Open since fall 2012, the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens that anchor century-old Sinnissippi Park are the newest attraction along the Rock River. Run by the Rockford Park District, this impressive 22,000 square-foot LEED-certified conservatory is Illinois’ third largest, with a massive 11,000-square-foot greenhouse, classrooms, a cafe and a gift shop.
All year, families wander the exhibition area's stone paths, identifying 25 exotic tropical plants and trees along the way. Original to the site, the sunken rose garden and elliptical lagoon (restoration completed in 2013) recall the days when greenhouses once stood here. Hand-blown Murano glass totem poles peek out of fragrant gardens and rise from gurgling koi ponds, and a 142-foot mural depicts Rockford's history. Elsewhere in the conservatory, guests can peer into a microscope to see flower petals' kaleidoscope patterns. In the summer, the 32-foot floral clock composed of thousands of annuals presents a prime photo opportunity.
Check the conservatory’s website for a schedule of events. Admission is $8; parking is free.