Allan Gardens Conservatory is an oasis of vibrant plant life right in downtown Toronto. Located within Allan Gardens, a park in the city’s east end, the conservatory offers the chance to see a wide variety of plants and flowers from around the world and in winter, makes for scenic way to spend time indoors while still feeling like you’re outside (minus the wind and cold). The best part is that the conservatory is open 365 days a year and is always free to enter and explore.
If you’re interested in visiting, here’s everything you need to know about Toronto’s Allan Gardens Conservatory.
The conservatory has a long history that dates back all the way to 1858 when local politician George Allan offered the Toronto Horticultural Society five acres of land on which to develop a garden. Fast forward to 1864 when the City of Toronto purchased the surrounding lands from George Allan, which they then gave to the Horticultural Society with the caveat that those grounds had to be publicly accessible and free of charge. They held up their end of the bargain and opened a new Horticultural Pavilion in 1878, which was used for many special events both public and private.
The story doesn’t end there, though, because in June of 1902, a fire destroyed the Horticultural Pavilion and parts of the conservatory. Following the fire, the historic domed Palm House opened in 1910 and remains one of Toronto’s most eye-catching pieces of architecture.
From there, the conservatory continued to grow and now comprises over 16,000 square feet of greenhouse.
How to Get There
You can find Allan Gardens Conservatory at 19 Horticultural Ave. between Carlton and Gerrard, and it’s easy to get there via public transit. From College subway station take the College streetcar 506 east on Carlton, or from Sherbourne station, take the Sherbourne bus 95 south to get to Allan Gardens.
The conservatory is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the year, including.
What to See and Do
Six interconnected greenhouses span more than 16,000 square feet of plant life representing several climates and landscapes, from tropical to arid. The Palm House is your entryway to the rest of the greenhouses and your introduction to the conservatory. Here you’ll find a varied and vibrant collection of palms, banana trees and tropical vines interspersed with colorful seasonal plants. There are benches here that line the walls should you feel like resting or simply admiring the palms before checking out the rest of the conservatory.
The conservatory is also home to two Tropical Houses where you’ll find a a wide array of plants including bromeliads, a variety of orchids, begonias and gesneriads, all of which combine for a taste of the tropics and lots of photo opportunities.
Similarly, the Tropical Landscape House features exotic species that you would otherwise see in much warmer climates, including various gingers, hibiscus, cycads, and a green jade vine.
The Arid House takes you to another climate entirely and is home to many unique cacti and succulents including aloe, agave, haworthia, and opuntia (often referred to as prickly pear).
Lastly, the Cool Temperate House is worth a stop for the colorful camellias and jasmine, as well as a variety of plants from Australia and the Mediterranean.
Depending on when you visit, there are also seasonal plantings throughout the year.
Tips for Your Visit
Since the conservatory is located within a park, you can also spend some time outdoors when the weather is warmer. The park (Allan Gardens) has a drinking fountain, a playground, and a sandy play area for kids. There are public washrooms here, as well as an off-leash dog area and parking.
There are two other popular conservatories in Toronto, which include Centennial Park Conservatory and Cloud Gardens Conservatory. Location in Etobicoke’s Centennial Park, the conservatory of the same name was designed and constructed in 1969 and the main house is home to over 200 different varieties of tropical plants that bloom year-round.
Cloud Gardens Conservatory is tucked away downtown in the financial district and was designed to mimic the steamy conditions of a tropical cloud forest (complete with waterfall). Here you’ll find tree ferns, palms, and other exotic tropical plants. Don’t miss the walkway from the lower-level entrance to an upper-level that makes you feel even more like you’re of going up into the clouds somewhere in the tropics.