Butterflies fly free at the Denver Butterfly Pavilion

There’s something really magical about butterflies. If you  live in or travel to the Mile High City and you’re looking for things to do, you’re in luck. Denver’s Butterfly Pavilion, an indoor tropical rainforest is filled with over 1,600 butterflies from approximately 125 species. These ephemeral creatures can be seen working their way from one flower to the next. Among the over 200 different tropical plants that grow here are pineapple bushes, banana trees and even a rubber tree.

Butterly Pavillion

Children love Denver's Butterfly Pavilion, photo/Billie Frank

This is a great place for young children. They walk around in wonder, looking up to see the tiny creatures flying overhead. If you wear colorful clothing, a butterfly might mistake you for a flower and perch for a second. But, don’t touch it. Skin oils on the hands can affect their ability to fly. Newly emerged butterflies are released at the daily Butterfly Encounters at 12:30pm and 3:30pm.

Butterfly on person

If you sit quietly, maybe a butterfly will land on your nose too! photo/Billie Frank

The Crawl-A-See-Em exhibit offers exotic insects and arachnids safely displayed behind glass. Visitors can view scorpions, beetles, giant millipedes, giant cockroaches and other crawly critters. The star of the show is Rosie, a giant Chilean Rose Hair tarantula. If you’re brave, you can hold her. Intrepid visitors will enjoy the Water’s Edge, a mini aquatic petting zoo. You can touch ocean invertebrates such as sea stars, sea cucumbers sea anemone and horseshoe crabs.

Butterfly pavillion

This indoor tropical environment is perfect for butterflies, photo/Billie Frank

The Denver Butterfly Pavilion Opened in 1995. It was the first invertebrate stand-alone zoo in the United States and one of the few that is open year-round. Almost three million people have visited over the years. Any animal without a backbone theoretically belongs here but, they stick to the small ones. The invertebrate category represents 97% of all species on the planet. There are over 200 butterfly houses around the country. Most are only open seasonally and/or attached to zoos and museums. There are very few stand-alone, year-round butterfly exhibits in the United States.


Butterfly alights on a flower, photo/Billie Frank

The Denver Butterfly Pavilion sits on 11 acres of public gardens. They include a sensory garden, a discovery garden and a nature trail. The habitat is designed to attract native butterflies and beneficial insects. Butterflies are usually found in these outside gardens from May to October. It you’re lucky, you’ll spy Monarchs, Swallowtails and Painted Ladies flitting among flowers.

If you go: the Butterfly Pavilion is located 15 minutes from downtown Denver. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm (visitors are admitted until 4:15). They are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. There is an admission charge.

Author’s note: If you can’t get to Denver, there are stand-alone butterfly exhibits around the world. Locally, Albuquerque’s BioPark has the seasonal PNM Butterfly Pavilionopen from late May through mid-October.



4 Responses to “Butterflies fly free at the Denver Butterfly Pavilion”

  1. TravelDesigned
    October 27, 2019 at 6:27 am #

    I LOVE butterfly pavilions! We have visited one on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, another at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and in Mexico at Xcaret not far from Cancun.

    • Billie Frank
      October 27, 2019 at 2:20 pm #

      Wish I’d known about the Omaha one when we were in Iowa. Would have stopped in or tried to.

  2. Traveling Ted
    October 27, 2019 at 10:40 am #

    Butterflies are pretty cool. We have had a ton of monarchs here in the Chicago area as they gather for the migration to Mexico.

    • Billie Frank
      October 27, 2019 at 2:21 pm #

      I’m in awe about that migration. I read a novel that was set around it. They go to a mountain somewhere in Chihuahua or at least a lot of them do. There’s a great adventure for you!

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