Houston’s Cockrell Butterfly Center

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Houston has no shortage of fun and educational places to go and things to do.  The museum district is second to none and hosts a multitude of great things to see.

One of my favorite places in the museum district is the Cockrell Butterfly Center in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  It is like being in a rainforest in the middle of a big city.

Green butterfly sitting on branch

We recommend parking in Herman Park, a vast, beautiful park that spans several acres in downtown Houston to get to the museum.  The park is home to the Miller outdoor theater, walking/running trails, and beautiful old oak trees.  

Old oak trees and picnic table in Memorial Park, Houston, Texas

Walking through the park reminds me of my childhood in southern California and the Live Oak Park we would frequent on school field trips.  The branches of the old oaks stretch out and towards the ground as if they are reaching down to hold themselves up.

Make sure you look up when you walk through the part, or you’ll miss the “oak ornaments.”

Hanging from the branches of the mighty oaks are hundreds of what look like bromeliad plants but are, in actuality, Spanish moss clusters.  They look like green holiday ornaments hanging all through the park.  I have always wanted to grab some and take them home to hang outside on my porch, but I know they would never survive without a sturdy oak to keep them alive.

Spanish moss growing from oak tree

There are multiple venues inside the Houston Museum of Science that range from the butterfly center to an IMAX movie theater that shows educational films; there is something for everyone.

The museum is perfect for families or even a homeschool field trip day.  Filled with science-based exhibits, it’s great for those kiddos who love nature, science, or geology.

Each venue inside the museum has a separate entrance fee, so it’s best to check for package discounts or even a membership if you’re a local and want to see more than one.

Entrance to Cockrell Butterfly Center in Houston, Texas

The fee for entrance into the Butterfly Center is super affordable, $12 each for adults and $10 for children, students, and Seniors.  So, for $24, you can walk among thousands of beautiful butterflies in a stunning setting.

Butterfly mural with yellow and brown butterflies

Remember when you were a kid and went on school field trips to the science museum?  That’s how it feels going into the Butterfly Center.  There are interactive educational stations set throughout the center that intrigue and inspire the young and young at heart.  Many are very hands-on and allow you, or your kiddos, to touch and feel.

Beyond the butterflies, the center also has displays of insects, arachnids (spiders), and my personal NON-favorite beetles.  I must admit that I find some fascinating and unique, but I’m still not going to invite them into my home.   I am just fine viewing them through plexiglass, thank you.

Rare insect hanging upside down on branch

I am NOT a bug person at all!  I cannot handle them, nor do I want to.  When we have one in our house, Charlie’s sole responsibility is to kill it and dispose of it.  So the Roach Dome is a definite no on my list of things I want to experience.

Inside are food items left intentionally to lure the critters out so you can see them through a sort of “fisheye” viewing globe.  Not for those, like me, that do not care for the little darlings!

Roach Dome interactive display

Really?  Cockroaches?  Why in the world would anyone want to display the one creature we all work so hard to destroy in our homes?  Time to move on, let’s get to the butterflies, FAST!

Black and yellow butterfly emerging from cocoon

I think butterflies are magical.  What other creatures symbolize the resurrection of life?  To see the evolution of a butterfly firsthand is one of the most extraordinary things.

The center has multiple displays showing the various stages of development for butterflies.  From the creation of the cocoon to the butterfly’s emergence, I love to watch butterflies emerge for their first day of new life.

Inside atrium with rocks, plants, and butterflies

Once inside the 50′ tall atrium, the sights, scents, and sounds are mesmerizing.  All around you, butterflies are flitting about, looking for a place to land and rest or perhaps have a quick meal.  Surrounded by the atrium’s sights, sounds, and scents, it is like stepping into a rain forest in South America but right in downtown Houston.

There are only two rules to the center.  1) Do not touch the butterflies.  2) Stay on the path, and don’t touch the foliage.  That is easier said than done once you’re inside, as these magnificent creatures were everywhere, and the temptation to reach out in hopes one will land is hard to resist.

Exotic purple flower

With every step in the atrium, there are different sizes and colors of butterflies.  Some rest and others get nectar from one of the many stations set up for feeding.

It is not somewhere that you want to rush through.  Taking the path slowly and stopping to look around is the best way to see the butterflies.  Sometimes they are right in front of you, and other times, they blend in with the surroundings and can be more challenging to see.  Either way, it’s well worth slowing down and going at a leisurely pace.

Nearly opaque butterfly in sunlight on red feeding balls

The variety of butterflies and insects species varies as the staff constantly lets new species into the habitat, so each trip, you may see something completely different.   One of the must-see events is when the team releases new butterflies that have just emerged from their cocoons into the habitat.

Watching them take their first flights into the atrium and search around, discovering new plants and flowers, is so fun to watch.

Butterfly with spots like eyes

Some days, the center will bring out more “exotic” critters for people to see and touch.  We came across a gentleman sitting on a bench with his hand out during our visit.  At first glance, I didn’t realize he was even holding anything, then I noticed it.  Holy cow!  It looked like a scorpion.  Was this man crazy?

Strange and exotic bug on mans hand

We stepped closer, and the gentleman told us he was holding an Australian Dead Leaf Mantis.  Looking at this unusual creature, it was clear where it got its name.  It looked just like a dead leaf.

Once I knew it wasn’t dangerous and wouldn’t kill me, I stepped a bit closer.  He tried to get me to hold it; NOPE, that wasn’t happening.  He did, however, convince me to touch it, assuring me it wasn’t going to sting me.

Person touching exotic insect on mans hand

As I reached out to touch this creature that looked like it was from a foreign planet, I realized that it was soft, not prickly like it appeared.  I was so proud of myself; I touched a bug and survived.  I can conquer anything now!

I could spend every day in the atrium just listing to the sounds and watching the butterflies!  The calm, quietness of the waterfall and the beauty of thousands of butterflies all around me is so incredibly relaxing.  It’s easy to get lost in the experience and not even realize that other people are around or that you are in a big city like Houston.

Pinterest Pin for Houston Cockrell Butterfly Center

The Butterfly Center is a magical place and one that I know I’ll be returning to again and again to see what beautiful new butterflies have been added to the family.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Emese

    Gorgeous photos! 🙂 Seems like a great place to visit in Houston.

    1. Lynnette Vyles

      Hi Emese! Thank for taking time to read our post. Thank you for your kind words. I love to take photos, especially of animals and wildlife so I was in my element here. It is a wonderful place to visit, there is so much to see, interact with, and learn. I highly recommend it for anyone visiting the Houston area.

  2. Larch

    I would love to be surrounded by butterflies, they are so delicate and beautiful. This must have been an amazing experience for you. Not too sure about holding the Australian Dead Leaf Mantis though!

    1. Lynnette Vyles

      Hi Larch! Thanks for stopping by, we are happy you enjoyed the post. It was so peaceful to walk through with the butterflies, I had a hard time leaving. I couldn’t actually hold the Mantis, I was lucky to get the courage up to touch it. Either way, it was an amazing experience and I’m ready to go back and walk through again. We are just waiting for the museums to reopen here in Houston and I’m there.

  3. Angela

    This is a post about my favourite insect – the butterfly – I absolutely love them. I have been to a few places like this in the UK and it is magical to see so many different species all so beautifully coloured flying around. I love it if they land on you!!

    1. Lynnette Vyles

      Hi Angela! We are so glad you stopped by and liked the post. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love butterflies, how can you not love them? I could spend every day at the butterfly center just watching them fly around. I’m with you on wishing they would land on me. That would make the experience even more special. Maybe if we travel to the UK, we’ll visit some while we are there, that would be such a great experience.

  4. Alma

    I could stay there for ages, looking at the beautiful butterflies, flowers and plants. There are some amazing creatures in the world, and although I am not keen on any creepy crawly bugs some are quite fascinating.

    1. Lynnette Vyles

      Hi Alma! I know exactly how you feel. There is just something so calming and uplifting about watching butterflies flutter around. I’m with you on the creepy crawly bugs, not my thing but the Mantis was really interesting. Thanks for stopping by, we’re so glad you enjoyed the post.