When your kids have just learned the basics of metamorphosis in school and can’t stop talking about butterflies and adorably mispronouncing the more technical terms, take them to see their new favorite creatures up close at the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Be sure to reserve your timed entrance tickets in advance, since this experience sells out daily.
Before you enter the pavilion, make a pit stop at the Monarch Waystation, where you learn about each stage in a butterfly’s life. Once you’re well-versed in monarch metamorphosis, let your kids grab onto your hands and step into the pavilion to see the process firsthand. This greenhouse-like structure is filled with various types of plants, whose branches and blooms are teeming with butterflies of all colors and patterns. Chat with a handy guide at the entrance so you can identify some of the 30 different species fluttering around you, such as the spotted buckeye and glowing green malachite. By taking quiet, tentative steps, your kids get an up-close look at an orange-winged monarch, which will amaze them when it unfurls its long proboscis to drink nectar from a flower. You are wowed yourself as you witness a caterpillar building a cocoon while a brand-new butterfly emerges from its chrysalis nearby.
Continue your trip to the Natural History Museum by exploring the rest of the animal kingdom in the Nature Gardens and Lab. Get your hands dirty searching for pill bugs in the soil, spy a dragonfly laying eggs in the pond, and say “Hello” to tarantulas and rattlesnakes — from a comfortable distance, of course. After you’re done communing with the wildlife, head indoors and check out the lifelike dioramas of elephants, grizzly bears, and a whole pride of lions. Your kids may just find their new animal obsession when you enter the Dinosaur Hall, which is filled with fossils of tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops, and stegosauruses. This museum is also home to the youngest known T-rex in the world, which still towers over your little ones, even when they stand on their tiptoes. On your way out, make one final stop at the Natural History Museum gift shop and pick up some nature-themed souvenirs to take home along with your unforgettable memories.
Photo by Suzan Marie