Chihuly and Flowers at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, my husband and I roadtripped a few hours east to Columbus, Ohio to visit with his extended family.  Although I’ve crossed Ohio many times on I-80, this was my first visit where I ventured off the interstate.  We spent most of our time with family and didn’t do much touristy stuff (although we did manage the obligatory visit to the original location of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream), but on Sunday before we headed home I was able to get away for a couple hours to check out the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden.

The Conservatory is (not surprisingly) located in Franklin Park.  I didn’t spend much time exploring the outdoor areas because it was freezing when I was there, but what I saw of the grounds was lovely.

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I don’t consider myself knowledgeable about art at all, and can probably count the number of art museums I’ve been to in my life on one hand, but I am a big Dale Chihuly fangirl and was excited to see so much of his work on display.  In addition to the classic hanging chandeliers and glass ceilings, the Conservatory also has a number of Chihuly pieces that are integrated into the  botanical gardens themselves.  I hadn’t seen Chihuly’s work mixed together with plants in this way and I really enjoyed seeing these gardens with both natural and glass elements.

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The Conservatory has several different biomes, each representing a different climate and the plants that grow in that climate.  My favorite of these by far was the Pacific Island Water Garden, which had really high ceilings, a koi pond and all the lush tropical plants you’d imagine for something with “pacific island” in its name.

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Apparently, in the spring they release a lot of butterflies in this room.  I can’t say I’m sorry I missed that, because I’m somewhat terrified of being in enclosed spaces with butterflies that land on you (weird fear, I know, but I got really freaked out at a butterfly exhibit once).  I did, however, really enjoy visiting with the resident macaws in the Rainforest Biome.

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Of course the Desert Biome had lots of cool cacti.

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A big reason I wanted to go to the conservatory was because I recently bought some cheap macro filters (these) and figured taking pictures of flowers would be a great way to try them out.  Overall, I was really pleased with the results, especially for the price and my complete inexperience with macro photography.  Someday I’d love to get a real macro lens, but they’re expensive and I have a lot of other, more versatile lenses higher on my “to buy” list, so it was good to know these filters are a decent substitute that will presumably become an even better one as I gain more experience.  I was also surprised by how differently I saw the gardens based on what I was intending to photograph.  On my first pass through, I noticed the big (mostly green) plants and all the Chihuly sculptures, but didn’t really notice individual flowers or much color.  When I went through with the macro filter on my camera, specifically looking for flowers to photograph close-up, I was stunned by how many beautiful, colorful flowers I had completely missed the first time around.  It was a good reminder to look for beauty in the smaller details and things your eye might not immediately land on.

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I was a little disappointed about the lack of orchids, which are probably my favorite flower to photograph, on display (the ones snapped above were for sale in the gift shop).  Apparently the orchids they normally have were taken down to make room for a Christmas tree, but they’re having a special orchid exhibit starting January 9, 2016.  I’m sorry I missed that but I’m sure it will be spectacular when it opens.

Admission to the Conservatory is $13 adults/$10 students and seniors/$6 for children 3-17.  This was a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and I certainly recommend it if you find yourself in Columbus.

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