Visiting The Domes With Kids: Fun Facts & Pro Tips

Let’s talk about one of our city’s coolest spots – The Domes!

This living museum is the world’s only conoidal glass house, where it’s warm, sunny, and full of life all year round.

The Domes – each soaring 7 stories high – are uniquely shaped to catch the sun just right, making sure all the leafy friends and animals inside get the light and warmth they need.

Photo: Visit Milwaukee

Every plant is watered by hand daily and beneficial bugs helping keep things balanced.

From towering cacti in the Desert Dome to lush tropical vibes in the Tropical Dome, there’s a slice of nature’s magic waiting for you.

Let’s explore one dome at a time.

Desert Dome

First stop: Milwaukee’s Desert. The Desert Dome, that is, where you’ll get a glimpse into the planet’s driest spots in one giant greenhouse.

The temperature is kept at a cool 50 degrees to mimic a desert winter.

What To Discover

  • World of Cacti: Marvel at over 2,000 species, from the towering Saguaro to the spiky Golden Barrel. Each cactus tells a story of resilience and adaptation.
  • Meet Steve the Bearded Dragon: Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Steve, the friendly resident who embodies the spirit of desert fauna.
  • Madagascar Collection: A botanical rarity, this collection showcases the unique flora of Madagascar, offering a glimpse into an ecosystem like no other.
  • Canary Islands Collection: Wander through a mini “island” of diverse plants from the Canary Islands, including the legendary dragon blood tree.
  • Desert Blooms: Be amazed by the unexpected color and aroma during spring and summer, showcasing the desert’s vibrant side.
Be sure to say hi to Steve, the resident Bearded Dragon.

Fun Facts

  • The Dragon Blood Tree in the Canary Island Collection can grow to an immense size and live for over a thousand years. It was named because its red sap was once marketed as “dragon’s blood” during medieval times. 
  • Look for Date Palms, Prickly Pear, and the Argan Tree, which produces edible nuts and an oil used for cooking and beauty products.
  • Can you find the Elephant’s Food plant? Its leaves are used as a medicine for treating exhaustion and dehydration.
  • In the deep pond shaded by date palms, you will find aquatic papyrus plants, used by ancient Egyptians to make paper.

Pro Tips

  • Capture Moments: The dome’s majestic cacti and unique residents like Steve provide perfect photo ops.
  • Dress Accordingly: With cooler temperatures maintained during the colder months, a light jacket or sweatshirt will keep you comfortable.

Tropical Dome

Welcome to a slice of the tropics right here in frigid Milwaukee. Our Tropical Dome is like stepping into another world—a steamy, vibrant rainforest packed with 1,200 species of plants and a whole ecosystem of animals.

What To Discover:

  • A World of Plants: From banana trees to towering palms reaching for the glass ceiling, to the vivid blooms of the bird of paradise, this jungle is a feast for the eyes.
  • Koi Pond & Waterfall: Don’t miss the peaceful Koi Pond and tricking waterfall. Your kids will love stomping over the footbridge.
  • Exotic House Plants: You’ll recognize many favorites like Philodendrons and Orchids.
  • Animal Residents: Look up to spot the bright Orange Bishop’s Weaver or gaze into the pond to see graceful Koi fish swimming.
  • Edible Delights: Look for tropical fruit trees including star fruit and guava. Discover the source of chocolate and cocoa as well as flavorings such as vanilla from the vining vanilla orchid. You will also find spices such as cardamom, turmeric, and black pepper.

Fun Facts

  • The tallest tree in the Tropical Dome is the Canary Island Date Palm and is one of the original plantings in that Dome dating back to 1966.
  • The Tropical Dome is home to over 1,200 species of tropical plants and birds in less than 15,000 square feet.

Pro Tips for Visitors

  • Dress Light: It’s always warm and humid inside, so lightweight clothing will make you more comfortable.

Show Dome

The Show Domes (AKA The Floral Dome) is year-round floral celebration that transforms with the seasons.

The permanent collection around the outer edge includes a Jaboticaba tree, geraniums, grape vines, fig trees, olive trees and a pomegranate tree.

Seasonal Shows

  • Train Show (Jan-Mar): Chug along through a miniature landscape, where trains wind past vibrant displays of spring blossoms.
  • Spring Show (April-May): Dive into spring with an explosion of color and fragrance, featuring a diverse array of blooming flowers.
  • Summer Show (June-Sept): Experience the lushness of summer with bright floral arrangements and lush greenery.
  • Fall Show (Sept-Nov): Revel in the warm hues of autumn with a show that captures the essence of the season.
  • Holiday Show (Nov-Jan): Get into the festive spirit with a dazzling display that brings holiday cheer and winter wonder.

Highlights & Fun Facts

  • Historical Gates: Admire the original gates of the Conservatory, a nod to Milwaukee’s rich history and the timeless elegance of the Floral Dome.
  • LED Light Shows: Keep an eye out for the occasional LED light show events that illuminate the dome, creating a magical atmosphere that complements the floral displays.

Pro Tips for Visitors

  • Visit Often: With the dome transforming every few months, each visit offers a new experience. Don’t miss the transitions between shows!
  • Plan Around Show Transitions: Note that the dome closes for about two weeks between shows for setup. Check the schedule to plan your visit accordingly.

The Floral Dome at The Domes is a celebration of nature’s diversity, creativity, and the changing seasons. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, tranquility, or simply a beautiful day out, the Floral Dome awaits with open gates and a kaleidoscope of floral wonders.

Planning Your Visit

  • Hours & Admission: Check the Domes Website for the latest information.
  • Strollers: Welcome, but be mindful of narrow pathways.
  • Snacks: Bring some, as options on-site are limited. There are tables in the atrium to enjoy your food.
  • Education Center: Don’t miss the Education Center on weekends for interactive fun! The Education Center offers engaging activities for kids, from climbing in a treehouse to discovering plants.
  • Sensory Bags: Sensory bags are available for those needing them, ensuring all visitors have a pleasant experience.

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