Can you imagine a trip to Florida that doesn’t take you to a beach or amusement park, but delivers plenty of thrills and photo ops for the family? The same reason visitors love Florida’s climate also makes it perfect to enjoy butterflies year-round, especially if you schedule in a trip to the state’s butterfly farms and gardens.
In north central Florida, you’re lucky to have access to two fantastic and very different butterfly encounters: the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Greathouse Butterfly Farm.
If you’re looking closely on the drive up to the museum, you’ll notice the vaulted screen enclosure in the back of the building and hundreds of winged gems fluttering about. It’s your first view into the meandering pathways of their lushly landscaped Butterfly Rainforest. Thousands of butterflies and plants compete for your attention as you walk along the boardwalk in this exhibit. Benches allow you to take in the sound of the water features as brilliant Blue Morphos (my daughter’s favorites) dash in and out of view or sit on a nearby platter of fruit. The garden isn’t the only attraction here, however. There’s serious scientific study going on in the labs here, and you’ll often see butterflies emerging from chrysalises before your eyes. While admission to the Florida Museum of Natural History is free, admission prices to the rainforest run from $6-$10.50.
Insider note: The museum holds a seasonal butterfly plant sale on weekends. They feature 10 plants (which you can find online) at the start of every sale, but additional plants are offered each week, and these change on a regular basis. Get there early for the best selection.
Greathouse Butterfly Farm
It started out as a way for a science teacher to connect with his subject matter and became a mission and a passion: Greathouse Butterfly Farm, while it’s primarily a working farm, is also a wonderful place to learn about butterfly gardening and how to attract butterflies to your own yard and keep them healthy. The farm itself produces nearly 50 varieties of butterflies and the plants they require as food for themselves and their larvae. Because they are educators themselves, their educational tours and programs are especially appealing to families or anyone interested in learning about these lovely creatures. Greathouse Butterfly Farm is located near Melrose in Earleton, about 15 miles east of Gainesville. Call 866-475-2088 for more information to schedule a visit, or visit their website.
In south Florida, another incredible butterfly encounter awaits.
For years, I lived within a few miles of this fantastic park and at one point considered having my wedding at Butterfly World, it’s that amazing. Butterflies, hummingbirds, lorikeets, and every color of the rainbow (and a few I never knew existed) flash around you as you walk through the beautifully landscaped paths here. Their gift shop alone is worth the trip; you won’t be able to leave without buying something beautiful. If you’re interested in plants, well, they’ve got that covered, too. Many of the plants butterflies love best are available for purchase. Located in south Florida in Coconut Creek, Butterfly World benefits from the favorable climate and is open year-round. Bring a camera and a friend and enjoy a one-of-a-kind Florida adventure. Call them at 954-977-4400 for information about upcoming events.
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of butterflies. Why not make a special trip to learn more about them, and discover why Florida makes such a wonderful home for butterfly farms and gardens?