Butterfly Valley, while a tad lo-fi, is a great excuse for a day trip. The park is fairly quiet on weekdays and doesn’t see many visitors, making it the perfect place to get away from the bustling city.
Located a short drive outside of Shunyi, Butterfly Valley is home to more than 30 species of butterfly. The center also doubles as a breeding center – over 500 Chinese and Japanese species are bred here annually. If you’re lucky, you can even see caterpillars transform into butterflies in the center’s cocoon rooms.
The park features one central greenhouse and seven outdoor enclosures. Families can walk freely around the lush butterfly enclosures, and if you’re good at playing statue, one or two might land on your shoulders. According to one of the Butterfly Valley employees, the red varieties are your best bet at having a personal encounter with a little flapping friend. Keep an eye out for the most precious butterfly in the center’s collection: the golden Phoenix. A species from Hainan, this large butterfly is easy to spot with its trademark black and yellow wings.
Outside the greenhouses you’ll find open fields covered with pretty purple flowers that grow as tall as your knees. If nothing else, it makes for a nice break from the usual gray of Beijing’s downtown. Make the most of your countryside escape and rent one of the center’s outdoor barbeque grills (RMB 20-100). Be sure you brig all of your essential barbeque goodies with you as there aren’t any supermarkets nearby.
The best time to visit the butterflies is between late April and late October. During this butterfly boom time, the center hosts a range of exhibitions and kids activities. Call ahead to check for upcoming events.
The ultimate in waste not, want not crafts, for RMB 25-50, kids can make a picture using wings from butterflies that have naturally “passed on.” While the materials are a little odd, the results are surprisingly beautiful. Kids can also participate in more traditional crafts like butterfly ornament making (RMB 10) and color-by-numbers (RMB 20). Staff members roam the craft room, ready and able to help kids with their butterfly-themed art projects. The craft center has a small snack shop stocking all the usual Chinese drinks and snacks.
Butterfly Valley also hosts birthday parties, complete with a full tour of the butterfly gardens, releasing butterflies into the wild, as well as a treasure hunt (RMB 1,980 for ten people, schedule ten days in advance).
RMB 99, RMB 66 (senior citizens), RMB 49 (students), free (kids below 1.2m). Daily 9am-4.30pm. North of Baima Lu, Nanlangzhong Village, Gaoliying
Town, Shunyi District (8942 2400/2119, Chinese only) www.7cbp.com