America’s Most Beautiful Butterfly Gardens

With butterfly populations on the decline, don't let this rare and magical opportunity fly by.

If you’ve ever wanted to be surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of free-flying butterflies, now’s your chance. Currently, there are about 200,000 species of butterflies in the world. But sadly, that may not be the case for much longer.

These butterfly-loving habitats, museums, resorts, and sanctuaries are doing everything they can to give these lepidopterans the life they deserve. They also aim to educate the public about how good for the world butterflies really can be if they’re protected. And there’s no time like the present to experience it.

Here are the most beloved and beautiful butterfly gardens in the United States.

Frederik Meijer Sculpture Park and Gardens: Grand Rapids, Michigan 

white butterfly on lavender in Michigan

For one exciting month, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is home to the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the country. From March through April, 7,000 butterflies take up residence in a five-story Tropical Conservatory. You’ll be surrounded by stunning waterfalls, winding streams, endless flowers, and thousands of unique butterflies.

Butterflies are imported as chrysalises from exotic places like Africa, Asia, and South and Central America. Once they hatch, they fly freely, and you’ll be standing in the middle of it all. The more you explore, the more you’ll encounter butterflies and moths at various stages of life. Fun for the whole family, there are plenty of butterfly-oriented activities for children, including puppet shows and educational nature explorations.

Butterfly World: Coconut Creek, Florida 

black and white butterflies on deep pink flowers in Florida

The first butterfly house to open in the U.S., Butterfly World started out as one man’s hobby in the 1980s and soon took on a life of its own. A retired electrical engineer named Ronald Boender started raising butterflies in his home and soon after, opened a commercial butterfly farm, selling butterflies to zoos, colleges, and research institutions. By 1988, Butterfly World came to be.

Explore three acres of free flight aviaries, an enclosed tropical rainforest, lush botanical gardens, exhibits, a butterfly museum, a full butterfly farm, and a fascinating research center. You’ll also encounter plenty of fluttering wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for rainbow hummingbirds, a bug zoo, and the lorikeet center. There’s also a room where you can watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalises, and they’re famous for landing on the hands of guests.

American Museum of Natural History: New York, New York

yellow dovetail butterfly on purple flower

Due to its spectacular butterfly display, this is one of the most popular annual exhibits on Earth. At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the seasonal Butterfly Conservatory is open from September through May. Uniquely, it’s housed in a 1,300 square foot vivarium sitting inside one of the Museum’s galleries.

Follow the tropical plant-covered, winding pathway to make your way to the sealed-off, summery environment. You’ll be joined by 150 different species of butterflies.

Houston Musuem of Natural Science: Houston, Texas 

three butterflies in Texas exhibit

Open year-round, Cockerell Butterfly Center is built around a 50-foot waterfall. The magical three-story glass structure is actually a simulated tropical rainforest boasting exotic plants, vibrant blooms, and hundreds of butterflies from all over the planet.

It’s also home to tons of other exciting exhibits, including a crawl-through beehive built for humans, gigantic models of insects, and various other immersive exhibits designed to give visitors the feeling of “a day in a bug’s life.”

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory: Deerfield, Massachusetts

monarch butterfly on pink flower

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory is one of the largest man-made butterfly habitats in the country. And the wonderful winged beauties within really make the most of that space.

This one boasts an 8,000-square foot, indoor glass tropical conservatory with 4,000 exotic and domestic butterflies. And if you’re planning a visit, be sure to wear bright colors. The butterflies are more likely to land on those who stand out.

Butterfly Pavilion: Denver, Colorado

butterfly in garden on orange flower

1,200 live butterflies and colorful moths call Wings of the Tropics home. And you can see them in every stage of life. here. The 3,000 square foot enclosed rain forest also has a chrysalis viewing area, receiving somewhere between 600-1,200 chrysalises each week from nine sustainable butterfly farms all around the world.

Watch closely and you’ll see the world around you move. if you’re patient, you might even be lucky enough to see a butterfly emerge. Every day, there’s a butterfly release beginning at 12:30 PM. Experts say to encourage these winged wonders to land on you, “wear red.”

Callaway Gardens: Pine Mountain, Georgia

blue butterfly on green leaf

About an hour south of Atlanta, you’ll find the flower-covered resort of Callaway Gardens. Famous for golf and azalea-covered springs, it’s also known for the Day Butterfly Center. Open year-round, this tropical conservatory is home to all sorts of eye-catching butterflies from around the world. Be on the lookout for emergence boxes when it’s time for the metamorphosis. They’re built into the conservatory’s glass walls and you won’t believe your eyes.

Following transformation, the new butterflies are released within the octagonal conservatory with their fellow 1,000 free-flying butterflies and tropical birds. Within the 854 glass panes, you can stroll amongst the butterflies surrounded by tropical flora and a 12-foot waterfall. While you can visit any time, think about going in September, otherwise known as Blue Morpho month. It’s Callaway Garden’s most spectacular display of iridescent Blue Morpho butterflies.

Butterfly Wonderland: Scottsdale, Arizona 

yellow butterfly on yellow flower in Arizona

When you arrive at Butterfly Wonderland, you’ll go to a 3D theater where butterflies seemingly join you during a short film about the life of a butterfly. From there, you’ll enter the Butterfly Emergence Gallery to witness live chrysalises transforming into butterflies before flying into the largest indoor rainforest atrium in the United States.

Home to almost 4,000 butterflies, this famed 10,000 square foot atrium is filled with fragrant flowers and deep green plants. Butterfly Wonderland might be butterfly-centric, but it’s is known for other popular exhibits, including an unbelievable “honey bee extravaganza.”

Los Angeles Natural History Museum: Los Angeles, California

bluebottle butterfly on leaf

While most boast tropical butterflies, the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles proudly houses 30 native North American butterfly species. And you can go all summer long. In this distinctive, ever-evolving ecosystem, you’ll witness these native beauties living their best life in an ideal environment created just for them.

Don’t miss out on the Monarch Waystation. From the egg stage forward, you’ll learn about every stage of a Monarch’s fascinating life cycle, and you’ll see much of it happen in real time. You’ll also learn how and why the Lepidoptera population is being wiped out and what you can do to stop it. As you take this protected butterfly’s journey alongside them, you’ll be taught how to make your own monarch habitat in an urban environment.

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