Free things to do in Chicago in the winter

garfield park conservatory

Free things to do in Chicago: Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory

When it comes to free things to do in Chicago in the summer, the list goes on and on. However, the  free Chicago winter events are MIA, and its up to you to make your own outings. In this first winter-themed, DIY, things-to-do post, I’ll send you to the Garfield Park Conservatory. It’s free, it’s warm, it’s tropical and its awesome, but it will make you remember and regret that winter trip to mexico you never took. Why travel though? There’s plenty of free things to do in Chicago in the winter. There’s actually two conservatories in Chicago, The Lincoln Park Conservatory and the aforementioned, under-construction, Garfield Park Conservatory

Most of the rooms are open again after this year’s devastating hailstorm that shattered most of the conservatory’s glass roof.

A brief wikipedia-spawned history on Garfield Park Conservatory:
It was built in 1907 by the famed Chicago landscape architect, Jens Jensen. He was superintendent of Humboldt park in the late 19th century and did design work on several other parks including Lincoln Park, Douglas Park, and Columbus Park. His goal with the Garfield Park Conservatory was to create “the largest publicly owned conservatory under one roof in the world.” I’m not sure if it holds (or has ever held that title), but it is a huge topographic maze featuring thousands and thousands of plants. There are 7 rooms in total, the palm house, fern room, children’s garden, desert house (closed), aroid house (closed), show house, and horticulture hall. Most of the rooms seem to stay at a humid 80 degrees, making it one of the best free things to do in Chicago in the winter. Also, there’s free parking and easy access from trains and bussses.

Waiting out the winter doesn’t have to be all snow and scarves. Garfield Park Conservatory, a historic and tropically heated Chicago landmark, makes a good escape and tops my list of best free things to do in Chicago in the winter.


garfield park conservatory waterfall


  1. […] stop by one of the conservatories. The Garfield Park Conservatory or the Lincoln Park Conservatory is filled with palm trees and ferns, tropical plants, waterfalls. […]

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