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Butterflies Provide Soft-Hearted, Screen-Free Family Experiences. Dallas offers two exceptional spots, Texas Discovery Gardens and Heard Museum where whispering is encouraged and making discoveries comes naturally.Texas discovery gardensButterflyPpavilion State Fair Park Dallas
 
Slow and easy is often the best way to enjoy nature with young children because it allows for small yet memorable screen-free moments. Butterflies seem to have a calming effect on children and whispering comes naturally. Texas discovery Gardens Lobby Discovery Stations

I recently had the chance to wander through the butterfly pavilion at Texas Discovery Gardens in State Fair Park with my three-year-old grandson. The 7.5 acre organic botanic garden is artfully populated with native and adapted plants. Overlooking the gardens is the two-story Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium where a tropical rainforest has been created and populated with hundreds of free-flying butterflies, a few moths and resident quail.  Texas Discovery Gardens Lunch Time for Buttefflies

While the butterfly pavilion is open all day the action happens at noon when the newest butterflies are released from the nursery. With a handy identification card I wandered the pathways with my young companion stopping to match the name on the card to free-flying residents. I was mesmerized as was my young charge by the butterflies lunching at dishes nestled among the trees.
 
Our 60-minute experience was filled with discoveries. We listened to a talk about butterflies and their habitat needs. We learned that some butterflies are poisonous to predators and others have a way to camouflage their presence. We watched as a Blue Morpho butterfly landed on a branch and almost disappeared by closing its wings. At the butterfly incubator we saw the butterfly pupa and watched as one began to break free. Nearby several butterflies were laying eggs on a host plant. Texas Discovery Gardens Butterfly Nursery

Our time outside in the garden was cut short because of the heat but in the lobby, we saw snakes, insects and arthropods including stick insects, cockroaches, pill bugs, tarantulas. It was a great day for whispering and discoveries. 

Texas Discovery Gardens is an urban oasis on the edge of Fair Park. It has an impressive calendar of family festivals, screen-free discovery sessions, and free admission days. (Texas Discovery Gardens 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Dallas, TX 75210. (214) 428-7476 or www.texasdiscoverygardens.org)

The second location for whispering and discoveries is just north of Dallas in McKinney. It is not surprising that the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary, home to roaring dinosaurs every autumn  and earth-friendly family programs and adventures all year long also has a uniquely Texas butterfly experience.Heard Museum Butterfly House and Garden

The Heard’s Texas Butterfly House is open from June through September and the Butterfly Garden open year-round though don’t look for butterflies in the garden at Christmas.  The Heard focuses on native butterflies and other pollinators essential to the wellbeing of our planet. The butterfly house includes free-flying native species which may vary by season and a fascinating butterfly birthing station where newest residents come to life. The adjacent butterfly garden is populated with host plants that naturally attract butterflies. The peacefulness of this garden inspired me to plant a butterfly garden for my mom who was at the time 85.  (Heard Museum 1 Nature Place McKinney, Texas 75069 or www.heardmuseum.org)
If Dallas is not on your radar screen at the moment there is an excellent family-friendly website which features butterflies and provides information in not just English but also French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch.  www.kidsbutterfly.org

Content and images by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Butterfly image courtesy Heard Museum. Copyright updated 2017.  

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