The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is an historic landmark and living museum. It is set inside the oldest public glass-and-wood greenhouse still open in the United States.
It's one of several great museums in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
The Conservatory of Flowers was privately owned for many years. It was gifted to the city of San Francisco and officially open to the public in 1879.
It has undergone several renovations throughout the years. Although it survived the 1906 earthquake with little damage, it had to be closed in 1933 due to structural instability.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers was remodeled and reopened to the public in 1946. However, in 1995, the conservatory closed again due to damage from a severe windstorm.
All of the plants were moved to other locations for storage. After a $25 million restoration project, the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers reopened in 2003.
How long will a visit to the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers take? I usually go at a moderate pace and spend at least an hour and a half. If you LOVE flowers and unique plants from around the world, you might end up spending a little more time here.
However, most people spend most of the morning or part of the afternoon wondering around the different galleries. One of the things I love about this place is that it isn't often too busy, so you can get a close up look at everything in each gallery.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is open and has the following hours:
Those with a San Francisco ID will receive a discounted admission price. Simply show your ID when you arrive to purchase your tickets.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers does sell tickets in advance. You can pick them up online or at the door. They don't often sell out, but it makes it easier if you buy them in advance. They do not sell specific day or timed tickets, so the tickets are valid for any day and time and they do not expire.
When is the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers free day? They offer free admission to everyone on the first Tuesday of the month. This is a popular day and it will take you a little more time to get through the galleries on this day.
You will want to make sure that you arrive early to get your spot in line.
This SF Museum has five distinct and separate galleries. Four of the galleries include a variety of plants from different types of climates.
The fifth gallery is the special exhibit area. Their special exhibits are usually on display for about six months at a time.
The first gallery you'll enter is the Lowland Tropics area. In this area, you'll find hundreds of plants native to the lowland tropical areas of countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia.
There are hundreds of plants in this gallery. All of them are typically found in elevations below 3,000 feet.
Here is a photo of the gallery showing the intermixing of these plants. This is common in tropical regions - so this gallery's plants are set to mimic this overlapping behavior.
The next gallery to visit is the Highland Tropics gallery. This gallery showcases all of the plants and flowers that live it elevations above 3,000 feet.
Orchids are one of just a handful of flowering plants. You'll see a great collection of orchids in the Highland Tropics gallery.
Here are just a couple of the orchids that were in bloom during my last visit.
The next gallery is one of my favorites - Aquatic Plants. This is where you will see several floating plants including water lilies and Lotus. The other must-see item in this room are the carnivorous pitcher plants.
Here are just a few pictures of this room from my last visit. I tried to capture both the variety and beauty of the plants and flowers showcased in this gallery.
Even though I love this room, one challenge is the humidity. As you can see from this flower, it is dripping with water.
Before you enter this room, make sure you remove your jacket or coat. It's much warmer than the adjacent Highlands Tropics room.
Also, my camera lens usually fogs up a little - so bring something to wipe yours off.
After you take a walk around the Aquatic Plants gallery, you'll make your way back through the last two galleries. From the Lowland Tropics gallery, you will enter the fourth gallery - The Potted Plants.
This permanent gallery within the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is a mixture of potted plants. Here you will see a variety of hibiscus, orchids, and other unusual varieties.
It's a very colorful gallery with a lot of plants and flowers to see. Here are just a couple of pictures from my last visit.
This is another area in the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers where you'll need to protect your camera. Since all of the plants are in pots, the room has automatic misters that come on every hour or so.
Many of the plants are also hanging high and sometimes drip water - so just be careful with your camera or other electronics when you enter this room.
From the Potted Plants gallery, you will enter the special exhibits area. The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers always does an amazing job with their exhibits - so don't miss this part of the museum.
The doors are often closed to this area, so sometimes it looks like you're not supposed to enter. However, there is almost always a special exhibit here. These exhibits are included in the price of your admission ticket.
After your visit to the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, make sure you take a few more minutes to head to the unofficial outside exhibit - The Dahlia Garden. You will find this garden on the eastern side of the conservatory. After stepping outside, take an immediate left and follow the sidewalk down the steps to the garden.
This large Dahlia Garden features all for types of Dahlia flowers. The variety of flowers in this garden is amazing, and its colors are the brightest from late June until early November.
Here are just a few pictures I took during my last visit in mid-October.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive on the northeast side of Golden Gate Park. You can easily reach the museum by public transportation, car, or the Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour.
Public Transit: The best options to get to the park from Union Square are either the N-Judah light rail train or the 5-Fulton bus. If you are in Fisherman's Wharf, I recommend heading first to Union Square and picking up one of these transit options. It will make the journey much easier.
Car: If you are staying in Fisherman's Wharf, an easier way to get here is to rent a car for the day. It's one of the few times I recommend this option, but it will take you less time as the park takes more than an hour by public transit.
You will find several parking spots near this San Francisco attraction. However, spots fill up early to allow yourself some time to find a spot.
Parking on the street is available on John F. Kennedy Drive and Conservatory Drive.
You can also park in the Music Concourse Parking garage located right in front of the California Academy of Sciences which is about a 10-minute walk away.
Note that on Sundays, there is no driving or parking permitted near the Conservatory, so visitors may walk or take the free Golden Gate Park Shuttle.
This is another great option, since it includes a stop right in front of the California Academy of Sciences. A walk from that stop to the Conservatory will take you less than 10 minutes.
The Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour is great too because you get to hear more about many of San Francisco's famous attractions along the way. You can hop off here for a while and then hop back on when you are finished. The bus route is a loop, so your final stop is also your original one.
I like the options through Big Bus Tours. They have 24 and 48-hour pass options. Their most popular option is the 48-hour ticket which offers you the chance to quickly see quite a bit while you are here. Visit their site to learn more.
Botanical Gardens: Another one of my favorites in Golden Gate Park is the Botanical Gardens. This beautiful attraction covers more than 55 acres with up to 50,000 plants and flowers from around the world. It's beautiful almost any time of year. It's the perfect stop either before or after the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.
Segway Tour: This Segway tour covers the eastern half of the park. You will cruise by and learn more about the California Academy of Sciences, the Shakespeare Garden, and even the Conservatory of Flowers. It's a fun way to get to know this side of the park really well!
Stow Lake: One place that most visitors miss in the park is Stow Lake. This man-made lake offers you the chance to do a little hiking, hang out in the Chinese Pavilion, and cruise around the lake on a paddle boat. You can also just hang out and feed the ducks. It's a fun way to spend a few peaceful hours in this area of SF.
A Perfect Day in Golden Gate Park: Do you have only one day to visit Golden Gate Park? If so, then check out my self-guided journey for it. In one day, you will see and do as much as possible without having to figure it out on your own!