Dear Lincoln Park Conservatory: I’m sorry I ignored you for 15 years…

Most days I feel comfortable saying that I’ve seen pretty much everything my home city has to offer. I’ve been to the tourist traps and the holes-in-the-walls. I’ve ventured to all corners of the city, and after 15 years in Chicago I thought I’d pretty much nailed down what to do and what not to do here.

But then I went to Lincoln Park Conservatory.

I have no idea why I’ve never been there.

It was a stupid cold and sleeting winter day in spring (read: late March in Chicago) and the weather threw a monkey-wrench in a scheduled pre-wedding “Meeting of the Moms.” In searching for indoor, get to know you activities, the conservatory seemed like a great alternative to window shopping in Andersonville, because moms like flowers, right?

Right.

The azaleas in bloom against the city's gloom
The azaleas in bloom against the city’s gloom

More important than winning at a mom-friendly activity, the 120+ year old series of greenhouses, each dedicated to a different plant (with a Palm Room, Fern Room, and Orchid Room, among others) is a wonder to behold, a completely fascinating example of botanical and architectural excellence intertwined, and totally free.*

"Meeting of the Moms"
“Meeting of the Moms”

I think it’s pretty great I haven’t exhausted all this city has to offer and am still discovering things in the place where I live. I feel like I owe Lincoln Park Conservatory an apology. It’s not that I avoided you, I just honestly didn’t know you existed.

The question now is: what else have I been missing?

*Free assuming you make the effort to find street parking, ride a bike, or take public transit. The conservatory’s lot is a steep $25.

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Lauren

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance writer and editor, focused on dance and cultural criticism in Chicago and across the Midwest. Lauren is the dance critic for the Chicago Tribune, editor of See Chicago Dance, and founder/editor of Art Intercepts, with bylines in Chicago Magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Media publications, among others. Holding degrees in dance and kinesiology, Lauren is an instructor of dance and exercise science at Loyola University Chicago.