Looking for something new to do on a Sunday afternoon? Need some cheap or free entertainment? Or trying to get out of the house with the family? Take a trip to Chicago’s west side and visit the Garfield Park Conservatory!
Garfield Park Conservatory
The conservatory was first opened to the public in 1908 and is one of the largest in the country. It houses a stunning collection of plant species across 2 acres indoors along with several outdoor garden spaces. The conservatory is divided into eight rooms, each featuring different plant species and climates.
Visitors will start their tour in the Palm House, the largest room in the conservatory, which holds palm trees and other plants that grow in warm environments. The Fern Room houses lush ferns and an indoor lagoon reminiscent of a prehistoric swampy Chicago. In the Desert House you’ll find a large collection of cacti and succulents. And there’s even a Children’s Garden for those visiting with their family.
One of my favorite rooms is the Show House, which features more seasonal flower displays. This year’s theme for the spring flower show celebrates baseball and the Chicago Cubs! Beautiful spring flowers were in full bloom during our visit in April.
Also, be sure to find the small pond in the Children’s Garden. Two Axolotl’s (also called Mexican Walking Fish) call this pond their home! They are very funky-looking amphibians that are believed to have evolved backwards from salamanders. While most amphibians start their lives in water and then move onto land as they enter adulthood, Axolotl’s never fully reach adulthood and never come out of the water.
How to Get There
The Garfield Park Conservatory is located at 300 North Central Park Avenue in Chicago. From downtown, visitors can take the Green Line to the Conservatory Stop in less than 20 minutes. There is also free parking in the visitor’s lot South of the building.
The conservatory is open 365 days a year from 9am to 5pm. Hours are extended until 8pm on Wednesdays. Admission is free, but a donation is requested at the door.
If you’d like to grab a bite to eat before or after your visit, head over to the corner of Augusta Boulevard and California Avenue. You’ll find several great options on this corner bordering Humboldt Park and West Town. We stopped at Spinning J, a bakery and soda fountain bar, for a delicious breakfast sandwich and strawberry rhubarb pie. Their menu features breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pies, desserts, shakes, and more. They’re also BYOB with fun cocktail mixers available.
Other options on this corner include Cafe Marie-Jeanne (a French cafe and wine bar), Haywood Tavern (a bar serving elevated pub food with an outdoor patio), Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar (wine, beer & local fare), C.C. Ferns (coffee & wine), and The California Clipper (1930’s cocktail bar with live music). It’s hard to believe that there are so many fantastic options on one street corner!
Have you been to the Garfield Park Conservatory? What other hidden gems exist in Chicago?