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Woodland Park Zoo’s Delightful Butterfly Garden Is Open for the Season

Frolic among beautiful free-flying butterflies at the zoo this summer

Published on: May 26, 2022

Orange and black monarch butterflies rest on a pretty pink flower at Woodland Park Zoo's Molbak's Butterfly Garden opening for the season Memorial Day Weekend 2022
Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

You know summer is on its way when the seasonal Molbak’s Butterfly Garden opens at Seattle’s beloved Woodland Park Zoo. Beginning May 27 and continuing through Sept. 5, zoo visitors can once again experience the thrill of hundreds of free-flying butterflies surrounding them.

Many cultures believe butterflies are symbols of hope and endurance. Having one land on you may be a sign of good luck! Could you find a more perfect metaphor for emerging from the cocoon of two summers of pandemic-driven closures?

Butterflies having a snack on their favorite flowers at the Molbak’s Butterfly Garden now open at Woodland Park Zoo
Credit: Natasha Dillinger

During our early-season visit, many of the butterflies were still freshly hatched and lingered on the flowering bushes drying their wings. It gave us a unique opportunity to observe them quietly and try to identify some of the 15 species currently on view.

Check the board of butterflies and see if you can find all the different kinds in the butterfly garden
Check the board for butterfly varieties and see if you can find them in the garden. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

Here are our top tips to make your butterfly garden visit a delight: 

  • Make walking softly a zoo-themed game — can you float like a butterfly or shuffle like a penguin? Since butterflies can land on any surface (including you!), it’s important to watch your step.
  • Stop in at the beginning of your zoo visit. My kids have their best listening ears before they get hangry and tired, so we prioritize special experiences like the butterfly garden when they’re most likely to enjoy them. 
  • Download the zoo’s butterfly and plant guide in advance. Butterflies come in a rainbow of colors and it’s fun to see if you can tell them apart. 
  • Avoid stowaways. Hold out your arms like butterfly’s wings for a brief inspection before you depart so that the butterflies remain inside their 3,000-square-foot enclosure. 
  • Enjoy the pollinator garden. Behind the greenhouse is a year-round garden full of fragrant flowers that attract all kinds of pollinators, including hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, of course. There’s space to roam and you might even get ideas for the perfect addition to your home garden. 
the pollinator patio outside the molbak’s butterfly garden at seattle’s woodland park zoo
Explore the Pollinator Patio. Credit: Natasha Dillinger

More summer zoo fun

After your visit with the butterflies, there are plenty of other seasonal activities on offer starting in May and through the summer. 

  • Giraffe feedings and rhino experiences: Sign up for your time slot at the entrance. Cost is $10 per person (kids ages 5 and younger are free with a paying adult).  
  • Historic carousel rides: Yes, the carousel is back open! Rides cost $3.
  • Kid-favorite Zoomazium: It’s now open, Tuesday–Friday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Starting in July, this dream indoor playground will be open daily, except Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m. 
  • Wildlife Theater: Performances of “ZooVenture: A Hero’s Tail” showcase the zoo’s ambassador animals. The show plays twice daily.
A butterfly in the Molbak’s Butterfly Garden at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo
Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Don’t forget that memberships starting at the Family Passport level come with complimentary animal experiences and carousel rides, so summer is a good time to join if you aren’t already a member. 

Note: Due to concerns about the highly contagious avian influenza virus, the zoo has moved its bird populations off-view for their safety (including the fan favorite Humboldt penguins and flamingos). We look forward to their healthy return!

With the zoo’s summer season hours in effect (9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) and all these extras, our family is already looking forward to a summer of fun at the zoo!

If you go ...

Find it: Molbak’s Butterfly Garden is a seasonal exhibit at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Enter the zoo at either the west entrance at 5500 Phinney Ave. N. or the south entrance at 750 N. 50th St.

When: The butterfly garden is open Friday, May 27, through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022.

Zoo hours: The zoo is on its summer schedule; current open hours are 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily.

Admission: Entry into the butterfly garden is included with regular zoo admission or membership. Admission for adults and teens ages 13 and older is $26.25; children ages 3–12, $16.25; tots ages 2 and younger enter free. Customizable memberships start at $95 per year for one child and one adult.

Parking: Parking in the zoo’s lots cost $6 for the first 2 hours and $2 for each additional hour (plus taxes and fees). You can also hop on the bus or park on nearby streets.

More at the zoo: 

  • ZooTunes concerts are back for summer 2022, though they’re no longer the great deal some families will remember (no more free kids with paying adult). Still, they’re a family-friendly way to see live music — outdoors and at a reasonable hour for tired parents.
  • The popular historic carousel is open and taking riders. Rides cost $3 in addition to zoo admission.
  • The Zoomazium is back open! It’s the perfect destination for those chance-of-showers days.
  • Visit the Today at the Zoo page to find special programs happening each day.

Nearby: The play area in the northwest corner of Woodland Park features some high swings if you want to check them out.

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