One of the prominent jewels in Chicago’s crown is a gem conveniently located but often overlooked both by visitors to our city and native Chicagoans as well — the Garfield Park Conservatory. The conservatory is a complex of six greenhouses and surrounding gardens tucked away in a beautiful park nestled around a majestic “golden” dome which towers above the trees and is clearly visible from the Green line “Central Park” station of the CTA elevated system. Designed by Jens Jensen in 1906, the Garfield Park Conservatory has been thrilling visitors ever since. Lovingly tended and spectacular plants are categorized into different arenas of interest:
The Aroid House, a collection of aroids growing in an landscape setting which includes a “Persian Pool” where sixteen yellow lily pads surround a serene lagoon.
The Children’s Garden, a popular feature with both families and groups of school children on field trips, includes in its magic kingdom larger-than-life vines, roots, leaves, and flowers along with a good place for kids to play and learn about plants.
The Desert House is one of my personal favorites and includes perhaps one of the best collections of cacti and other succulents here in the Midwest.
The Fern Room conveys a lush view of what Illinois might have been like in prehistoric times. Even a Neanderthal visitor would feel quite at home here and the rest of us can also enjoy the exotic ferns and artful landscaping which includes another indoor lagoon.
Horticulture Hall partners with the Show House as the go-to places for the Conservatory’s famous seasonal flower shows presented throughout the year.
The Palm House, which includes in its tropical landscape one of the largest Double Coconut Palms in any conservatory in the country.
Sugar from the Sun is a collection of four botanical environments designed to help visitors understand how plants use sunlight to convert air and water into the sugar which makes life on this planet possible.
Open Every Day
The Garfield Park Conservatory is open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Wednesdays: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.) Admission is free except for special exhibits where a small suggested donation is requested. Parking is also free and is located just south of the Conservatory’s main entrance. Every part of the complex is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs except for the Fern Room. Visitors are free to take photographs for personal use.
No trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory would be complete without a stop at the beautiful Gift Shop, an interesting place to browse and perhaps do a little holiday shopping. Refreshments available here include sandwiches, salads, fruit, desserts, and beverages.
Let the Children Come Unto Me
The Garfield Park Conservatory and its friendly, dedicated staff members welcome everybody, including kiddies who will enjoy this chance to commune with nature and revel in special holiday events such as Creatures of the Night (Oct. 30). The Conservatory is also popular with teachers and their students for day trips and visits which are educational and fun as well.
A Few Tips from One Visitor to Another:
I have enjoyed the Garfield Park Conservatory myself and I have a few tips to offer others who are hunkering to partake:
1. Wear comfortable shoes.
2. Don’t try to see everything in one visit.
3. If you are with a group, try to stick together as you tour the exhibits and rooms.
As a final cautionary note, I would advise against wandering around in the surrounding park after dark. It is best appreciated during daylight and may be confusing and potentially dangerous at night, even for us seasoned Chicagoans.
The Garfield Park Conservatory is located at 300 North Central Park Avenue, Chicago, IL. For more information and driving directions, please visit http://www.garfieldconservatory.org or contact them by phone at (312) 746-5100 (Fax: (773) 638-1777). Ballrooms are also available to rent for wedding receptions or major parties (312) 746-5250.
The City of Chicago hopes that you will explore its famous Garfield Park Conservatory and have as much fun there as the rest of us have been enjoying for more than a hundred years.