Out and About: Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Out and About: Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens

Traveling with toddlers in tow


  • photo by Brooke Bousquet
Kids hate 91.

These words echo in my head every time we make the turn from I-89 onto 1-91 in White River Junction. My good friend — a fellow parent — told me this years ago and I have found it to be mostly true. Even my seasoned travelers, my roadie boys ages 1 and 4, get weary somewhere between WRJ and the Connecticut border. It’s a length of road we drive often, traveling from the Burlington area to southern Connecticut to visit my in-laws.

Because of this, my husband and I are always looking for a well-timed pit stop — somewhere we can burn through that high-octane “boy energy,” eat and, of course, pee. So one sunny April morning, we tried our luck at the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in South Deerfield, Mass.

I had to convince my husband, as he thought we would be looking at dead, pinned butterflies encased in some stuffy museum where the boys would wreak havoc. No, sir. At Magic Wings, the butterflies are alive and flying around as you walk through what feels like a rainforest.

We shed our sweatshirts, entered a warm building and purchased our tickets. Prices were a bit steep at $14 for the adults and $10 for our 4-year-old. (Our 1-year-old was free.) At those rates, I was feeling the pressure for this place to deliver.

But I was at ease once I heard the excitement pouring out of my eldest’s mouth, at an ear-piercing decibel: "BUTTERFLIES! Come here, Momma, look, no, look here! They're so beautiful, OK, now look HERE. LOOOOOK, MOMMA, HERE!"

You first enter a room full of aquariums with frogs and educational exhibits. My budding scientist was so fully engaged in these that we had to convince him there was, in fact, more to see. Pushing on, you walk through a double set of doors with a wind machine blowing, which prevents the butterflies in the conservatory from escaping. This was my toddler's absolute favorite thing in the whole place. There were mirrors inside the wind tunnel, so he took the opportunity to perform a little song-and-dance number.

Entering the conservatory is magical. There’s harp music, a waterfall and slight breeze from turbines above. It would almost have been relaxing if not for the aggressive tugging to press on, to see more — and more, and more! — butterflies. They were everywhere. In the air, on the crowds of people, on the tropical garden flowers, bouncing from leaf to giant leaf in the gymnasium-sized greenhouse.

After about an hour and a half, we were ready to depart the crowds and jump back into the car for the next leg of our trip — and lunchtime. We skipped the conservatory’s cafeteria pizza in favor of our homemade Nutella-and-peanut-butter sammies en route.

Know before you go:

Some additional highlights of the visit were the case of chrysalises with butterflies in various stages of hatching, the koi pond and the turtles.

• No strollers are allowed.
• Cafeteria-style eating is available.
• There is a gift shop. (We didn't buy anything.)
• There are changing tables in the restroom.

For more information, visit magicwings.com.

Brooke Bousquet
  • Brooke Bousquet

Brooke Bousquet is the lead designer of Kids VT. She lives in Winooski with her husband and two sons.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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