Just a few miles from downtown Milwaukee, visitors can visit a desert oasis, elegant floral gardens, and a tropical jungle. The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, also called The Mitchell Park Domes, or just "The Domes,'' features three unique ecosystems that allow visitors to experience climates from around the world. The Arid Domes feature the deserts of Africa, South American, North America, and Madagascar. Filled wil succulents, cacti, shrubs, and arid-land bulbs, you can stroll through an oasis of Pampas Grass among desert palms. This hot, dry habitat may be exactly what you need on a bitter cold, Milwaukee winter day.
Also a pleasure to visit during the dark cold of the winter season is the Tropical Dome. You can walk along jungle trails enjoying the diversity of the rainforest climate. Filled with fruits, nuts, flowers, spices, and orchids, the Tropical Dome is relaxing and exciting. Sit by the rushing waterfall and watch the variety of tropical birds that call this dome home. Finally, head to the Floral Dome, filled with the scents and colors of a variety of blooming plants. Throughout the years, visitors can enjoy one of five displays that delight the senses and motivate homeowners to exercise creativity in their own gardens.
The Mitchell Park Domes have a long history in Milwaukee. Built in 1898, the original purpose was a greenhouse setting intended to serve the public and exhibit flowers. In 1955, the conservatory was demolished. When the city decided to restore the conservatory, a design competition was held. Local architect Donal Grieb created the three beehive-style structures that are familiar to residents of Milwaukee today. They are each 140-feet in diameter, 85-feet high, and offer 15,000 square feet of display space. The redesign was completed and the Domes were re-opened in 1967.
While self-guided tours of The Domes are popular, there are also organized shows that include historical, cultural, and fantasy themes. Plants used in the annual shows are grown at the Greenhouse Center and must last from six to fourteen weeks during the show. The team creating theme displays include a horiculturalist, an architect, an arborist, an artists, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and welders. These are extensive, elaborate shows that attract visitors from all over the state and the Midwest area. Getting shows ready for display can take up to two weeks, and include a variety of modular structures.
Photography is welcome in the Domes, and they are often used as the backdrop for wedding and special event photos. The grounds of The Domes are also a popular destination for weddings and receptions. Educational programs and fieldtrips frequently inolve The Mitchell Park Domes, and few lifelong Milwaukee residents lack a story to tell about a childhood trip to this Milwaukee tradition. Whether you are visiting or you are a resident living in the Milwaukee area, The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is a place to experience the beauty of nature and experience climates from around the world. An afternoon at The Domes is a great escape from harsh Wisconsin winters.