Location: Branson, Missouri
Price: $48 for 2 adults and 2 kids
Military Discount? No
Value Rating: ***** (5 stars)
When my husband said that he wanted to go to the Butterfly Palace, I inwardly sighed. We already have a membership for an awesome zoo back in Omaha, which includes a butterfly enclosure, so I wasn’t keen on spending money on something similar. However he and the girls were keen, so off we went.
I am SO glad we did.
The Butterfly Palace, at the end of the “strip” in Branson, was quite simply, amazing.
The ground floor hosts the gift shop, a jungle animal room and the mirror maze. I’ve done mirror mazes before, but this one was by far the best. I loved the way they dappled the light through the netting, and used round posts for the corners. It was delightfully disorienting. The kids must have gone through the thing five times before we dragged them out and into the room full of critters.
This small but fascinating room houses tanks of various rainforest species of fish, turtles, frogs and lizards. It includes a window into the workshop where the butterfly chrysalises are stored. Among the exhibits was my favourite critter – the monkey frog. These things are seriously adorable! Most of the time when you see frogs in glass tanks, they are stationery and sleeping. You must get lucky and find them with their eyes open. Not these little guys. Maybe it was the time of day (early morning) or maybe it was the weather (overcast), but these little guys were jumping and crawling everywhere, following our movement and watching us intently.
Up the ramp onto the first floor was a banyan tree maze, the theatre and the butterfly enclosure. The banyan tree is an exhibit for very young visitors. They’ve basically recreated a jungle banyan tree using bungee cords and you have to follow the path, moving the cords out of the way as you go. My kids were a little old for the concept, but I can imagine toddlers and preschoolers would get a big kick out of it.
The theatre had two presentations that ran multiple times each day. We went to the 10am presentation of the butterfly lifecycle in 3D. It was a well produced film following the life of a butterfly from baby caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly to… spoiler alert: the preying mantis ends up killing the butterfly in the end. You don’t see any of the actual eating, but the scene ends with butterfly wings floating down a river. If you have a sensitive child like I do, be prepared for the tears and sobbing of “why didn’t she just fly away? Why did she just sit there? Why does the preying mantis have to eat butterflies?”
In the actual butterfly enclosure, we wandered around and saw the various rainforest butterflies flying around. There was some unique species that I hadn’t seen before, including one that looked almost transparent. The Palace provided explorer hats, magnifying glasses and binoculars for the kids to use. The butterflies seemed to love brightly coloured shirts and hats too.
At 10:30am each day, the staff release new butterflies into the enclosure and they love for the kids to help out. This provided a wonderful distraction from the fate of the poor butterfly in the film and we spent several hours exploring and finding new favourites.