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Phipps Conservatory review

Selena Bell and Sam Farber

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Contrary to what it looks like outside, it is indeed winter; setting a merry tone on the periphery of Pitt’s historically famous campus: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical gardens. Phipps has produced an exuberant horticultural display, open to the public since 1893, but had not yet begun evincing its holiday exhibits until 1965 which consisted of more than 2,000 poinsettia plants joined by Norwegian begonias and unusual orchids hybrids. As the years continue to advance, the display augments and elaborates.

The atmosphere could be assumed upon approaching the enormous glass house facility; very alive. The crowd was peaking as we arrived just around rush hour and a wealth of people shared the same idea that we had. Lavishly lit trees greeted us and others at the door and welcomed us into the warmth of the gorgeous Christmas jungle. Although the trees did not expect any cash, the kind men and women awaiting on the other side of the double doors always do.  Admission of twenty-five dollars is a bit steep for some of us moneyless minors, but what awaits in the other fourteen rooms is well worth it.  Boastful signs that read “Best Museum Restaurant in the U.S.” reside in the Phipps lobby as well.  Though no food was sampled due to the impending parking meter; delicious, reasonably priced Americanos managed to fit themselves in prior to entering the gardens.

Opulent lights and immaculately groomed flowering plants surround the occupied walkways in the main room.  Only left turns to be made during the holiday season resulting from the substantial amount of people. The tremendous amount of effort employed can be seen in all of the details; penguins and other animals constructed out of leaves as well as scrupulously strung lights around every limb of some trees. Children excitedly surround the recently reinvented Garden Railroad displayed in the South Conservatory. It features ten glimpses of different time periods in Pittsburgh’s history and has been brought to life with five interactive stations that adults and children will delight in. Visitors can turn a hand crank to elevate the Duquesne Incline or push a button to send Three Rivers Stadium into raucous applause and illumination as the Buccos play ball. With exquisitely detailed props and tiny living plants, shrubs and trees providing the lush backdrop of its miniature world, this show will bring wonder and a touch of nostalgia to guests of all ages.

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