Guide To: Chicago Botanic Garden

June 4, 2011 6:00 AM

credit: Chicago Botanic Garden

photography 10 Guide To: Chicago Botanic Garden

credit: Chicago Botanic Garden

1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
Free Admission

It’s easy to live in Chicago and never visit Glencoe – the tiny northern suburb is over half an hour north, and past both Evanston and Skokie. But for those who make the drive, a not-so-secret garden awaits nearby. Well, 24 gardens to be exact (including an aquatic garden, a waterfall garden and a rose garden, among many others) as well as four natural areas on nine islands surrounded by lakes. That’s a total of 385 acres, more than enough plant life to see for several visits. But don’t worry if you’re not a botanical expert – the Gardens makes sure there’s more to your visit than stopping and smelling the roses.

For the Birds

The English oaks, dwarf conifers, and other trees are beautiful to see on their own. However, they also serve a second purpose – as home for dozens of different local birds. Depending on the season and time of day, visitors can spy swallows, cardinals, goldfinches, purple martins and great blue herons. The gardens also provide field guides to help you spot each bird by their field marks.

photography 43 Guide To: Chicago Botanic Garden

credit: Chicago Botanic Garden

Stop and Smell the Roses

If you want to see as much of the Gardens as possible in a single day, the tram rides offer a great way to zoom through the sights. The Grand Tram Tour circles the garden perimeter, offering an overview of all nine islands. If you want a closer look at the main island, the Bright Encounters Tour gives an in-depth look at the waterfall garden, the sensory garden, and the many other sights of the Main Island.

Jumping Beans

A trip to the garden doesn’t have to mean all quiet reflection and observation. On Wednesday nights in the summer, the Dancin’ Sprouts nights offer two hours of musical entertainment and a chance for your young ones to dance about in the Garden’s summer bloom.

Road Trip In Miniature

For those who like models and/or trains, the Model Railroad Garden offers a unique experience in sightseeing and nature. 17 model trains circle about the 5,000 plants that make up the 7,500-square-foot exhibition. Miniature trees and rivers aren’t all that makes up this tiny world – over 50 landmarks are presented in miniature, from Mt. Rushmore to Wrigley Field.

Grow Your Own

For those who want to recreate some of the majesty of the Garden in their own backyards, the Garden hosts various shows and sales of rare plants like rare bonsais and irises. Other occasions might offer free seeds and seedlings of more basic plants to spruce up your garden and maybe even dinner plate.

Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukranian Village.

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