What to Do This Weekend: Butterfly Watching in Grand Rapids
Flights of Fancy
We all know about this month’s alleged showers and the consequential flowers. But the cruelest month brings something else: Butterflies—thousands of them, fluttering by in April swarms. Visitors can witness a spectacular air show at a massive tropical butterfly abode in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here, a summary of earthly delights to take in along with the country’s largest temporary indoor butterfly garden.
- The butterfly effect
Through April 30th, more than 6,000 butterflies take up residence in a 15,000-square-foot, five-story tropical conservatory within the Frederik Meijer Gardens. Visitors will find more than 40 species of the insects—from Africa, Central America and the Far East—flying free. Prepping the Butterflies are Blooming exhibit is no walk in the park: For weeks before its opening, butterfly gardeners sort hundreds of chrysalises within the confines of a sealed butterfly bungalow. The chrysalises were placed on plants in the conservatory, where they acclimatize before coming out of their tiny shells. If you visit the conservatory this month, you’ll see the exhibit in full flight, including views from feeding stations where butterflies dine on the nectar of flowering plants.
- Carnivore dilemmas
Meanwhile, in another part of the 132-acre gardens, flies, rather than nectar, are on the menu at the country’s largest exhibit of carnivorous plants. Venus flytraps are among the more common food-catching plants in the exhibit, which also houses an array of pitcher plants from Africa and various other comparatively savage stems. Fun fact: The fluids from carnivorous plants were mixed with hog’s lard and applied as a poultice to wounds in the medieval era.
- Sculptured landscape
And, finally, don’t leave t he Gardens without an art walk through the Sculpture Park, where more than 40 outdoor pieces—including works by Auguste Rodin (the cast bronze Eve) and Nina Akamu (the towering American Horse)—punctuate tree-lined meadows, hills, and valleys in the 30-acre open-air museum. If young find the idea of covering 30 acres on your own daunting, there is a 45-minute narrated tram tour that hits the highlights.
GO Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, 1000 E. Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids; 888-957-1580, meijergardens.org.
Where to stay: The straight-forwardly named Bed and Breakfast of Grand Rapids (516 College Ave. SE; 616-451-4849, bandbofgrandrapids.com) is a swank 21-room Georgian Revival in the Heritage Hill District with three guest rooms, a large front porch, hand-painted foil wallpaper, and—weather abetting—gorgeous flower beds; rates range from $80 to $85. Also downtown: The Peaches B and B (29 Gay Ave. SE; 616-454-8000, peaches-inn.com) is named for the original owner’s orchards and offers five second-floor guest rooms; rates start at $127 a night.
Where to eat: The 1913 Room (in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, 187 Monroe Ave. NW; 800-253-3590, the1913room.com) is Michigan’s only AAA five-diamond-rated restaurant. With décor inspired by Louis the Sun King (who made his home at Versailles), the decadent design matches the food (the dessert portion of the tasting menu includes three kinds of chocolate). HopCat (25 Ionia Ave. SW; 616-451-4677, hopcatgr.com) was recently named the third best beer hall in the world by BeerAdvocate. It has a formidable list of ales, stouts, and porters, and a solid menu of comfort food.