In a city filled with giant, nearly identical beanstalks made of cement, finding the right place to take in a breath of fresh air can be exhausting. And in Chicago there’s one green space where you can breathe easy with the added benefit of taking in the grandeur of the world’s finest flora.
The community-run Garfield Park Conservatory harbors various gardens and also acts as both a study space and an artistic collection. Upon entry, the Palm Garden welcomes visitors with a gush of moist, humid air and striking shades of green. The Show House, filled with exotic flowers and colored glass, acts as nature’s art gallery.
Every year different plants are showcased in new arrangements, all of which were grown at the conservatory. The conservatory also offers light shows for each garden, uniquely connected to the nature of that plant, or group of plants, and how light affects plant anatomy. There are several indoor gardens to visit in the greenhouse, but it’s the outdoor public garden that attracts flocks of visitors, plant enthusiasts, and botanists.
This sanctuary is open 365 days a year and has 30 available exhibits at a time. Beyond the environmental education and aesthetic spectacle, the Garfield Conservatory is just another place to get back to nature. And once you have, you will want to keep coming back.
Know Before You Go
The conservatory is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Admission is free. If you're coming from the Loop, head west on the CTA Green Line at State/Lake. Your stop will be Conservatory-Central Park Drive, which is approximately a 20-minute ride from downtown. The platform stairs will take you down to the west side of Central Park Drive—you can see the conservatory from here, it's a half-block walk north. Note that the downtown platform's stairs are on the other side of the street, and on the way back, you'll need to cross Lake Street.
Estimate about 60 minutes for a casual walk-thru, or if you prefer to take your time and read the several details plaques, plan 1.5 to 2 hours. There's a children's garden with a small, indoor playground and slide. The Conservatory is wheelchair-accessible, as are the outdoor gardens (though the paths are gravel), and the Conservatory station.