We took a short trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin last month to attend a Bucks basketball game. Instead of driving the hour-long trip home after the game, we decided to make an overnight trip it and explore the city of Milwaukee the next day before driving home. The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, nicknamed the Mitchell Park Domes, was our chosen activity. The conservatory gets its nickname from the three dome-like structures, showcasing a different climate, connected by a central foyer.
The Show Dome houses exhibits that rotate out seasonally. When we went, the exhibit was a train show set in the early days of the United States. It looked like a scene out of an old Western movie, so to speak. The train weaved around old-fashioned saloons and horse yards, as well as old plantations and churches. And plants? Yeah, there were plenty of those. And flowers, too.
The train show reminded me of the Wonderland Express exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden but without all the holiday shrubbery and decor. The Great Train Robbery, the name of the exhibit, is a seasonal exhibit and is only available through April 2nd.
The desert dome transports you to… where else? The desert. Plants from the US Southwest, South America, and Africa make up the collections in this dome. I don’t think I have ever seen so many variations of cacti in one place in my life. And if I’m honest, it makes me realize that I’d prefer to not live in the desert. But, I loved seeing the variety of plants from deserts around the world.
The third and final dome is my favorite. The tropical dome houses plants from the world’s rainforests. What I love about this dome is that in addition to the plants, tropical birds and waterfalls work together to really capture the sights and sounds of the rainforest. It made me feel as if I was in a place like Costa Rica and not the winter wonderland of Wisconsin.
The ceiling of the dome, just visible through the tops of the trees, gave this dome a slight Hunger Games vibe that was a little eery.
Mitchell Park Domes- Know Before You Go
The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is located at 546 S Layton Boulevard in Milwaukee. Parking is free. Admission to the conservatory is $7 for adults, $5 for kids (under 5s are free). You should plan about an hour to an hour and a half at the domes. We went shortly after opening (9 am) and there were very few people there. It started filling up as we were leaving, so I recommend visiting the Domes early to beat the crowds. On Saturdays during the winter months, as well as visiting the exhibits, you can also check out the farmers market.
Though the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is a great place for families to explore, really young children may get bored after a while so I recommend bringing activities to keep them entertained. Overall, however, the Mitchell Park Domes are worth spending an hour or so of your time if you are visiting the Milwaukee area.