Where: 524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee
Hours: Weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Weekends and major holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursdays during the Garden Train Show from January 20 to March 18, 2018)
Cost: Admission fees vary, please visit website for current prices
Contact: (414) 257-5611
Though officially called the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, most Milwaukeeans refer to this interesting botanical attraction as simply "the Domes." Architectural, design and gardening experts world-wide likely know about this attraction thanks to its status as the world's only conoidal glass houses. They're easy to spot from several blocks away, too.
A popular place for weddings, events, and a great stop for out-of-towners, the Domes are a fun, peaceful place to spend an afternoon. Just look for the glass conservatory dome-shaped structures on Layton Boulevard on the city's South Side. Visitors will find three distinct climates in the domes: one features a desert climate, another features a tropical climate, and the third, the Floral Show dome, features rotating seasonal floral displays.
Though the Domes themselves are only a little more than 50 years old, Mitchell Park is actually the oldest park in the Milwaukee County Parks system. Originally, the park was home to the Milwaukee Conservatory, a traditional glass-house style horticultural conservatory that was opened to the public in 1899. The grounds also featured a large water mirror, fountains, extensive parterre gardens, and a sunken garden. In 1955, the old conservatory was razed and constructed in its place were three beehive-shaped glass domes.
In 2008, the Domes underwent many repairs and upgraded its lighting system, including the addition of neon halo rings about each of the Domes, making visible from some distance. In 2017, a new "Save Our Domes" coalition launched to ensure updates are made when needed going forward, in part prompted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation naming the Domes to its list of 11 Most Endangered Places.
Year-round are several fun events hosted at the Domes, including a winter farmers market (early November through mid-April), Art in the Green (May), the Mystery Chef Dinner (September) and "Ghosts Under Glass and Dia de Los Muertos Celebration" (October 26, 2018). To learn more about seasonal events, check out the Domes' 2018 calendar here. There's everything from a Scrooge-related celebration in November and December to celebrate the Christmas holiday to a "Shakespeare in Love" floral show this spring (March 31-May 28, 2018).