Spanning 88 acres near downtown Columbus, Ohio, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a horticultural paradise in the city. The attraction provides its visitors not only lush gardens, incredible vegetation and interesting plant varietals, but also features sculpture, classes, events and special exhibitions. With a mission to connect the community through educational, cultural and social experiences, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens seeks to elevate the quality of life for all who venture through its gates.


© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

The origins of the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens date back more than a century and a half, when the land was purchased by the Franklin County Agricultural Society for the site of the area’s county fair. A few decades later, the land also became host to the Ohio State Fair. The site was named Franklin Park in 1884, becoming public lands at that time. Shortly thereafter, the Victorian style conservatory glass house was built, in the style made popular by the Chicago World’s fair a few years earlier. The park became a center for the community, a popular place for weddings, events and community gatherings. This continued throughout the early and mid-twentieth century.

By the late 1980s the park increased its horticultural standing and reputation, becoming home to AmeriFlora’92, a six-month international exhibition for horticulture. This led to a multi-million-dollar expansion of the facilities, including acquisition of surrounding acreage. The early nineties saw another first for the Conservatory, becoming the first in the country to showcase a seasonal butterfly exhibition. This blossomed into other annual and rotating exhibits, particularly art exhibitions that bring together the artistry of nature with that of the artist. The continuing popularity of the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens led to further expansions. In 2011, the Master Plan concluded its first phase of development, including an additional greenhouse spanning more than 9,000 square feet, the establishment of the Community Garden Campus, and a new permanent art installation by James Turrell. Today the park is now primarily composed of four parts: the Conservatory, the Palm House, the Botanical Garden and the Garden Campus.

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2.The Conservatory

The Conservatory
© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

With over 400 species of plants on display, the Conservatory is a veritable living museum for visitors to explore. The park is split in to four rooms; the Dorothy M. Davis Showhouse showcases some of the Conservatory’s finest specimens. A main attraction since 1895, the Conservatory houses floral displays with magnificent colors from glorious orchids to vibrant bromeliads, with seasonal presentations and more. The Pacific Island Water Garden, also part of the Conservatory, features an ecosystem only found on islands formed through volcanic activity.

This area is also home to the annual Blooms and Butterflies exhibition. The Desert Biome and Rainforest Biome, also housed in the Conservatory, showcase two striking and strikingly different habitats. Cacti and succulents reside in the desert environment, whereas lush tropical plants, as well as two Macaws take residence in the Rainforest Biome. The final area to explore in the Conservatory takes guests to one of the most remote environments of the world, the Himalayas. The Himalayan Mountain Biome highlights the flora of this faraway habitat. This room is particularly inviting during fall, when the deciduous trees of the exhibit turn brilliantly bright colors, summoning the change of the season.

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3.Palm House

Palm House
© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Accessible through the Dorothy M. Davis Showhouse of the Conservatory, the Palm House is one of the oldest structure in the park. Still home to some of the original trees planted in 1895, this exhibition is a must see. The striking architecture provides a beautiful setting to browse through the palm trees collected from around the world, with more than forty to be seen.

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4.Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens
© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

The outdoor collections the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are expansive, change with the seasons, and provide an immersive experience for visitors. First arrival at the Entry Plaza, which often is decorated to reflect the current holiday or time of year, provides a welcoming entrance into the gardens. From there, guests can meander through the Crane Conifer and Ornamental Grass Collection, or peruse the more formal gardens of the Grand Mallway.

This garden includes beds of perennials and one of the signature sculptures of the park, the NavStar by Stephen Canneto. The Trial Gardens provides a glimpse into the science of horticulture. Here the Center’s staff test the performance of a new plant each year, including vegetables, annuals or perennials, seeing which ones thrive in the garden’s climate. The Bride’s garden highlights not only horticulture, but architecture, as well, providing a beautiful space for ceremonies, or a quiet moment by the fountain. Finally, the Daylily Garden showcases 850 daylily varieties; this garden blooms from late spring through to summer and provides a dazzling array of color.

Garden Campus

Covering four acres of land, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus is a center for the cultivation of horticultural ideas and inspiration. This living outdoor classroom provides opportunities for learning, from exploring edible landscapes, to cooking demonstrations. Other features include berry and rose gardens, as well as unique and interesting landscape layouts.

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© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is home to more than just plants. This living museum also showcases permanent art collections which harmoniously blend and compliment the horticultural collections. These include the Chihuly Collection, featuring the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, whose vibrant pieces blurr the line between the natural and the fantastic. Also on display at the Conservatory is the work of James Turrell, internationally renowned for his approach to light. Known as Light Raiment II, 2008 it is installed in the building itself. This innovative work illuminates the glass conservatory in a beautiful changing light display made possible by 7,000 hidden LED lights.

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© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

In addition to the permanent gardens and collections on display, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens also hosts a variety of rotating exhibits throughout the year. Some favorites return each year, including Blooms & Butterflies, Orchids, and the seasonal favorite, Merry & Bright. Other one time exhibits include such special features as Origami in the Garden, Bonsai Display, and many more. As these exhibits change throughout the year, visitors are advised to check the Garden’s website prior to visiting to see what’s on.

Events and Classes

As if the abundance of indoor and outdoor, horticultural and artistic collections weren’t enough to entertain, the Franklin park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens also provides an abundance of classes and events for the community. Such events for adults include plant sales, concerts, botanical dinners and more. Family events include craft workshops, animal presentations, and story nights, just to name a few. Classes vary widely and feature topics and curricula also targeted at both children and adults. From art, food and gardening, to health and wellness classes such as yoga and Tai Chi, there is a class for almost every interest at the Gardens. In addition, the Hot Shop, inspired by the work of the glass art found throughout the Center, features daily glassblowing demonstrations and workshops for those interested in getting touch with their inner glass artiste.

Outreach Programs

Working to spread an awareness of and love for horticulture, the Garden’s outreach programs work to inspire individuals in the community. For example, the Growing Green Corps teaches skills to youths interested in working in sustainable and green endeavors. The Fairchild Challenge is a multidisciplinary program for middle and high school students which combines core studies with environmental issues and challenges them to begin to work to solve them. The Growing to Green outreach program is yet another way the Garden gets involved, providing free resources to community gardeners and those looking to beautify their neighborhood. These outreach efforts and community involvement are highlighted annually at the Garden’s annual Growing to Green Awards, recognizing achievement and dedication of those in central Ohio communities.

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7.Plan Your Visit

Plan Your Visit
© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Located just two miles from downtown Columbus, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is easily accessible from freeways and bus routes. As a visit to the center can last throughout the day, visitors will want to visit the garden café for a bite. Botanica, the Center’s gift shop and greenhouse, enables guests to take home a bit of the beautiful experience in the form of a souvenir, work of art or work of nature.

The Conservatory is open year-round, however, spring bulb displays and autumn leaf displays can be particularly dramatic. Holiday light decorations and festivities, however, make the Park appealing even during cold winter months. Classes, events and exhibitions change regularly, so to make the most of a visit, guests are advised to check the website and events calendars prior to arrival. With such an abundance of things to do and beauty to experience, however, any time is a lovely time to visit the Frank Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio

1777 E Broad St Columbus, OH 43203, Phone: 614-715-8000

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Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

  • History, Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • The Conservatory, Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Palm House, Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Botanical Gardens, Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Art, Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Exhibitions, Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Plan Your Visit, Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Cover Photo: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens