After visiting the Lincoln Park Steps and oogling the gorgeous mosaic tile work, I wanted to head over to the Hidden Garden Steps, another San Francisco mosaic tile staircase. But Brian had other plans…
In all of the times we have visited Golden Gate Park, we have never gone inside the Conservatory of Flowers and it was sitting between us and the Hidden Garden Steps. Because Brian knows how much I like to check things off my lists, he made a detour to the Conservatory on the way to the tiled steps.
It was Saturday afternoon and Golden Gate Park was a zoo. There wasn’t a parking space to be found, so we parked in the Music Concourse Garage next to the California Academy of Sciences and walked over.
The wood and glass Conservatory building, sitting among the expansive green lawns and beautiful flower beds, is stunning, and inside it is jam-packed with lush, green plant life. The walkways through the greenhouse are narrow and even with just a few other visitors, it immediately felt cramped and crowded. So we tried our best to just focus on the plants.
While the flowers and orchids were beautiful, they looked just like ones we saw at Akatsuka Orchid Gardens in Hawaii, and we thought the displays at the Lincoln Park Conservatory were more creative.
What we did love and spent a lot of time checking out were the dislays of carnivorous plants and pitcher plants. Overall it was a great short stop that took us about 45 minutes… and I got one more family-friendly San Francisco activity checked off my list of things to do!
With close to 2,000 plant species on display inside a Victorian-era glass greenhouse, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park offers an intimate up-close experience with gorgeous flowers, lush plant life, and rare and endangered plants.
FUN FACT: The conservatory has 16,800 window panes and the 60 foot tall upper dome weighs 14.5 tons.
The Conservatory houses the world’s largest public collection of high-altitude orchids, several tropical plant species and flowers, various aquatic plants, tropical plants, and potted plants, and a variety of carnivorous plants.
The Conservatory of Flowers was the first public structure of its kind in the country, the oldest remaining municipal wooden conservatory in the United States, and the oldest building in Golden Gate Park. Highly praised in the world of history, architecture, engineering, and nature, it was named a California Historical Landmark in 1970, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and became a San Francisco Designated Landmark in 1972.
The Conservatory Of Flowers History
When James Lick, the richest man in California, passed away in 1876, he left behind the purchase of a Victorian Greenhouse Kit made of wood and glass. In 1877, a group of San Francisco businessmen, including Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker, bought the Conservatory and donated it to the San Francisco Park Commission for use in Golden gate Park.
The Parks Commission accepted the gift and hired Lord & Burnham, a greenhouse manufacturing company from New York, to supervise the erection of the structure. Once open, it contained a large variety of rare and tropical plants, including a giant water lily, Victoria regia, which at the time was the only known specimen in the United States.
Since it’s 1879 opening, the Conservatory greenhouse and adjacent botanical gardens have survived earthquakes, fires, and years of neglect. But a terrible storm in 1995-1996 blew out 30,000 fogged white glass panes in the conservatory, shattered the white glass dome, and weakened the structure. Fifteen percent of the plant collection was also lost due to exposure to the cold, wintry air and flying glass. After that, the Conservatory was closed to the public for many years.
Once on the 100 Most Endangered World Monuments list, the Conservatory of Flowers eventually received a $25 million restoration between 1998 and 2003 that has allowed the majestic building to once again be opened for the public to enjoy.
Know Before You Go
- The Conservatory of Flowers is located at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, California 94118 in Golden Gate Park.
- The Conservatory is in a Victorian-era glass greenhouse with more than 2,000 species of plants and flowers.
- The Conservatory is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm. It is closed on Mondays, except for Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day. It is also closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
- Your paid ticket is good all day, which means you can leave and come back throughout the day.
- The Conservatory is free to all visitors on the first Tuesday of every month. Groups are not permitted on free days.
- Public Tours are available on most days at 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm as long as a docent is available.
- Get ready for a muggy, humid experience as temperatures inside the Conservatory may exceed 85 degrees.
- Food and drink are not allowed inside, nor are pets, outside plants, and tripods.
- Strollers are not allowed inside, and may be parked outside the Conservatory on the grass.
- The Music Concourse Garage is a 10 minute walk from the Conservatory.
- Please note that on Sundays, many roads in Golden Gate Park are closed to vehicular traffic. Walk in from outside the park or take the FREE Golden Gate Park Shuttle Bus.
- There are public restrooms for Golden Gate Park guests outside the Conservatory.