Spring has officially sprung when the butterflies arrive to Columbus’ Franklin Park Conservatory. The annual Blooms and Butterflies exhibit allows all ages to engage with nature in a new and exciting way. Every year hundreds of species are brought in to go through their life cycle from chrysalis to butterfly at the Conservatory’s most popular exhibition. The developed butterflies fly freely in an expansive indoor walk-through garden, where visitors are able to watch them fluttering among flowers and Chihuly glass. The butterflies frequently pause their flight for a brief moment to rest on a guest’s shoulder or head, and some delighted visitors are able to entice one onto a finger for a closer look! The colors and movement of this wonderful yearly exhibit engage babies’ senses and allow them to experience the beauty and amazement of nature up-close and personal. Parents should keep the following in mind when considering a trip:
Be sure to stop by the ‘Emergence Center’, near the entrance to the butterfly exhibit, where the chrysalis hang and you can watch the stages of the metamorphasis tranformation. The glass where visitors can observe goes down low enough that children and babies in strollers can get a good view of newly emerged butterflies drying their colorful wings and taking their very first fluttery attempts at flights. There is also a video on display here with interesting information.
Although there are ramps to make the walk-through garden accessible by stroller, there are some parts of the path that are only accessed by stairs, so be prepared to carry baby for some of the time if you wish to fully explore every corner. Also, the paths are not incredibly wide at some parts, so smaller and more manueverable strollers and diaper bags will have an easier time getting around.
Plan your trip around one of the two daily butterfly release times. About 10 minutes prior to the release, a staff member will come to the emergence center and gather butterflies that are ready into a few containers to take into the garden area. At 1 pm and 3 pm butterflies are released with a short explanation of the types of butterflies and some fun facts. During this time of release and just afterward, the butterflies are numerous, active and likely to find their way onto you or someone nearby, making it a fun time to visit!
Live & Learn Tip: The colorful flowers, green foliage and beautiful butterflies make an excellent photo op, but the New Mom Examiner found it difficult to hold a baby in her arms and a butterfly on her finger and get any good photos of her little one exploring his new fluttery friend. Having a friend along would help in getting shots of candid moments of curiosity!
The Conservatory has a centrally located cafe where you can purchase food and drink, but the prices run a little high for what you get. Members receive a discount, so don’t forget to ask about it! However, it may be just as good to pack a small lunch to bring with you. There are both high chairs and booster seats available.
*Note: The cafe is under renovation until late April 2011, and has a limited menu in the meantime.
Live & Learn Tip: The New Mom Examiner forgot a spoon for baby food, and quickly discovered that the cafe only offers very large soup spoons, making quite the adventure in eating!
Older children may enjoy taking home a caterpillar of their own and watching it transform into a butterfly. Painted Lady caterpillars, which are native to Ohio, can be purchased at the Conservatory gift store. Members also receive a discount at the gift shop.
For more information about the Blooms and Butterflies exhibit, visit the Franklin Park Conservatory website.