I am a big fan of the Small Adventure. I am not much for the Grand Tour, The Massive Planned Vacation, or Disney's Big Red Typhoid Cruise or something. The things that my family seems to remember with the most fondness from travels are the side jaunts: the little out-of-the-way breakfast joint, the independent bookstore, the local art fair, the pretty small stream so shallow the clear cool water barely covers your toes. Today we took the kids to somewhere I have not been since I was a kid: The Mitchell Park Conservatory, known universally to Wisconsinites as "The Domes." Completed when I was five years old in flower-powery 1967, The Domes offered Milwaukee-metro-area people the chance to walk into a dense world of plants, flowers, rocks, and things that normally would be killed by the merciless winter climate. I remember marveling at the design of the three beehive-shaped glass buildings, 85 feet high each, and wishing I had a house like that.

The Domes remain remarkably the same as I remember them. There are no high-tech interactive talking plant robots, no Venus Flytrap thrill ride. The plants are the stars of the show. You would think this modest destination wouldn't offer much to the four kids we had with us, ages 7, 12, 18, and 19, but they were all happy and engaged. It's such a relaxing, lush place. MissSeven and Mr 12 ran ahead on the paths, threw coins in the koi pond, found the coolest plants and trees and flowers to point out. Couch Teen and his gf took lots of pictures, as did I. Outside of a few other older folks sitting on benches, we had it all to ourselves.

You can come along.

Look! A huge flyswatter!


A giant grapefruit!

Flowers and hams.

Leafy things and pointy things.

There's a lizard and a turtle. This is the lizard. I bet he is spoiled.

Cool desert trees.

I wish I didn't have such a fine ability to kill plants. This would be nice in the backyard.

At the end you can have your kids freeze-dried so you can use them as lawn ornaments.

I wonder if I will come back to The Domes when I am 80 or so with my grandchildren. I hope so.