5 Things To Know Before You Go To Butterfly Town U.S.A.

Ben Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” He made a reasonable point, yet he obviously never visited the popular Butterfly Town U.S.A. in Pacific Grove. Here, thousands of beautiful monarch butterflies flock – year after year, right at the predictable time – to the safe and carefully protected habitat at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. This annual migration has become a well-loved tourist attraction that combines the beauty of nature with the benefits of community teamwork. Butterfly Town U.S.A. is truly something special.

Here are 5 things you should know when planning your trip to this famous and delightful spot:

1. Who

In October of every year, thousands of migrating monarchs winter at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The community of Pacific Grove has long welcomed hundreds of generations of migrating monarch butterflies, providing them with a reliable place to overwinter while advocating passionately on the insect’s behalf. This community is so committed to the monarch migration that they willingly pay additional taxes to fund the Monarch Grove Sanctuary; a host of dedicated volunteers care for the sanctuary daily. Talk to any of the individuals who serve and one thing becomes clear: these butterflies are an indispensable part of the Pacific Grove community and these caretakers will do whatever needs to be done to protect and provide for the butterflies.

2. What

Each fall, beginning in October, thousands of monarch butterflies migrate to Pacific Grove, one of the largest monarch overwintering spots and largest monarch butterfly viewing site in the U.S. This seaside community is famous for sheltering the butterflies as they cluster in a microclimate of cypress, eucalyptus, and Monterey pine. This migration and butterfly oasis is so wonderfully unique that Pacific Grove has been aptly nicknamed “Butterfly Town, U.S.A.” Hotel rooms around the sanctuary enable guests to enjoy a relaxing, peaceful vacation in nature unlike any other.

3. Where

The entrance of the Monarch Sanctuary is located off Lighthouse Avenue, at 250 Ridge Road in beautiful downtown Pacific Grove. It’s 10 blocks from the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, and Ridge Road parking is free. Signs clearly direct guests where they need to go. The Monarch Sanctuary is one block from parking and is ADA accessible. Visiting the Sanctuary is free to the public.

From November to February docents are present to answer your questions and offer “habitat chats” from noon to 3 p.m.

Note: The site is filled with trees where the butterflies cluster high in the branches. To the untrained eye, the clusters can initially look like a group of dead leaves. Look carefully as you walk throughout the sanctuary. If at first you do not see the butterflies, look again.

4. When

The park is free to visitors and is open to the community from sunrise to sundown. Because monarchs cannot fly when temps dip below 55 degrees, the best time to see the monarch migration is on afternoons from November to the first part of December. Specifically, 3 p.m. has proven to be a good time to see the butterflies as the sun shines brightest on the trees at that time, warming the air and freeing the butterflies to move. Sometime in late February, the monarchs begin to leave Pacific Grove. The end of the season is bittersweet, but residents know in a few brief months, the butterflies will return.

Each year since 1939, the community has hosted an exciting Butterfly Parade in town, featuring children dressed in a colorful array of wings. Also, since 1939, the city has enforced a fine of $1,000 for “molesting a butterfly in any way.” Requested rules of etiquette include: staying on the clearly marked walking paths, refraining from touching the butterflies, remaining quiet, watching for monarchs in unlikely places, and leaving all pets at home. These rules create a peaceful and enjoyable experience for guests and monarch butterflies alike.

5. Why

The community in Pacific Grove understandably takes the protection of these delicate butterflies very seriously. Each year dedicated volunteers actively maintain and restore the habitat, planting trees and adding flowering nectar plants. These volunteers plant, water, and weed – doing whatever is necessary to provide a perfect sanctuary for the monarch butterflies that have made Pacific Grove, California a popular destination.

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