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What started many years ago as a two-day butterfly festival at the Chattahoochee Nature Center now runs through Aug. 6 and is the center’s most popular event. “When you are outside at home, you can’t get close to wild butterflies; they flit around and are gone,” says Farah McIntyre, the center’s member and visitor engagement manager. “At the Butterfly Encounter, you can see them up close and feed them, too.”

A butterfly lands on a guest's nectar stick.
A butterfly lands on a guest’s nectar stick.

Native butterflies, hundreds of them, are in a special enclosure full of colorful nectar plants. Visitors can watch them fly from flower to flower and see them close up when the light-as-air creatures land on the nectar sticks that everyone gets with admission. Nature Center employees are on hand to help visitors learn about these beautiful pollinators including the Monarch, known to migrate the longest distance of any butterfly, traveling from North America to Mexico and back each year. That’s more than 2,800 miles each way. Monarchs are fussy eaters, feeding only on milkweed plants. So, of course, the center has plenty of those for them to enjoy.

Open daily, the Butterfly Encounter is included in general admission: $15 for adults, $11 for seniors over 65 and $9 for children 3 to 12. Center members and children under 2 are free. Many nectar plants are available for sale. On July 9 and Aug. 6, the center is offering the VIP Breakfast with Butterflies from 10 a.m. to noon before the Center opens. Only 15 people will be admitted each session, making for an exclusive experience. Guests will enjoy a light breakfast, experience several butterfly species and explore the grounds. Registration is required the Thursday before each session (July 6 and Aug. 3 respectively) and costs an additional $25 per person, $15 for members.

BY Gillian Anne Renault

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