Key West Butterfly Conservatory: Top Florida destination for art and nature lovers

Skeptical tourist is amazed 

“I even liked the gift shop.”

That’s when my family knew I had been seduced by the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Everything about this destination impressed me, from the staff to the bird and insect inhabitants.

When my sister suggested we visit the Conservatory, I played along because I wanted to be a compliant family member who could take one for the team. I admit to loving nature and the great outdoors, but I was skeptical about touring a large indoor cage for wildlife. The venue, though, was exceptionally well designed and, while I can’t judge a butterfly’s happiness by studying its facial features, the residents were active and mesmerizing.

So that you can benchmark my enthusiasm, I took my family around the conservatory walkway and through the garden three times. During each loop we saw different species and learned something new from the Conservatory staff who were engaging and insightful.

The butterfly on her right shoulder is the Conservatory entrance sticker. The butterfly on her neck is real.

Butterfly Conservatory exudes a yoga-like calmness

Okay, I don’t take yoga classes but I’ve extrapolated from others’ experiences that it’s a very calming form of exercise. That’s the effect the Key West Butterfly Conservatory had on me. I could feel my blood pressure lower.

Butterflies started landing on my head and shoulders during our first loop around the Conservatory. If you visit, wear bright colored clothing – white, pink, orange, red, yellow and purple – which will increase the chances of a butterfly close-encounter. Don’t use this same strategy outdoors, especially in the fall, because yellow and purple clothing will attract bees and wasps.

 While the Conservatory is relatively small, the winding walkway meanders back and forth through the plush gardens, giving you an intimate experience with the flora, butterflies and birds. I used my iPhone for all of the photos accompanying this article, which gives you an idea of how close I was to all of the plants and creatures. Tropical birds constantly soared past our heads and darted near our feet. One bird I missed photographing was the paradise tanager, maybe the most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen.

It’s located in the heart of Key West – we walked to it from the Naval Air Station part of town and then afterwards strolled the Duval Street area for food and drinks. The Conservatory offers senior, military and children rates. Everyone has a different price-point comfort level, but I thought this tourist destination was well worth my vacation money.

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