Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo Field Trip, Chicago

  • August 27, 2017
  • Chicago
  • 30


  • NOTE: Member ($40) with guest ($50) will cost a total of $90. TO ADD YOUR GUEST: click on the "ADD GUEST" button at the bottom of the registration form and enter the guest information, as indicated. Thank you.

Note: Note: This trip is no longer a joint venture with the theater people. We will only be going to the Garfield Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Estimated Trip Durations:
East Towne Sears: 9:00 AM - 7:30 PM
Capitol Lakes: 8:45 AM - 7:45 PM
Oakwood West: 8:20 AM - 8:00 PM

Guest Registration Fee: $50

Registration Deadlines: Aug 25

Registration Fee inc Van Galder Charter Service w/ Wi-Fi. Lunch is on your own.
Registration is closed

Lincoln Park Zoo Red Pandas

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most stunning conservatories in the nation. Often referred to as "landscape art under glass," the conservatory occupies approximately two acres inside, where thousands of plant species are on display throughout eight rooms in this magnificent facility.  Travel through the conservatory and experience the lush flora and tropical temperatures taking you away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago.  Don’t forget to visit the 12 acres of stunning outdoor gardens during the summer!


The Palm House is home to graceful palms, interspersed with a variety of other tropical plants, and soar up to a vaulted ceiling. Most impressive is the Conservatory’s historic Fern Room with lush ferns, rocky outcroppings and an indoor lagoon that evoke the swampy landscape of prehistoric Chicago. The Fern Room is home to the palm-like cycad; one of the oldest species of plants on earth. Head to the newest exhibit, Sugar from the Sun, and discover how plants make energy.  The Show House displays the season’s best rotating floral exhibit.  Visit the Aroid House and see Dale Chihuly’s 16 yellow lily pads permanently displayed in the "Persian Pool". The Desert House holds one of the region's most varied collections of cacti and succulents.  Lastly, Horticulture Hall is a great place to sit and relax, marvel at the mosaic Morrocan Fountain, or rent for a corporate event or wedding.

The Garfield Park Conservatory was designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen in collaboration with Prairie School architects Schmidt, Garden and Martin and the New York engineering firm of Hitchings and Company. Jens Jensen is well known to many in Madison as the landscape architect behind the Glenwood Children’s Park and the Wheeler Council Ring in the UW Arboretum. Jensen also founded The Clearing in Door County.

Considered revolutionary when it first opened in 1908, the Garfield Park Conservatory was described as a work of “landscape art under glass.” The structure replaced three small Victorian glass houses that were built in Chicago’s West Park System in the 1880s.  The structure, one of the largest conservatories in the world, was quite unlike its nineteenth century predecessors. 

Jensen wanted the exterior to emulate the simple form of a Midwestern haystack. Inside, he displayed plants in the ground as opposed to potted containers. Jensen also hid pipes and other mechanical systems behind beautiful walls of stratified stonework, and created magnificent views across the landscape.

The centerpiece of the Garfield Park Conservatory, the aquatic house or Fern Room, as it is known today, includes some of Jensen’s most beautiful stone and water elements. Jensen marveled that the waterfall looked so natural that people often assumed that the glass structure was built around it. He wanted his idealized “prairie waterfall,” to sound just right, but the stone mason made it sound like “an abrupt mountain cascade.” The workman became frustrated when Jensen had him dismantle and rebuild the waterfall several times. Jensen suggested that the workman listen to Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song.” After hearing the music, the mason constructed the waterfall perfectly so that the “water tinkled gently from ledge to ledge, as it should in a prairie country.”

For Garfield Park Observatory Map,  click Map

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is a world of wildlife in the shadow of skyscrapers. Located within a verdant park just minutes north of Chicago, the zoo has been a natural, free oasis for generations of animal lovers, who visit the zoo to hear a lion’s roar echo off nearby apartment buildings, see gorillas climb trees as the Willis Tower looms in the distance, or forget where they are as they immerse themselves in tropical rainforests, dry-thorn forests or spacious savannas.

The zoo was founded in 1868, making it among the oldest of zoos in North America. It is also one of a few free admission zoos in the United States. The zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  Lincoln Park Zoo is home to a wide variety of animals. The zoo's exhibits include big cats, polar bears, penguins, gorillas, reptiles, monkeys, and other species totaling about 1,100 animals from some 200 species.

Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to connecting people with nature by providing a free, family-oriented wildlife experience in the heart of Chicago and by advancing the highest quality of animal care, education, science and conservation.

For Lincoln Park Zoo Map, click Map

Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately managed institution that depends primarily on the support of its visitors, members and donors to remain open and free every day. More than two-thirds of the zoo’s operating budget is provided by revenue from its food service, retail shops, parking, and fund-raising activities. The remaining portion is provided by a fixed annual subsidy from the Chicago Park District.

Highlights include:

The Regenstein Center for African Apes -  It offers 29,000 square feet of living space, indoors and out, bamboo stands real and simulated, dozens of trees and 5,000 feet of artificial vines for climbing, skylights, termite mounds for chimpanzee “fishing”, a waterfall, a moat, heated logs,  fresh air and sunshine.  The $26 million center is the most expensive building ever constructed at the zoo. Its primary features are three spacious habitats: the Kovler Gorilla Bamboo Forest, the Strangler Fig Forest (which accommodates either chimpanzees or gorillas) and the Dry Riverbed Valley (which also accommodates chimpanzees or gorillas). The indoor exhibits are immediately adjacent to the outdoor exhibits so that they appear to be one.

Walter Family Arctic Tundra - This expansive exhibit is strategically designed for Arctic polar bears, a carnivorous species threatened in the wild due to human impacts such as climate change, which rapidly melts sea ice. Polar bears’ adaptations to the Arctic environment make them dependent on the sea ice for survival, thus creating the need to conserve this species. Walter Family Arctic Tundra can support a breeding pair and their potential cubs. Equipped with naturalistic features, from ice caves to rolling terrain to cool pools, the exhibit evokes the northern reaches where polar bears prowl in search of prey.

Regenstein African Journey - The animals of Africa thrive in Chicago—from stately giraffes to mighty rhinoceroses to schools of colorful fish.  Regenstein African Journey brings the awesome sights and sounds of this great continent to millions of visitors each year, who stroll through four distinct habitats and experience the abundance of life that populates each. This is more than an truly is a journey.

McCormick Bird House - Birds from the tropics, seashores, forests, wetlands and savannas all have room to roost in Lincoln Park Zoo’s McCormick Bird House. This historic brick building (designed in 1904 by the zoo’s first director, Cyrus DeVry) has numerous habitats replicating the rich environments birds inhabit in the wild. Visitors are invited to view the feathered inhabitants in traditional exhibits or step into the lush, tropical Free Flight Area to become immersed in the world of birds.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory (not affiliated with the zoo) is adjacent to the zoo at the north entrance.  Step inside and be transported to another place and time!  We invite you to take a journey to the Lincoln Park Conservatory where you will find tropical palms and ancient ferns right in the heart of Lincoln Park. Designed both to showcase exotic plants and grow the thousands of plants needed for use in the parks, the Conservatory offers visitors a tropical experience within its four display houses: Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House, which is home to the annual flower shows. This historic facility continues to provide an escape to nature to the millions that live in and visit Chicago. No matter the time of year, Lincoln Park Conservatory is always green and lush. Come take a stroll and let yourself be transported away.  Admission is free.


You will have 1 1/4 hours at the Garfield Park Conservatory and 3 hours at the Lincoln Park Zoo.  There will be no formal docent-led tour for Plato members at either location.  You will be exploring the Garfield Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo on your own. 

Cost includes Van Galder Bus Travel w/Wi-Fi access.  Neither the Garfield Park Conservatory nor the Lincoln Park Zoo charges admission though the Garfield Park Conservatory does ask for a donation of your choosing at the door.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo we will be outdoors, so please dress accordingly.  Bring a hat and comfortable shoes.  A day bag with water and snacks, as well as your camera, is advised.  If rain is possible, bring an umbrella.


Lunch is not included in the trip cost.

There is no cafeteria at the Garfield Park Conservatory.  However if you bring your own lunch, food consumption is available in Horticulture Hall or the lobby. And outdoors, picnicking is allowed wherever there are tables and chairs or in the lawn areas. No alcohol is allowed.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo, you will have a number of choices for eating:

 The Patio at Café Brauer is a singular Chicago restaurant experience, offering panoramic views of a restored native ecosystem and soaring skyscrapers. Dine on savory small plates and specialty burgers. Sip cocktails, craft-brewed ales and wine. The Patio at Café Brauer is open weekdays for lunch and dinner until dusk and serves brunch and dinner every Saturday and Sunday.

The Park Place Café features Mexican food, Italian fare, burgers, sandwiches, salads, beer, wine and more. Ice cream too! Indoor and outdoor terrace seating available.

Organic fare, including paninis, salads and other green goodies are available at Café at Wild Things, located above the Wild Things! gift shop in an open-air rooftop setting.

Enjoy Chicago-style hot dogs, fries and snacks at one of the oldest historic buildings on zoo grounds at Eadie Levy's Landmark Café .


The Garfield Conservatory is wheelchair accessible, except for the Fern Room. 

A limited number of wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors using wheelchairs and those who are otherwise unable to climb stairs may enter the Conservatory at the Main Entrance, 300 N. Central Park Ave., via the North or South ramps.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo, wheelchairs are available at Gateway Pavilion for temporary use by guests within the zoo. 

Loans are first come, first served. A refundable deposit of $20, or a driver’s license or state ID, is required.  All public buildings at the zoo have at least one wheelchair-accessible entrance. All of the animal encounter programs at the Farm-in-the-Zoo are wheelchair-accessible. The Lionel Train Adventure ride features a wheelchair-accessible caboose.  

Restrooms are available at Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House, Pritzker Family Children's Zoo, Park Place Café via a ramp, Farm-in-the-Zoo Main Barn, Foreman Pavilion (open seasonally) and Café at Wild Things (open seasonally) via a ramp. 


Bear in mind that our boarding bus route is like Madison Metro or any other municipal bus service. Please arrive early at your boarding stop so you don’t miss the bus. When everyone is aboard and seated, we leave. Arrive early and we will all arrive in Chicago on time to begin our adventure.

– Don’t be late. We can wait just 5 minutes at any one location.

– Pack water bottles and snacks for sustenance on the trip.

Leave Madison

8:10 AM         Bus  arrives at Oakwood University Woods to begin boarding.

8:20 AM    Bus departs Oakwood 

8:45 AM Arrive at Capitol Lakes

9:00 AM     Arrive at East Towne Sears

9:10 AM    Depart for Chicago (Or, sooner if everyone is aboard)

In Chicago

12:00 PM Arrive Garfield Park Conservatory

1:15 PM   Depart Garfield Park Conservatory

1:45 PM    Arrive Lincoln Park Zoo 

4:45 PM    Depart Lincoln Park Zoo for Madison

Arrive Madison (Est)

7:30 PM East Towne Sears

7:45 PM Capitol Lakes

8:00 PM Oakwood University Woods

Non-Member Policy Members must register their guests. Each PLATO member is entitled to bring one non-member guest per bus trip. (Members may bring more than one guest near the registration Deadline Date if seats are available. Check with trip organizer.) Non-member guests pay an additional $15.00 registration fee. PLATO Membership is $60.00/year.

                                                                                                                                    Accessibility Accessibility Policy. On the Badger Bus, you must be able to climb steps to board and exit the bus. If you need assistance, we recommend that you bring a friend to give you a hand. 

In the Lookingglass Theatre, there is step-down handrail support at each row.

Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo Field Trip Mail-in Registration Forms (including instructions):

PLATO Members Form

For further information, contact Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo Field Trip Organizer, Bob Shaw, and 608-255-3486







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Phone: 608-262-5823
Fax: 608-265-4555

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