9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Wednesdays 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Admission: Free! There is a suggested donation for special events or activities. Memberships are available and members receive several benefits, including free or reduced admission at over 150 reciprocal gardens and arboreta nationwide.
Parking:Free lot located just South of the Conservatory
Take the CTA Green Line to the Conservatory-Central Park Drive stop, which is located just south of the Conservatory near the parking lot.
Handicapped/stroller accessibility: The Conservatory is accessible to strollers and the handicapped. I was able to bring my double stroller into the bathroom and there is a handicapped stall. Most areas are very accessible, except for the Fern Room. There are several steps down to get into the room and when you follow the path around there are two areas where you have to step on stones in the water. There is enough room near the top of the stairs that you could leave a stroller while visiting this part of the Conservatory. There is an elevator available to reach the mezzanine in the Children’s Garden.
Other amenities: There is a gift shop near the entrance. The gift shop sells sandwiches, drinks, and a few other food items. There is no coatroom, but the Children’s Garden has a coat rack, although the Children’s Garden is in the back of the Conservatory so you have to walk through several rooms to get there. Room rentals and field trips are available. Although private birthday parties are not available, the Conservatory does welcome birthday parties (but requests that you register parties or groups of 10 or more) and rooms can be rented for that purpose. The Conservatory offers activities for children, families, school groups, teens, and adults, and offers the Farm-City Market Basket, available for purchase Spring through Fall.
Food/eating area: Horticulture Hall has several tables and chairs for eating lunch. There are no high chairs available, although the tables were the perfect height for Dexter while he was sitting in the stroller. Sandwiches, beverages, and a couple other food items are available in the gift shop near the entrance.
The Conservatory offers a printable Eye Spy Hunt for children. There are also scavenger hunts available at the front desk, although they seemed to be geared toward older children.
– Palm House – a tropical landscape
– Fern Room – an indoor lagoon created to show how Chicago looked millions of years ago
– Sugar From the Sun– four botanical environments that show how plants take in sun and water and turn it into sugar, and a drop-in activity for children:
- Wild Wednesdays – last Wednesday of the month, 3 pm – 6 pm
A live animal presenter brings in critters for kids to see up close and answers questions about them.
– Children’s Garden – in addition to a wide variety of plants, the Children’s Garden has a giant seed, flower, and flying bumblebee. There are small paths for kids to follow through the plants, and a Crawling Area for younger children, that includes soft foam blocks for them to use for building and climbing. The mezzanine offers a view of the gardens from above, some new plants to observe, and a large spiral slide. During drop-in activities, kids can dig in the soil, play instruments made from plants, help water plants, or play with nature themed books and toys.
There are several drop-in activities for children and families:
- Weekend Family Fun: Discover the Power of Plants – Saturday & Sunday, 11 am – 4 pm Many different activities available
- Family Make & Take Activity – Saturday & Sunday, 1 pm – 3 pm (approx 15-20 minutes) Activities vary by week
- Morning Glories for Families – Monday, 10 am – noon Activities vary by week, $2 donation requested to cover materials
– Desert House – an array of cacti and succulents
– Aroid House – includes many houseplants and “Persian Pool”, 16 yellow lily pads by glass artist Chihuly
– Show House – the site of the flower shows for each season
– Horticulture Hall – an extension of the Show House, displaying seasonal flowers, as well as a fountain. Horticulture Hall also has tables and chairs for eating lunch.
– Outdoor gardens– The City Garden is open year round. The Demonstration Garden and Monet Garden are open May 1 – November 1. Since we generally visit the Conservatory when it’s cold, we haven’t explored the outdoor gardens yet, but look forward to it in May.
We paid: Nothing
Although I’m sure the Conservatory is a wonderful place year-round, we always seem to find ourselves there in the winter. This is a great place to go when you’ve had enough of cold and snow, and wish you were on a tropical beach. The plants and flowers are so beautiful and it’s rarely crowded. The kids get a chance to walk around and play and the Children’s Garden is a lot of fun. I love having lunch in Horticulture Hall. It’s beautiful and the kids like running around and looking at the fountain when they’re done eating.
A couple recommendations:
- Dress in layers (you & the kids), especially if it’s cold out. Some of the rooms are cooler, and some are tropical, so it’s nice to be able to strip down to short sleeves. We wore winter coats & hats because it was cold out, had sweatshirts for some rooms, and short sleeves in others.
- The Conservatory is in a higher crime area of Chicago. This shouldn’t scare you away, but if you’re not familiar with Chicago you should be aware of it. I-290 is close to the Conservatory if you feel more comfortable traveling on expressways.
- Be sure to check out the drop-in activities in the Children’s Garden.