Outdoor Museums Open Their Doors

Eastern Giant Swallowtails in pavilion title=
Eastern Giant Swallowtails in pavilion
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SB Museum of Natural History’s Outdoors Reopens to Public

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is delighted to open its outdoor areas to the public, including the popular Butterflies Alive! exhibit, starting July 8. The Museum’s new open hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM and online reservations are required for entry. 

One of the Museum’s most popular exhibits, Butterflies Alive! features a dazzling variety of butterflies, from local favorites like the Monarch to exotic varieties like swallowtails, longwings, Gulf Fritillaries, and Malachites (the latter not seen in the pavilion since 2014). Various butterfly species cycle through the pavilion throughout the summer, so no two visits are the same. Flowering plants and ample foliage provide butterflies with nectar and roosting space, while contributing to the tranquil garden atmosphere visitors enjoy.

In years past, Museum guests have watched chrysalides reared for the exhibit emerging as adult butterflies through a special window into the butterfly lab. While this indoor exhibit space is closed, the Museum is sharing behind-the-scenes views of the butterfly-raising process in videos on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. In another effort to share that special process with the public during this unusual year, the Museum’s Butterfly Pavilion Manager Kim Zsembik has started the Instagram account @butterflywrangler featuring butterfly fun facts and views from the pavilion and lab.

“We are so grateful for all the positive feedback from our Members who have enjoyed our socially distant Butterfly Pavilion during our preview. We think this is the best pavilion thus far! We’ve been able to create a personal yet socially distant and safe experience for families to slow down and see up close look at all the 14 species of butterflies inside,” shared Zsembik.

Located just beyond the Sprague Butterfly Pavilion, the renovated and ADA-accessible Museum Backyard is a nature play area nestled in the oak woodland. Backyard features have been modified to accommodate social distancing and safety. In addition to playing in the artificial creek, which is especially popular on a hot summer day, guests can visit three new stations with expert naturalists who will show and tell about birds, botany, snakes, insects, geology, and more.

Across Mission Creek is a shaded woodland great for birdwatching, relaxing with a picnic, or exploring the ethnobotanical Sukinanik’oy Garden of Chumash Plants. The garden was established by the Museum working with Chumash people to preserve traditional plant knowledge. 

The Museum has developed comprehensive health and safety protocols to help keep guests and staff safe. These include online reservations to limit the number of guests on campus at one time, a new one-way flow from the entrance to exit to allow for social distancing, hand washing and hand sanitizing stations throughout campus, and increased cleaning of all public areas, especially high-touch surfaces. Masks properly covering the nose and mouth are required for everyone age three years and older. 

Indoor galleries and the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf will reopen when regulatory agencies permit indoor operations at local museums. 

To learn more or reserve tickets, visit sbnature.org. 

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Opens to Non-Members

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden will officially open to the general public on Friday, July 10th after a two-month closure prompted by COVID-19 followed by a phased two-month opening to its membership. 

“We’re excited that guests can once again explore, discover, and be inspired by the diversity of California’s native plant communities represented in our Garden,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. “A visit to the Garden is one of the critical ways that we foster a love of the incredible flora of California and inspire guests to join us in its conservation.”

The Botanic Garden has partnered with Cottage Health, who will serve as its official ‘health and wellness partner’ to advise on measures that ensure the safety of Garden visitors. Such measures will include mandatory masks while on the grounds, frequent sanitation of high-touch surfaces, hand sanitizing stations at all entrances and restrooms, and adherence to social distancing protocols. In addition, the Garden’s capacity has been reduced by two-thirds, from 300 total guests at one time to no more than 100. 

Nestled into Santa Barbara’s foothills at the base of the Los Padres National Forest, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden boasts over 1,000 taxa of exclusively California native plants, 5.5 miles of trails, and 78 acres in which to immerse one’s self in nature. During its initial summer re-opening, all indoor facilities as well as the Garden’s retail nursery will remain closed. And while on-site educational programming will also remain paused, visitors will have access to a robust digital library of educational resources.

“The pandemic provided an opportunity for us to take some of our educational efforts out of the classroom and into living rooms and backyards throughout the region,” said Dr. Windhager. “Between our nature journaling club, online book club, and Summer Sips Lecture Series, we have some great educational opportunities even after they leave the property.” 

Admission to the Garden is $16/adult, $12/senior, $10/student with valid ID, and $8/child (2yo and under are free). Memberships to the Garden start at $75/year and provide free entry all year long! The Garden is open to visitors Friday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Garden Members may also visit during Members-only hours from 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.

The Garden’s mission is to conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet. For more information, visit www.sbbg.org.

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