The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park in St. Paul is one of my favorite places for a quickie tropical vacation. It can be a sub-zero January day outside, but in the conservatory, it’s always warm, humid and a little bit tropical.
The conservatory opened in 1915 and is built in the classic glasshouse style of the Victorian era with wings off of a center domed area. Now on the National Registry of Historic Places, it is one of very few surviving glasshouses from that era. The conservatory has several functions. It hosts two major plant shows each year, one in December and January with a holiday theme and another in the spring. Year-round, the conservatory has a large display of orchids and other tropical plants, including some impressive palms. In addition to displays, the conservatory is used to overwinter many of the plants that are in the display gardens around the conservatory and the larger park during the warm months.
While it’s fun to just wander through the warmth and humidity looking at plants in the winter, the conservatory often has volunteers on duty to answer questions. It’s also host to a variety of events throughout the year — and, of course, it is one of the most photographed sites in the Twin Cities because it is so often used for wedding photos. If you visit St. Paul, the park and conservatory are well worth a stop. If it is summer, ride a paddleboat around Lake Como, too!