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By Karen

Updated October 17, 2023.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is a survivor from another era, when ladies and gentlemen took tea in the conservatory and admired exotic plant specimens collected from around the world.

Covid note:  Masks are recommended but not required. No reservations necessary (or available).

conservatory of flowers, san francisco, golden gate parkConservatory of Flowers

In spite of a history of disasters, the Hall of Flowers is still with us and graces Golden Gate Park with its wedding-cake facade.

san francisco conservatory of flowers, entrance and domeEntrance to the Conservatory

Inside this Victorian confection is a lush world of orchids, primeval ferns and carnivorous plants.

And to top it off, the Conservatory of Flowers usually has some cool special exhibits, some of which involve miniature train sets with original themes.

Location of Conservatory

The Conservatory is in Golden Gate Park, 100 John F. Kennedy Drive.

(See map below.)

Conservatory Hours

Open: Thursday - Tuesday: 10:00 to 4:30

Closed: Wednesday

(Closed Thanksgiving, December 25, & January 1.)

Entry Fees

  • Adults: Weekdays: Feb-Nov $13.00, Dec-Jan 11.00 (Sat & Sun $15.00 all year)
  • Youth 12-17Seniors 65+: $7.00 
  • Kids 5-11: $3.00
  • 4 and under: free
  • SF residents,  veterans, and EBT card holders free (with ID).

Admission is free the first Tuesday of each month.

Buy tickets at the door You can buy them online but there is no advantage to it.


Prior to Covid, the Conservatory had docent tours where you could hear about the Conservatory and its plants on their one hour tour. They even handed out plants and cutting to guests. Hopefully they will resume soon.

Audio Tours. The Conservatory has a 30 minute audio tour to guide yourself through the exhibits. You can purchase it ($1.99) at the door or online via the CloudGuide app. See audio tour for details.

Conservatory Light Shows

The Conservatory started a program to light up the surface of the building in fantastic forms, geared towards special events.

It all started with the Summer of Love (the 50th anniversary in 2017), with the facade covered with psychedelic visions.

Annually (suspended in 2020 because of Covid) in November through January, the Conservatory lights up the inside and outside during their Night Bloom program. 

Night Bloom is a sight and sound show, plus refreshments, inside the plant galleries. Tickets are required for the experience inside, while the light show on the outside is free to enjoy. When happening, runs Nov through Jan, dates to be announced. 5-11 pm. See Night Bloom for more info to see if it's on for this year. Very cool.

For 2023, Photosynthesis: the Conservatory put on a psychedelic (very San Francisco) light show on the surface of the building.

Every night after the sun went down, visitors were treated to the light show with musical accompaniment. The changing flower images ran until midnight every night during the summer.

Stay tuned for the next light show!

Conservatory of Flowers Night Bloom, Winter Lights showWinter Lights

History of the Conservatory

The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is the oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America. It was built in 1878-79, at a time when the Victorians were wild about exploring exotic lands and discovering strange new plants.

conservatory of flowers, san francisco, 1897Conservatory of Flowers 1897

Every grand house had its conservatory to display its plant collection, and the passion for orchids became extreme. Orchid hunting occasionally took on ruthless aspect in the competition for the rarest specimens. So naturally, the Conservatory provides visitors with a great orchid experience.

white orchid, san francisco conservatory of flowersOrchids

The central area and dome were destroyed by fire in 1883 when the boiler exploded. More fires related to the boiler plagued the building, and it was closed from 1933 to 1946 because of structural problems.

The ferocious windstorm of 1997 caused extensive damage to the fragile wood and glass Conservatory. Broken glass and structural damage sidelined this popular San Francisco attraction until it reopened in 2003. Fortunately, no problems since then!

Conservatory of Flowers: the Galleries

Entry into this green world takes you through a series of rooms that recreate different ecosystems representing a variety of jungly environments: lowland tropics, highland tropics, aquatic plants and a potted plants gallery.

Lowland Tropics Gallery

As soon as you come into this gallery, you know you're in a steamy, tropical jungle. You may have to take off your jacket. Water drips off the lush green ferns and in the back is the towering, 150-year-old philodendron.

Plants older than the dinosaurs, like the Cycad fern below, with its huge, hanging pods, recreate the primeval environment of 170 million years ago.

primitive gymnosperm, san francisco conservatory of flowersPrimitive Cycad

This gallery also contains a number of food-related plants; you can get a chance to see what coffee, cacao, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and banana plants look like.

Highland Tropics Gallery

The highland gallery is refreshingly cool after the hot lowland milieu. This area houses a collection of plants that live on the misty mountaintops of tropical regions around the world.

A large variety of beautiful orchids cling to the tree trunks, or are presented in special cases. Orchids do particularly well in these cool, damp regions, and the Conservatory has a large collection of them.

purple orchid, san francisco conservatory of flowersOrchids

The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers has one of only four tropical highland displays in the U.S.

Aquatic Plants Gallery

This is a delightful gallery with its spreading lily ponds and hibiscus flowers; watch for the clusters of carnivorous pitcher plants, patiently waiting for a bug to slip and fall in.

carnivorous pitcher plants, san francisco conservatory of flowersPitcher Plants

The Victoria amazonium makes its home here: its gigantic lily pads can be six feet across and support the weight of a child.

lily pond, san francisco conservatory of flowersThe Lily Pond

Sometimes you come across the unexpected amidst the rocks and tree fronds!

stone gremlin, san francisco conservatory of flowers?????

Potted Plants Gallery

The Victorians were big on potted plants; the gallery here presents seasonal displays in its collection of pots from Burkina Faso, Indonesia, India and other parts of the world.

Winter poinsettias, Chinese New Year kumquat and orange trees, and summer begonias are set out in season.

The wood-framed arbor, Asian-inspired, with climbing orchids, is also in this gallery.

wood arbor with orchid, san francisco conservatory of flowersMore Orchids

The Victorians were big on potted plants; the gallery here presents seasonal displays in its collection of pots from Burkina Faso, Indonesia, India and other parts of the world.

Winter poinsettias, Chinese New Year kumquat and orange trees, and summer begonias are set out in season.

The wood-framed arbor, Asian-inspired, with climbing orchids, is also in this gallery.

drawing of vanilla plantVanilla Plant

Special Exhibits

Usually twice a year, the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers puts on a special exhibit in the room at the far left of the building.

They're quite creative; one year they had dinosaur models lurking in vegetation consistent with their geological periods, with a T-Rex poking his head out of the top of the building.

One of the exhibits every year generally involves an elaborate model train set-up, a big hit with the kids, and fun for older train-fans, too. Surrounded by lots of plants, of course.

sf trolley, san francisco conservatory of flowersTrolley Exhibit

One of the exhibits was a recreation of San Francisco landmarks, arranged around a train track.

sf landmarks, train display, san francisco conservatory of flowersSF Landmarks

How to Get to the Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers is in the eastern end of Golden Gate Park, on JFK Drive, just down the road from the de Young Museum (about a 15 minute walk).

Public Transportation

The 5-Fulton bus will bring you reasonably close. Get off as close to Arguello at Fulton as you can; Arguello runs right into the park and past the Conservatory.

Or take the N-Judah street car and get off at 9th and Irving (a longer walk). You can catch either one on Market Street downtown (Muni is underground there).

Hop On Hop Off Bus

The double-decker, Hop On Hop Off Bus takes you out here as well. See HOHO Bus for info and booking.


 JFK Drive in that area is now closed to cars, probably permanently, but you can look for a space on Nancy Pelosi Drive or Bowling Green Drive nearby.

Or park on JKF Drive near the Crossover Drive (in the middle of the park) and take the free shuttle. The shuttle runs daily, about every 15 or 20 minutes, along JFK Drive through the eastern half of the park.  It stops at the Conservatory. See information on the Golden Gate Park shuttle, with map of shuttle stops.

I wouldn't try the street parking outside the park on busy days unless you have a parking angel.

Map of SF Conservatory of Flowers

And nearby attractions in Golden Gate Park.

map of eastern half of golden gate park
(Map data (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA)

Find out all there is to do and see in Golden Gate Park: museums, lakes, windmills, bike rentals, and more.

botanical gardens san francisco, moon viewing platformMoon viewing platform

More flowers? The Botanical Garden (Arboretum) is close by, with 55 acres of beautiful plantings.

Golden Gate Park has all sorts of specialty gardens tucked here and there: the Rose GardenFuchsia DellShakespeare Garden, Fern Grotto and more.

See the Gardens of Golden Gate Park, with photos and a map of their locations.

More to explore in the park...

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