Did you know there is a place just a day trip away where hundreds of butterflies congregate during the chilly winter months? It’s a truly magical thing to behold for people of all ages, but for kids obsessed with all things winged and airborne (“plane! bird! bee!”) this is a mind-blowing experience. Here’s all you need to know about visiting the kaleidoscope of butterflies at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.

Close-up of butterfly on the Monarch Grove Sanctuary pathway.

A Magic Time of Year in Pacific Grove
SF Bay Area families are fortunate to live just a couple hours’ drive from Pacific Grove, a prime overwintering site for monarchs. Imagine the kids’ rapture at seeing thousands of these delicate and graceful winged creatures at the same time. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime treat within easy access to Bay Area families at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.

The sanctuary itself is a eucalyptus and pine grove with a short pathway you can bring infants and toddlers on without breaking a sweat. The butterflies arrive in October, staying through late February, when they leave for spring migration. Daily counts vary. Last year butterfly numbers peaked in late November at over 24,000.

20161112_140106

Prime Flying Time
Though the sanctuary is open from dawn to dusk, it’s best to come between the hours of 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., when docents are on hand to answer questions and point out clusters high in the trees that can be mistaken for leaves. They also have binoculars. Come when the weather is above 55 degrees (the butterflies only fly when it’s warm out), and remind the little ones that butterflies closer to the ground are for seeing, not touching.

Bring a book to trade at the free library located on the Ridge Road parking lot, which is always stocked with several children’s books. The sanctuary is an easy stop-over and not a full-day excursion, unlike the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium. Before or after your visit, continue learning about butterflies at the nearby Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, explore the tide pools at Asilomar State Beach, or have a picnic at Lovers Point Park.

20161112_140611

250 Ridge Rd.
Pacific Grove, Ca (Adjacent to the Butterfly Grove Inn)
Cost: Parking and admission are free.
Online: cityofpacificgrove.org

Have you witnessed the flight of butterflies at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

–Renee Rutledge

All images courtesy of the author