents have large guide cards kids can use to help identify what they see.

And though it might be tough for some kids to resist the urge to touch or pick up the lovely residents, the good news is that, while we're not allowed to touch them, they don't have to live by the same rules. If you spend enough time in the Pavilion, you may get some gorgeous winged critter hitching a ride at some point; you could even stack the deck by wearing something colorful or floral to look more appealing. Just sayin'.

RELATED: Spring Wildflower Hikes To See this Season's Bloom


Kids can get a close look at these beautiful insects.

The variety of insect and plant species in the Pavilion means that visiting multiple times can be well worth it, especially while indoor spaces remain closed, and not everything in LA is open. Why not bring a drawing pad and try to recreate a Monarch or a Swallowtail? Or hand your kids your camera and let them go on a photography expedition? There are so many ways to enjoy combining bugs and beauty. Just another reason our kids are lucky to be growing up in LA!

Safety Measures and Ticket Details

Indoor spaces at the museum will remain closed, and at the Butterfly Pavilion, there are plenty of safety measures and health guidelines in place. A limited number of tickets are available for timed entry, ensuring the outdoor pavilion and nature gardens are never too crowded. There are physical distance markers in high traffic areas and one-way directional flow, as well as plexiglass barriers at ticket stations and plenty of hand sanitizer stations throughout. All visitors over the age of 2 are required to wear masks at all times.

The Butterfly Pavilion is open from March 11-17 for members only, and there are special hours daily that are reserved for members. The outdoor spaces at the museum open to the general public on March 18.

Butterfly Pavilion open daily March 18 - September 6, 2021
10am-5pm (last entry 4:30pm)
Admission $6

Originally published October 3, 2013

Photos by Gina Cholick, courtesy of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC)

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