The Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin features 16 perfectly landscaped acres (6.5 hectares) that botanists will go crazy over. In addition, the stunning Bolz Conservatory is filled with tender tropical plants, birds flying overhead, and entering it feels as though you have landed in a pristine equatorial destination, which makes it a marvelous escape during Madison’s rather dreary winters. If you are looking for a place to spend an afternoon outdoors, or to beat a rainy day indoors, look no further than the stellar Olbrich Botanical Gardens.
The Olbrich Botanical Gardens keeps things fresh by offering numerous special events and exhibits that change frequently. Currently on the docket, there are butterflies flying freely throughout the Bolz Conservatory. In addition, free guided walks through the garden are offered every Sunday until October 15. Later this fall, there will be a Thai festival held in the Thai Pavilion and Garden on September 24 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. — what a great way to experience culture in stunning surroundings.
In addition to exhibits and events, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens provides enriching, educational workshops. An upcoming workshop (on August 22) focuses on herbal teas that can be harvested directly from the grounds of the botanical garden. Other educational courses including preparing your garden for the winter, container gardening, and more. All workshops and courses come with a fee, but they are generally affordable with the majority costing about 17 USD.
Events, exhibits, and educational workshops happen year-round at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, so be sure to check their events page and education page for more details.
Areas of the garden
The highlight of the Olbrich Botanical Gardens is its Thai Pavilion and surrounding Thai Garden. This is the only authentic Thai Pavilion in the continental US, and I can certainly say that the golden pavilion is very eye-catching! This spot is popular for photos including wedding and engagement photos, so you’ll likely want to bring your camera along! The Thai Pavilion is also surrounded by pools of water, and the reflection of the golden pavilion and surrounding flora are really stunning.
Another highlight of the garden is the perennial garden, which features numerous flowers that are hardy in the Midwest’s cold winter/hot summer climate.
The Bolz Conservatory is my personal favorite spot in the Olbrich Botanical Gardens due to its tropical climate and wide variety of colorful tropical species. Keep your eyes open for several species of orchids as well as exotic carnivorous plants. Birds are also free to flit throughout the conservatory, which also makes this a fun spot for ornithologists of all calibers.
Tips for visitors
Those traveling on a budget will love to know that visiting the outdoor gardens is free and admittance to the observatory only costs 2 USD.
This botanical garden is easy to reach by car or bus from downtown Madison. If you are arriving by car, you’ll find ample free parking available on-site. Those arriving by public transportation can take bus number 37 from the Capitol Square area (catch the bus on E. Washington St.) and ride for about 10 minutes, alighting at the Atwood & Lakeland stop. A short walk from there will take you to the botanical gardens. A bus ticket costs 2 USD without a regular pass.
Gorgeous flora and great surrounding restaurants
A visit to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a wonderful day out as a solo adventure, with friends, as a couple, or with your family. The affordability of this spot and convenience to downtown Madison puts this up there on my top list of things to do in Madison.
If you are hungry after your visit, there are numerous restaurants nearby that offer delicious, quality food including Lao Laan-Xang Restaurant, Lazy Jane’s Café and Bakery, and Daisy Café and Cupcakery.
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