Hope takes flight: L.A.’s Natural History Museum will reopen its Butterfly Pavilion & gardens

A colorful butterfly perches on a yellow flower.
Inside the Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Pavilion, which will open to the public on Sept. 11.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

One can only hope that an exhibition of fluttering butterflies — a mess of gold-speckled, zebra-striped and shimmering silver wings swooping through the garden air — brings a resurgence of levity and hope to Angelenos more than five months into a pandemic.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County announced Monday that it will open its Butterfly Pavilion and parts of its nature gardens starting on Sept. 11 for three days each week, Friday to Sunday. Previews for members will take place this weekend, Aug. 28-30, and over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-7.

The museum has revamped the exhibition flow per guidelines from state and L.A. County public health officials as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means a limit of 10 people in the netted pavilion at any one time as well as social distancing markers and the mandatory wearing of masks. There will also be a one-way path through the museum’s 3.5-acre nature gardens. Parking ($6, free for members) and timed tickets ($6, free for members) must be reserved online in advance.


“We’ve seen the joy and wonder that experiencing different species of butterflies up close can bring visitors of all ages,” NHM president and director, Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, said in an interview. “This is the first phase of our reopening and we’re excited to share who we are — living nature — with the public. There’s a lot we can do digitally; but there’s nothing like experiencing nature in person and we’re really looking forward to welcoming people back.”

The Butterfly Pavilion, one of the Natural History Museum’s most popular exhibits each year, was set to open March 14, but the museum closed because of the pandemic a day earlier and has stayed shuttered since. The museum said it hopes to increase the number of days the exhibit is open each week, as it assesses how reopening goes and what the demand is from the public. The exhibit will close on Oct. 4. The indoor areas of the museum remain closed until further notice.

The museum’s Spider Pavilion will open Oct. 18, in the same spot where the butterflies were on view, through Dec. 6.

“During this difficult time, encounters with nature can provide calm and inspiration,” Bettison-Varga said. “While our indoor museums remain closed, we will continue sharing our research and collections with the public through digital initiatives, virtual events and expanded resources for educators and families. It’s all part of our mission to inspire wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds, here in L.A. and beyond.”

Reservations for the Butterfly Pavilion can be made at

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