Monday, June 3, 2013

Butterfly Wonderland (Scottsdale) Review

My family decided to check out the brand new (opened May 25th) Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale this weekend.  We went on Sunday morning arriving a little before 11am.  We had to wait in a line to purchase tickets and then once inside we had to wait to get into the 3D movie which is the first stop on the tour.

Basically the exhibit is a series of rooms and you go from one to the next until it spits you back out at the beginning.  It isn't easy to wander around/do your own thing without following the path as designed.  This is how it goes:

1. Tickets - Purchased outside.  This is important on a hot hot day like today (107 degrees) b/c right now you could be waiting for some time!  We waited about 10 minutes but when we left a little after 1pm the lines were winding back and forth so probably at least a 30 min wait (in partial shade)!

2. Lobby - Lovely butterflies on the ceiling.  Bathrooms are in the lobby, these are the ONLY bathrooms in the place that we saw.  Plan ahead. ;)

3. Hall - There are a few pictures with facts on the walls but mostly this is just the place to wait in  line for the 3D movie.

4. Movie - My favorite part of the experience was this lovely 3D movie, Flight of the Butterflies.  Not very long (10-15 min) but there is something pretty special about butterflies flying all around right in front of you. :)  Note that there isn't a specific area to park strollers, most people put them next to the handicapped seats in the front.  Since it was crowded there were MANY strollers.  This could be a challenge if you're bringing kids.  Try to be in the front of the line, ha!

5. Butterfly Emergence Gallery - Basically this is a tiny room that has real butterflies/caterpillars in different stages of emergence.  Great in theory but since you don't see this room until the movie is over it is super crowded and basically just a holding room until you get to the next thing.  I didn't even get to see them b/c we were fighting the crowds!  We were going to try to double back later but since you're basically pushed through I forgot by the time we got back around.

6. Conservatory - This is what we all came to see, the butterflies!  You have to go into a pre-room to make sure butterflies don't escape.  No problem except only a few people can be in this in-between room at a time.  The worker give a spiel (don't touch the butterflies, etc) and since there is a backup from the movie getting out (see #5) it makes for another line/crowd.

Once you get into the conservatory it is beautiful to see so many butterflies all over the place.  I've been to other butterfly exhibits and this one definitely had the most butterflies!  They had a few volunteers and staff inside that were answering questions and talking about the butterflies.  Also rescuing the stepped on butterflies which I'm afraid is unavoidable with so many people walking around (and they like to land/hang out on the floor!).

We spent about 30-40 minutes in the conservatory.  If I had older children I would have enjoyed staying longer.  Perhaps just sitting on a bench and watching butterflies and people go by.  However, this would have best been done on a less crowded day because by the time we left there were people everywhere (we'd gotten out of the movie first so were the first in).  It's humid and warm inside but was quite comfortable.  

7. Butterfly Cafe - The conservatory opens right into the cafe.  It is a rather small space (surprisingly) and had high prices (not surprisingly).  On the positive side they had healthy options including sandwiches (kid's size are in the shape of butterflies!), salads, cheese sticks, hummus/veggies and fresh fruit cups.  All menu options are cold, there isn't a grill.

These 2 adult sandwiches ($6.95 each), 1 kid sandwich ($4.95), 1 cheese stick, bag of chips, cookie (YUMMY!) and a small soda cost a little over $27.  Whew!

8. Ant Colony & Honey Bees - Right next to the cafe is the small ant/bee exhibits.  They both fit into another tiny room.  Interesting but not much to see.

9. Rivers of the Amazon Aquatic Life - Another surprisingly small room held a manta ray tank with two tiny (baby size?) and rather shy manta ray.  They hung out at the bottom of the pool the entire time we were in there.  Around the room are fish tanks holding a few varieties of pretty fish.  Nothing too exciting but the kids liked it.  Hey, we went for the butterflies not the fish. ;)

10. Gift Shop - Last stop as you walk through to get to the exit (back to the lobby) is the gift shop.  We walked straight through since the 5 year old was doing the "can we get something" routine.  Hey, I figured $52 to get in and $27 for lunch was plenty for one day!

As we left we saw VERY long lines both outside and inside.  

So what did I think/would I recommend going?
  • I would go again but I would make sure it was a weekday and first thing in the morning.  I'd make sure we were done before lunch time to avoid the expensive cafe (they ask you not bring your own food/drinks in).
  • Avoiding the big crowds would make the experience calmer and more pleasant b/c Butterfly Wonderland really isn't designed to handle too many people at once.  You end up with lots of lines (one after another after another) which makes for cranky people.  I saw lots of people being short with each other, you know how that goes.  I think it's just because of the lines!
  • They welcome strollers but I'd leave mine at home if possible, especially if it's a crowded day.  It's hard to maneuver the crowds and the building is really not designed to handle multiple strollers at once!
  • It's a bit pricey at $18.95 for adults, $9.95 child (3-11).  I might wait to see if they have a Groupon coming up or some sort of coupon.  I'm guessing that once the newness wears off they may offer some promotions.

Butterfly Wonderland
E Vía de Ventura
Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Summer Hours:
Sunday – Thursday: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

NOTE: I visited the Butterfly Wonderland again in 2016 and wrote an updated review.  Check it out here


  1. oh thanks for the review!!! i wan wanting to go here.. i think i will wait;)

    1. I had a friend go today and she said it wasn't too crowded. Perhaps the trick is to only go midweek. :)

  2. Thanks! I'm taking my GF on a date here. Your review made me realize how great this place is.