“Butterflies Alive” at the Museum of Natural History!


Santa Barbara’s Museum of Natural History has been busy! The city’s beautifully cloistered museum is nestled in the rolling foothills of Santa Barbara on seventeen acres of woodlands and river bed. Always a popular destination for locals and enthusiasts, the Museum of Natural History has recently engaged in a $20 Million Centennial Project. This momentous redesign, along with updating and improving classic exhibits, has also enhanced the entire museum and grounds with ADA accessibility. In addition, they have installed a sprawling Backyard and Nature Clubhouse and the new permanent residence for one of its most beloved exhibits: Butterflies Alive!

Traditionally, the butterfly exhibit extends through the spring into early fall, following the natural butterfly life cycle through chrysalis and metamorphosis until the autumn release of the fully mature adults. As construction on the new, expansive pavilion is finalized this September, the exhibit for 2018 will be spanning three weeks from September 22nd to October 14th.

The Odyssey is delighted to have been permitted a sneak peek of the generous Sprague Butterfly Pavilion in the final stages of creation.

Butterflies Alive! is a peaceful sanctuary enhanced with abundant California flora. It is a quiet and tranquil exhibit with gently diffused natural light, accommodating benches, and 1,000 living butterflies. The Museum promises that exquisite local species such as the Painted Lady, Mourning Cloak, Red Admiral, and the Gulf Fritillary will be on display The newly designed backyard, adjacent to the pavilion, contains a musically babbling brook. The wooded trails bridge the boulder-encrusted riverbed and are awake with birds and wildlife. The environment is a harmonious blend of meditative serenity and vibrant life.

Visitors to the pavilion may encounter a butterfly seeking repose on a shirt sleeve or within the inviting nest that is one’s hair. Please, do not touch these delicate and curious guests. They will wander to another flower in time and their familiarity with museum patrons is enchanting. The whispering of butterfly wings is magical. Beginning in 2019, the butterfly exhibit will run from Memorial Day through Labor Day annually.

While at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, explore the expansive grounds and the renovated exhibit halls. Year round, the museum provides a secluded natural setting that sparkles with invigorating experiences. They house a rich selection of permanent and revolving exhibits such as the Bird and Mammal Halls and the Planetarium. The museum also hosts a full annual calendar of special events from art shows to summer camps. If a guest is planning a special event of their own, the pavilion is available to host.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is open 10 am to 5 pm daily. The Sprague Butterfly Pavilion is open 12pm to 4pm during the exhibit season. Adult admission is $12 for the day, which includes the pavilion. Admission is free on the third Sunday of every month (excluding summer: May-August.)

The abundant parking is complimentary. Annual membership is $65 for individual and $85 for families. This membership extends to the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf, along the city’s waterfront, where guests may interact with ocean life. It also includes free admission to an extensive list of California and national museums. These details can be located on the museum website sbmuseum.org.


Butterflies Alive! is an absolute must-see for city residents and tourists alike. Don’t miss this dazzling kaleidoscope of color and life.


About Author

Bebhinn McIlroy-Hawley

Bebhinn McIlroy-Hawley is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from Antioch University in Santa Barbara, California. She previously studied writing, contemporary literature, and art at the University of Alaska Southeast in her hometown of Juneau, Alaska. Bebhinn is joining the Creative Writing MFA program at AULA with a dual emphasis in poetry and fiction. While in graduate school, she will continue her work in AUSB’s Writing Center. Bebhinn enjoys spending time with her children and visiting her family. She is particularly inspired by the Central Coast’s gorgeous natural landscape.

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