PLEASE NOTE: This post was originally written in 2012. While it should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, it is also possible that some information may be outdated. Please visit their website for the most up to date information, especially for details like hours and pricing. If you notice something in this post that needs to be updated, please feel free to leave a comment with the updated information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to make the updates. Hey, it takes a village, right? 🙂
Disclaimer: Thank you to Magic Wings Conservatory & Gardens for providing me and my family with complimentary admission to their exhibit. All opinions expressed here are 100% my own.
Ever since our visit to the Eric Carle Museum, my kids have been a little obsessed with all things Eric Carle.
A favorite in our house is the very popular book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and after reading that book a million times this summer and discussing over and over with my kiddos (who are in the “why” phase) the very little I know about butterflies, I decided it might be fun to let them learn a little more about these beautiful creatures themselves.
Fortunately, several moms had mentioned to me a “magical” place located in South Deerfield, Massachusetts that gives visitors the opportunity to see butterflies up close and personal.
Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens was located about an hour drive from our home in West Hartford and was a great destination for a chilly and rainy Friday morning. The building is an 8,000 square foot indoor conservatory that is home to nearly 4,000 exotic and domestic butterflies in a tropical environment. This is a great destination any time of year and you can really go almost anytime of year because Magic Wings is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The building really looks like a garden center from the street, but 8,000 square feet of butterfly fun is located inside.
We parked out front and followed the signs to the main entrance.
In hindsight, my husband and I should have first let the kids burn off a little energy in the outdoor gardens before we headed inside (more on those in a moment). But we blindly took three little kids who had been sitting in the car for over an hour into an exhibit where they really needed to be on their best behavior. So don’t be like us — if you have wiggly little ones like we do, check out the gardens first and give them a chance to run around a bit before heading inside. You will thank me later 🙂
I didn’t put Sweetheart in her stroller for this outing because I had seen online that strollers are not allowed inside the butterfly conservatory area, due to fire code regulations (and the fact that they would create a major stroller traffic jam inside).
Now, strollers are allowed in the main building, but just need to be stored in the coat closet before heading into the conservatory area.
Sparkles made her way straight to the butterfly bench in the back of the room and asked me to snap a picture. I was happy to oblige.
Right next to this area was the coat room I mentioned earlier. I’m sure in the winter months this spot is loaded with actual coats, but you can also use it to store a stroller if needed.
Another sign pointed us in the direction of the gift shop where tickets for the butterfly conservatory could be purchased. As I mentioned before, we were receiving complimentary access to the venue, but this is where we would go on future visits.
Now I’m not one for gift shop shopping, but this place was pretty nice. There were so many great gifts for kids inside that even I almost bought a few things. I will say that we purchased probably the coolest gift I have ever seen from this shop. More on that at the end of the post — stay tuned!
Tickets could be purchased at the counter inside the gift shop and the prices ranged from $10 – $14 per person (though kids under age 3 are FREE). Hand stamps gave us access to the conservatory all day long, so this could really be a full day event!
It was kind of funny that I actually had to ask where the entrance to the conservatory was. I think I was expecting some big fancy entrance, but the nice people there pointed me in the direction of the door at the rear of the gift shop. Maybe I should have noticed the giant “Enter Here” sign. Ha!
As we entered the door, I realized you didn’t go directly into the butterfly conservatory. The first stop was a smaller area containing lots of fun creatures for my kids to check out.
Everything in this area was in containers and you could find butterflies, lizards, roaches (ugh), geckos, and more.
Then on one side of the room we noticed the entrance to the butterfly conservatory.
With so many animals roaming freely inside the conservatory I wasn’t surprised to see a long list of rules on the outside of these doors. We took a moment to check them out. I think the “please do not chase the birds” was going to be the hardest one for my kiddos to follow. Remember I mentioned that they should have run around outside before we came in here? Yeah, we should have done that. After a few rounds of “please don’t touch that” and “stop running” we did eventually get them to settle down.
There were two doors that led into the conservatory to ensure no butterflies escaped. They even had mirrors inside so you could make sure one didn’t hitch a ride on your back as you exited.
Once inside, we saw the beautiful space. It was full of lush plant life and lots of exciting things to explore.
As I mentioned before, my kids were a little too full of energy, so the first 20 minutes of our tour looked like this . . .
But once they finally calmed down, we started to really take a look around. Our first stop was the tortoises.
Then they started to notice all of the butterflies flying around.
And so much more.
There was a coy pond inside.
And there were other animals that the Magic Wings staff would take out of their cages and let the kids observe and touch.
This little guy was a big hit as he enjoyed trying to chomp down on everyone’s shoes!
For the older kids, there was even a fun scavenger hunt they could try.
The place was beautiful and we wandered around inside for over an hour.
But soon my kids were restless again and we decided to take a break, check out the outside and grab some lunch.
We headed back out of the conservatory, through the animal room, through the gift shop and back into the main area. On the other side of this space was a food court, restaurant, more eating areas, and access to the outside gardens.
First stop was the restrooms. They were located on the other side of the food court and I was happy to see that they contained a baby changing table.
Before eating, we made our way out the side door and took a look around the outdoor gardens and eating area.
And here were the outdoor covered picnic areas I mentioned before. You can enjoy food purchased from the food court here or are welcome to bring your own food to eat.
Speaking of eating, it was about that time for us and we went back in to check out the options.
The food court had a variety of food options from grab and go items to things from the grill.
There were also plenty of spots where you could sit and enjoy your purchase, plus high chairs were available for the tiny diners.
Monarchs restaurant was also located on the property. We didn’t get to check it out but I hear they serve a pretty delicious lobster roll in the summer. Plus the restaurant offers breakfast on the weekends.
After eating, we made one more trip inside the conservatory and then made our big purchase in the gift shop. Are you curious as to what we got? Well here it is:
We bought an amazing science project for my kids to enjoy. Right there in the gift shop, for $5.95, you can purchase a self-contained butterfly kit. There was a plastic container filled with a monarch butterfly caterpillar and a giant green leaf.
As we drove home, I watched that caterpillar chomp away on the leaf (no cupcakes, ice cream, or sausage for this little guy).
The next day, he formed a chrysalis and hung out in my china cabinet for about 10 days.
The kids checked it out every day and commented on changes they saw happening. Then one morning my husband told the kids there was a very big surprise downstairs. When I saw it, I think I was more excited than they were (though we were all pretty excited). We had a butterfly!
We released it outside and watched it flutter around the yard until it finally flew off to its new home.
Watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly was pretty amazing (if I do say so myself) and on top of that we got to watch thousands of butterflies flutter before our eyes at Magic Wings.
I’d say they had a good time for sure!
What is the best science experiment you have done with your little ones? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Phone: (413) 665-2805
Find out more by visiting their Facebook Page.
- Open from 9:00am – 5:00 pm every day EXCEPT Thanksgiving and Christmas
- During the summertime, the venue is open until 6:00 pm.
- Closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
- Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Breakfast served 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
- Closed Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day
- Adults: $14
- Seniors (Ages 62 & over): $12 (Seniors pay $10.50 on Wednesdays)
- Children (Ages 3 – 17): $10
- Students (Under age 22 with a valid ID): $10
- Children (Under age 3): FREE
- Stroller Friendly: NO. Strollers are not allowed in the conservatory area. This is due to fire code regulations. You can bring them into the main building and then just store the stroller in the coat closet when you are ready to go into the conservatory. If you have a non-walker in your crew, plan to carry them or bring a wearable baby carrier.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: NO. Outside food and beverages are not allowed inside the building and no food or beverages are allowed in the butterfly area.
- Restroom: YES. There is a restroom located near the food court.
- Baby Changing Station: YES.
- Parking: YES. FREE parking is available in the front and on the side of the building.
- Food for Sale: YES. There is both a food court and restaurant available.
- Outside Food Allowed: NO. Outside food is not allowed inside the building, but you can enjoy a meal in their outdoor covered picnic area.
- Cash Required: NO. Credit cards are accepted for both entrance to the butterfly area and for the purchase of food.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES. The only days they are closed are the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Tips & Things to Bring
- Let the kids run around outside before heading inside. While the butterfly conservatory is very family-friendly, for the safety of the butterflies and other animals, kids really do need to be on their best behavior once inside. They can’t run and there are a lot of things they can’t touch (though there are plenty of fun animals that they can touch as well). If you have time, I would recommend letting kids burn off a little energy in the outdoor gardens before you head inside.
- Tickets for the butterfly conservatory are good for the whole day. Go early, take a break for lunch, or for a visit to Yankee Candle Village down the road and come back later for another look.
- Keep the older kids entertained with the scavenger hunt. The details for this can be found inside the conservatory in the second building. There is a sheet that they can use to track the items and then turn it in for a prize.
- High chairs are available in both eating areas.
- 4D Vision Gym – A vision training center located in Cromwell, CT where Dr. Juanita Collier, MS, OD and her staff show members how to utilize Vision Therapy to correct visual issues and make learning and playing easier and more fun.
- Imagine Studio – Under the direction of Karla Kress-Boyle, opening this fall at 97 South Street is West Hartford’s only Creative Arts Studio. Focusing on building imagination and self confidence, our wonderful staff will be sharing their talents in Dance, Art, Music, Yoga and Theater programming.
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT this private pre-school, elementary and middle school serves families from over 20 communities.
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