As if the parks around Lincoln Park and the Lakefront weren't enough, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum brings Chicagoans leaps closer to a utopian city where urban dwellers can feast on the pleasures of natural environments as well as arts and culture that cities have to offer. Whether or not you have kids in tow, skip a Saturday of yoga and traipse on up the museum stairs to the Butterfly Haven.
The air blowing in circles with the fans on full blast, you might mistake those paper thin sheets floating through the air for leaves, but look closer and find yourself surrounded by zipping butterflies. Inside this misty bubble, a winding concrete path weaves through rock formations, a leafy trellis, familiar and exotic flowers, plants and the occasional ring-cupped Chinese oak tree. Between a mural of the sky on one wall, sounds of chirping birds piped through the speaker and the mini waterfall spilling into a fishy pond, the museum has outdone itself in creating a natural feeling as possible artificial habitat.
Explanatory panels educate visitors about the animals' mating and eating rituals but, sufficiently minimal in description, allow you to have more of a meditative experience without feeling guilty that you didn't absorb every ounce of literature provided.
The room following the observatory tops off the science-oriented field trip with a literal showcase of the butterfly's metamorphosis. Hundreds of live butterflies in various stages of metamorphosis hang from silver pins in an enclosed glass case that's smeared at the bottom with a rainbow of butterfly residue resembling paint splatters.
Centerstage Reviewer: Jessica Herman