Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI

Olbrich Botanical Gardens is one of our favorite places in Madison, Wisconsin. Located on a 16-acre campus near the shores of Lake Monona, the gardens are a short walk/drive to many of the restaurants, theater’s, and shops lining Williamson (“Willy”) Street and the city’s more bohemian neighborhoods.

Outside Garden

Highlights of the visit include a Sunken Garden with an eighty-foot reflecting pool and a perennial garden with a meandering stream (we love the paths behind the man made outdoor waterfall). The stone tower in the Rose Garden overlooks the entire property with views of Lake Monona in the distance.

Outside Conservatoryby Sharon Cybart

Credit: Sharon Cybart

On the far edge of the campus, visitors cross over Starkweather Creek to the relatively new Thai Pavilion and Garden. You can’t miss the gold leaf etchings on the authentic pavilion built in Thailand and disassembled for its journey around the world (having recently traveled to Thailand, I concur with the structure’s authenticity). If you are looking for a backdrop for a family photo, the pavilion makes for an interesting and beautiful backdrop.

Where to Stay

Find family-friendly accommodations in Madison, Wisconsin from traditional hotels to private vacation rentals through Stay22.com:

Thai Pavilion

While Olbrich Botanical Gardens are lovely in spring, summer, and fall, the main (only) attraction in the winter months is the tropical heaven that is the Bolz Conservatory and its 50-foot glass atrium with palm trees, orchids, waterfalls, and wooden bridges crossing over streams full of gold fish (bring your pennies as guests are welcome to toss them in the water attached to a wish).

Credit: Sharon Cybart

Credit: Sharon Cybart

Each year, the Gardens hold a few popular (and fun) events; notably Blooming Butterflies (mid-July to mid-August); the Holiday Express Model Train and Flower show (December); Children of the Rainforest cultural performances (January and February), and concerts in the main lawn that run all summer long.

Credit: Sharon Cybart

Credit: Sharon Cybart

Also worth noting is admission to the outdoor gardens is free, and (without an annual membership) rates to the Bolz Conservatory are $2/person for anyone over age five (save Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 10am to 12pm, when the conservatory is free to everyone).

An accessible tram travels the outdoor gardens on weekends spring and fall, and daily during summer, for people who need assistance getting around the gardens.  Before you leave, check out the gift shop featuring books, children’s nature toys, and garden-related gifts (also coffee and ice cream treats just across the hallway and near the main entrance doors).

Outdoor Gardens: April-Sept, 8 am-8 pm; Oct 9 am-6 pm; Nov-Mar, 9 am-4 pm
Bolz Conservatory: 10am-4pm daily (and 5pm on Sunday)

3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704 | 608-246-4550
Visit www.olbrich.org for more information.

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About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.