Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2008

3. Judy Istock Butterfly Haven

The outside of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a museum itself: The extensive prairie, rooftop gardens and solar panels, and water conservation systems make it one of the city's shining examples of green technology. The inside of the building sprouts kid-friendly interactive displays and workshops for adults such as "Geology of the Chicago Region," but the real reason to pay the $9 admission is the year-round Judy Istock Butterfly Haven — unless you hate butterflies (you'll be in an enclosed space with about 1,000 of them).

After watching a short video, you enter a huge room with a wall of windows, a trellis strung with vines, a rocky waterfall, and a curving path lined with benches. At first you may be afraid to move for fear of either stepping on or running into a butterfly. But that's when you realize how many there really are, and how they're able to camouflage themselves — maybe even after landing on your shoulder. The museum regularly rotates species of these winged beauties, featuring about 80 different types at a time.

Just before the exit, there's a mirror so you can check and make sure there isn't a butterfly trying to hitch a ride out on you. In the next hallway there's a glass display where you can watch various species miraculously emerge from chrysalides. Then it's time for you to emerge out of the museum and flap thee to the lakeshore nearby.