(My daughter holding a Monarch butterfly.)Last Saturday night my family and I joined a handful of other families at The St. Regis Monarch Beach for their weekly Butterfly Release Ritual... and I am so glad we did! I'm always looking for inexpensive activities to do on the weekends and the cost of the whole evening was just $5 for the valet! (Plus tip, of course.)
At seven o'clock we gathered around a small table on the terrace overlooking the ocean, as the staff served (again, let me restate, free) Champagne to the adults and apple juice for the kids. The butterflies were brought out in a large glass jar. The kids gathered around and a white-gloved man read a short poem about making wishes (or something along those lines) while the butterflies readied themselves for flight.
(Look at how beautiful they are.)
Then he released the Monarchs into the soggy Dana Point sky. But what the staff did next was nothing short of magical for the kids. They pulled out tiny triangle cardboard boxes, each containing one perfect, magnificent butterfly and placed them on the fingers of the fidgety, awe-faced children. The Monarchs didn't bolt right away either, they sat on their fingers, for sometimes up to five or so minutes, allowing the kids to pass them back and forth to each other, getting a once in a lifetime, up-close view.
Now, that would have made the trip worth it right there. Free-of-charge magical moment for my kids? Check! But, we were then invited to their storytelling time down by the lawn. We headed down just in time to see Little Red Riding Hood, complete with cape and basket, sit herself down and begin to read her own story. The kids then roasted marshmallows and made s'mores and we all sat around sipping hot chocolate talking to the other families.
Did I mention this was all St. Regis' treat?
When we were waiting for our car at the end of the night, Emily told me that her heart was beating so fast when they brought out the butterflies, she could hardly breathe. You just have to go sometime this summer. It happens every Saturday until Sept. 7th at 7 p.m.; story time is at 7:30 p.m.
My suggestions for other free things to do in Orange County: