(©Chicago Parks District)
Since 1908, visitors have been able to roam this historic landmark under glass, which boasts two acres of tropical rain forest palms, desert cacti and ancient cycads. The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden has real and replica plants for touching and exploring, plus regular take-home art activities. Amid waterfalls, fruiting plants, reflective pools and an “underground” plant dome, the permanent exhibit "Sugar from the Sun" explores the life of plants and their fascinating process of photosynthesis. Daily 9 am-5 pm (W till 8 pm). Free general admission (suggested donation) and parking.
Highlights and Tips:
- Take the Green Line El to the Conservatory-Central Park Drive station, just a block from the conservatory.
- This impressive steel and glass-domed structure was designed by celebrated Chicago landscape architect Jens Jensen and opened in 1908; it’s now one of the largest conservatories in the country, encompassing 12 acres of indoor and outdoor gardens.
- On cool days, start your tour in the dry-heat Desert House, a climate perfect for nurturing its cacti and succulents of all kinds, tall, bushy, flat and spiky. It might not be the most attractive of the plants in here, but the unique Weird Welwitschia is worth searching for; it’s so old and so unique that it has no other living plant relatives.
- In the tropical Palm House, find the giant Scheelea Palm, grown from a seed collected by Field Museum scientists in Brazil in 1926.
- Make time for the Aroid House, whose foliage is described as “houseplants gone wild” and where a pond features floating glass lily pads designed by world-famous artist Dale Chihuly.
- Before heading over, check the calendar, as public programs take place throughout the year including beekeeper demonstrations, origami-creation and kids activities in the Children’s Garden.
- One of the amazing things about the Garfield Park Conservatory is that it’s open 365 days a year, with only a suggested donation (required entrance fee for special exhibits or events).