Garfield Park Conservatory

While away the afternoon in this huge conservatory housing tropical and rare plants, waterfalls and art.

The Garfield Park Conservatory, located in the west side neighborhood of Garfield Park, encompasses six greenhouses and two exhibition halls brimming with rare and exotic plants. There are regularly scheduled art exhibitions, flower shows and horticulture lectures. Come for an afternoon or a whole day to stroll among the plants, relax on a bench or on the outdoor lawns in summer.

It opened in 1908 and was the brainchild of landscape architect and Chicago Parks Commissioner Jens Jensen. Some of the plants in the 4.5-acre (nearly two hectares) of indoor and outdoor gardens are more than 300 years old. There are eight main displays, including the kid-friendly indoor Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden. Here children can climb and enjoy interactive signposting which teach about plants and how they grow. The Aroid House grows popular house plants around a small lagoon. Don’t miss the glass lily pad sculptures by acclaimed Pacific Northwest artist Dale Chihuly.

Visit the Desert House to learn how succulents and cacti survive harsh conditions. The Fern Room houses one of the oldest plant species in the world (the cycad), lush ferns, and another indoor lagoon. Keep an eye out for the Flower shows which are held year-round in Horticulture Hall and the Show House. They’re designed around spring, summer and the Holiday Season. Expect Azaleas in spring and sparkling lights and festive flowers at Christmas time. To enjoy a tropical paradise at any time of the year, visit the Palm House.

Between May and October the several outdoor gardens are at their best. The Monet Garden is a recreation of artist Claude Monet’s French garden, which served as an inspiration for many of the Impressionist’s paintings.

Pick up arts and crafts, plants and books from the conservatory gift shop. The shop also serves up sandwiches, fruit and salads and tea and coffee.