Fans of the curious and bizarre feel at home at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it houses rare and unusual plants from threatened rainforest environments. Pass a wide, welcoming front lawn and step inside the giant, white greenhouse to discover the beauty of the natural world.
Opened in 1879, the Conservatory of Flowers is primarily a botanical garden. Tropical plants and trees are built into arrangements starting at floor level and soaring up toward the glass ceiling.
Experiencing this unique building at the eastern end of Golden Gate Park can be easily combined with other sites in the park. Whether by bike, bus, or Segway, tours of Golden Gate Park generally include a stop at the Conservatory of Flowers. Tickets to this Victorian greenhouse are available at the ticket booth outside the conservatory for self-guided tours. Docent-led tours must be requested in advance and can include a boxed lunch.
Discounted admission is included in two of San Francisco's popular visitor passes, which allow the passholder reduced entrance fees to a variety of local attractions.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The interior of the Conservatory of Flowers is similar to that of a tropical rainforest. Floors are often wet and temperatures may exceed 85°F (29°C).
- Shoes that can get wet are a must.
- Binoculars or a camera with a telephoto or macro lens are helpful to view exotic plants and butterflies.
- The conservatory is wheelchair accessible, but the pathways through the arrangements are quite narrow. Strollers aren’t allowed inside but can be parked on the grass by the front door.
- Booking a docent-led tour is a must for botanists and other plant enthusiasts.
- There are no restrooms inside the conservatory greenhouse.
How to Get There
San Francisco Muni offers convenient public transportation to Golden Gate Park with the 5 and 33 lines. Bike racks are located next to the east side of the conservatory entrance and near the restrooms on the west side. There are a few public parking spaces in front of the conservatory on John F. Kennedy Drive. On Sundays, Golden Gate Park is closed to vehicular traffic. Take the free shuttle bus around the park.
When to Get There
Arrive when the conservatory first opens to snag a parking space, avoid the crowds, and snap the best pictures of the plants. Weekdays are quieter than weekends when picnickers pack the lawns. The first Tuesday of the month offers free admission. The conservatory is closed on Mondays (except Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day), Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1, and closes at 2pm on December 24 (last ticket sold at 1:30pm).
San Francisco’s Home for Carnivorous Plants
The Conservatory of Flowers is a favorite with kids who love to see the many carnivorous plants. Rare and threatened orchids, aquatic plants, and both highland and lowland tropical plants native to Southeast Asia, Central America, and Africa call the conservatory home. Mist often wafts through the air to keep these colorful specimens comfortable.