Know Before You Go
The conservatory is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Admission is free. If you're coming from the Loop, head west on the CTA Green Line at State/Lake. Your stop will be Conservatory-Central Park Drive, which is approximately a 20-minute ride from downtown. The platform stairs will take you down to the west side of Central Park Drive—you can see the conservatory from here, it's a half-block walk north. Note that the downtown platform's stairs are on the other side of the street, and on the way back, you'll need to cross Lake Street.
Estimate about 60 minutes for a casual walk-thru, or if you prefer to take your time and read the several details plaques, plan 1.5 to 2 hours. There's a children's garden with a small, indoor playground and slide. The Conservatory is wheelchair-accessible, as are the outdoor gardens (though the paths are gravel), and the Conservatory station.