Little hearts flutter with glee when they come across butterflies. These beautiful insects strike kids (and parents) like tiny fairies or delicate flowers with wings. National Butterfly Day is March 14, and to help you find these magical critters close to home we’ve rounded up some prime spots for informative and intimate butterfly encounters, from Downtown to Legoland-adjacent and Pasadena to Pismo Beach.
Butterfly Pavilion at National History Museum
We’ll start our tour closest to home. This popular place offers a gratifying glimpse into the magical micro cosmos of butterflies, including their ecosystem and plant life necessary for food and survival. Maybe you get lucky and one of the more than 30 different butterfly and moth species will land on you. The scientists from the Natural History Museum are stationed throughout the giant tent and are happy to answer any and all questions. This seasonal exhibit is opens April 12 through Labor Day, and tickets to step inside this little world are an additional fee to NHM entrance and are timed so it’s never too crowded.
NHM citizen scientists and gardening experts are opening the new Monarch Waystation this year, where visitors can see every milestone and metamorphosis in a Monarch’s life. They’ll teach you how to create your own waystation at home, too.
900 Exposition Blvd.
photo: Butterfly Farms Facebook
Kids of all ages learn about the fragile world of butterflies, their life cycle and the threats to their habitats via a tour of the vivarium and grounds. The Farms’ five acres offer a thriving home of pollinator hosts and nectar plants so that butterflies, Monarchs especially, won’t lose their world. They actually raise native butterflies here, and will help you pick out plants at the adjoining nursery to recreate a butterfly haven at home. Butterfly Farms is open Monday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and tours are available for a $5 donation.
3012 Oleander Ave.
photo: Discover Claremont
Butterfly Pavilion at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Hundreds of butterflies call this spot home during spring and summer. Admirers of all ages can check out the winged beauties along with caterpillars, even witnessing them pupate into chrysalises and emerge. This hands-on educational experience culminates in the Butterfly Release Party on August 7 where each family may escort a butterfly out of the pavilion and into the Garden. The Pavilion is open daily starting May 7 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and tickets are $3 in addition to Garden admission. While you’re visiting, be sure to check out all that the beautiful town of Claremont has to offer; it’s a perfect daytrip from LA for families. Read our guide to getting the most out of this charming college town.
1500 N College Ave.
Monarch Butterfly Grove
Can your wee ones count to three yet? How about 1,000? Here’s your chance to see thousands of butterflies (25,000 at times) in one place. Monarchs actually migrate to this place during their life cycles—the largest Monarch Butterfly Grove in the state. Docents are available for talks, as are telescopes to better spot the insects chilling in clusters in Eucalyptus trees. Look closely. At first glance, the butterfly tree clusters look like dead leaves. Hurry, while there are still butterflies hanging around. They’re here in the largest numbers between November and February or early March.
photo: Kidspace via Flickr
Butterfly Release at Kidspace Children’s Museum
During their annual butterfly release in their garden, Kidspace launches between 500 and 1,000 winged beauties into the wild of Pasadena and beyond. Besides watching the Painted Lady butterflies escape into nature, activities include art and crafts, shows, face painting and more. Caterpillar adoption kits are available April 3-May 22, and you can raise your own butterfly at home and bring them back for the grand release, which is a spectacular sight. Stay tuned for the 2016 festival date!
480 N. Arroyo Blvd.
photo: Sean Kenney
Butterfly Garden at the South Coast Botanic Garden
The favorite spot of the under-8-crowd at the beautiful 87-acre horticultural and wildlife habitat is the Children’s Discovery Garden with its worm bin, secret tunnel and butterfly garden. During special events and classes, kids learn about the life cycle of the butterfly, take pics and make a craft. And if you visit before May 8, you can also check out a butterfly not usually found in nature: the giant one pictured above and made of LEGOS, from the Nature Connects: Art with LEGO® Bricks exhibit by artist Sean Kenney, which is made up of amazing statues throughout the gardens. The garden is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and tickets are $4-$9, with kids under 5 free.
26300 Crenshaw Blvd.
Palos Verdes Peninsula
Where do you go to let it fly like a butterfly? Share your favorite spots!