When thinking about tropical plants one doesn't normally consider Chicago, especially in the winter. However, the Garfield Park Conservatory offers citizens of this northern Midwest city a welcome break from the cold temperatures.
The Conservatory is one of the top facilities of its kind in the country. Six greenhouses and two exhibition halls stretch out over 185 acres. Hundreds of different plant species are on display and categorized by type into the different rooms. The main entrance leads visitors directly into the Palm House, a soaring room full of a tremendous variety of palms. Next comes the Fern Room, which looks like it could be part of the Jurassic Park jungle. Other rooms include the Desert House, Aroid House, Show House, and Horticulture Hall. Next to the Children's Garden is a separate room called Sugar From the Sun that shows how the energy from the sun is used by plants and eventually humans. Additionally, there are outdoor gardens that can be visited in the warmer months.
Garfield Park Conservatory started in 1908 and was one of the first facilities of its kind in the country. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The building and gardens are located on the west side of the city, in an area undergoing redevelopment. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. There is even a free parking lot for visitors, a novelty in Chicago.