Volunteer Park Conservatory

While this rainy winter continues for another week or two (spring is around the corner – yay!), we decided to catch an early glimpse of spring at the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

Volunteer Park Conservatory

Volunteer Park is a beautiful oasis in the middle of urban Capitol Hill. The park land was acquired by the City of Seattle in 1878 for $2,000. Originally called City Park, the name was later changed to Volunteer Park to honor volunteers who served in the Spanish-American War.

The conservatory is a beautiful glass and iron Victorian-style building constructed in the early 1900s and houses a wide array of plants with often changing exhibits.

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We started in the Palm House and felt instantly transported to the tropics, surrounded by giant Birds of Paradise, Banana Plants, and Dwarf Palmetto palms.

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In the Seasonal House, azaleas and hydrangea were on gorgeous display.

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Chad’s favorite room in the Conservatory is the Cactus House. Towering cacti and teensy-tiny cacti are combined in this room.


The vast collection includes a 95-year-old Jade Plant, enormous barrel cacti, Prickly Pears, Hedgehog and the always interesting Staghorn cactus.


If you go at the right time, you may be lucky enough to see the amazing color brought forth when these less-than-inviting plants offer a bit of color with their desert flowers. The contradiction was not lost on us.

The combination of colors in the Bromeliad House were my favorite.

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The staff at the conservatory does a marvelous job of juxtaposing plants to give the optimal visual effect. In the Bromeliad House is an art display/musical instrument of sorts called the “Over Lyre” – created by sound artist Dan Senn. This lyre is connected to stereo wires, which relay vibrations which set the arms of the lyre into action striking little cymbals. It is a unique piece to watch and creates lyrical (no pun intended) background music as you journey through the room.


Volunteer Park is a great rainy day escape, but is also fantastic in great weather with the sun pouring in through the glass. Run by the City of Seattle Parks Department, with programs supported by “Friends of the Conservatory,” the Conservatory needs public support as well to continue to operate and thrive. We highly encourage people to visit this wonderful oasis, become members, or donate beyond the small admission fee.

Important Travel Notes:

Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Admission: $4.00 for Adults

                     No fee for children 12 and younger

                     $2.00 for youth ages 13-17

                     $25.00 for student groups (ages 13-17) with advance reservations

                    Annual passes also available

                    Free admission on First Thursday and First Saturday of every month

(Your Admission fee helps keep the Conservatory open and operating).

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