One of my favorite things to do with my kids is walk around a plant conservatory. They are beautiful places to explore… and free! We tend to go on rainy or dreary days because the warm, fresh air lifts my spirits and we feel like we’re on vacation! My kids really enjoy walking on the winding paths and taking time to appreciate nature. Did you know that there are areas and events for kids at conservatories? There are also beautiful areas outside the greenhouses to walk and play! The following is a list of local conservatories, along with notes about each.
Oak Park Conservatory
615 Garfield Street
Oak Park, IL 60304-2001
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am-4pm
Open Thursday Nights till 7pm Starting March 17th
Plant Clinic Tuesdays 2-4pm year round
There are three garden showrooms, a water feature, and outdoor native plant garden. Besides beautiful flowers and paths, there are talking parrots! Guided tours are available for a fee. Rehm Park is also across the street, which was voted one of the 10 Best Parks and Playgrounds in the Near Western Suburbs. There is a variety of playground equipment, sizable sand area, and in the summer the hand-powered trains are out and children can propel themselves around the park on a track.
This free program runs September through May, every Saturday morning 10:30 – 12:30, Sunday, 1:30 – 3:30. It is also open from 10:30 – 12:30 on Monday when there is no school because of holidays. During this time, docents help children and others learn through interactive displays and games in the showrooms. There are new topics every month. Drop in anytime!
Wilder Park Conservatory
225 Prospect Avenue
Elmhurst, IL 60126
April-January 3, 2016: Monday – Sunday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
January 4, 2016-March: Monday – Sunday 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Wilder Park Conservatory has the smallest greenhouse on this list, but it is worth checking out. It is located in Wilder Park, another playground voted one of the 10 Best Parks and Playgrounds in the Near Western Suburbs! It is also near the Elmhurst Public Library, Elmhurst Art Museum, Lizzadro Museum and Wilder Mansion.
There is a seasonal display from Mother’s Day through Memorial Day.
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624-1996
Daily Hours: 9am – 5pm
Wednesdays: 9am – 8pm
Free parking available
A little history: There was a hailstorm that caused horrendous damage to the greenhouses in 2011 that forced main areas to close for several years to do repairs. Last year on Earth Day they were able to re-open and it is a wonderful place to spend time again.
The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden is open all year round during conservatory hours and offers a slide, giant replica of a seed with windows so children can see inside, and smaller paths with stepping stones. Outside there is the Play and Grow Garden, which is open Noon to 4:30 pm daily from March 15 to November 15 and also during activity times outlined below.
Other highlights: We love to walk around the different houses, ducking under arches full of hanging plants, enjoying water falls, stepping over streams, exploring moss covered stones, and watching fish in the ponds.
Special events that children would enjoy:
- Wild Wednesdays: Wednesday evenings you can explore nature, get your hands dirty and discover new things about plants, animals and nature. In addition to our dig pit and spray bottles, they will be inviting a wild animal guest several times a month. Drop in with your young one and enjoy this free family programming.
- Morning Glories every Monday morning: Enjoy learning together with your little one during this weekly drop-in session. Activities are fun, interactive, and encourage children’s curiosity about the natural world. Children and their care-givers rotate to different stations around the Children’s Garden. Stations include planting projects, soil digging stations, tours, story-time, and more. Participation is free, but donations for material costs are appreciated.
- Fiddleheads on Saturdays & Sundays: Each weekend they cook up projects that get kids and families wondering about the plants and the natural world. Visit over the weekend to get a dose of the tropics and keep your kids connected to nature, especially through Chicago’s colder months.
- Scavenger Hunts: Download and print their free conservatory scavenger hunts before you go. It’s an excellent opportunity to teach children about plants and hone their observational skills.’s help organize and focus children on particular plants and are an excellent opportunity to practice observational skills.
Lincoln Park Conservatory
2391 North Stockton Drive
Chicago, IL 60614-3419
Parking available for a fee
There are four display houses, including the Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House, which is home to the annual flower shows.