Looking to get away from the dreariness of winter, with its barren trees and frozen, snow-covered lawns? Chicago has a warm and inviting respite, and it’s called Garfield Park Conservatory.
Unlike the North Side’s smaller Lincoln Park Conservatory, Garfield Park Conservatory is tremendous, sitting on four and a half acres in the redeveloping West Side at 300 N. Central Park Avenue. Designed by legendary landscape architect Jens Jensen in collaboration with Prairie School architects Schmidt, Garden and Martin and the engineering firm of Hitchings and Company, the building’s low, mounded architectural design is reminiscent of Midwestern haystacks. It was completed in 1907 and houses a mind-boggling array of plants from all over the world, grouped in a series of wonderfully designed, naturalistic landscapes. Enlightening, educational and always evolving, it is enjoyable for visitors of all ages.
Once inside the conservatory, you’ll be peeling off your winter wear upon entering The Palm House, a warm tropical paradise where huge palms tower over you to touch vaulted ceilings.
The Aroid House is home to what many will recognize as popular houseplants. Its hidden gem here is the Persian Pool, a tranquil, man-made lagoon with a sitting area, koi and yellow glass lily pads created by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.
The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden is an indoor setting for families and children to have fun, with spray bottles for kids to mist plants, interactive exhibits and a confined play area for toddlers.
- Want to take a glimpse of what Chicago might have looked like millions of years ago? Take a winding stroll through The Fern Room, with its various ferns, ancient cycads, mossy rocks and waterfalls.
We can go on and on, but don’t want to spoil the surprise. You can plan a visit to coincide with upcoming events happening at the conservatory. Street parking is meter-free, and there is usually space available in the free parking lot just south of the main entrance. There is no coat check nor lockers to put away your coats, so it helps to have a big tote bag to store them and carry along with you. A stroller can also do the job but can be unwieldy on stepstone paths.
A terrible hail storm on June 30, 2011 damaged countless glass panes of the conservatory, and a massive restoration effort is under way. Donations are welcome.
For more information visit www.garfieldconservatory.org.