Exploring the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens

By Darcy Larum | April 3, 2018
Image by Darcy Larum
by Darcy Larum
April 3, 2018

Winter in the Midwest can be depressing and drive gardeners to go stir crazy with anticipation to get back out into the garden. Living in Southern Wisconsin, one method I found to combat the winter blues is to visit indoor garden centers or conservatories. Unfortunately, indoor gardens are not very common. However, located just about 70 miles south of Madison, Wisconsin and 85 miles northeast of Chicago, Illinois is a beautiful indoor conservatory known as Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens.


Located on the banks of the Rock River, Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens has an 11,000 sq. ft. indoor tropical conservatory that is open year round. Throughout the year this indoor conservatory hosts a variety of exhibits. At the time of my visit, their Sinnissippi Station Garden Train Exhibit was still up and running, and their In Full Bloom Orchid Exhibit had just begun. In spring and summer, Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens does an annual Butterfly Exhibit, bringing in a wide variety of butterflies. Later in the summer of 2018, they will host a Lorikeet Exhibit, with live nectar-feeding Lorikeet birds. Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens also puts on a yearly light display for the holidays that runs from late November into January.

-placead-They also host many educational programs for adults and/or children. Their weekend family programs, called Sensational Saturdays, include hands-on activities where families spend time learning about nature and working on a project, such as building bird houses or playing games. Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens host field trips throughout the school year as well, offering guided or self-guided tours. There are various classes, programs and exhibits throughout the year just for adults too.

Indoor Garden

In summer guests are able to view the outdoor gardens and walk the trail along the Rock River to the Sinnissippi Rose Garden, built in 1924. The indoor gardens offer a unique view of tropical plants like allspice, palm, pineapple, papaya and lychee trees that we generally would not see this far north. There is also a koi pond and other water features. In the outdoor gardens, guests can view the Eclipse Lagoon, as well as many native plants for the area. Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens has a green roof above the conservatory’s lobby and gift shop to enjoy too. Visitors can plan a whole day trip and enjoy the scenic trolley ride or Forest City Riverboat.

Koi Pond

Daily admission to Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens is adults $8 for non-residents and $6 for residents. Seniors or Veterans get in for $6 as non-residents and $4 for residents. Children ages 5-17 will also cost $6 for non-residents and $4 for residents, with children ages 3-4 only $2 and ages 2 and under are FREE. Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens also offers special group visits and tours, and they host Tropical Tuesdays, where all admission is only $3. The conservatory and gardens can be rented out for weddings and other special events as well. A listing of exhibits, hours, event planning and family programs can be found on their website.

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