If you’re anything like us, these bitterly cold temperatures have you looking for an escape. How does 75° and 60% humidity sound? We thought it sounded like paradise, so last weekend we headed to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle.
Opened in 1904, this conservatory is the oldest in America! It was designed by Albert Kahn and was initially joined to the Belle Isle Aquarium. The rafters were constructed of wood salvaged from the St. Louis World fair, though those had to be replace with aluminum rafters in the 1950s. It was originally called The Horticulture Building, but the Conservatory was renamed in 1955 after a Detroit News heiress who donated her assortment of 600 orchids to the City of Detroit.
The Conservatory is divided into five massive rooms or “houses” – the Palm House, the Tropical House, the Cactus House, the Fernery, and the Show House. The volunteers manning the Conservatory were so friendly and supplied our kids with scavenger hunts to fill out. This unsurprisingly devolved into a competition but greatly added to their enjoyment and engagement in what they were seeing. Our kids loved finding plants with fun names like the zebra plant, fairy washboard, swiss cheese plant, rattlesnake plant (above), and seersucker plant. Don’t miss the carnivorous plants in the entry room either. Our oldest had just read up on pitcher plants and was excited to see them in person!
Know before you go:
- The Conservatory is located at 900 Inselruhe Ave., Detroit, MI 48207.
- Due to construction through April 2019, it is open on Saturday and Sunday from 10-5. Thereafter, it should be open Wednesday-Sunday. Check current days/hours on their website or Facebook page.
- Parking and admission are free (donations appreciated) though you may have to pay to gain entry to Belle Isle (we discussed this in our post about Belle Isle Aquarium).
- Winter is a popular time to visit the Conservatory, but we had no trouble wheeling our double stroller through.
- The surrounding gardens were blanketed in snow when we visited (above), so it’s worth a visit in other seasons (autumn pictured below) when you can appreciate fully those!