Washington, DC made me a wuss. My wussiness is shaped by two notable characteristics: the weather and fees. As a proud Coloradoan I spent my early days in Washington mocking many an individual as they bundled up in scarves, parkas, hats and gloves the moment rain set in and temperatures dropped below 60. Now five years later, in a new state, after potentially the hottest summer in history, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freezing in the 65 degree Illinois weather. So I am effectually my own worst enemy: a weather wuss.
Much less expected is my wussiness to fees. By no means is DC a cheap city. Housing prices range from expensive to more expensive. Transportation costs eat away at your salary. And, you’re never going to find a sandwich cheaper than $6. But, museums are free! (or most museums are free). It’s not till you leave Washington that you realize, on a cultural level, just how good you had it. You could be the poorest person in the world, not a dime to your name, but thanks to the Smithsonian you could enter and learn about history, natural history, science, art. When you leave DC you’re woken up to the reality that most cities museums charge something called an admission fee. A pesky little thing that makes it almost impossible for the unemployed to step foot in a museum and learn (unless they dip into their savings).
This made the Oak Park Conservatory a welcome surprise. It was warm inside with all the tropical and desert plants (hoorah for heat). The admission fee was only a suggested $2 donation, considerably smaller than the ever common $12-$15 admission at most museums. (The Met in New York charges $25 and the Art Institute of Chicago charges $18).
Traditionally I enjoy going to gardens and parks, frequently making b-lines for them while on vacation. For a small local conservatory, this was not let down. It boasted some of the largest cacti and palm trees I’ve ever seen. Awesome splashes of color. Even two turtles! It’s well worth an inexpensive stop out in boring suburbia. And if you’re like me, complaining about admission fees, it will quell your temper (at least temporarily).