If you’ve ever wanted to step inside Pan’s Labyrinth (without Doug Jones chasing you down in full creeper mode, that is), you’re in luck: you can do just that every Friday night at Phipps Conservatory.
Phipps is more commonly known for its daytime-viewing (you can check out our visit to their Gargoyle exhibit back in 2010), but on Friday nights, the conservatory stays open until 10pm so you can visit the gardens after dark. Some nights, they have special events as well, like salsa dancing, live music, and even cocktails. We went on this past Friday night, where the only attraction was the gardens, but believe me – those are more than enough to keep us coming back!
This glass sculpture (done by an artist named Dale Chihuly) greets you in the entryway to the Conservatory. You can see this in the giant dome of the entryway from as far away as the street going past Phipps.
We weren’t exactly sure what to expect from our first visit to Phipps after dark, but as soon as we stepped into the first room of the gardens (the Palm Court), we knew we were in for a special experience. The gardens are lovely during the day, but at night, there is a special magical feeling all around, as if you’re going to turn a corner and find faeries, fauns, and dragons.
And we LOVED the water feature in the Palm Court: it’s a giant wine rack with water flowing over and through the bottles! (You can bet I had Michael looking up DIY plans to put one of these in our back yard ;))
At the entrance to the gardens, one of the docents provides you with a map and explains how to navigate the floor plan. Basically, you constantly stay to the right (just like driving), and this will allow you to view then entire conservatory without ever once backtracking. The first room you enter after the Palm Court is the Serpentine Room, which is dotted with little fairy lights in the arches of the ceiling. So magical!
We love how Phipps takes pieces of certain installations and keeps them in place once the exhibits are gone. One example of this is the Longfellows, a few of whom still remain in the fern room from their 2009 installation. Lit up at night, they add to the otherworldly-ambience of the gardens.
This was another favorite moment of the evening, in the Tropical Fruit and Spice room. Although this centerpiece changes periodically, it has remained this beautiful glass sculpture since the last time we visited the gardens.
The Tropical Forest Conservatory is a large, multi-level walkthrough that hosts some of the rotating exhibits (this time, an exhibit focusing on India). One thing that always remains are these impressive waterfalls, which looked even cooler at night.
Finally, as you near the end of the journey through the gardens, there are three rooms that just kind of take your breath away when you walk into them. This was my favorite of the three: the East Room with its majestic waterfall and lush greenery. (And yes, I asked Michael if it would be possible to put *this* in our backyard as well.)
On our way out, we ran into Mary Anne, one of the docents at Phipps who asked us if we had any questions. We chatted with her a bit about the gardens, and she told us that if we enjoyed what we saw tonight, we should definitely come back in December when the Christmas nighttime displays are up. (If you’ve spent any time at all reading this blog, I’m sure you know how I feel about Christmas!) We were so inspired by our nighttime journey that we decided to become members of Phipps so that we can visit any time we need a little refresher-journey into nature! (Best deal of that? If you go for a visit and decide you loved it, you can credit the cost of your one-time visit toward your membership fee if you activate a membership within 7 days!)
If you’d like to see the rest of our photos from the night, please check out our Facebook page, and please stop by Phipps for a magical nighttime garden journey of your own!