I spent my early childhood in Wisconsin and another four years when my husband's job took him there. It is a beautiful and scenic state!
Among other things, Milwaukee is known for its wonderful parks and gardens. The star attraction in their collection is definitely the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, which residents lovingly refer to as "The Domes."
Almost everywhere one travels in Milwaukee the esplanades are artfully landscaped in addition to what they achieve in the parks. In the summertime, bright blooming flowers are sure to catch one's eye and brighten even the darkest of days. Who doesn't appreciate a montage of mixed and colorful beauties alongside the road?
The Milwaukee County Parks received a Gold Medal Award by the National Recreation and Park Association for their management program. Thus it is not just my observation that Milwaukee excels in their horticultural endeavors. They have been singled out and recognized for their successful efforts in helping to make that midwest city that sits on the banks of Lake Michigan most attractive.
Most people that go to this park like to visit the inside of the domes. Since Wisconsin is located in the snow belt and for many months of the year, the grounds are often covered with an accumulation of icy white snow crystals, making the warm interiors of the domes even more inviting.
History of The Domes
The original conservatory in that location was built in 1898 but the on-site greenhouse needed so much repair that it was decided to demolish it in 1955 and build something new instead.
A local architect Donald Grieb was consulted and he successfully bid upon and was hired for the new project. He designed three beehive-shaped domes to replace the old greenhouse. The total cost was 4.5 million dollars, and it was completed in 1967.
Each dome is 140 feet in diameter at the base and is 85 feet in height providing 15,000 square feet of space in which to house the plants, birds, water elements and the like. The entire park now consists of 60 acres.
The exterior grounds are also nicely landscaped, although the sunken garden feature that we enjoyed many years ago was removed in the 1980s due to budget cuts. You can see what the sunken gardens looked like in an old postcard below as well as my photo at the top of this page.
Postcards From The Domes
This same information posted below is on the back of both oversized postcards shown above.
"The unique, space-age "Domes" of the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, in Milwaukee, duplicate climates and plant communities from around the world. In addition to the Tropical and Arid Domes, the "Show Dome" presents exciting displays of horticultural beauty.
Read More from WanderWisdom
The Conservatory is located at South Layton Boulevard (South 27th St.) and W. Pierce Street. It is open to the public from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. daily and weekends, except on Monday when closing is at 5:00 P.M.
A MAJOR UNIT OF THE MILWAUKEE COUNTY PARK SYSTEM
Published by CREATIVE COMMUNICATIONS * Milwaukee 53213"
Written on back of the postcard shown above is the following:
"Displayed in these domes are varieties of living trees, shrubs, cacti, and flowering plants from all continents. Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A MAJOR UNIT OF THE MILWAUKEE COUNTY PARK SYSTEM"
Hours and Admission
The hours of operation are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Wednesday to Friday, and 9 AM to 4 PM Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. The hours are extended beginning October 1st and help to accommodate more visitors throughout the holiday season.
Ticket prices are low and range from $6.00 to $8.00, and admission is free to Milwaukee County residents on Monday mornings.
The Domes are also opened from 6:30 to 8:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a variety of live musical entertainment from October to November and January to March. The same ticket prices apply.
40 Seconds In...this Videotaped Light Show Really Takes Off...
Musical Groups and Light Shows Inside the Domes
I have personally never seen the musical groups performing nor the light shows that are shown during the breaks and at the end of each performance. I do not believe that these extras were in effect when we lived in Wisconsin and visited the Milwaukee area.
What a beautiful sight that must be with the outside grounds blanketed in white snow with the glass domes lit up in intermittent jewel toned colors pulsing to the music!
Arid Dome / Mitchell Park Domes / Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Different plants are featured inside each Dome. The Arid Dome (as shown in the picture above) is filled with cactus, trees, and plants that exist in desert type regions of the Americas and Africa.
Pathways lead one through this interesting collection of water conserving plants.
The Domes are interconnected through a central passageway.
The Tropical Dome is filled to the brim with palm trees, banana plants, orchids, bromeliads, water elements including a waterfall, free-flying birds, and other plant-life that thrives in a more humid environment.
Just as in the Arid Dome, one can meander through this Tropical Dome at one's own pace even sitting on benches and absorbing the atmosphere if desired. Once inside, one can linger as long as one likes (within operating hours, of course!).
Floral Show Dome
The Floral Show Dome is changed out a total of five times during the year and showcases seasonal flowers and things appropriate to the season.
Apparently one of the favorite and returning shows is during the Christmas season when a huge model train display is operational in addition to the other holiday decorations and flowers that one might expect to see.
We were told that in the spring one might expect to see masses of tulips and other bulb plants. Chrysanthemums could be expected to be viewed in the fall.
In addition to typical varieties of plants this seasonally decorated Dome also portrays a specific theme. At times it might feature another country. They spend time and effort to keep it fresh and appealing particularly for returning visitors.
These domes are truly a thing of beauty. Some brides and grooms have chosen to begun their married lives by having their nuptials performed inside the domes. Special events like that can be arranged if desired.
If you are a person who likes to visit gardens when touring a new area be sure to check out the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If you have time visit some of Milwaukee's other parks. I believe you will be duly impressed!
Future of The Domes
These domes obviously require a lot of upkeep and expense. There was some thought given to possibly tearing them down after these many years of operation. At times they have been temporarily closed for repairs.
Fortunately, they have now been named a "National Treasure" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Personally, I hope that they remain a notable fixture in the Milwaukee Park System so that generations of people can visit them long into the future.
Published on March 22, 2017, see the video below for more information.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is parking free at the Mitchell Park Garden Domes?
Answer: Yes, the parking is free at Mitchell Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Question: When will the Easter show be available?
Answer: April 11 will be the start of the "April Showers Spring Floral Show" this year of 2020. Here is a website that will inform you about the seasonal shows on a month to month basis: https://milwaukeedomes.org/events-calendar
© 2009 Peggy Woods