As we were walking into the Lincoln Park Zoo, I just happened to glance over to the left after snapping a photo of the kids, and across a large grassy open I saw a beautiful old building with a glass roof. The building, a Victorian-era glass house set among the flowers and trees of the park, is stunning. And, when I found out it was the Lincoln Park Conservatory and that admission is free, I knew we had to check it out.
We wrapped our zoo visit just as it began raining, so we ducked out the zoo’s North Gate and ducked into the Conservatory to view the flowers and plants and avoid getting soaked!
The Lincoln Park Conservatory is small but well worth your time.
Designed by Joseph L. Silsbee, a well-known Victorian-era architect, the Conservatory was constructed in stages between 1890 and 1895 to showcase exotic plants and to grow the thousands of flowers needed for use in parks across Chicago. Owned and operated by the Chicago Park District, the Conservatory sits next to the expansive Lincoln Park Zoo and provides visitors a lush oasis filled with tropical palms and ancient ferns.
The Conservatory displays exotic plants from around the world in four display houses:
- Palm House: The Palm House has more than two dozen different types of palms, including unusual varieties like the Dwarf Sugar, Bottle, Fiji Fan, and Everglades palms. The Palm Room also contains many food plants, including breadfruit, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, papaya, coffee, sugarcane, and cacao.
- Fern Room: The Fern Room contains cycads, the most ancient group of plants, with fossil records dating back at least 250 million years. Cycads are sometimes confused with plans and ferns, but they are really more closely related to conifers and the ginkgo tree.
- Orchid House: Orchids are the largest and most diverse family of plants. The orchid house has hundreds of orchids, as well as bromeliads and tropical carnivorous plants.
- Conifer Garden: An outdoor conifer garden surrounds the west and south sides of the Conservatory. This collection includes more than 150 trees and shrubs, including a number of dwarf varieties.
Know Before You Go
- The Lincoln Park Conservatory is located next to the Lincoln Park Zoo at 2391 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60614.
- The Conservatory is open every day of the year from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Admission is usually free unless there is a special event.
- You can wander through the Conservatory on your own, or take a docent led tour. For specific dates and times of the tours, call 312-742-7736.