Visiting The Domes Milwaukee WI

The perfect antidote for cold weather and the winter doldrums?

Why, a visit to the indoor horticultural paradise of Milwaukee’s famous Domes!

Desert Dome in Milwaukee by

Follow along with Flower Chick as we visit Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, commonly known as “The Domes” …

Milwaukee’s Beloved Domes: An Introduction

The Domes in Milwaukee by

The Milwaukee Domes in Winter

Visit Milwaukee in the dead of winter and just about the last thing you’d expect to encounter is a tropical jungle and a desert oasis …

But that’s exactly what you’ll find, 365 days a year, just five minutes west of downtown. These are the Milwaukee Domes, the city’s botanical garden and historically significant Milwaukee landmark.

Driving west on Interstate 94 just past downtown, you’ll spot three glass domes clustered together just south of the freeway. Get up close and you’ll marvel at the site … each dome is 85 feet tall (7 stories) and contains one acre under climate controlled glass …

Welcome to the Domes Milwaukee Wisconsin

Welcome to the Domes – Paradise Awaits!

The Domes have been an impressive part of Milwaukee’s skyline since the mid 1960’s. The project of constructing The Domes dates back even further – the design competition actually took place the previous decade. Simply put, the design is unlike any other horticultural space in the world. Milwaukeeans are quite proud of the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory and it’s the site of many community educational outreach efforts for all ages …

Lovingly managed and maintained by the Milwaukee County Park District, The Domes mission is steadfast – to provide a horticultural showcase as naturally as possible, with rotating floral shows and the protection of rare and endangered species.

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                               Regal Palms in the Tropical Dome

A visit to Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory includes access to all three Domes … Tropical, Desert, and Show. The Show Dome changes frequently and hosts rotating floral shows which vary seasonally and in theme. You can wander in and out of each Dome to your heart’s content and there are self guided returnable tour sheets to help you identify plants and features.

No visit to Wisconsin is complete without a visit to The Domes! We are so pleased to spotlight this significant Milwaukee cultural landmark …

Now, let’s explore each of the three Domes …

The Tropical Dome

The first thing you’ll notice upon entering the balmy Tropical Dome is the wall of orchids … the perfect antidote for below zero windchill outside The Domes on the frigid January morning we visited.  Lush greenery surrounds you and beckons you in to explore this exotic plant paradise …

Wall of Orchids at the Domes Milwaukee by

     Some of the Beautiful Orchids Blooming in the Tropical Dome

One of the next family of  plants that will catch your eyes are the Sensitive Plants (Mimosa pudica).  They’re known for folding their leaves and drooping when they are touched as a defense mechanism.  We made sure to respect their boundaries so as not to offend.  Apparently they reopen later given a little time to readjust.

You’ll be fascinated by the Sausage Tree.  This sub-Saharan Africa tree is beautiful in flower … impalas (the antelope variety not the Chevrolet ; ) duiker, baboons, bush pigs, and lovebirds all feed on the flowers of this tree in its native land.  Greyish brown fruits resembling sausages grow out of these flowers. These large fruits can grow over a foot long and weigh 10 pounds plus!

The trees must be cross-pollinated to produce these “hefty bratwursts”. Interestingly, the Milwaukee Domes gardeners trade flowers for hand pollination with the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago.

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              The Aptly Named Sausage Tree Brimming with Fruit

Make sure to wind around the dome and venture down each path … you don’t want to miss any gems.  Oh my … you’ll spot jasmine, ferns, cycads, and air plants.  These exotic Birds of Paradise took me back to Hawaii – love the bold colors!

Bird of Paradise plant in the Tropical Dome at the Milwaukee Domes by

     The Spectacular & Exotic Blooms of the Bird of Paradise Plant

Not just plants and trees call the Tropical Dome home … we came across colorful Koi fish in the pond area. Also, there are Poison Dart Frogs (never fear – the ones in the Dome are harmless!) and Orange Bishop’s Weaver birds living in this lush paradise.

Nearing the exit back to the lobby, we spied a Fairy (miniature) Garden with small scale plants, rocks and decor. Fun to check out and notice all the details within …

Fairy Garden in the Tropical Dome in Milwaukee by FlowerChick.con

             The Whimsical Fairy Garden in the Tropical Dome

The Desert Dome

Next stop is the Desert Dome. What an amazing contrast to its tropical neighbor!  You’ll notice all the desert plants are arranged by their native desert region: Madagascar, Canary Islands, Southern Africa, South America, Mexico, Sonoran Desert, Baja Desert, and Chihuahuan Desert.

Inside the Desrt Dome in Milwaukee by

                          The View Inside the Dramatic Desert Dome

Succulents of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye can see!  It’s amazing to see palms in this dome as well … living side-by-side with members of the cacti family.  Ponytail Palms, for example, are part of a unique, dry forest ecosystem in eastern Mexico.  Their wide, round bases store water.

In August, an Encephalartos ferox produced a huge red-colored cone. It is only the second time in over 30 years this has happened. The cones are expected to last several months, most likely until spring brings warmer weather.

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               The Magnificent Red Cone of the Encephalartos Ferox

As you tour the Desert Dome you may encounter a bird friend … this dove looked quite happy in his warm, safe, enclosed home.

Doves in the Desert Dome Milwaukee by

                        A Lovely Dove Resident of the Desert Dome

The Show Dome

On our visit to the Show Dome the exciting giant-monster themed model train show was showcased. This G-scale model train garden features spoofs of your favorite classic giant movie monsters. Very clever and fun for all ages!

Train & Garden Show at the Domes Milwaukee by

Don’t Rush Through the Exhibit or You’ll Miss the Creative Details!

Travel the tracks through a not-so-scary, but very whimsical set of cities under attack, creatures lurking in the plants and plenty of hidden surprises. The garden included miniature topiary azaleas and other varieties of dwarf evergreen trees.

Among many varieties of flowering annuals, this show also spotlights a unique eyeball looking plant called Acmella oleracea and a carnivorous plant display to complement this show’s Monster theme.

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                   Imaginative Use of Plants Throughout the Show Dome

Friends of The Domes

Want to be a friend of The Domes? You’re invited to discover the “Friends of The Domes“, a non profit support group dedicated to promoting and supporting the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory …

Friends of The Domes has been around since 1989 and is instrumental in funding plant acquisitions, enhancing the facilities, and coordinating administrative efforts. The group’s efforts complement the support provided by Milwaukee County Parks …

If you want to partner with The Domes, click the link to learn about member benefits and more ways you can help this important Milwaukee organization.

Milwaukee Favorites

For a world class city, Milwaukee is pleasantly compact and easy to navigate. The Domes are located just west of downtown on Layton Boulevard (27th Street). From The Domes it’s a short 10 minutes to Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, the iconic Miller Brewery, and Milwaukee’s lively downtown …

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    Here We’re Touring Milwaukee’s Famous Miller Brewery

We lived in suburban Milwaukee for 3 1/2 years and loved it … and we try to visit often to catch up with old favorite destinations and discover what’s new. For this feature, we’ll just hit the tops of the trees and spotlight a few of our favorite spots.

For more in depth information about this wonderful city, visit the Milwaukee Visitor’s Bureau, where you’ll find even more in depth descriptions of the city’s natural attractions, cultural sites, and things to see and do …

Here are a handful of our personal favorites. The title of each is linked directly to their website to make it easier for you to learn more:

Going Old School, Milwaukee Style

National Bakery: This long running local bakery continues to delight Milwaukee locals. It’s located on the city’s near west side, just ten minutes south of The Domes …

National Bakery Milwaukee Apple Loaf by FlowerChick.comby

Yummy Apple Bread!

The very definition of a traditional old school bakery, National Bakery is a Wisconsin icon. Founded in 1925, many of the recipes are original! The space is actually a combination bakery / deli with cookies, cakes, breads, and assorted baked goods sharing the spotlight with fresh deli salads and sandwiches.

Several varieties of freshly baked bread are always available, along with scrumptious coffee cakes, muffins, pies, and more. We brought home a loaf of frosted apple bread (pictured). Simply spectacular!

Leon’s Frozen Custard: In a state well known for dairy, this Milwaukee landmark has been a go to spot for fantastic frozen custard since 1942 …

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   Leon’s Custard

Located at the corner of Layton and Oklahoma Avenue, Leon’s is just a short drive south of The Domes. Basically a walk up or drive in setup, just order at the front window and you’ll get your order in a matter of seconds. Three or four flavors of frozen custard are available, either in cups or cones. We like the traditional vanilla, but get adventurous if you wish!

Discover Milwaukee’s Famous Frozen Custard – Click Here #ad

Shopping For Bargains in Milwaukee

Retique Boutique Milwaukee is a city of neighborhoods, none more appealing than the Historic Third Ward, located adjacent to downtown …

Retique Upscale Consignment Milwaukee by

   Exterior of Retique Consignment

The Third Ward is home to lofts, boutique hotels, up and coming restaurants, and specialty stores housed in renovated historic buildings. It’s a wonderful area to stroll about and soak up some genuine Milwaukee atmosphere …

At the corner of Broadway and Chicago, you’ll notice a trendy sign indicating the presence of Retique within. Walk in and you’d never guess it’s owned and operated by Goodwill! My first time there I actually had no idea this shop was affiliated with Goodwill Industries until I checked out. My purchases were placed in a Goodwill bag and the friendly cashier asked if I wanted to round up to the next dollar to contribute to their mission. I frequent Goodwill stores as I find them well run and a great source of bargains … but this store looked more like a boutique!

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  Inside Retique – neat and organized

Retique carries upscale, fashionable clothing in great shape and at great prices. Women’s clothing, men’s clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes and small household decorative items … all attractively displayed. You can feel good about the money you save on name brands. Plus, your purchase will support the Goodwill Mission to provide training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence.

East Town Upscale Resale

A Milwaukee Gem!

East Town Women’s Resale Shop Just over the Milwaukee River south of the Historic Third Ward is Walker’s Point, another of the city’s unique neighborhoods. Known locally as the hub to many welcoming local bars and restaurants, Walker’s Point also offers a wide spectrum of shopping options. Flower Chick’s favorite Milwaukee destination for fashion is East Town Women’s Resale Shop, located less than a minute’s drive from the Milwaukee Public Market (more about the Market below) …

Shopping secondhand gives buyers the opportunity to  find designer brands and quality pieces at reasonable prices. Burberry, Chanel, Prada, Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Eileen Fisher, Ralph Lauren, St. John — high-end ends up in consignment, too!  I saw all of the aforementioned labels on my most recent visit to East Town Upscale Resale.

West Town Upscale Resale Milwaukee by

      Upscale Goods at Great Prices

There was a rack devoted to Eileen Fisher cashmere sweaters and another filled with St. John knit jackets.  Nirvana! Designer purses, shoes, boots, jewelry, and more luxurious goodies. All upscale, in perfect condition, at a fraction of the original price.  Check East Town out when you’re in Milwaukee and tell them Flower Chick sent you!

Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market: We happened to visit The Domes on a frigid winter Saturday, but that didn’t dampen our spirits or sense of adventure. Especially so since the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market was up and running right next door in the annex …

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   Inside the Winter Farmers’ Market

This Wisconsin focused market is exactly what it says … a farmers market in the winter. The indoor space is chock full of local vendors offering everything from winter produce to local honey to specialty foods and more. We picked up half gallons of apple cider and some wildflower honey, both from within a half hour away …

Click Here To Discover Wisconsin Farmers Market Cheese #ad

A vibrant, bustling setting attracts visitors young and older seeking fresh choices and the chance to support local vendors. What a fantastic idea to offer this market right next to The Domes!

Milwaukee’s Traditional Eats & Drinks

Milwaukee Public Market: Milwaukee has long been considered a foodie city. Pair that with a worldwide reputation as a brewing mecca and you’ve got a perfect combination for a convivial get together. The Milwaukee Public Market, located downtown in the Historic Third Ward, brings generations of Milwaukeeans together in an appealing, fun destination …

Milwaukee Public Market by

          A Good Time For All Awaits at the Vibrant Public Market

Located on south Water Street, the Market attracts locals and Milwaukee visitors alike. It’s open well into the evening and is a popular spot for lunch and dinner. Ample parking is available and the entire second floor is set up with seating for groups and cozy tables for two …

The main floor offers an attractive mix of casual shops, dining options, and spots to enjoy an adult beverage. Some of Milwaukee’s best known vendors have a satellite shop here, like Kehr’s Candies, The Spice House, and West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe …

Insider Tip: When visiting the West Allis Cheese & Sausage kiosk in the market, be sure to check out the “Cheese Orphans” basket. You’ll find a wide variety of small packaged cheese samples, priced in the $1 to $3 range. It’s an excellent way to try a wide spectrum of cheese styles without committing to buying an entire pound. We “adopted” three of these “cheese orphans” and enjoyed discovering new varieties we hadn’t experienced before …

Wolski’s Tavern If you’ve read any of our “Visiting Midwest Gardens” features, you know how much we enjoy visiting time honored local bars. One of the best in Milwaukee (or anywhere for that matter) is the welcoming Wolski’s Tavern. You’ll find it just north of downtown in the city’s Lower East Side …

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       Enjoying a Cold One at Wolski’s

Wolski’s has been around for a long, long time … since 1908 to be exact. While it’s technically not Milwaukee’s oldest bar, it’s certainly in the conversation and worth going out of your way to visit …

A quiet neighborhood gathering place during the day, it’s very popular with area residents and those from farther afield who appreciate a traditional local tavern.

A great spot for a little “day drinking”, my husband was delighted to see Milwaukee’s legendary Schlitz Beer on tap. We love Wolski’s tag line and agree with it wholeheartedly: “Since 1908 – Must Have Done Something Right Along The Way”. Sidle up the bar, order a cold Schlitz, and enjoy the local tavern vibe at Wolski’s …

Fat Daddy's Milwaukee by

       Inside the Fun Fat Daddy’s Bar

Fat Daddy’s We discovered Fat Daddy’s quite by chance on our Milwaukee weekend excursion. Spotting it on our way from the Milwaukee Public Market to our hotel, it’s located just off the corner of 1st and National in the Walker’s Point neighborhood. This up and coming area just south of downtown has gentrified (with great success) in recent years and is home to some of the city’s best destinations for food and drink …

Fat Daddy’s has been around for over 20 years and is best known locally as a volleyball hub. Walk in and you’ll notice an adjacent outdoor volleyball space … the bar hosts local volleyball games and tournaments in the warmer months.

We stopped in mid afternoon and blended in with a festive group of locals enjoying the drinks and Fat Daddy’s expansive jukebox. The beer selection on tap is impressive … over 20 rotating taps. We were lucky to be there when the wonderful Point Special Lager was available on draft. Point is a Stevens Point, Wisconsin staple brewed at one of the Midwest’s oldest breweries. Clean, crisp, and easy to enjoy, we seek out this great beer every time we’re in Wisconsin.

Discover the Stevens Point Brewery – Click Here #ad

Farther Afield

If you’re traveling to or from Chicago, be sure to stop and visit two of our favorite Lake Michigan shoreline cities, Racine and Kenosha. Both of these beckoning Wisconsin destinations are between Milwaukee and Chicago and offer attractions you’ll love. We’ve spotlighted both in our “Visiting Illinois Beach State Park and SE WI” feature which you’ll find here

Kenosha WI lakefront

                  Beautiful Views From the Kenosha Lakefront

Insider Tip: From Milwaukee going south or from the state line going north, opt for State Highway 32 if you have the time. You’ll drive right through both Kenosha and Racine and can experience what makes these two Lake Michigan shore towns special. Plus, you’ll be rewarded with frequent spectacular Lake Michigan views!

Visiting The Domes Milwaukee WI Summary

A visit to Milwaukee isn’t complete without stopping at the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory and the three delightfully and distinctly different domes.  Best of all you can call on these treasures all year round to experience the tropical, desert, and show themed gardens under glass.

We hope you enjoyed our Milwaukee area post and we’d love to hear from you about your experiences at the Domes and surrounding areas.  Drop us a line at our Contact Page … we love to hear from our readers!

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               The Colorful, Exuberant Koi Fish in the Tropical Dome

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