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?


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 Warnecke is a freelance writer and critic based in Chicago, IL. She is the dance writer and critic for the Chicago Tribune, a culture critic at Chicago Magazine, and has credits with See Chicago Dance, the Windy City Times, Dance Magazine and Pointe, among others. Since 2009, Lauren has blogged about dance in the American midwest at She is also a group fitness instructor and part-time faculty member at Loyola University Chicago

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