Buggin’ Out: 10 Places for Insect Lovers to Visit

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If your kids like to bug out–think: stare at a dead fly on the living room floor for 15 minutes–you’re in luck. The D.C. area has lots of options for viewing buggy friends in their natural habitat, meaning outside and not in your living room. Give your kiddos an insect fix at these 10 places.

Photo: John Pasden via Flickr

The Butterfly Pavilion at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Watch your step as you mosey through this climate-controlled (read: humid; it’s kept at 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity) space that hundreds of butterflies call home. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, the pavilion has winged beauties of all varieties, including monarch. While you’re there, stop by the “Partners in Evolution” exhibit to see how insects and other animals have co-evolved with plants. Note: Up to 40 guests are allowed into the pavilion at a time for 15-minute stays.

10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW
Cost: Free timed-entry tickets are available on Tuesdays starting at 10 a.m., $2/ticket ordered by phone, $3.50/ticket ordered online or get tickets in person
When: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25)
Online: naturalhistory.si.edu

O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Don’t stray far after looking at the butterflies flutter by. Stop at this exhibit hall on the museum’s second floor. Visitors can observe and touch or hold live insects, and watch volunteers conduct tarantula feedings.

10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW
Cost: Free
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed Dec. 25

Rock Creek Park Nature Center
Hidden in plain sight within the District is this nature center, where kids can get buzzing about the active beehive on display. (They can also peek at the live turtles, fish and snakes while they’re there.) Take a hike or grab a self-guided discovery hunt created by kids for kids ages 5 and up. If your children are also fans of larger beasts, stop at the Horse Stables next door, where pony rides for children at least 30 inches tall cost $20 and an hour-long tour is $40.

5200 Glover Rd., NW
Cost: Free
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Online: nps.gov/rocr

Hidden Oaks Nature Center’s Little Acorns or Nature Detectives programs
Aimed at preschoolers, the Little Acorns program meets weekly – one-time visits are welcome, however – to discuss different topics in nature, take a hike and do a craft. For instance, an event in September was titled “Spinning Spiders,” and coming up in December, children can learn about animals’ prep work for winter. For children 3 to 5, the Nature Detectives program helps kids learn about the great outdoors through hikes, stories, songs and crafts.

7701 Royce St. (Annandale, Va)
Cost: Little Acorns costs $8/class for non-Fairfax County residents or $6 for residents. A five-class block of Nature Detectives costs $35 for non-Fairfax-County residents or $33 for county residents.

Long Branch Nature Center at Glencarlyn Park
Check the website for a bevy of events at this center, including a bilingual Spanish/English walk on Nov. 5, a Thanksgiving campfire on Nov. 11 and a Natural Discovery talk on butterflies, also on Nov. 11. Bug enthusiasts between ages 6 and 10 will especially enjoy Litter Critters ($5) on Nov. 12 at 2 p.m., when the group will spend an hour hunting for crickets, centipedes, millipedes and other-pedes.

625 S. Carlin Springs Rd. (Arlington, Va)
Cost: See website for activities and costs
Online: parks.arlingtonva.us

Potomac Overlook Regional Park
You could come here just to see what you can see along the park’s two miles of woodland hiking trails with access to the Potomac River, or to visit the Energerium, which has live animals and other exhibits that show how energy and the natural world connect. Upcoming events include the Wednesday Wonders series for kiddos 2 to 5 ($50 for five classes), which explores different topics each week; Junior Naturalist Camp for children 7 to 9 ($75); and turtle feedings.

2845 Marcey Rd., (Arlington, Va)
Online: novaparks.com

Croydon Creek Nature Center
Check out the seasonal Little Acorns program ($8/Rockville resident, $10/nonresident) at this center. It means on Thursdays and targets little ones aged 18 to 36 months. Nature Tots ($8/Rockville resident, $10/nonresident) for ages 2 to 5 meets on Saturdays for hikes, crafts and stories. Also coming up on Nov. 11 is the Saturday Story and Hike (free) for preschoolers. Bring a nonperishable food item to donate to Rockville’s annual food drive.

852 Avery Rd. (Rockville, Md)
Cost: Up to $10

Mount Rainier Nature/Recreation Center
The only urban nature center in Prince George’s County is home to live animals, a game room and hands-on exhibits. Kids in second through eighth grades can enroll in Creepy Crawlers to explore insects and how they benefit the environment. A group of at least 10 is required.

4701 31st Pl. (Mount Rainier, Va)
Cost: $3 to $5, depending on location
Online: outdoors.pgparks.com

Irvine Nature Center
Enroll in a 12-week semester of outdoor fun with your child. Infants through 3-year-olds can participate in live animal encounters, nature walks, songs, stories and art projects. The spring semester runs from February to May.

Cost: $230/member, $295/nonmember
When: See website
Where: 11201 Garrison Forest Road, Owings Mills

Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly and Caterpillar Exhibit
Although this exhibit is open only in the spring, summer and early fall, it’s worth marking the calendar for a visit. See live butterflies from North America, Costa Rica, Asia and Africa, and learn how they transform through metamorphosis, what role they play in ecosystems and how to attract butterflies to your own garden. This is part of Brookside Gardens, so while you’re there, check out the 50-acre park’s other areas, including the Aquatic Garden, Rain Garden and Fragrance Garden.

1500 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton
Cost: Free/children 2 and under; $5/ages 3 to 12; $8/person 13 and up