When you visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, winter blues melt away.
There's magic in the air in Key West.
In the United State's southernmost city, you'll find a tropical paradise at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Inside this tropical greenhouse beautiful little birds, two sassy flamingos, gorgeous jungle plants, and butterflies - hundreds and hundreds of them, representing about 50 to 60 species from around the world - are just waiting to say hello. Once you step inside, I feel confident that you'll agree with my assessment. It's pure magic.
It's hard to describe the flurry of excitement that greets you when you open the sealed doors of the conservatory. After paying admission, you enter a room which shares scientific information about the migration of monarchs and displays hundreds of butterfly species in acrylic frames. Then comes the real excitement! The moment you step into the conservatory, you are surrounded by a vortex of swirling butterflies who are just hanging out and living their best lives among the birds and plants. It reminded me of a scene from a movie in which the main characters enter a portal to another dimension, one in which everything was absolutely beautiful.
It's warm and humid inside the conservatory so these tropical creatures enjoy a comfortable, stable environment but it's not the kind of oppressive heat you associate with summer's intense humidity. You're in a lush garden and, overall, it's quite comfortable.
But even if it wasn't, I wouldn't have cared. Hundreds of butterflies were coming over to see me. ME!
Well, that's what it felt like. In reality, I'm sure I was simply getting in the way of their next delicious meal of flower nectar or sliced fruit but I'd like to think that those wings which accidentally brushed my arm were a personal greeting from the butterfly community. Did you know that "Vanessa" means "butterfly"? That's right, I was one of the tribe! Alas, I didn't have a butterfly land on me, something that's considered a good omen and rumoured to be a sign that you'll have good luck all throughout your Key West visit.
Canadian visitors will be especially keen to meet Rhett and Scarlett, two talkative flamingos who were born and raised in Toronto. Those looking for a truly one of a kind travel experience can even pre-book a special meeting with the two colourful birds, as "flamingle" sessions take place every day in the late afternoon by appointment only.
Speaking of late-in-the-day activities, Twilight Tours are also available by advanced appointment. This experience is at the top of my list for my next visit to Key West as I can't imagine a more pleasant way to wind down the day.
A visit to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a short but sweet experience. Based on my time there, I'd say that about 15 minutes is the average time spent in the conservatory itself, with some extra time tacked on to take in the pre-conservatory displays and then to explore the colourful gift shop at the end. As you leave the conservatory, staff will quickly check you over to make sure a butterfly hasn't sneakily hitched a ride to freedom on your clothing (something that happens a few times a week according to the person I spoke with). You'll get a gorgeous iridescent blue butterfly sticker to show that you passed the test. I pasted mine in my travel notebook and I recommend doing the same with yours, as I saw a number of stickers littering the streets of Key West.
If you're visiting Key West from a northernly destination like Canada, Europe, or New England and it's the middle of winter, may I suggest that you make the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory your very first stop when you hit the Keys? There's a method to my madness. You have spent a long time saving money and making plans for your warm weather vacation. You have left winter behind and navigated busy airports to be here. Stepping into the conservatory is everything you imagined when you started planning your dreary, cold weather escape. It's warm, sunny, and colourful. It's positively teaming with life. Birds are happily chirping and butterflies are swopping all around you. If there is one activity that is the absolute opposite of shovelling snow, this is it. Soak it all in the minute you get off the plane. This is where you want to be to kick off your vacation.
Tell the butterflies that one of their own sent you ;-)
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