Saturday, August 24, 2013

Garfield Park Conservatory

Little Hugger went here with her camp this summer and was eager to take us all.  I had heard about it a few times through the years but had never been so we packed up some lunches and headed out.  I knew the Conservatory was in a not so great area but wasn't really sure what to expect.  Garfield Park is pretty big and at first we parked at the Fieldhouse.  Once I realized we were in the wrong place I checked the map on my phone and realized we were only half a mile from the Conservatory.  Given that it's a big park I figured we'd just walk.  Unfortunately my GPS wasn't cooperating real well and the streets that wind through the park aren't very clearly marked.  After a little wandering and coming across one guy half way through drinking a 40 at 1030 in the morning with a half empty fifth of whiskey by his feet and a couple of other unsavory characters, I took the kids back to the car and drove the half mile to the proper parking lot (which was in the opposite direction from where he had been heading).

The Conservatory is a huge greenhouse with multiple rooms as well as gardens.  Unfortunately one large room is currently closed as the glass roof was ruined in a hailstorm a few years ago and is being replaced.  Admission is free although there is a drop box for donations.  There is a small gift shop that sells snacks and drinks but picnicking is fine and there are a few tables inside and out for that purpose.

At the front desk they give the kids a "Backyard Bingo" card with pictures of things to look for around the Park, and stickers to mark their card.  Little Hugger was convinced that if you got bingo you'd get a prize at the gift shop, but I think that was just something her camp did, as I didn't see it publicized anywhere.

The first room you enter is the Palm House which is as warm and tropical as it sounds, lots of different kinds of palm trees as well as other tropical plants and flowers.  There are a few paths within each room so that you can really get up close to the plants.

Kids are encouraged to touch the plants (with the exception of the carnivorous ones and the cacti), and my kids had fun petting furry moss and soft leaves and flowers along the way.

 Notice the "googly" eyes someone put on this lobster claw plant

The aptly named "Fern Room"

the "Aroid House" including some Chiluly lilypads left from his exhibit some years go
On the back side of the building is terrace which has a path made of tumbled blue glass and pebbles.  Little Hugger LOVES collecting rocks and sea glass and had come home from her field trip with pockets full of the blue glass.  Little Man thought they were cool and picked up a few of his own.  We brought a few more home this time.

There's a large field behind the conservatory which Little Man had fun running back and forth on while my daughters looked at the pretty flowers.  There is a group of little hills that they rolled down over and over.

There is an area of the demonstration garden with smallish tree trunks and large pond fronds and other natural materials that the kids can use to build forts.  My kids spent a lot of time here.

We spent about four hours at the Conservatory wandering around the different rooms and playing outside. Definitely a worthwhile trip.  On the way back to 290 to get home (a straight shot down Pulaski) I got turned around a bit and had to go around a block to get back on track - through another not so great area.  Nothing happened and I never felt unsafe, but I would recommend staying on the main roads.  

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