We’d heard about it from a few friends, and we thought we’d give it a whirl.
The pavilion is only 15 minutes from downtown Denver, and has easy accessibility off of the highway. We went on a Saturday, and it was busy, but not packed. Definitely doable on a weekend.
Right out of the gate you hit a room full of spiders, cockroaches, and other disgusting crawlers. It’s a room of eye level cages, which my son got a massive kick out of. He’s two, and would run from cage to cage pointing out the various spiders and bugs. The spiders in particular are BIG, so there’s no real issue for little eyes spotting them. If you’re three, you can actually hold a giant tarantula named Rosie. We weren’t quite there age-wise, so we settled for watching a few little girls squirm as the giant arachnid crawled around on their little mitts.
When you leave the bug room, you enter a water area where you can touch a starfish and horseshoe crab. It was fun for what it was, but it was quick. You basically climb some stairs, stick your hand in a small tank, and then you move along.
Those first two rooms take about 20 minutes (tops) with a 2 year old, so we were on to the main event before we knew it. The actual Butterfly Pavilion is a large greenhouse-like area with small ponds, bridges, and rivers running throughout. When I walked in, I was a little disappointed. There were butterflies in the air, but I had high (and somewhat unrealistic) expectations, so I was a little disappointed. We have some friends in DC that took their son to a similar venue, and after hearing about their experience, we were under the impression that you’d literally be sweeping butterflies out of your face. This wasn’t the case. There were butterflies, but you had to look for them. Once you get used to looking, you saw them everywhere, but it takes a minute to get into it. Conversely, our son who had no expectations, loved it. He was excited to see everything… the trees, running water, and other kids… not just the butterflies. I held his hand and walked around pointing out bugs, turtles, and flowers. He was psyched, and once he was aware of the butterflies, we had to keep an eye on him. There were a few times we’d turn our back on the little guy and turn around to see him grabbing at wings. It turned out to be a fun room.
Once we exited the pavilion, the experience winds down with a small play area for kids. There’s a zip line, a nature maze (indoor), a rope spiderweb to climb in, and some other learning puzzles. It’s a weird area, because physically, the games are for small kids (2-6), but they have a science twist to them that seems suited to older kids (8-12). Thunder liked the physicality of the games, but it wore thin pretty quickly since he’s just too young too understand the science behind the puzzles. Conversely, I’d think that older kids would like the mind games, but the physical games would get old fast.
All in all, it was a fun couple hours. It’s definitely more expensive than I expected… $8.50 for adults, and $5.50 for kids 2-12. It’s not horrible, but the Pavilion is certainly geared toward kids, and you’ll spend most of your time watching them, so it feels kind of expensive to pay that much for two adults. The butterfly room, of course, was the highlight, and as long as your expectations are in check, you’ll have a good time.
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