If you google this place (Volunteer Park Conservatory) you will find nothing but rave reviews ("free admission!" "fabulous collection of hothouse plants!" "the cacti are incredible!"), but what stood out most for me was the look of the place.
Look at all that glass. Those angles. Those arches. That's what convinced me we HAD to visit. The kids were less convinced: "We're going to look at flowers?" said Max, incredulously. "Can't you walk around a park here without me and look at flowers? Can you drop me off at the Apple Store first?"
"No," I said firmly. "You will love this place. It will be amazing."
Here is the inside ceiling in the front vestibule - original to the initial structure.
There are five different 'houses,' all with differing climates. As you walk in you enter the orchid section, although I was told that it is more correctly the area where they have rotating displays.
This is the temperate zone: hydrangeas, tulips, ivy, ferns, and mosses. It was so lush and green and cool - nothing like my own garden at the moment, lol.
Oh, for a glass house. I'd be happy to dress in the basement.
A bell of some significance. I was too busy watching Richard and the twins play Dr. Livingstone amongst the ferns (straight hand raised to forehead, quizzical intent look in the eyes) to read the plaque properly, to be honest.
Well, that and admiring those rocks around the beds. Someone deliver some rocks to my front yard, stat.
Maybe a little gravel to go with them?
This was the warmer rainforest area, complete with ant trees and carnivorous plants.
(FDPG wants me to add that there is also a mysterious pond filled with magical coins, guarded by some terrifying carnivorous plants, a pond that she and Dominic imagined had been put there JUST for them, assuming they dared to brave the FLESH-EATING PLANTS)
I think someone's been reading too much Percy Jackson, myself.
The wheels that open and close the roof windows. I kept imagining seeing Miyazaki characters everywhere - wrenching on wheels and looking desperate as silly men in airplane gear chase them.
I think someone's been watching too much Miyazaki, myself.
Cacti. Wheels. Octopus.
This cactus looked so Dr. Seussishly furry and touchable and LIVING that I touched it. An Ostrichcactosaurus!
Warning: this furry non-living cactus has sharp spines
I have about 18 photos of these things. They were so gorgeously round and plump that we stared at them for a good 10 minutes, along with some giggling Japanese girls who also seemed to find them irresistible.
This is a very odd contraption: the boxes at the end set off vibrations that set off the cymbals, so the whole thing plays a delicate rambling wind song tune.
So there you go: our visit to the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Oh, and yes, the kids did enjoy it there, even the Apple-obsessed teen. We spent about 2 hours here, and not once did anyone say "When are we leaving?"
Must be all that gardening, Miyazaki-watching, and Percy Jackson reading we do.