Our house is an unofficial zoo. I think you achieve that status once you have acquired more than five different kinds of animals. Ok, I made that up, but we do have a bunch of pets. We are animal lovers through and through. Aside from that, I’m always on the hunt for rainy day activities for the blog and this place has been on my radar for quite some time. We had the PERFECT opportunity for a mommy and me day in Philly present itself and I snatched it up. It was incredibly tempting to just stay home and veg out on tv, take a nap, do nothing, relax. All the things I never get to do. But this is 2020, life I short and I never want to pass up a chance to make memories with my first baby.
I did a little research by reading reviews the day before we went and saw that many of the reviewers had used a Groupon for admission to the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavillion. Score! I did my typical Rakuten(Ebates)/coupon code combo to save the most $ possible. We ended up getting in for about $15 for both of us.
A few key points about getting there:
- This is Philly. The gross, dirty, slightly scary part of Philly. Not the worst area but definitely not the best so just be aware of your surroundings as you’re driving.
- Roosevelt Ave. is confusing. I’ve never driven on such a weird road. It’s basically a ten lane highway but each five (sometimes six) lane direction is divided down the center with a median so the GPS will tell you to turn left but you can’t until you use one of these little crossover things to get over to the other section first. I ended up missing my turn and having to backtrack. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it but just be aware of that.
- There is metered street parking available right in front of the Insectarium but there’s also a little shopping center parking lot across the street. It’s probably not meant for people visiting but I would not want to park farther away and have to walk especially if I was alone with my kids.
This is definitely not a stroller or handicap friendly adventure. The building is three floors with stairs only as far as I could tell. The first floor has a gift shop, a little café and the butterfly pavilion. The second floor has some interactive exhibits including an iguana exhibit with a clear slide that goes through it. I am a huge fan of incorporating physical play in to a “zoo” type setting so I really appreciated that aspect of the insectarium. The third floor is all individual tanks. The second floor looks like it was more well thought out (at one time) and the third floor looks like more of a hobbyist’s collection. There are some beautiful murals on both the outside of the building on a large scale, and the inside on a smaller but very detailed scale. At first I thought that the indoor murals may have been decals because they were so precise, but upon closer inspection I saw that everything was actually hand painted.
There are reptiles, fish, amphibians, insects and arthropods to see at the Insectarium. The tarantula collection was impressive and probably my favorite part. They each have their own unique burrow, are actually really adorable, and their engineering skills are remarkable. Seeing these guys is a great way to teach your kids to appreciate instead of fear spiders.
The downside is that overall the Insectarium feels a bit outdated and unkempt. I wish I had some chlorox wipes to give everything a once over. In my mind it wouldn’t take much of an effort to tidy everything up, so it is frustrating to see someplace with this much potential being let go. Most of the enclosures were in decent shape, but as an animal keeper myself I always pay close attention to the state of the living quarters in any “zoo” type place. Some of the tanks were too dirty for my liking here.
We moved on to the butterfly pavilion last and it was decent as well. Not mind blowing, but enjoyable. The butterflies weren’t fluttering all over the place like I have seen in other butterfly houses. They were all resting and very still and many were on their way out if you know what I mean. It is Winter though, so I wonder if there would be more activity in the warmer months. Just outside the “pavilion” was a little café that offered a limited lunch menu with kid friendly foods as well as a variety of smoothies. Always a bonus to have food options on site to save yourself an additional stop.
I will try any adventure once and even though we likely won’t go back, I am so glad we checked this place out! Despite the moderate review on my part, I would still recommend a visit. There aren’t many places where you can see so many exotic insects and other creatures up close and not be trampled by a zillion other people (coughPhilly Zoocough) while doing so.