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Do the Domes!

Think quickly! When was the last time you visited The Domes? Just a few years ago, you say, then you realize your last visit was actually during a fifth grade field trip.

It's likely not all that much has changed since your last trip to one of Milwaukee's most recognized landmarks, officially known as the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, but that's no excuse not to pay it a visit. Why not do the Domes for the first time all over again?

Designed by local architect Donald Grieb (he was awarded the project in a design competition), construction began back in 1959. With a total cost of only $4.5 million, the three beehive-shaped glass domes were completed in 1967 and were ahead of their time (witness Sir Norman Foster's recent projects at the British Museum and Berlin's Reichstag).

Each of the three domes are 140 ft. in diameter at the base and 85 ft. tall, offering 15,000 sq. ft. of space for plant display. Currently, the buildings consist of the Arid Dome, the Tropical Dome and the Floral Show Dome.

The Domes are, of course, filled with hundreds of plants, flowers and trees from their respective climates, but here at we're not much for botany. We do know this, however: the Domes are nice and warm all year round, and they smell just great. The technical stuff below comes from the Milwaukee County Parks Department:

The Arid Dome:
The Arid Dome is home to one of world's finest collections of cacti, succulents, shrubs and arid-land bulbs grow. An Oasis of Pampas grass and desert palms beckons as paths lead you past many plant oddities with intriguing geometric forms, subtle coloration and unique adaptations to hot, dry habitats. Plants hail from the deserts of Africa, Madagascar, South America and North America

The Tropical Dome:
The Tropical Dome is a collection of plants from the rainforests of five continents. Showy flowers, fruits, nuts, spices and a multitude of orchids and bromeliads surround you as you're drawn toward a rushing waterfall in this paradise. Colorful birds and iguanas actually make their home in the dome!

The Floral Show Dome:
Five seasonal displays each year will delight you with their beauty and will serve to inspire your own gardens.

The Domes, 524 S. Layton Blvd. (a/k/a 27th St.), are open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 365 days a year. Admission is free to Milwaukee County residents every Monday from 9-11:30 a.m., except holidays. For adults, 18 and over, the admission is $4.50. Seniors, people with disabilities and kids ages 6-17 get in for $3. Children under five enter free. For more information, call (414) 649-9830.


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