One fall day I looked out the window of my tenth floor office to see a monarch butterfly fluttering through the downtown Dallas canyons. It remains a perfect memory -- tiny, brilliant wings bearing it through the city, bound for a faraway hibernation spot in Mexico. But for a better chance to see butterflies up close, I like the Heard Natural Science Museum’s butterfly house and garden.
The screened house and outdoor garden teem at this time of year with a variety of native butterfly species, not just monarchs, and their caterpillars. The garden of native plants lures swarms of butterflies, and the confines of the screened house make getting closeups of your favorite fliers simple. With a little luck, you can even lure them into perching on yourself or your children.
Admission to the butterfly house and garden is included in the Heard’s general admission price, $9 for adults under age 60, $6 for over 60’s and children aged 3-12. Kids age two and younger get in free. Those prices are good through September 30, but don’t put off a visit too long -- the butterfly house closes September 28.
The Heard is located at 1 Nature Way in McKinney, open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (opening at 7:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month), and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. See www.heardmuseum.org for directions and additional programs.
After searching through my butterfly pictures from the Heard, though, I ended up deciding to use a snapshot of a butterfly perching perkily on the giant T. rex dinosaur model that gives visitors a thrill during the annual Dinosaurs Live! Exhibit. Butterflies and animatronic dinosaurs overlap when Dinosaurs Live! opens September 16 (running through February 15, 2015).
Did butterflies and living dinosaurs once share the Earth? I’ll try to remember to pose that question to an expert at another favorite site for butterflies, the Texas Discovery Gardens butterfly house at Fair Park in Dallas.
Resident entomologist John Watts gives a guided tour of the Discovery Gardens Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium at 11 a.m. this Saturday, September 6. But he's always available for questions and butterfly lore at the release of newly emerged butterflies each day at noon.
The Discovery Gardens butterfly house is stocked with exotic butterflies from farms around the world. Admission to the butterfly house is included in general admission to the Discovery Gardens, $8 for adults under age 60, $6 for ages 60 and older, $4 for children aged 3-11.
The Discovery Gardens cut admission prices during the State Fair, September 26 - October 19, but you’ll have to pay for fair admission and parking during the fair’s run.
The Discovery Gardens and butterfly house are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. However, to be sure visitors have a satisfactory viewing experience, the last ticket sales are at 4:45 p.m. For tips on viewing the butterflies, including what to wear to lure them to perch on you, see
If the sight of all these beautiful fliers inspires you to action, consider helping scientists track the migration of the iconic monarch butterflies, through www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/.