Top 3 Indoor Gardens and Parks in the Twin Cities

Minnesota and winter don't usually spell out a fresh space to experience vibrant plant growth. But if you check out these spots, you can find plenty of green space in a relaxing - and fun - atmosphere. So why not stop by and forget that weather can be extreme outside? These places are guaranteed to help you relax – in spite of winter snow or summer heat.

Marjorie McNeely Conservatory
Located right next to the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is full of well cared-for plants, a fountain, and changing exhibits. This is a real, wandering garden.

Opened on November 7, 1915, this 100-year old plant palace is an original Victorian-era glasshouse, holding about 2 acres of plant space. The conservatory has been on the National Register of Historic Sites since 1974.

You can stop by the long reflecting pool to sit down or read, but you'll probably want to meander over the stone-paved walkways, exploring all the different types of flora. Spice plants, roses, bonsai, poinsettias – it's all been exhibited and/or maintained here.

While the main room is wide and open, like an entrance hall, you will be able to find some quiet little walks that get lost under the hanging leaves and branches of the different trees and vines. It is peaceful, a pleasant way to breathe in a little more plant-based oxygen. Check out the Como Park website for ongoing concerts and other special events. Admission to the Conservatory is free, but donations are accepted. Check the website for special event information.

Photo courtesy of the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

Walker Arts Center: The Sage and John Cowles Conservatory – Closed for renovation until 2017
Although it feels like separate buildings, this Minneapolis conservatory is completely connected on the inside so that you can walk through without stepping outside. On one side, green vegetation climbs up and over large silhouettes of houses. You step through the cutout door spaces, under and around the plants. While the conservatory building is not very wide, there is enough natural sunlight filtering through the clear walls and vibrant plants so that it feels open. Moving along, you'll find geometrically-spaced gardens with twinkling lights hanging from the roof. Hen and Chicks, and a variety of other colorful plants are spaced in squares and other eye-catching patterns. Admission is free.

Photo by Louisa Danielson

Edinborough Park
This spot, close to the Residence Inn Minneapolis Edina, is rumored to be the best indoor park in the Twin Cities to take kids. According to their website, Edinborough Park's Playpark is one of the largest indoor playparks for kids in the nation – and it is cleaned and sanitized daily (socks are required). Edinborough Park also features a junior Olympic-sized pool, and a plant-filled free space, for people who want to take a short break, away from the climbing and tumbling space.

Louisa Danielson is a freelance travel and community writer, who enjoys benefitting from the public parks prowess of Minneapolis and St. Paul.