The new butterfly pavilion and backyard area at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will make its long-awaited debut this weekend.
After 12 months of renovations as part of the museum’s $20-million Centennial Project, the revamped backyard space, Nature Club House and new Norman F. Sprague III Butterfly Pavilion open to visitors on Saturday.
The Butterflies Alive! exhibit in the new Butterfly Pavilion is open daily from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. — when the butterflies are most active — at 2559 Puesta del Sol and runs through Oct. 14.
Guests walk through a garden filled with colorful butterfly-friendly plants and native landscaping while nearly 1,000 live butterflies flutter freely inside the exhibit. The exhibit offers Santa Barbara County butterfly species including the painted lady, red admiral and mourning cloak.
“It’s a different look than what the old Butterfly Pavilion was, a different experience and still equally magical,” said museum president and CEO Luke Swetland.
“We feel like we have kept everything that’s historic, authentic and accessible and intimate, but made it all much more relevant and energized it with new activities and ways to engage with the natural world.”
Located beyond the museum’s pavilion, the revamped and ADA-accessible museum backyard is a nature play area in the oak woodland along Santa Barbara’s Mission Creek.
“We like to say ‘get off your apps and get out into nature,’” Swetland said.
Starting on Saturday, the backyard space is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
“We encourage kids the climb the trees, get wet, make mud pies and go home dirty,” Swetland said. “Most parents know to bring a second pair of clothes for their kids. We routinely hear kids screaming and crying not because their parents have brought them here, but because their parents are telling them it’s time to go home.”
The backyard area includes:
» Nature Club House: A naturalist-staffed cabin featuring touchable objects and live animal and insect interactions.
» Boardwalk: A new elevated walkway that winds through the forest and creek, making nature accessible to all visitors.
» Bio Builders Zone: Visitors can build forts and create nature art, using natural materials.
» Create Zone: Guests can explore, make mud pies and get a little messy as they get in touch with the earth.
» Waterway: The new creek area in the woods sets the scene for exploration, relaxation and play.
» Play Stage: A place for guests to put on a show, see a live animal, or check out a museum production.
» Excavate a Fossil: Guests can check out paleontologist tools and help the museum reveal real fossils hidden in the rocks.
» Sensory Garden with local plants.
» Eyes in the Sky Aviary is home to seven rehabilitated raptors: Max the great horned owl, Ivan the red-tailed hawk, Kisa the peregrine falcon, Athena the barn owl, Puku the western screech owl, and Kachina and Kanati, the American kestrels. Eyes in the Sky is Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s main wildlife education program offering birds of prey that can no longer live in the wild.